How to Become a Teacher in New York

Become a teacher in New York and qualify for the highest-paid teaching jobs in the nation. Use this guide to find approved New York teaching certification programs.

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by Meg Whitenton

Published on March 15, 2022 · Updated on April 26, 2022

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How to Become a Teacher in New York

The New York State Education Department (NYSED) awards certification to teachers who meet the necessary education, training, and testing requirements for the state. To teach in New York, candidates must earn a bachelor's degree and/or complete a teacher preparation program and pass state certification exams.

All teachers, administrators, and pupil personnel service providers at K-12 public schools in New York require certification through NYSED. These professionals include classroom teachers, student coaches, and school counselors. Teachers can also pursue supplemental teaching certification in New York to work in one of the state's high-need shortage areas, such as math, science, and English language learning.

New York is the highest-paying state for teachers in the U.S., according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Teachers in this state earned an annual mean wage of $88,890 in May 2020. New York is also the third-largest employer of secondary teachers nationwide. Here, aspiring teachers enjoy a variety of paths to certification and lucrative job opportunities. The following guide explores how to become a teacher in New York.

How Do I Become a Teacher in New York?

Students can choose from a variety of pathways to initial certification. Aspiring teachers most commonly pursue an approved teacher preparation program, which combines bachelor-level coursework and teacher training, leading to licensure. The NYSED also offers alternative teacher preparation programs for students who have already earned a teaching degree.

New York State issues multiple types of certification to advanced practitioners and specialists, including teachers with a master's degree or experience in multiple teaching subjects and special educators. Teachers with out-of-state certification must apply for an individual credential review through the NYSED.

Meet Minimum Education Requirements

Obtaining a teaching certification in New York requires a bachelor's degree. Students can choose any major that aligns with their desired teaching subject, grade level, or area of expertise. New York ultimately requires teachers to earn a master's degree within the first five years of obtaining initial licensure.

Middle school and high school teachers must obtain certification in a particular teaching subject for that grade level. Many schools offer bachelor's programs that lead to licensure in subjects like math education or English as a second language (ESL). Teachers aspiring to a career in special education should pursue a degree in this major.

New York State approves dozens of registered teacher preparation programs, combining the bachelor-level coursework and student-teaching experience teachers need for initial licensure. Alternatively, students who already hold a bachelor's degree may pursue a standalone teacher training program through NYSED.

Gain Student Teaching Experience

Obtaining teaching certification in New York requires 100 hours of teaching experience, including 15 hours of teaching students with disabilities. Teachers must complete a full-semester practicum in a classroom setting. They may satisfy this requirement over 14 weeks or split it into two seven-week terms.

Students must gain teaching experience in their desired teaching subject and grade level. Guaranteed to meet practicum requirements, the NYSED's approved teacher preparation programs embed the student-teaching experience necessary for teaching certification in New York.

Pass Required Certification Tests

Candidates seeking initial teaching certification in New York must pass several general and subject-specific tests. Testing requirements include:

Apply for Certification

Students can apply for teaching certification in New York through an online TEACH account. The application process requires students to verify correct contact information, answer moral character questions, and submit the supporting documents necessary to obtain certification. Candidates must also pass a fingerprint clearance.

Applying for New York teaching certification costs $50 for graduates of an NYSED-approved teacher preparation program and $100 for graduates of an alternative program. The NYSED projects a turnaround time of 16 weeks to issue new teaching certifications.

How Do I Maintain Teaching Certification in New York?

Initial teaching certification in New York is valid for five years. Teachers must earn a master's degree within five years of initial certification and accumulate three full years of classroom teaching experience and one year of mentored teaching to qualify for a professional certificate. If they do not meet these requirements within five years, they can apply for a one-time reissuance of their initial certification.

Teachers can maintain active and valid professional certification by completing 100 hours of Continuing Teacher and Leader Education (CTLE) requirements during each five-year renewal period. These continuing education courses must be given by approved CTLE sponsors. Maintaining "active" certification status requires ongoing teaching employment, while "valid" status indicates a teacher meets all requirements for teaching certification in New York.

Career Outlook for Teachers in New York

Teaching in New York is competitive and profitable. Job opportunities are plentiful for certified teachers in New York's public school system, ranking the state among the largest national employers of elementary and high school teachers, according to the BLS.

New York teachers are also among the highest-paid educators in the United States. Secondary teachers earned the top salary for teachers in the U.S. in May 2020, with an annual mean wage of $88,890, according to the BLS. Meanwhile, elementary teachers in New York were the third-highest-paid in the nation, earning $84,380.

The state recently launched programs to incentivize master-level training for experienced educators and encourage professionals in other fields to become teachers in New York. Teachers with advanced qualifications and those willing to work in New York's shortage areas may enjoy additional perks and earn a higher salary.

In-Demand Teaching Careers in New York

Special Education Teacher

Educators in this specialization work with students who have learning, emotional, behavioral, or intellectual disabilities of a mild, moderate, or severe nature. Special education teachers are in high demand nationwide for their unique training and certification in teaching various grade levels. New York offers approved teacher preparation programs for aspiring special education teachers.

Median Annual Salary: $61,500


English as a Second Language (ESL) Teacher

ESL teachers, or educators trained to help non-native-English-speakers read, write, and speak the language, are in critical demand in nearly every urban school district across the United States. ESL teachers are also in demand for adult students and postsecondary/vocational programs. Teachers can pursue ESL certification through a separate credentialing exam.

Median Annual Salary: $60,660


High School Teacher

High school teachers lead classrooms of adolescent students in grades 9-12. They typically pursue certification in a particular teaching subject, such as math, science, social studies, or career and technical training, all of which also happen to be shortage areas in New York schools. High school teachers must obtain separate certifications for multiple subjects.

Median Annual Salary: $62,870


Middle School Teachers

Unlike high school teachers, middle school teachers (grades 5-8) may choose to earn generalist teaching certification in all subjects instead of choosing a specialization. In addition to the crossover between middle and high schools in shortage areas like math and science, New York critically needs middle school teachers in ESL, special education, and the arts.

Median Annual Salary: $60,810


Career and Technical Education Teacher

These teachers provide key job skills and career training for children and adult students. New York reported a shortage of career and technical teachers, especially in grades 7-12, in the 2019-20 school year. Teachers can obtain certification in a particular grade level and subspecialization within this category, such as technology, STEM, or business management.

Median Annual Salary: $59,140


Frequently Asked Questions About Teaching Certification in New York

true How do I get teaching certification in New York?

Teaching in New York requires completion of an NYSED-approved teacher preparation program or alternative pathway to certification and a passing score on state teaching exams. Students commonly choose majors in early childhood education, generalist education, special education, or a particular teaching subject and grade level.

Obtaining initial teaching certification in New York indicates a teacher completed a bachelor-level education program, satisfied the minimum student-teaching requirements, and passed a series of exams. Students must earn a master's degree within the five years of earning initial licensure to achieve a professional certificate.

true Can I teach in New York without certification?

Yes, but in an extremely limited capacity, and only through private or charter schools. Obtaining teaching certification in New York qualifies candidates for lucrative careers with longevity in the public school system.

Some New York private and charter schools do not require such extensive certification. While there are positions for teachers without certification, certified teachers in New York enjoy the widest variety of high-paid occupations.

true How long does it take to become a teacher in New York?

The time it takes to become a teacher in New York depends on a candidate's qualifications and experience. Teachers can technically obtain initial certification and begin working after completing a four-year bachelor's degree program that includes student-teaching experience.

In the first five-year certification renewal period after initial licensure, students must earn a master's degree and complete three years of full-time teaching and one year of mentored teaching to earn a professional certificate.

What can I do with teaching certification in New York?

Certified teachers in New York qualify for their choice of teaching jobs in K-12 public schools. Depending on a teacher's desired subject or specialization, they may pursue jobs in early childhood, elementary, middle, or high school classrooms, teaching multiple subjects or specializing in a subject like math, science, or information technology.

Alternatively, teachers may pursue specialized certification in a field such as ESL, special education, technology education, or a subcategory of career and technical education.

How do I become a substitute teacher in New York?

The NYSED does not issue certificates specifically for substitute teachers; however,certified teachers in New York and pending certification candidates can work in any district and subject for up to 40 days as a substitute teacher. After 40 days, these substitute teachers must be certified or seeking certification in the teaching area in which they are employed.

Some districts employ substitute teachers with just a high school diploma who are not certified or seeking certification for a maximum of 40 days. There may be exceptions to these time limits in high-need districts.

Feature Image: Maskot / Getty Images

Learn about scholarships and financial aid available for students pursuing a degree in education. Not everyone wants to teach for decades. If you're ready to move out of the classroom, these jobs for former teachers can help you find the right path. Professional certifications help workers advance their careers and boost their earning potential. Read more about role-specific certifications in this guide.

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