How to Become a Teacher in Rhode Island
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Teachers educate young learners in 36 public school districts across the Ocean State. But to work in Rhode Island public schools, educators must hold a state-issued teaching certification.
Around 21,000 teachers and staff are responsible for educating 143,000 students at K-12 public schools in Rhode Island. Rhode Island ensures high standards for public education through its certification process.
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Teachers meet the certification requirements in several ways. Many enroll in traditional or online colleges in Rhode Island. Others complete their training out-of-state before teaching in Rhode Island. And professionals changing careers into education also return to college for teaching degrees.
Our guide walks through how to become a teacher in Rhode Island, including the education and testing requirements. It also covers in-demand teaching areas and the career outlook for teaching in Rhode Island.
How Do I Become a Teacher in Rhode Island?
Educators at K-12 public schools in Rhode Island must hold a state-issued certification. The Rhode Island Department of Education issues initial teaching certifications and renews teaching credentials.
Candidates for certification must meet several requirements. Rhode Island requires at least a bachelor's degree and completion of an educator preparation program. Prospective teachers also complete at least 12 weeks of student teaching experience and pass Praxis® exams.
After receiving an initial teaching certification, educators work in Rhode Island public schools. The state also issues professional and advanced teaching certifications.
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Learn about start dates, transferring credits, availability of financial aid, and more by contacting the universities below.
Meet Minimum Education Requirements
The Rhode Island Department of Education sets minimum education requirements for a teaching license. In the state, candidates must hold a bachelor's degree to qualify. Rhode Island also requires the completion of a teacher preparation program. The state approves multiple educator preparation programs that meet certification requirements. Teachers educated in other states can also qualify for certification.
Most teachers meet the education requirements by earning a bachelor's degree in education. Both in-person and online education majors can meet the certification requirements. Degree-seekers in online teaching programs must meet the student teaching requirements in their local area.
Rhode Island also certifies educators with a master's degree. A graduate degree meets the requirements for advanced certification in the state.
Gain Student Teaching Experience
In Rhode Island, educators must gain student teaching experience to apply for teacher certification. Most teachers meet the requirement during their bachelor's degree. Approved teacher preparation programs in the state meet the experience requirement.
Before student teaching, prospective educators must complete 60 hours of field experience. Then, Rhode Island requires 12 weeks of student teaching. Candidates seeking certification in multiple areas must complete at least 60 hours of field experience in each area.
Rhode Island also offers a credential review pathway for certification. In certain certification areas, candidates can submit materials to the Department of Education for review. Candidates may also need student teaching experience.
Pass Required Certification Tests
Candidates for a teaching certification must pass tests based on their grade level and subject areas. Rhode Island uses Praxis® subject assessments. The required certification tests depend on the candidate's certification area. For example, elementary educators pass a Principles of Learning and Teaching general exam and a multiple-subject elementary education exam covering reading and language arts, mathematics, social studies, and science.
Educators at the secondary level must pass a general exam and a test based on their subject. Biology teachers take a biology exam, while English teachers pass an English language arts exam.
Apply for Certification
After meeting education, testing, and experience requirements, teachers submit an application for certification. In Rhode Island, applicants must submit official transcripts, evidence of completing a state-approved program, and test scores. Licensed out-of-state teachers must also submit a copy of their certificate. Rhode Island offers reciprocity to teachers licensed in other states.
Applicants for an initial teaching certificate pay a $100 fee plus $50 per additional certification area. Reinstating an expired certification costs an additional $100. The Rhode Island Department of Education reports that application processing takes 14-16 weeks.
How Do I Maintain Teaching Certification in Rhode Island?
Rhode Island educators must renew their credentials regularly. The initial teaching certificate remains valid for three years. After that, educators must complete 25 professional learning units (PLUs) per year — a total of 75 units — to renew their certificate.
After holding an initial certificate, educators progress to a professional certificate. The professional certificate remains valid for five years and requires 15 PLUs per year to renew.
Rhode Island also offers an advanced certificate, which remains valid for seven years. Educators must meet benchmarks such as a graduate degree or national board certification to qualify for the advanced certificate. Both the professional and advanced certificate cost $200 for renewal plus $100 per additional certification area.
Career Outlook for Teachers in Rhode Island
Rhode Island teachers benefit from strong salaries and high demand. The U.S. Department of Education reports teacher shortages in multiple fields in Rhode Island. For instance, the state lists language arts, science, math, special education, art, and other teaching specialties as high-needs areas.
Teaching in Rhode Island also offers above-average salaries. While high school teachers nationally reported a median income of $62,870 in May 2020, Rhode Island high school teachers earned a higher median salary of $76,270.
Current teachers seeking career advancement opportunities can learn more about teaching careers and education careers. A master's in education helps teachers move into administrative roles and increase their earning potential. And flexible online programs make it easier for teachers to go to graduate school while working full-time.
In-Demand Teaching Careers in Rhode Island
Special education teachers educate students with disabilities. They create individualized education programs for each student that consider their abilities. Special education teachers then work closely with parents, staff, and administrators to support students. Rhode Island certifies special education teachers at the early childhood, elementary, middle school, and secondary levels.
Median Annual Salary: $61,500
Career and Technical Education
Career and technical education (CTE) teachers focus on vocational and technical subjects. Educators bring a background in their profession plus teacher training. Common career and technical subjects include business, technology, mechanics, and agriculture. CTE teachers in Rhode Island complete a separate certification process.
Median Annual Salary: $59,140
English as a Second Language
English as a second language (ESL) teachers, also called English language learner teachers, work with students who speak a first language other than English. These educators teach English grammar and subject-area knowledge. Rhode Island offers a bilingual dual language certificate in addition to an English to speakers of other languages certificate.
Median Annual Salary: $46,430
Science teachers introduce students to basic science knowledge and the scientific method. At the secondary level, they teach courses in Earth science, biology, physics, and chemistry. Rhode Island reports a shortage of biology, chemistry, and general science teachers at the secondary level. These educators pass subject-area exams to earn their teacher certification in Rhode Island.
Median Annual Salary: $48,760
Art teachers educate young learners about the history of art, artistic techniques, and artists. At the secondary level, students explore art theory and advanced techniques. Rhode Island reports a shortage of preK-12 art teachers. Art teachers complete 12 weeks of student teaching as part of their certification requirements.
Median Annual Salary: $46,980
Frequently Asked Questions About Teaching Certification in Rhode Island
How do I get teaching certification in Rhode Island?
In Rhode Island, educators at public schools must hold a state-issued certification. The Rhode Island Department of Education offers initial certification to candidates who meet the requirements.
As in many other states, Rhode Island teachers must hold a bachelor's degree, complete an educator preparation program, meet student teaching requirements, and pass certification exams. Rhode Island also offers reciprocity to educators licensed out of state. Prospective educators submit an application that includes transcripts, any out-of-state teaching credentials, proof of completion of a teacher preparation program, and test scores.
Can I teach in Rhode Island without certification?n
Public school teachers cannot teach in Rhode Island without certification. Educators need a valid, state-issued teacher certification for their jobs in all of Rhode Island's 36 school districts, which include elementary, middle, and high schools. These certifications qualify educators to teach in areas like high school math, middle school science, and elementary school.
However, educators can apply for jobs at private schools or consider roles that do not require certification. However, certified teachers typically report higher salaries. For example, high school teachers at public schools reported a median pay of $63,400 in May 2020, while those at private schools earned $58,550. Rhode Island reports public school teacher salaries above the national average.
How long does it take to become a teacher in Rhode Island?
Rhode Island educators complete a multi-year process to become teachers. Prospective educators considering how to become a teacher in Rhode Island should plan on at least four years to meet the requirements. That's because Rhode Island requires a bachelor's degree for a teaching certification, which typically takes four years to complete.
Teaching majors complete additional requirements, including student teaching experience, while also preparing for certification examinations. Prospective teachers with a bachelor's degree in another field can enroll in an educator preparation program or consider the credential review pathway.
What can I do with teaching certification in Rhode Island?
A teaching certification qualifies educators to work in Rhode Island public schools. Teachers at public elementary and secondary schools in this state must hold a valid, state-issued credential. The teaching certification lists the educator's certification areas.
For example, Rhode Island credentials teachers in early childhood education, which covers pre-K through 2nd grade, and elementary education, which covers grades 1-6. A middle grade certification covers grades 5-8, while a secondary grade certification covers grades 7-12. In other teaching areas, educators apply for an "all grade" certification. These areas include art, music, physical education, world languages, and special education.
How do I become a substitute teacher in Rhode Island?
The Rhode Island Department of Education issued substitute teacher certifications in the past. A substitute teacher needed a bachelor's degree or higher from a regionally accredited institution. However, beginning in 2017, the state stopped issuing substitute teacher permits. Instead, local education agencies ensure that substitute teachers meet these requirements.
For example, at Providence Public Schools, long-term substitutes must hold a valid teaching certificate and meet the same requirements as other classroom teachers. Short-term substitutes who work on an as-needed basis qualify with an associate degree. College juniors or higher enrolled in bachelor's programs can also work as short-term substitutes.
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