How to Earn Your South Carolina Teaching License
Aspiring teachers in South Carolina have a different few paths they can take to obtain a teaching certification. In addition to the traditional path of earning a diploma and completing a student teaching experience, there are also work-based opportunities for licensure including Career and Technical Education, Advanced Fine Arts, and other alternative and specialized certification routes that will be covered in this article.
Prospective educators pursuing the standard certification path will first need to complete most of a bachelor's degree program and pass the necessary certification exams to demonstrate their subject matter education and practical teaching skills. The teaching internship component of the program is the only part that does not have to be completed prior to initial certification, but some form of student teaching experience must be completed to receive full certification.
Complete an Educator Preparation Program in South Carolina
Those seeking to become a teacher in South Carolina must complete an approved Educator Preparation Program. These are specific collegiate course programs designed to give prospective teachers all the skills necessary for their future careers. The State Board of Education (SBE) approves these programs based in part on state policies and on the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation. To be approved by the SBE, public colleges must receive national accreditation, while private institutions may either seek accreditation or meet national standards. All programs are also required to include either student teaching or an internship.
- Clemson University's online program is tied for best in the nation, according to US News and World Report; they offer a wide range of fields for prospective teachers. Teachers interested in pursuing higher degrees would be well-served at Clemson, as they offer graduate-level programs in every subject they are accredited in.
- Converse University and South Carolina State University (SCSU) offer more special education instruction options than any other college in the state. Both offer courses on intellectual disabilities, learning disabilities, and multi-categorical special education. Converse is the only college in South Carolina that covers hearing impairments, while SCSU covers emotional disabilities instead.
- The University of South Carolina (USC) has several campuses and is the only option in the state for those seeking instruction in special education roles specializing in severe disabilities (at USC Columbia) or visual impairments (at USC Upstate).
- Claflin University and South Carolina State University are good options for teachers interested in the arts. Both offer art instruction programs and four fields of music instruction, sharing Choral, Instrumental, and Piano courses. Claflin also offers Strings, while SCSU offers Voice and Theater courses. SCSU also offers the only Industrial Technology courses in the state.
South Carolina Teacher Education Requirements
The coursework required will vary based on what grade level a prospective teacher intends to teach. Early Childhood education requires specialized courses about teaching the youngest students. Elementary education programs focus on methods of teaching and assessing students, specifically when it comes to younger children. These programs require courses in mathematics, United States and world history, civics, and biology. They also include internships to ensure graduates will be able to put classroom theories into practice. Middle Level Education programs are more specialized, requiring potential teachers to specialize in two areas of study, choosing from English and Language, Math, Science, and Social Studies. Secondary Education programs, which are for potential high school teachers, require even further specialization into a single subject. All candidates regardless of intended grade level can expect to study a range of general education concepts, such as socioeconomic factors, how schools work with the communities they serve, and how students can vary in learning styles. Teachers must also complete twelve weeks, or sixty full days, of student teaching, along with ten full days of independent teaching, as part of the certification process.
SC Teacher Certification Testing Requirements
There are several tests required as part of South Carolina's teacher certification process. Most subject assessments are covered through the Praxis exam, developed and administered by Educational Testing Service (ETS). While Praxis offers a pedagogy assessment that is accepted, the Praxis Principles of Learning and Teaching (PPAT) assessment, also by ETS, and the educative Teacher Performance Assessment (edTPA) developed by Pearson Evaluation Systems are also approved for pedagogy certification in South Carolina. Those teaching languages other than English may instead complete assessments developed by the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Language (ACTFL), administered by Language Testing International.
South Carolina Praxis Test Requirements
South Carolina uses the Praxis tests for most assessments. While the necessary tests vary based on a candidate's indented grade level and subject matter, all teachers will need to complete certain core tests. The Praxis Core Academic Skills for Educators covers reading, writing, and math and is required for all teachers. Principles of Learning and Teaching assessments specific to the desired grade level will also be required. There will also be subject-matter tests; for elementary level, this requirement involves one test with sections focusing on reading and language, mathematics, science, and social studies, while higher levels have specific tests for each subject a teacher is pursuing certification in. These assessments are graded on a scale, and the passing Praxis score varies from 144 to 169, with possible scores ranging from 100 to 200.
Teachers seeking certification for foreign languages in South Carolina can opt to take ACTFL tests, provided by Language Testing International. Those pursuing certification through these assessments must complete both the Oral Proficiency Interview (OPI) and the Writing Proficiency Test (WPT) to demonstrate proficiency in both spoken and written communication. The OPI can be administered over the phone or by computer, while the WPT is done either on paper or online. These assessments do not use a numeric grading scale; rather, the ratings are Novice, Intermediate, Advanced, Superior, and Distinguished, with Novice through Advanced being subdivided into Low, Mid, and High each. All language certifications require a proficiency of at least Advanced Low. ACTFL Certification is available for Chinese, French, German, Greek, Italian, Japanese, Portuguese, Russian, and Spanish. Certifications for Chinese, French, German, and Spanish are also certifiable via Praxis assessment.
The Praxis Performance Assessment of Teachers (PPAT) consists of four tasks, three of which are graded, and some of which require submitting additional materials including fifteen minutes of video. The first task, which is unscored, requires that candidates demonstrate the skills needed in the class they are assigned to, their understanding of the school's culture, and how the school and community can affect education. Task 2 is about assignment grading and how to ensure that these lessons provide useful data for further development. The third task covers the development of effective lesson plans for a class that includes the use of technology and analyzing their impact on specific students. The last task builds on the lesson planning and evaluates the implementation of these plans in a classroom setting for effective education. The three graded tasks have a maximum possible score of 60, with a passing score of 36 for South Carolina.
The third option for pedagogy assessments for teacher certification is the educative Teacher Performance Assessment (edTPA), which offers a wide range of certification fields including elementary and middle-level education, most high school-level courses, and music and art education. The maximum score on these tests is 75, with passing scores in South Carolina ranging from 32 to 44. There is a registration fee of $300 and, similarly to PPAT, these assessments require submission of a portfolio of materials including video.
Additional SC Board of Education Teacher Certification Requirements
All prospective teachers must undergo a background check and fingerprinting process through a state-authorized vendor. While some specific information will only be made available through the Educator Portal after applying, the South Carolina Department of Education (SCDE) usually receives reports within four weeks of the completion of fingerprinting. Tuberculosis screening is also required, though those who have recently received COVID-19 vaccines will have to delay the test until four weeks after the vaccine series is completed. In those cases, a basic symptom screen may be accepted as a temporary substitute.
South Carolina Teacher Licensing Application Process
Those seeking teacher certification in South Carolina must, before any of the following steps, apply online through the Educator Portal using a personal email address that is checked regularly. Registering costs a non-refundable $105 fee, which will also be paid online. As mentioned above, fingerprinting and background checks are necessary. Applicants enrolled in out-of-state colleges must submit a Request for Change/Action Form detailing the program. After completion of student teaching, an Academic Application must be submitted, along with assessment scores and college transcripts.
Alternative Teacher Certification in South Carolina
There are also a variety of alternative pathways candidates can take to become a teacher in South Carolina. These include Career and Technical Education, Advanced Fine Arts, Teach for America, Teachers of Tomorrow, Alternate Pathways to Educator Certification, and the Program of Alternative Certification of Educators. Each caters to different needs and interests, and has its own processes.
Career and Technical Education, or CTE certification, is targeted to those with specialized work experience and requires two to four years of work and relevant education combined, with the exact requirements varying by field. Application or the CTE certification requires first completing the basic application through the Educator Portal. Applicants must then provide official copies of training credentials, proof of work experience, references, and copies of any required industry licenses. The standard fingerprinting and criminal review is necessary, as well as the application fee. SCDE recommends not submitting the fee until eligibility is approved.
Advanced Fine Arts certification first requires that a school district offers fine arts courses. The district superintendent must submit a written request for certification of the teacher, detailing what the teacher's exact role and duties will be. Candidates must already have a degree (undergraduate or graduate) in a specific area of fine arts and must possess a minimum of two years of professional experience in their chosen field. As with CTE certification, the standard application process is required, including academic transcripts and a Content Knowledge Assessment.
Teach for America (TFA) recruits teachers to teach in low-income communities for a minimum of two years; participants in the program may be assigned to any of fifty-two regions in the country. Those who teach in South Carolina may apply for an Alternative Route Teaching Certificate, potentially upgrading to a Professional certificate after the initial two years. Teachers of Tomorrow is a similar program that also offers a path to a professional certification.
Alternative Pathways to Educator Certification, or APEC, is a program offered by Columbia College that includes Early Childhood, Elementary, Dance, Middle Level, Special Education, and Secondary English and Math as fields of certification. This program is designed for working adults, allowing them to pursue a career in teaching without leaving their current job.
The Program of Alternative Certification for Educators (PACE) can certify prospective teachers in a wide range of subjects. The PACE application process diverges somewhat from the other alternative paths, however.
- PACE applicants must submit an online application through the Educator Portal as with standard certification applicants. However, they do not pay the $105 application fee.
- All official college transcripts must be submitted. Transcripts from international colleges must be accompanied with AICE or NACES translation and a US equivalency report, which must be submitted along with a Request for Change/Action Form.
- A formal response will take approximately four to six weeks.
- If the response is approval, the next step is to schedule and pass an appropriate ETS Praxis assessment, and as with the standard application ensure the results are sent to SCDE.
- After receiving a report of a passing score, complete the standard fingerprinting and criminal review.
- Submit a Request for Change/Action form to the Alternative Certification office, and pay the $105 processing fee online.
- A Statement of Eligibility will be mailed to an approved candidate. This will be requested of applicants, and copies should be made.
- After being hired by a South Carolina school district, the district will send a Confirmation of Employment to SCDE, allowing a teacher to attend a 10-day PACE program to receive an initial teaching certificate.
Certification in South Carolina for Out-of-State Educators
For out-of-state educators, there is yet another way to get a teacher certification in South Carolina. The state participates in the Interstate Agreement of the National Association of State Directors of Teacher Education and Certification, and recognizes standard educator certifications issued by other states, as long as they meet standard requirements. This is known as license reciprocity. The process to receive a certification through reciprocity is outlined below:
- First, the out-of-state credentials must be a standard (i.e., not temporary, emergency, provisional, or conditional) credential indicating that all standard requirements are completed, it must be currently valid and usable, and it must be in good standing without disciplinary action. If prior disciplinary action is recorded, additional review of eligibility will be necessary.
- Those applying to transfer must create a user account in the Education Portal and submit an Academic Application before proceeding with the following steps.
- As with new teachers, a non-refundable fee of $105 must be paid online.
- Completion of fingerprinting and criminal background check is necessary.
- Those currently in South Carolina can schedule an appointment through a state-approved vendor.
- Those outside of South Carolina must request a fingerprint card via email. This email must include your Educator ID, which will be given through the Educator Portal.
- Applicants must request official transcripts from each accredited college attended.
- Teachers must then submit a full copy of all pages of their active out-of-state credentials. If credentials were issued by a state that exclusively uses digital records, a PDF of the certification must be submitted.
- Scores from all completed certification exams must be submitted.
- Teachers must request each prior education employer submit an Experience Verification Form. The top portion of this form must be completed by the transferring teacher.
South Carolina Teacher Employment Outlook & Salary
The average starting salary for teachers in South Carolina is $37,550, while the average starting salary with a master's degree is $55,437. The average student-teacher ratio per district must not exceed 21 to 1. As of 2022, the public school average is 15:1, but this is skewed by special education scenarios that require smaller classes. There are 1201 schools in South Carolina, serving a total of 781,231 students taught by approximately 50,440 teachers. Ninth grade has the highest total at 72,377, with the next highest being eighth grade at 62,669. As of November 2021, South Carolina has reported a teacher shortage, with almost seven thousand teachers not returning after the previous school year and many vacant positions as a result.