How to Become a Teacher in Tennessee

Legislation signed in 2023 gives many first-year Tennessee teachers a significant pay raise. Learn more about Tennessee teacher certification.
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Updated on April 16, 2024
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In May 2023, Tennessee Governor Bill Lee signed the Teacher Paycheck Protection Act (TPPA), mandating a $50,000 minimum salary for public school teachers statewide by 2026. This legislation significantly increases starting teacher salaries, according to Nashville news outlet WSMV.

Starting a public K-12 educator career in the Volunteer State requires a Tennessee teacher certification. Many certified teachers hold a bachelor's in education. You can also qualify for licensure with a bachelor's in another subject if you complete a state-approved teacher-preparation program.

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How Do You Become a Teacher in Tennessee?

Earning a Tennessee teacher certification involves meeting education, experience, and examination requirements. Practicing educators earn professional development points to renew their certification.

1. Earn Your Bachelor's Degree

In Tennessee, you must hold a bachelor's degree from an accredited four-year school. And while the subject you study doesn't matter, you must also complete a state-approved educator preparation program. This can include bachelor's and master's degree programs.

But keep in mind if you earn your degree in a subject unrelated to education, you must complete additional training to qualify for licensure in Tennessee.

Search the Tennessee Department of Education's database to see if your program qualifies for approval. There is no minimum GPA or specific coursework requirement.

2. Gain Student Teaching Experience

Tennessee does not list a minimum number of hours of student teaching experience as a requirement for licensure; however, all of the state's approved educator preparation programs include student teaching experiences.

Student teaching generally consists of supervised fieldwork in a classroom under the supervision of a licensed teacher. You typically gain this experience as part of your bachelor's or master's program.

3. Take Required Certification Tests

Certification tests assess whether your teacher-preparation program prepared you well. All aspiring educators must pass the ETS Principles of Learning and Teaching (PLT) test. ETS offers PLT tests for early childhood education, as well as grades K-6, 5-9, and 7-12.

Specific licensure area tests cover content knowledge and pedagogy within your grade band. Aspiring high school teachers must pass an ETS exam for each subject they want to teach. A passing score adds a licensure endorsement.

4. Apply for Certification

Once you meet all the Tennessee teacher certification requirements, you can apply for certification. First, create a TNCompass account and upload documents, such as your ETS test scores. Your college or university will send official transcripts to the State Department of Education.

Other certification requirements include passing a criminal background check. Teacher-preparation programs require this step before you begin student teaching. Your teacher-preparation program's advisors can help you make sure you submit a completed application.

How Much Will You Make as a Teacher in Tennessee?

A February 2024 Tennessean article reports that about 1 in 60 teaching positions remain vacant statewide. The need for qualified educators led Governor Bill Lee to sign the TPPA, raising the minimum salary for first-year teachers from $35,000 to $50,000, starting in 2026.

The chart below displays the median salary for different professionals with a Tennessee teacher certification. You may earn significantly less as a first-year educator.

Median Annual Salaries for Tennessee Teachers
Job Title Median Annual Salary (May 2023)
Career/Technical Education Teacher $58,940
Elementary School Teacher $51,550
High School Teacher $60,880
Middle School Teacher $57,090
Special Education Teacher $64,510
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

Frequently Asked Questions About Teacher Certification in Tennessee

How long does it take to become a teacher in Tennessee?

The quickest way to become licensed as a teacher in Tennessee is to complete a bachelor's program that doubles as an approved educator preparation program. Most bachelor's degrees require four years of full-time study. If you complete a bachelor's in a different field and a master's in teaching, becoming a teacher in Tennessee may take 5-6 years of study.

If you hold a teaching license in Tennessee, you are qualified to teach in the state's public schools in your chosen content area and grade level. Possible grade levels include elementary, middle, and high school, and possible content areas include science, math, social studies, and special education.

To become a substitute teacher in Tennessee, you must apply with individual school districts. Most districts require a high school or GED diploma, a criminal background check, letters of recommendation, a completed application form, and official transcripts. Some districts also require a bachelor's degree from an accredited school.


Note: The insights on this page — excluding school descriptions — were reviewed by an independent third party compensated for their time by BestColleges. Page last reviewed April 16, 2024.

BestColleges.com 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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