Earning a teaching degree online is an increasingly popular route to becoming an educator. Distance learners who pursue a teaching degree do not typically need to worry about commuting to campus or attending classes at specific times every week. Most online teaching programs provide students with increased flexibility in terms of when they need to finish assignments, complete readings, and/or watch lectures. This flexibility allows learners to continue working full time, avoid moving out of their homes and communities, and balance coursework with other personal commitments. Like traditional offerings, online teaching programs do require learners to undertake a student teaching internship, but this requirement can usually be set up and completed at a school near a student's home.
Each state has its own specific requirements for teaching licenses. If you plan to complete a teaching program in another state, you can still get a PA teaching certificate, as Pennsylvania has reciprocity agreements that recognize teacher preparation programs from other states. Nonetheless, it is important to make sure that your teaching program is recognized as an approved program. Additionally, graduates of online teaching programs still need to meet the state's other certification requirements, such as passing required teacher exams.
How to Become a Teacher in Pennsylvania
In Pennsylvania, prospective teachers need to hold a bachelor's degree or higher and a teaching license. Education policy in the United States is created primarily at the state and local levels, rather than by the federal government. Consequently, there is not a single, streamlined process for licensing teachers that applies uniformly to every state. Instead, each state has its own separate certification processes. For example, different states may ask applicants to take different teacher exams or submit to criminal background requirements.
Fortunately, most states (Pennsylvania included) have a reciprocity process with other states that allow teachers to apply for a license in a different state. Students can follow several out-of-state certification paths, with different requirements depending on your situation. If you completed an approved teacher preparation program in another state, you can receive your Pennsylvania teaching certification as long as you meet the state's other criteria for licensure. Additionally, if you hold a valid teaching license in a state other than Pennsylvania and have completed at least two years of successful classroom instruction, you may be able to receive your teaching certification in PA by completing fewer steps; this is also true for individuals who hold a National Board for Professional Teaching Standards credential.
Steps to Earning Your Online PA Teacher Certification
In order to teach in Pennsylvania, you need to hold a valid Pennsylvania teaching license. The process for earning your license encompasses multiple steps. To qualify for the license, you first need to earn a bachelor's degree with a cumulative GPA of 3.0 or higher. You also need to earn passing grades on any required exams, meet ethics standards, and pay the appropriate fees. This process is outlined in greater detail below. You can also visit Pennsylvania's Department of Education website for more detailed information.
Hold a bachelor's degree
All teachers in Pennsylvania need to hold a bachelor's degree in order to receive certification. The bachelor's does not need to be in teaching or education, but prospective teachers who do not have a teaching or education degree need to complete a teacher preparation program. Most individuals with a bachelor's in teaching complete this type of program as part of their degree requirements.
Hold a minimum 3.0 GPA
To receive an initial PA teaching certification, prospective teachers need to have earned a cumulative GPA of 3.0 or higher (on a 4.0 scale) during their bachelor's or master's program. Those with an active out-of-state teaching certificate with two years of teaching experience do not need to meet this requirement.
Complete an approved teacher preparation program
To receive your Pennsylvania teaching certificate, you need to successfully complete a teacher preparation program. The state maintains a list of approved programs in Pennsylvania. Applicants who complete an approved teacher prep program out of state can also apply for certification. Pennsylvania requires that approved teacher preparation programs include a supervised student teaching experience; this experience must be at least 12 weeks long and include lesson planning, classroom instruction, and other skills necessary to succeed as a classroom teacher in Pennsylvania.
Receive a passing grade on required exams (Praxis)
Pennsylvania teachers must earn a passing grade on all exams required for their certification area. Praxis is a set of tests that attempts to measure the knowledge and skills of prospective teachers; many states require teachers to pass a series of these exams. In Pennsylvania, prospective teachers must pass a basic skills test as well as the Praxis subject assessments applicable to the area in which they plan to teach (i.e., secondary education, PK-12 education, educational leadership, or educational specialist). Prospective teachers in Pennsylvania must earn scores of 156, 162, and 142 for reading, writing, and mathematics, respectively, to pass.
Meet moral character requirements for Pennsylvania teachers
Applicants for a Pennsylvania teaching license must also meet the state's requirement that teachers have "good moral character." As part of the application process, prospective teachers answer a series of character-related questions, such as "Have you ever been the subject of a child abuse investigation?" or "Are criminal charges pending against you?" Applicants who answer yes to any of these questions need to undergo a "good moral character" review. If the review finds a prospective teacher to lack the requisite moral character, their teaching license will be denied.
Payment of all fees
PA teacher certification is not free: teachers must pay a number of fees before they receive their teaching license. The Pennsylvania Department of Education outlines the applicable fees required for each teacher's certification area. For individuals who completed a teacher preparation program in state, the license costs $200.
Student Teaching in Pennsylvania
The student teaching process provides future teachers with hands-on experience working with pupils in the classroom before they assume their first official teaching job. Most teacher preparation and teaching degrees include a student teaching requirement as part of the curriculum, and completion of student teaching hours is typically part of the requirements for becoming a licensed teacher.
While student teaching, you work with an experienced classroom teacher who serves as a supervisor and mentor. You assist this teacher in their classroom by observing, planning lessons, providing instruction, grading, managing students, and completing a variety of other tasks related to classroom teaching. Your supervising teacher provides feedback and suggestions regarding your performance. Although you may temporarily be in charge of the classroom, your supervising teacher remains responsible for the classroom throughout the student teaching period.
Student teachers typically prepare for student teaching experiences by earning classroom experience beforehand. For example, individuals can ask to observe or volunteer at a local school. It may also be helpful to read about other people's student teaching experiences. Thinking about your teaching philosophy and what you personally hope to gain from the experience can also help ensure a rewarding student teaching experience.
Some teaching programs, including those offered online, have partnerships with schools and help learners set up their student teaching experience. However, some programs expect students to find and arrange their student teaching experience themselves. Either way, distance learners can typically complete their student teaching hours at a school in their local communities. Individuals engage in student teaching while still enrolled in their online teaching program, typically towards the end of the program.
Career Outlook for Teachers in Pennsylvania
The state in which you live and work has a significant impact on your salary as a teacher. The career outlook for teachers in Pennsylvania is similar to that of the average teacher in the U.S. Teachers in the state make an average of $55,760 annually, which is about $1,000 more than the national average. As is common in other states, teacher salaries increase with teaching level. For example, preschool teachers make much less than teachers at any other level; their average salary is less than half of that made by the highest-earning teachers at the secondary level.
Students should make sure to consider the differences in salary potential based on teaching level while still enrolled in their teaching programs; this can be an important consideration when deciding which teacher certification to pursue.
|Occupation||Employment||Annual Mean Wage|
|Elementary School Teachers||51,990||$62,250|
|Middle School Teachers||24,520||$62,620|
Excludes Special Education Teachers, May 2016
Scholarships for Pennsylvania Teaching Students
Earning a teaching degree can be expensive, but college students can find thousands of scholarships online to help pay for their education. Additionally, many scholarships target students studying education, including some specific to future teachers in Pennsylvania.
- The T.E.A.C.H. (Teacher Education And Compensation Helps) Early Childhood® PENNSYLVANIA Scholarship Program
Who Can Apply: The Pennsylvania Child Care Association presents a scholarship program for child care workers. Recipients must agree to continue working at their child care center for one year after receiving the scholarship.
Amount: Most of the cost for tuition and books
- TEACH Grants
Who Can Apply: The U.S. Department of Education offers scholarships to students planning a career in teaching. Recipients must agree to teach in a high-need field at a school serving low-income students for at least four years after graduation.
- The Zell Family Scholarship
Who Can Apply: The American Montessori Society presents this scholarship, which is available to individuals enrolled in or accepted to an AMS-affiliated teacher education program.
- Prospective Middle School Mathematics Teacher Scholarship
Who Can Apply: The National Council of Teachers of Mathematics gives this award to students who plan to teach middle school mathematics. Applicants must be in their junior year of college.
- Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) Teachers for America's Future Graduate Scholarship
Who Can Apply: The Armed Forces Communications and Electronics Association distributes this scholarship to graduate students who plan to teach in a STEM field at a K-12 school in the U.S. Applicants must be graduate students attending an accredited college or university in the U.S.
- Robert Noyce Teacher Scholarship
Who Can Apply: The American Association for the Advancement of the Sciences distributes this scholarship to graduate and undergraduate students planning to teach in a STEM field. Awardees must commit to teaching for 2-5 years, depending on the amount of their scholarship.
Amount: Full tuition plus a stipend
Resources for Teachers in Pennsylvania
- Pennsylvania State Education Association: The PSEA is a 181,000-member organization of education professionals, including teachers, teaching students, and support staff. The PSEA works to support education policies that help teachers and provide its members with good salaries, healthcare, and retirement plans. Prospective teachers and teaching students also benefit from PSEA's advocacy work. Members can access professional development courses and workshops, conferences, magazines, newsletters, and discounts.
- Pennsylvania Department of Education: Responsible for overseeing 500 public school districts, community colleges, and career centers, the Pennsylvania Department of Education ensures that all learners in the state have access to excellent educational opportunities. The department offers several resources to potential teachers and teaching students, including information about teacher certification, employment opportunities, continuing education and professional development, and reports about schools and education in Pennsylvania. The organization's website also has a special section designed for current educators.
- Pennsylvania Training and Technical Assistance Network: The PATTAN is part of the Pennsylvania Department of Education's Bureau of Special Education. It is responsible for assisting the Bureau of Special Education and helping local agencies serve special education students. The organization offers a variety of training and professional development opportunities for educators and students pursuing a career in education.
- Pennsylvania's Education for All Coalition: PEAC includes educators, parents, and people with disabilities. Together, this community works to promote inclusive education for all children, including those with disabilities. One of PEAC's main goals is to ensure that students with disabilities can receive a quality education at their neighborhood school. PEAC hosts workshops for teachers that provide education about special education law, collaboration between teachers and families, and best practices in special education. Teachers can also take a variety of other ongoing professional development courses through PEAC.
- Pennsylvania Department of Education's Standards Aligned System: The PDESAS hosts an online portal filled with resources that schools and teachers can use to improve student achievement. The SAS includes research-based resources that address curriculum framework, instruction, assessments, standards, materials and resources, and safe and supportive schools. Teachers can find tools for modeling units and lesson plans, creating exams, assessing literacy, and measuring their own effectiveness. Individuals can also access training materials and documents related to policies and Pennsylvania's academic standards.
Networking Opportunities in Pennsylvania
No matter the field, networking can help professionals advance in their careers and bring about new career opportunities. Although networking can seem especially daunting for students and early-career professionals who lack extensive experience, it is important to make an effort and start making connections. The following events provide strong networking opportunities for teachers in Pennsylvania.
The Philadelphia Education Fund hosts a STEM professional development forum each month for math and science teachers working (or seeking to work) at Philadelphia schools in K-12 settings. These networking forums include dinners, professional development opportunities, and discussions. Topics of discussion include STEM fundraising, STEM literacy, and STEM curriculum design.
The PCTELA puts on an annual conference; the specific topic changes each year but is always related to English and language arts. Teachers and teaching students who attend the conference can network with colleagues, attend presentations given by leaders in the field, and learn about new ideas for improving classroom teaching. Students benefit from a heavily discounted rate.
|Cool Cat Teacher||This blog, written by classroom teacher Vicki Davis, includes inspirational teaching tools with a focus on how teachers can use technology to help students learn. Started in 2005, the blog's archives contain tech tips, web tools, and lesson plans. Readers can search the blog by category, including by grade level and subject area. Issues explored include game-based learning, social media, social emotional learning, and data-driven instruction.|
|The Creative Classroom||Former middle school teacher and current college professor John Spencer maintains this website and blog with the mission of making schools more creative by promoting design thinking. The blog shares research; teacher interviews; and noteworthy articles, books, and podcasts. The site also contains a variety of free classroom materials.|
|@callmemrmorris||Toronto-based elementary school educator and writer Matthew Morris tweets about social justice in the context of education. He also publishes more in-depth content related to race, education, and black masculinity on his blog. Prospective teachers and teaching students can learn about race and other diversity-related issues in the classroom.|
|@wendykopp||Wendy Kopp is the CEO of Teach for All and the founder of Teach For America. Both of these organizations seek to help educate low-income children around the world. Kopp tweets about making education more equitable, her travels, and pertinent articles.|
|Angela Maiers Blog||Maiers is an educator, author, speaker, and leader who has taught at a variety of levels, from grade school to graduate school. Her blog is searchable by category, including literacy and learning, leadership and innovation, and habits and mindsets.|