How to Become a Teacher in Colorado
The Colorado Department of Education (CDE) oversees Colorado teaching certification and licensing for public school educators. New educators can apply for an Initial license, which is valid for three years. To qualify, applicants must have graduated with a minimum of a bachelor's degree from an accredited institution, completed either a traditional or alternative teacher preparation program, and participated in hands-on learning, such as an internship, practicum, or student teaching. Candidates must also possess proven subject-matter knowledge in the area in which they want to teach (known as an "endorsement"). This can be accomplished by either an undergraduate degree in the subject area, or by successful passing of approved, content-specific exams, or by completion of 24 semester hours in the specific subject area. Professional teaching licenses, valid for seven years, are available to those who have a valid Initial license, and have completed an approved teacher induction program offered by their home school district. Alternative paths to licensure, with similar requirements, are available for both non-traditional educators and out-of-state educators.
Colorado Teaching Credential Programs
One of the Colorado teaching certificate requirements is completion of an accredited teacher preparation program that includes a hands-on learning component, such as an internship, practicum, or student teaching. Some of the approved and accredited teaching programs offer requisite coursework to satisfy dual endorsements in subject areas, allowing for potential educators to have the flexibility and ability to teach in more subjects. Following are accredited teacher preparation programs, both traditional and alternative, that satisfy this requirement:
|Adams State University||Alamosa, CO||Traditional|
|Boulder Journey School||Boulder, CO||Alternative|
|Centennial BOCES||Greeley, CO||Alternative|
|Colorado Christian University||Lakewood, CO||Traditional and Alternative|
|Colorado College||Colorado Springs, CO||Traditional|
|Colorado Mountain College||Glenwood Springs, CO||Traditional and Alternative|
|Colorado River BOCES||Parachute, CO||Alternative|
|Colorado State University||Various locations, CO||Traditional and Alternative|
|Denver College of Nursing||Denver, CO||Traditional|
|Denver Seminary||Denver, CO||Traditional|
|Eagle Rock School & Professional Development Center||Estes Park, CO||Alternative|
|East Central BOCES||Limon, CO||Alternative|
|Friends School Teacher Preparation Program||Boulder, CO||Alternative|
|Ft. Lewis College||Durango, CO||Traditional and Alternative|
|Metropolitan State University||Denver, CO||Traditional and Alternative|
|Mountain BOCES||Buena Vista, CO||Alternative|
|Naropa University||Boulder, CO||Traditional|
|Northeast BOCES||Haxtun, CO||Alternative|
|Northwest BOCES||Steamboat Springs, CO||Alternative|
|PEBC Teacher Residency||Denver, CO||Alternative|
|Pikes Peak BOCES||Colorado Springs, CO||Alternative|
|Regis College||Denver, CO||Traditional|
|Relay Graduate School of Education||Denver, CO||Traditional and Alternative|
|Rocky Mountain College of Art + Design||Denver, CO||Traditional|
|San Luis Valley BOCES||Alamosa, CO||Alternative|
|Southeastern BOCES||Lamar, CO||Alternative|
|University of Colorado||Various locations, CO||Traditional and Alternative|
|University of Denver||Denver, CO||Traditional|
|University of Northern Colorado||Greeley, CO||Traditional|
|West Central Licensing (Uncompahgre BOCES)||Ridgway, CO||Alternative|
|Western Colorado University||Gunnison, CO||Traditional and Alternative|
Colorado Teacher Certification Education Requirements
All candidates for Colorado teacher certification must have successfully graduated from a college or university accredited by one of the following organizations:
- Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools (MSA)
- Higher Learning Commission (HLC); New England Commission on Higher Education (NECHE)
- Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU)
- Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS)
- Western Association of Schools and Colleges, Accrediting Commission for Senior Colleges and Universities (WASC-ACSCU).
Candidates must also have completed an approved teacher preparedness program with hands-on learning opportunities, such as an internship, practicum, or student teaching component. Completion of a degree in a specific subject matter, or proof of successful completion of 24 semester hours of subject-matter specific courses, is required for specific subject matter/endorsement areas.
Required Tests for Colorado Teachers
Required testing for educators in Colorado depends on the area in which a Colorado teaching license is desired. Colorado does not require a core skills exam; however, for early childhood and elementary teachers, the following exams are mandatory:
|Teaching Area||Exam Options|
|Early Childhood||PLACE 02 (passing score = 220); or PRAXIS 5024 (passing score = 160) and 5205 (passing score = 159)|
|Elementary (K-6)||PLACE 01 (passing score = 220) and PRAXIS 5205 (passing score = 159); or PRAXIS 5205 (passing score = 159) and PRAXIS 5901 series, which includes 5903 (passing score = 157), 5904 (passing score = 155) and 5905 (passing score = 159)|
For secondary educators seeking to teach in specific subject-matter areas, various exams, administered by PLACE or PRAXIS, may be required for educators to receive certification in specific endorsement areas. Initial license holders may take additional exams in order to qualify to teach a wider array of subjects.
Colorado accepts passing scores on select PRAXIS exams as proof of proficiency in specific subject-matter areas, but does not require the PRAXIS Core Academic Skills for Educators Exam. For early childhood or elementary teachers, who have not taken the PLACE exam, the specified PRAXIS exams are required in order to apply for teacher certification in Colorado. If you look to teach in secondary education, a passing score on a specific subject matter area/endorsement will satisfy Colorado's requirement for proven proficiency in that content area, such as drama, business, English, health, math, social studies, science, etc. The tests are designed to assess your general and subject-specific teaching ability through selected-response and constructed-response questions. You may register to take PRAXIS test either at a testing location or online. Testing is completed on a computer, and different exams have differing lengths and types of questions. Colorado Praxis passing scores generally range from 146 to 166. You may take multiple exams in order to extend the scope of subject areas in which you are qualified to teach.
The final administration of PLACE exam (Program for Licensing Assessments for Colorado Educators) exam was on May 6, 2017. This program is no longer in existence. However, the Colorado Department of Education will continue to accept PLACE scores as demonstration of subject-matter knowledge for specific endorsements on applications submitted through May 5, 2022. You must have received a minimum score of 220 in order for the test to be accepted as proof of your comprehension of the subject area/endorsement. PLACE exam scores can only be used for adding additional active endorsements to your existing Colorado teaching license, and only if you have not completed the requisite educational program necessary to achieve the endorsement. Be aware that the list of active endorsements for which the PLACE exam is accepted is subject to change.
Additional Colorado Teaching License Requirements
You must possess a valid social security number and submit fingerprints for purposes of a criminal background check before applying for a Colorado teaching license. Prior to application for licensure, you must submit a complete set of fingerprints to the Colorado Bureau of Investigation. It may take up to six weeks for the Colorado Board of Education to receive results. You will then have 30 days to file your application. If you do not, you will need to submit a new set of fingerprints.
For more detailed information, including how and where to submit fingerprints, please visit http://www.cde.state.co.us/cdeprof/fingerprints.
Colorado Teacher Certification Application Process
Applications for Colorado teacher certification are processed electronically via an online licensing service, COOL. Create a COOL account, then submit the following materials:
2. Social security number and mailing address
3. Digitally-scanned copies of:
- Valid government-issued identification (passport, driver's license, state/military issued identification card, or American tribal document)
- Official transcripts, in English, from every institution attended
- A signed teacher preparedness program verification form
- Official test score reports for PLACE/PRAXIS exam scores
- Out-of-state teacher certificates or licenses
- Documentation of all prior experience and work history
- Disclosure of any criminal or other disciplinary actions
4. Application fee = $90 ($110 for out-of state applicants)
Applications are reviewed within 45 days of receipt.
Alternative Paths to Teaching Licensure in Colorado
There are alternative ways to obtain a teaching license in Colorado. In an alternate licensing path, candidates gain experience working as a teacher while fulfilling the requirements necessary for Colorado teacher certification. For those who do not have an undergraduate degree in education, but want to teach, this is an excellent way to enter the profession. To qualify, candidates must have a minimum of an undergraduate degree from an accredited college or university. Candidates wanting to teach in either early childhood or elementary education must also prove proficiency by passing the required PLACE and/or PRAXIS tests for teachers. Candidates seeking to teach in secondary education can prove the proficiency necessary to teach in an approved subject-matter area by holding a degree in the subject matter, having completed 24 semester hours of coursework in the subject area, or having successful passing a corresponding approved content exam (such as PRAXIS or PLACE.) If these requirements are met, candidates begin the application process by submitting fingerprints for a criminal background check. Candidates then may seek employment as a teacher in school districts that participate in alternative teacher training. While teaching, candidates must complete an an accredited alternative teacher preparedness program, which will take one to two years. Until candidates have met all the requirements for an Initial license, they will only be allowed to teach in one specific endorsement area.
Colorado Credentials for Out-of-State Teachers
Colorado teacher certification reciprocity does not exist; however, you can still obtain a teaching license even if you are from another state. You must have attained a minimum bachelor's degree from an accredited institution, and completed an approved teaching preparedness program with student teaching, internship, or practicum components. You also need to prove proficiency in an endorsement area recognized by Colorado. If you possess either a valid teaching license, or the qualifications to be licensed, in the state in which you completed your teaching program, and have three out of the past seven years of teaching experience, you will qualify for a seven-year Professional license. If you have less than three years' experience, you will qualify for an Initial license. Interim authorization for one year may be given if you have less than three years' experience, or have not passed the approved subject-matter exams for Colorado endorsements.
Colorado Teacher Outlook and Salary
Opportunities abound for prospective educators in the Colorado public school system. Between 2017 and 2020, enrollment in public schools, both non-charter and charter, increased 26%. With increased enrollment and graduation rates on the rise, Colorado is seeing an increased need for teachers across the spectrum of subject areas. Areas with an increasing need include special education, STEM, rural districts, and areas serving non-English, or English as a second language students. In 2020-2021, Colorado had 6,910 available teaching positions, of which 235 (3%) remained open.
Student-teacher ratios for the 2020-2021 school year hovered around 16:6, with the average salary for newly licensed Initial license teachers ranging in the mid-$30,000. Teachers with post-graduate education and additional subject-matter proficiency often command higher salaries. Thus, the typical average salary for teachers from across the state was $58,219 for the 2020-2021 school year.