How to Become a Teacher in North Carolina

Teaching in North Carolina can be a fulfilling career. This guide helps aspiring educators learn how to become a teacher in North Carolina.
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Teaching in North Carolina can be a dynamic and gratifying career. Teachers play a critical role in students' lives by teaching foundational skills and offering guidance. Many people want to become teachers so they can make a real difference in students' lives.

You need the right education and training to become a teacher. North Carolina grants teaching licensure to instructors with a bachelor's degree in education who meet certain requirements. is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

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Aspiring teachers can also take nontraditional routes, like enrolling in online courses in North Carolina or going back to college for a teaching degree after switching careers.

If you're interested in learning how to become a teacher in North Carolina, this guide breaks down what you need to know. Read on to gain insight into the career and salary outlook for teachers and see answers to some frequently asked questions.

How Do I Become a Teacher in North Carolina?

Aspiring teachers in North Carolina first need at least an eligible bachelor's degree in education, and then they should obtain a teaching license in North Carolina. This teaching license allows educators to legally work in public schools.

North Carolina grants two different teacher licenses: The Initial Professional License (IPL) and the Continuing Professional License (CPL). The IPL allows teachers to gain experience in the classroom for the first few years. After three years of teaching, pre-K-12 educators can apply for the CPL, which they then renew throughout their careers.

Aspiring educators also choose between several different teaching license categories in North Carolina. These include:

  • Elementary (K-6)
  • Middle Grades (6-9)
  • Secondary (9-12)
  • Special subjects, including art, reading, and physical education (K-12)
  • Exceptional children (K-12)
  • Career and technical education (CTE 6-12)
  • Administrative (K-12)
  • Student services personnel (K-12)

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Meet Minimum Education Requirements

To apply for teaching licensure, candidates need at least an approved bachelor's degree from an accredited college or university. This degree must consist of:

  • 120-130 credits in total
  • General education courses
  • Professional education courses
  • Pedagogy courses (including student teaching experience)
  • Content courses related to the subjects they will teach as educators
  • Elective courses

Individuals who want to become teachers even though they didn't originally complete an education degree can apply through an alternative route.

To start, these candidates must already have a bachelor's degree. They then enroll in a Professional Educators License program, completing about 30 credits from a university. Those credits cover professional education, pedagogy, and content courses.

Finally, teachers can pursue master's degrees. The state does not require master's degrees for a teaching license, but these degrees can help educators progress in their careers.

Gain Student Teaching Experience

Aspiring teachers who are enrolled in accredited education programs gain student teaching experience as part of their pedagogy requirements. Student teaching is integrated into the degree's curriculum, so students do not need to complete this as an extra obligation.

Student teaching allows education students to gain experience in the classroom, first by observing teachers in a professional setting and then by creating lesson plans and teaching.

The specifics of each student-teaching experience depend on their area of specialization. Elementary school teachers, for example, create lessons across all subjects, while secondary school teachers focus on their specific subject area.

Pass Required Certification Tests

To apply for an IPL, applicants only need to take content area exams if they are applicable to their specialization.

However, after three years, all teachers must apply for the CPL. To successfully convert an IPL to a CPL, teachers must pass exams approved by the North Carolina State Board of Education (NCSBE). Teachers must attempt these exams in their first year of teaching, and they should successfully pass the exams during the third year at the latest.

Required exams include:

Apply for Certification

To apply for the IPL, aspiring teachers should submit the following documents:

  • Degree transcripts
  • License content area examinations (if applicable)
  • Verification by institution (Form V)
  • Experience request forms for previous work, which may include:
    • Pre-K-12 teaching/teacher's assistant (Form E)
    • Post-secondary (Form CE),
    • Non-teaching (Form NE),
    • Military instructor or leadership (Form ME)

    If moving to North Carolina from another state, applicants should submit a current and valid educator's license as well.

    After submitting those forms, applicants should register an account through the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction (NCDPI) Online License System and apply for a license. They should also pay the required fee. NCDPI offers a full breakdown of fees.

    Pre-K through 12th grade teachers can then apply for a CPL once they complete three years of work experience. Teachers follow the same steps as they did when applying for an IPL. This time around, though, they must submit the required NCSBE-approved exam scores as well.

    How Do I Maintain Teaching Certification in North Carolina?

    Teachers in North Carolina must renew their CPL credentials every five years. The renewal process involves participating in continuing education courses or experiences.

    Teachers complete 10 clock hours of professional development to earn one continuing education unit (CEU). The number of CEUs required for renewal varies, depending on a teacher's specialty.

    • Teachers of grades K-5 should complete three subject area, three literacy, and two digital learning CEUs.
    • Teachers of grades 6-12 should complete three subject area, two digital learning, and three general CEUs.

    North Carolina's public instruction department publishes a full list of required CEUs and the renewal process online.

    Veteran teachers with 30 years of experience do not need these continuing education requirements to renew their credentials. Instead, they qualify for a lifetime license.

    Career Outlook for Teachers in North Carolina

    With the right training and credentials, aspiring teachers may have a long education career in North Carolina.

    The average income for teachers in North Carolina ranges from $49,540 for kindergarten teachers to $55,440 for career and technical education teachers in middle school, according to 2020 data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

    Those statistics also show that over 84,000 elementary, middle, and high school teachers worked in North Carolina in 2020. That number is projected to grow, which would offer a solid outlook for teaching careers.

    The number of jobs for elementary school teachers, except special education, is projected to increase by 3.3% from 2018 to 2028, according to Projections Central, a database from the U.S. Department of Labor.

    The database also projects the number of jobs for middle school teachers — except those in special and career/technical education — to increase by 3.4%. The number of jobs for high school teachers — except those in special and career/technical education — is projected to grow by 3.5%.

    Earning a master's degree in education may also boost your prospects of finding employment as a teacher. Attending graduate school can help you gain expertise in your field. This not only looks good on your resume, but it may also help you in salary negotiations.

    In-Demand Teaching Careers in North Carolina

    Kindergarten and elementary school teachers

    These instructors teach small children, usually from the ages of about 5-11. They teach children multiple subjects to help them feel prepared for more advanced schooling later on. These subjects include reading, writing, arithmetic, and basic science. At this stage, many children learn how to interact with others for the first time. Elementary school educators also teach kids appropriate behavior in these settings.

    U.S. median annual salary (as of May 2020): $60,660

    Middle school teachers

    By the time students get to middle school —typically grades 6-8 —they begin learning more advanced topics. They study basic algebra, history, social studies, and biological and earth sciences. At many schools, the educators specialize in teaching certain subjects. Middle school teachers also help their students build upon what they learned in elementary school. They teach lessons, grade assignments, and prepare students for standardized statewide tests.

    U.S. median annual salary (as of May 2020): $60,810

    High school teachers

    High school teachers not only instruct students in higher-level topics, but they also coach pupils on how to face life after school, whether that be college or a career. High school teachers usually specialize in a subject, like chemistry, literature, or algebra. They fulfill the standard duties, like creating lesson plans and evaluating student work. They also often work with students one on one, offering guidance on what pathway to take after graduating high school.

    U.S. median annual salary (as of May 2020): $62,870

    Career and technical education teachers

    In North Carolina, individuals can become career and technical education teachers by specializing in that field while pursuing their teaching license. These instructors offer lessons in vocational studies, like auto repair or wood and metal shop. They often work in middle and high schools, preparing teenagers for post-school careers in these areas.

    U.S. median annual salary (as of May 2020): $59,140

    Special education teachers

    Many children require a specialized teaching style, particularly those children with learning or intellectual disabilities. Special education teachers take on this role, assessing their students' skills and adapting personalized lessons to meet these skills. Special education teachers can work across the grades, from kindergarten to high school.

    U.S. median annual salary (as of May 2020): $61,500

    Frequently Asked Questions About Teaching Certification in North Carolina

    How do I get teaching certification in North Carolina?

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    The state government requires teachers to possess a license instead of teaching certification in North Carolina. In order to gain this credential, you first need to decide on your specialty area. You can choose from elementary, middle, or secondary school education, among other options.

    Then, you should pursue a bachelor's degree in education that allows you to gain student-teaching experience within your specialization. Once you earn your degree, you can apply for an initial license, or an IPL. After three years and taking a state-approved teacher exam, you can apply for the second stage license, or the CPL.

    Can I teach in North Carolina without certification?

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    In order to legally teach in North Carolina public schools, you do need the proper teaching credential: either an IPL or a CPL.

    However, state law does not require teachers at private schools to possess these credentials. You may find a job at a religious or other private school without teaching licensure.

    That said, earning licensure may still help your job prospects at these schools, as the credential shows that you've completed your education. In addition, religious and other private schools may require prospective instructors to carry out their own system of training.

    How long does it take to become a teacher in North Carolina?

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    The answer to this question differs for every prospective teacher. Traditionally, a bachelor's degree program takes four years to complete. Therefore, it could take four years to earn an initial teaching license in North Carolina. However, some college students enroll part time or take an extra year or two to graduate.

    Other aspiring teachers take a nontraditional route. They might switch their careers from a completely different area to teaching in North Carolina. In this case, individuals who already possess bachelor's degrees can enroll in special postsecondary teacher training or master's programs. These degrees can take 1-3 years to complete.

    What can I do with teaching certification in North Carolina?

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    Earning the proper teaching credentials can open up a variety of education-related jobs for you in North Carolina. Many individuals take on traditional teaching roles in elementary, middle, and secondary schools. Others specialize in certain subjects, like music or physical education. Still other aspiring teachers choose to work in special education, offering instruction to students with learning disabilities.

    Some individuals on the education path in North Carolina choose to specialize in the administrative track. This prepares them to work as principals, superintendents, or in other management positions in schools.

    How do I become a substitute teacher in North Carolina?

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    North Carolina does not impose a consistent statewide requirement for substitute teachers. Instead, each school district determines their own standards for substitute teachers.

    Substitute teachers typically need a high school degree, but a college degree is not always required. Sometimes a certain number of college credits suffice.

    Some school districts may require that substitute teachers have a teacher's license, but some do not. School districts may also run their own training courses for substitute teachers, or they ask them to go through an application and interview process.

    If you would like to get started with substitute teaching in North Carolina, check the local school districts in your area for their specific requirements. is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

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