How to Become a Teacher in Wisconsin
Wisconsin educators must hold a teaching license. Our guide explains how to become a teacher in Wisconsin, covering the licensure process and requirements.
Updated August 10, 2022
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Nearly 2,200 public schools across the state of Wisconsin educate K-12 students. The 62,500 teachers working in Wisconsin public schools all hold a teaching license issued by the state.
Teachers in the Badger State must meet education, experience, and testing requirements to work at public schools. Like other states, Wisconsin teachers must hold a bachelor's degree. Several online colleges in Wisconsin meet the requirement to train teachers. Professionals considering a career change into teaching can also return to school for an educator preparation program.
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Ready to start your journey?
Our guide walks through how to become a teacher in Wisconsin, including the requirements for an initial teaching license, licensure fees, and lifetime license requirements. Prospective teachers can use this resource to plan their career path, choose a teaching specialty, and apply for their teaching license.
How Do I Become a Teacher in Wisconsin?
Teachers in every state need to meet certain requirements to receive a state-issued teaching license or certificate. The process for how to become a teacher in Wisconsin starts with earning a bachelor's degree. Educators must also complete an approved teacher preparation program that includes student teaching hours. Finally, Wisconsin sets requirements for subject area knowledge and background checks.
Educators who meet the requirements receive their teaching certification in Wisconsin. The Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction issues teaching licenses to candidates educated in the state, those who complete a preparation program in another state, and teachers licensed in other states.
Meet Minimum Education Requirements
Educators must meet minimum education requirements to qualify for teaching certification in Wisconsin. The state's requirements include a bachelor's degree and completion of an approved educator preparation program. Many prospective teachers earn a bachelor's degree in education, which typically meets both requirements.
Teachers take pedagogical and content-area courses during a bachelor's in education program. They also complete hands-on training such as a student teaching practicum. Educators who earn their bachelor's degree in another state can still apply for a license in Wisconsin. However, they need to meet the state's testing and coursework requirements.
Candidates who earned a bachelor's degree in another major must complete a teacher licensure program. These post-bachelor's programs cover subject area and teaching coursework. Some licensure programs also grant a master's degree.
When applying for a Wisconsin teaching license, applicants must have the approval of their educator preparation program. Thirty-three colleges and universities in Wisconsin offer approved teacher training programs.
Gain Student Teaching Experience
In addition to a bachelor's degree, Wisconsin educators need to meet certain experience requirements. The state requires at least 18 weeks of student teaching experience in the educator's teaching area.
Wisconsin grants early childhood, elementary and middle school, and middle and high school licenses. The early childhood license covers birth through third grade, while the elementary and middle school license covers kindergarten through 9th grade. The middle and high school license covers 4th through 12th grade.
Applicants who do not meet the minimum student teaching requirement may qualify for a license with statutory stipulations that they must complete.
Pass Required Certification Tests
Wisconsin requires certification tests to receive a teaching license. Applicants must demonstrate subject area competency in several ways. First, Wisconsin uses the Praxis II tests to measure subject knowledge. Educators seeking licensure in world languages take the ACTFL World Language Tests in their language.
Educator preparation programs can also verify competency in the subject area through a minimum 3.0 GPA in content area coursework or a content portfolio. Most teachers meet the testing requirement during their educator preparation program. Programs work with students to schedule the tests required for their licensure area.
Teachers seeking an elementary education, special education, or reading specialist license must also pass the Wisconsin Foundations of Reading Test.
Apply for Certification
After meeting the education, experience, and testing requirements, teachers apply for their initial license. Wisconsin uses Educator Licensing Online (ELO) to accept and process applications. Candidates may need to submit fingerprints under certain circumstances. For example, applicants who have lived in any U.S. state other than Wisconsin or in certain U.S. territories or in Canada or Great Britain must submit fingerprints.
Applicants then complete questionnaires, answer onboarding questions, and upload documents to ELO. Wisconsin charges a $125 fee for a provisional teaching license. Applications for a teaching license generally take 6-12 weeks to process.
How Do I Maintain Teaching Certification in Wisconsin?
Wisconsin uses a tiered licensing system for teachers. The initial teaching license, known as a provisional educator license, remains valid for three years. Educators can apply for a reissue of this license if they do not meet the requirements for a lifetime educator license.
The lifetime educator license recognizes teachers with at least six semesters of experience teaching with a provisional educator license. Teachers who meet the requirement apply online for a lifetime educator license through ELO. The license does not expire.
Wisconsin also offers an optional master educator license. Candidates must hold or qualify for a lifetime educator license to receive their master educator license. They also must either complete national board certification or the Wisconsin master educator assessment process. Like the lifetime educator license, the master educator license does not expire.
Career Outlook for Teachers in Wisconsin
Around 62,500 teachers work in Wisconsin public schools. Teaching careers in the state offer several benefits. Wisconsin teachers earn salaries around the national average. For example, middle school teachers earn a median salary of $60,810 per year nationally. In Wisconsin, middle school teachers report an annual mean wage of $58,450.
Teachers can increase their earning potential with a master's in education. Educators considering graduate school can often teach while completing a master's degree. Teachers with a graduate degree can move into other education careers, such as school administration.
According to the U.S. Department of Education, Wisconsin faces teacher shortages in several areas for the 2021-22 school year. The next section highlights some in-demand teaching fields in Wisconsin.
In-Demand Teaching Careers in Wisconsin
Special education teachers work with children with disabilities. They educate learners in basic and advanced concepts by creating an individualized education program for each student. Special education teachers may focus on particular disabilities, including visual impairment, autism spectrum disorder, or physical disabilities. Wisconsin reports a shortage of special education teachers at the preK-12 level.
Median Annual Salary: $61,500
Elementary teachers work with the youngest learners in the public education system. They teach basic reading and math skills. Elementary educators also focus on social and emotional learning. Wisconsin reports a teacher shortage in the early childhood field, which includes pre-K, kindergarten, and grades 1-3.
Median Annual Salary: $60,660
English as a Second Language
English as a second language teachers specialize in working with students who speak a language other than English as their primary language. In bilingual education programs, educators teach students in two languages, with lessons focused on learning both languages. Wisconsin reports a teacher shortage for general and bilingual English as a second language teachers.
Median Annual Salary: $46,410
Mathematics teachers cover basic concepts like numerical literacy in the primary grades. In secondary grades, they teach geometry, algebra, precalculus, and calculus. Math classes prepare high school graduates for the workforce or college. Wisconsin reports a teacher storage for math teachers for grades 4-12.
Median Annual Salary: $51,500
Language arts teachers educate young learners in basic literacy and reading skills. At the secondary level, they cover topics like grammar, linguistics, persuasive writing, literature, and poetry. Wisconsin reports a teacher shortage in language arts reading specialists for grades preK-12.
Median Annual Salary: $50,900
Frequently Asked Questions About Teaching Certification in Wisconsin
How do I get teaching certification in Wisconsin?
Educators qualify for teaching certification in Wisconsin with a bachelor's degree. The state also requires candidates to successfully complete an approved educator preparation program. During the licensure process, applicants must provide approval from their program.
Teacher preparation programs include student teaching experience. In Wisconsin, educators need at least 18 weeks of student teaching to receive an initial teaching license. The state also sets requirements to demonstrate mastery over subject area knowledge. Unlike many other states, Wisconsin issues a lifetime teaching license that does not require renewal.
Can I teach in Wisconsin without certification?
Wisconsin teachers need a license from the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction to teach at the state's 2,200 public K-12 schools. The state's charter schools also require a license. However, educators can work at some private schools without teaching certification in Wisconsin.
Since the vast majority of teaching jobs are through public schools, this restricts teachers' options. For example, 82% of high school teachers work at public schools. Public schools also pay higher salaries. According to national data, public high school teachers report a median salary of $63,400 per year. In contrast, private high school teachers earn $58,550.
How long does it take to become a teacher in Wisconsin?
The process to become a teacher in Wisconsin takes several years. First, educators must complete a bachelor's degree to qualify for a teaching license. Second, teachers also need to attend an approved educator preparation program. Teaching and education majors meet this requirement during their bachelor's program. Finally, educators need to meet content-area knowledge requirements and complete a background check.
Prospective teachers without a degree can complete this process in around four years. Those considering a career change into teaching and who already have a bachelor's degree can enroll in an educator preparation program and qualify in around one year.
What can I do with teaching certification in Wisconsin?
A teaching certification meets the requirement to work at Wisconsin public schools. The Wisconsin public education system employs 62,500 teachers who work in elementary, middle, and high schools throughout the state. Educators at these schools must hold a teaching license issued by the state.
Wisconsin offers three types of teaching licenses: a provisional license for initial certification, a lifetime license for experienced educators, and a master license for those who hold board certification or a master's degree. Educators without certification can teach at the state's private schools. Wisconsin offers reciprocity for teachers licensed in another state.
How do I become a substitute teacher in Wisconsin?
Wisconsin offers two teaching licenses for substitute teachers. Substitutes can receive a three-year short-term substitute license if they hold at least a bachelor's degree from an accredited college. Applicants must also complete a substitute teacher training program. The license allows educators to take on short-term substitute teaching jobs in Wisconsin.
The state also issues a five-year substitute license. With this license, substitutes can take on long-term substitute jobs, defined as those that last more than 45 days in one class. Educators must hold a bachelor's degree and complete an approved educator preparation program to receive the five-year substitute license.
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