Arizona Teacher Certification Guide
How to Become a Teacher in Arizona
Searching for instructions on how to become a teacher in Arizona, or any state, can be a daunting task. Luckily, the process can be whittled down to three steps: the degree/experience, the certification, and the exams.
A prospective Arizona teacher should complete a bachelor's degree, a teacher certification program, and the required exams including--but not limited to--AEPA, NES, Professional Knowledge, and/or the Praxis exam depending on the license they seek and the subject area they wish to teach. There are also alternative methods for certification, including the Arizona Teaching Fellows Program, which waives some requirements for professionals and recent college graduates in exchange for an internship teaching disadvantaged students in Arizona. For licensed teachers moving to Arizona, there is certification reciprocity.
Arizona Educator Exam Educational Requirements
When trying to determine how to become a teacher in Arizona, one must consider how much education one has and if one already has an out-of-state teacher certificate. If the applicant does not have a bachelor's degree, they should enroll in a program conducive to a further career in teaching, such as a traditional bachelor's degree educator preparation program which includes a 12 week student teaching experience. This is a bachelor's degree and an EPP combined into one program.
For those who completed a bachelor's degree but not an educator preparation program (or are already Arizona teachers but wish to expand their expertise and subjects they can teach), there are traditional and post-baccalaureate education preparation programs as well as education master's degrees. Many of these programs can be found by subject area at azed.gov.
Teaching Certificate Requirement
The certification courses requirements depend on the type of teacher the applicant is looking to become. The specific requirements by teaching specialty can be found at azed.gov. These certification courses can either be part of a teacher preparation program or as separate Board approved/accredited coursework that fulfills Arizona's teaching requirements. Either way, these requirements include both theory of teaching (assessing progress of students, instructional design, etc.) and practical student teaching. The specific requirements vary; for instance, an early education teacher will be taught different things compared to a secondary education teacher when seeking an Arizona teaching certification. The online and in-person options for teacher certifications and educator preparation programs all depend on the individual center or college providing the programs.
Standardized Teaching Assessment Requirement
The tests required for an Arizona teaching certification depend on the type of teacher the applicant wishes to become. The requirements listed by teaching specialty can be found on the Arizona Department of Education's website.
There are two types of testing requirements: a professional knowledge test and a subject knowledge test. A professional knowledge test is broad. There are professional knowledge tests for teaching early childhood, elementary school, and secondary education. The subject test assesses an applicant's thorough knowledge of the subjects they wish to teach; for example, the Biology NT305 is an NES test required for those who wish to teach Biology to high school students. These tests may be AEPA or NES exams, AEPA being the Arizona Educator Proficiency Assessment and NES being the National Evaluation Series. Which tests an applicant needs to take depend on the subject matter they wish to teach and the age of their students.
Alternative Ways to Become a Teacher in Arizona
Other avenues for how to get Arizona teaching certificates also exist. If a prospective teacher has a bachelor's degree, but not one from an accredited Arizona school, they may be eligible to get an Arizona alternative teacher certificate. This involves enrolling in a state accredited post-baccalaureate program, or pursuing a master's degree. This pathway is similar to the traditional certification route, only shorter because it does not result in a bachelor's degree. It is an educator preparation program that contains classes on the pedagogy of education and includes student teaching. Prospective teachers should research where they receive this educator preparation program and make doubly sure that they enroll in an Arizona accredited institution. This alternative pathway to become an Arizona teacher still requires the requisite exams; it is simply an alternative to the bachelor's degree pathway.
Arizona Substitute Teaching Certificate
The requirements to receive an Arizona substitute teaching certificate are less complex than the other pathways. The application for a substitute teacher certification requires a bachelor's degree and transcript and the application fee, as well as successfully passing a background check. This certificate lasts for six years and can be renewed. This certificate allows the holder to substitute for the regular teacher of classes ranging from pre-kindergarten through to the twelfth grade.
Arizona Emergency Teacher Certification
In the event of an emergency, two other pathways to certification open: Emergency Teacher Certification and Emergency Substitute Certification. The applications to these certifications are not available to the public; rather, they are made available by individual districts and charter schools when an emergency arises. The emergency certificates are only valid for the district or the charter school that made the request; they cannot be used for other schools or in other districts.
The requirements for the Emergency Substitute Certification are as follows: the emergency substitute request form signed by the superintendent and a signifier of education (high school diploma, GED, etc). This certificate lasts for two school years and allows for 120 days of emergency substitute teaching.
An Arizona Emergency Teacher Certification is made available by the district or charter school and will be advertised across the state and in at least three career placement offices for higher education. This advertising is required since the form is not readily available to the public and must be obtained from the superintendent. The requirements for this certification are the request form signed by the superintendent and a bachelor's degree. The certification lasts for a school year. This emergency teaching certificate can be renewed, but no more than three times.
Additional Requirements for Arizona Teacher Certification
Besides the degree, educator preparation program, and passing exam scores, an Arizona teacher certification requires some miscellaneous steps, including fingerprinting. All applicants are required to provide an IVP (Identity Verified Prints). This is a finger print clearance card receivable from the Arizona Department of Public Safety. The fee for applying for an IVP is $67.00. It takes 10-30 days for someone to receive their clearance card after application. An IVP lasts for six years. These fingerprints are involved in the background check that all applicants need to pass.
Out of State Teaching Credentials
If a prospective Arizona teacher has completed an educator preparation program in another state, they may be eligible for an Arizona teaching certificate reciprocity. If the prospective teacher's educator preparation program is in good standing with Arizona, then it counts towards that teacher's application, and they do not have to do additional coursework like they would under the alternative pathway to licensure. People who fit this description should apply under Certification Reciprocity. Their application requires an IVP, a photocopy of their out-of-state educator certificate, and their official transcripts. The best way to be sure if an EPP is valid in both its own state and Arizona is to cross check the EPP's website with the Arizona Department of Education.
Requirements for Certification Renewal
The Arizona teaching certificate renewal process can start six months before the certificate expires or up to one year after the expiration. The process for renewing a certificate can be found on the same web page as the application and done through the Arizona Department of Certification's web portal, AzedCert. If the certification, or certifications, are expired, then the teacher must either resubmit the standard application, or fill out a form to receive an Experienced Educator license. If dealing with multiple licenses, one can renew all at one time. To renew a license, 15 professional development hours are required for each year the applicant has held the license.
Professional Development and Advancements
Professional development hours are activities a teacher does to advance as a professional educator, such as training in specialized areas that can help an applicant become a more well-rounded professional (suicide awareness and prevention, advocacy for students with reading impairments, etc.). These hours also include workshops, conferences, academic courses, school sponsored training, and educational research. Importantly, an hour of college coursework counts as 15 professional development hours.
Arizona Teacher Employment Salary
A new Arizona teacher, on average, makes $44,000 a year, with secondary school teachers generally making more and elementary school teachers making less. There are teacher shortages in a variety of areas such as English, Language Arts, Math, and Science. There are about 1,740 openings for elementary school teacher positions, 1,400 for secondary school teachers, and 820 for middle school teachers. Getting an Arizona teaching certification opens the doors to these kinds of positions, as well as membership within the AEA (Arizona Education Association). The AEA provides insurance, legal help, and bargaining power for labor conditions.
Process of Application for Arizona Teaching Certificate
To apply for an Arizona Teaching Certification, one must gather their documents and transcripts for the AzedCert web portal. Each certificate, whether it's an Arizona Substitute Teaching Certification, or a a standard Arizona Teaching Certification, has its varying required documents listed on the Arizona Department of Education Website. For example, the following are the required items for the application of a Standard Professional Secondary Certificate:
- Application Fee
- IVP Fingerprint Card
- Official Transcripts
- Foreign Transcripts (for completed college courses outside of the United States)
- Exam results for appropriate field or Out-of-State certificate for reciprocity
- Option A: Transcripts from a Teaching Program
- Option B: Verification of Teaching Experience form, appropriate coursework transcripts, and the exam score for AZ033 (deferrable up to 3 years)
- Option C: Photocopy of valid Out-of-State teacher certification and photocopy of AZ033 exam (deferrable up to 3 years)
- Proof of Professional Knowledge Exam Requirement as either a passing score on the NT502 exam, Out-Of-State equivalent, NBPTS, or Teaching Experience
- Proof of Subject Exam Requirement is identical to the Knowledge Exam requirement with the additional options of Coursework, Degree in the subject, Post-Secondary teaching, or Work Experience
The application process usually takes three to four weeks between the months of October and April. Between May and September it can last as long as eight weeks.
Arizona Educator Proficiency Assessment
For everyone trying to figure out how to become a teacher in Arizona, the AZ033 AEPA exam is one part of the answer. The AEPA exam is required for all applicants. AEPA stands for Arizona Education Preparation Assessments, an organization that includes NES (National Evaluation Series). The AZ033 exam, which everyone must take, is a 2 hour and 45 minute long exam that assesses the candidate's knowledge of Arizona's teaching standards. There is more information on the AEPA website and study guides for the exam are widely available. Applicants will take other exams by this same organization depending their subject area as well as on the age range of their students.
Arizona Praxis Test
The Praxis Series of exams have not been discussed in this article on how to get an Arizona teaching certificate, but they do have their place in this process. Praxis exams assess candidates' knowledge and proficiency as a teacher and in their subject. There are Praxis exams for many subjects and grade levels that are used around the country. Arizona does not require a Praxis exam; however, many Praxis exams are valid as an equivalent for various AEPA and NES exams. If a prospective teacher has taken the Praxis exams, it will save time to use those Praxis passing scores on the application before retaking an AEPA equivalent.