How to Become a Teacher in Tennessee

Check out our guide to learn how to become a teacher in Tennessee. Read about certification requirements, job prospects, and expected salaries.

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Updated June 10, 2022

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How to Become a Teacher in Tennessee

Tennessee houses large public school districts in major cities like Nashville and Memphis. The state also has private schools that enroll both day and boarding students. Demand for teachers currently outstrips supply throughout the Volunteer State. The state government is currently exploring strategies to recruit, train, and maintain educators. You can take advantage of this growth by going back to school online to prepare for teaching licensure in Tennessee.

Tennessee requires public school teachers to obtain a state-issued license. A teaching license can also help you qualify for jobs at private institutions like University School of Nashville, Montgomery Bell Academy, Harpeth Hall, McCallie School, and The Webb School.

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Ready to start your journey?

Read on to learn more about how to become a teacher in Tennessee.

How Do I Become a Teacher in Tennessee?

New educators in Tennessee can pursue a practitioner license, which allows them to serve as classroom teachers in various subject areas. This license lasts for three years and can be renewed once.

Requirements for a practitioner license in Tennessee include the following:

After meeting practitioner requirements, Tennessee teachers can pursue a professional license, which lasts for six years. Out-of-state requirements for teachers moving to Tennessee vary based on the type of licensure they pursue.

Meet Minimum Education Requirements

All prospective teachers in Tennessee must hold a bachelor's degree from a regionally accredited four-year school. The major doesn't matter. All prospective educators must also complete a state-approved educator preparation program. This program can be part of a bachelor's or master's degree. Prospective teachers with a bachelor's degree unrelated to education must complete additional training to qualify for licensure in Tennessee.

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

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. Future educators typically gain this experience as part of their bachelor's or master's program.

Pass Required Certification Tests

To become a teacher in Tennessee, candidates must pass two Praxis® exams: a general Principles of Learning and Teaching (PLT) test and a content area test. Prospective teachers must pass the appropriate PLT test for their age group: early childhood, K-6, 5-9, or 7-12. The PLT test covers basic grade-level knowledge and pedagogical skills.

Candidates must also pass content area-specific exams for grades K-5, 6-8, or 6-12. Examples of content area exams include elementary education K-5, middle grades science 6-8, economics 6-12, and special education/comprehensive K-12.

As of 2019, candidates for licensure in Tennessee can submit scores from edTPA, a separate examination, instead of the PLT test.

Apply for Certification

To finish the application process, candidates must submit Praxis® and/or edTPA scores and official transcripts from their bachelor's program and educator preparation program to the Tennessee Department of Education. Prospective teachers must also complete a state and federal background check and submit fingerprints.

Future teachers in Tennessee are fortunate: Their educator preparation program can apply to the Tennessee Department of Education for licensure on their behalf. They only need to complete their program in good standing to earn their initial licenses. As such, most candidates become licensed soon after graduating.

How Do I Maintain Teaching Certification in Tennessee?

Teachers who hold an initial practitioner license must renew after three years. After teaching for three years with a practitioner license, educators can apply for a professional license, which they must renew every six years.

To renew their professional licenses, teachers must complete 60 professional development points. Educators can accrue these points through clock hours of professional learning, continuing education units, college coursework, and mentorship, among other means. Teachers must earn these points during the six-year period of their licensure.

Career Outlook for Teachers in Tennessee

Tennessee is currently experiencing a statewide shortage of qualified teachers. Completing an approved educator preparation program and earning teaching licensure in Tennessee can lead to in-demand, rewarding education careers with stable salaries.

Nationwide, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects 10% job growth for education, training, and library occupations between 2020 and 2030. This rate exceeds the 8% job growth that the BLS projects for all careers during that period. The BLS also projects 8% job growth for high school teachers, 7% job growth for middle school teachers, and 7% job growth for kindergarten and elementary school teachers between 2020 and 2030.

According to the BLS, elementary school teachers in Tennessee earned a mean annual wage of $53,340 as of May 2020. Secondary school teachers made $54,700, while middle school teachers earned $53,720.

Most public school districts use salary schedules to determine pay. These schedules offer higher wages to teachers with more years of experience and additional education. Master's degree holders earn more money than bachelor's degree holders with the same amount of experience.

In-Demand Teaching Careers in Tennessee

Special Education Teachers

Special education is a high-need area throughout Tennessee. These professionals work with students with learning, emotional, and intellectual disabilities. To earn licensure in Tennessee, prospective special education teachers must pass a specific content area Praxis® test.

Median Annual Salary: $61,500

English as a Second Language (ESL) Teacher

Tennessee is currently experiencing a shortage of ESL teachers, who generally work with students who moved to the United States from non-English speaking countries. ESL teachers in Tennessee public schools must pass an appropriate Praxis® assessment.

Median Annual Salary: $55,350

Early Childhood Educators

Tennessee needs qualified early childhood educators to staff the state's Head Start centers and preschools. These professionals teach foundational skills to children who have not yet entered kindergarten. Teachers who work at private preschools do not need state licensure, but some employers may prefer candidates with the child development associate professional certification.

Median Annual Salary: $31,930

Math Teachers

These professionals teach subjects like algebra, calculus, trigonometry, and geometry in Tennessee's middle and high schools. These educators need appropriate grade level state licensure to work in public schools.

Average Annual Salary: $49,790

Science Teachers

Tennessee's high schools and middle schools are also currently experiencing a shortage of qualified science teachers. These educators teach subjects like biology, chemistry, environmental science, physics, and life science. They need an appropriate grade level state license to work in public schools.

Average Annual Salary: $51,670

Frequently Asked Questions About Teaching Certification in Tennessee

How do I get teaching certification in Tennessee?

To earn teaching licensure in Tennessee, you must hold a bachelor's degree from a regionally accredited school, complete an approved educator preparation program, and pass appropriate content area and grade level Praxis® tests. You can take the edTPA test instead of the general Praxis® test.

You do not need to individually apply to the Tennessee Department of Education for your licensure. If you receive an endorsement from your educator preparation program, your program applies on your behalf.

Can I teach in Tennessee without certification?

You cannot teach in Tennessee public schools unless you hold a teaching license. However, you may be able to find employment in one of the state's many private schools, although these schools may also prefer licensed candidates.

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.

What can I do with teaching certification in Tennessee?

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.

How do I become a substitute teacher in Tennessee?

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, an application form, and official transcripts. Some districts also require a bachelor's degree from a regionally accredited school.

Feature Image: Thomas Barwick / DigitialVision / Getty Images

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