How to Become a Teacher in Tennessee


How to Become a Teacher in Tennessee

Becoming a teacher in Tennessee takes several steps and years of work and dedication. TN uses a tiered licensing system, and a future educator's first goal will be obtaining their practitioner license.

Earning a TN educator license requires the candidate to enter and advance through the tiered system. There are no longer any routes to alternative teacher certification in Tennessee.

For an individual to obtain their initial license, they must meet all Tennessee teaching requirements by following these steps:

  • Decide which grade range they wish to teach
  • Complete at least a bachelor's degree in a suitable discipline
  • Enroll in a state-approved EPP
  • Align their area of specialization with their degree and desired grade range
  • Complete all required exams including the edTPA or appropriate PLT and applicable Praxis test that aligns with their area of specialization
  • Deliver all test scores and a complete, official academic transcript to the Department of Education
  • Submit for fingerprinting and a background check

Tennessee Teacher Certification Programs

To apply for a Tennessee teaching license, prospective educators must complete a certification program and have a recommendation from an approved educator preparation provider (EPP). Providers offer specialty area programs (SAPs) to endorse individuals in a specific subject and grade range. Before the Tennessee State Board of Education licensing an individual to be a teacher, candidates must have a minimum of one endorsement.

In Tennessee, teacher certification programs are subject to review and approval by the State Board to assure statewide quality education. In-state institutions of higher education (IHEs), education-related organizations (EROs), and local education agencies (LEAs) are eligible for approval as an EPP.

The State Board holds programs to different standards based on the grade range they cover. However, all EPPs that lead to a TN educator license or endorsement must submit to the standards agreed upon by the Department of Education (DOE) and the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP).

In addition to the State Board, Tennessee teacher certification programs must also adhere to the standards of the following organizations:

  • PreK-3: the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC).
  • K-5: the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP).
  • 6-8: the Association for Middle Level Education (AMLE). Depending on the area of specialization, programs must also follow the standards of the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE), the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM), the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA), or the National Council for the Social Studies (NCSS).
  • 6-12: each area of specialization is held to the national standards in place for that subject, such as by the NCTE, NCTM, NSTA, or NCSS.

Several schools in Tennessee feature notable education programs. Carson Newman University in Jefferson City, Tennessee offers 34 different endorsements, from 6-12 Physics and K-12 Music to Middle Grades Science and Physical Education. East Tennessee State University (ETSU) has 37 endorsements including Elementary Education, Theatre, K-12 Special Education Comprehensive and Government. Finally, the University of Tennessee Knoxville boasts 43 education endorsements. These include PreK-K Early Learning and Development, 6-12 Agriculture/Agriscience, PreK-12 English as a Second Language and K-12 Visual Arts.

Of all the accredited EPPs in Tennessee, studies have shown that ERO-run programs may produce more effective teachers than IHE-run programs. Below is a list of all ERO preparation providers in Tennessee and their programs.

ERO Name Location Programs
Arete Public Montessori Residency Libertas School of Memphis; Memphis, TN Early Childhood Education Pre-K - 3
Elementary Education K-5
Nashville Teacher Residency Nashville, TN Biology 6-12
Chemistry 6-12
Earth Science 6-12
English 6-12
Mathematics 6-12
Physics 6-12
Middle Grades English Language Arts 6-8
Middle Grades Mathematics 6-8
Middle Grades Science 6-8
Teach for America - Memphis Memphis, TN Early Childhood Education Pre-K - 3
Elementary Education K-5
Middle Grades English Language Arts 6-8
Middle Grades Mathematics 6-8
Middle Grades Science 6-8
Middle Grades Social Studies 6-8
Biology 6-12
Business Education 6-12
Chemistry 6-12
Economics 6-12
English 6-12
English as a Second Language Pre-K - 12
French 6-12
Government 6-12
History 6-12
Mathematics 6-12
Physics 6-12
Spanish 6-12
Special Education Interventionist K-8
Special Education Interventionist 6-12

Tennessee Teacher Education Requirements

Prospective educators must hold a bachelor's degree or higher from an IHP accredited by the CAEP or another state-recognized accreditation agency. Readers can find a detailed description of degree and program requirements by the Tennessee State Board of Education for licensing new teachers in section II of Policy 5.505: Literacy and Specialty Area Standards for Educator Preparation.

Fulfilling Tennessee's teaching requirements does not mean the prospective educator can only choose a degree in education. If the candidate plans to teach at the middle-grade level or below, an interdisciplinary or single-major degree in math, science, language arts, or social studies will satisfy the TN teacher education requirements. Individuals looking to teach secondary grade levels or early childhood education should major in the subject they wish to teach or early childhood development, respectively.

Future Tennessee teachers pursuing a degree in education should expect to take courses that align with the subjects they aim to teach in conjunction with theoretical and skills-based teaching courses. In most cases, students must complete a student teaching internship to fulfill their degree requirements.

Student teachers take on planning lessons and teaching classes under the supervision of a teacher mentor. These experiences count as course credit and will last about the length of one semester. Applicants for licensure must have clinical experience such as student teaching; however, the State Board requires EPPs to provide candidates with in-class teaching practice.

Applicants for licensure must submit their official IHE transcript to the Tennessee DOE.

Required Tests for Tennessee Teachers

To obtain licensure as a TN teacher, there are required exams the candidate must take. As with academic transcripts, applicants must submit their passing TN teaching exam scores to the DOE within five years of receiving the Praxis scores.

Candidates must qualify on a minimum of two different exams to satisfy Tennessee teacher requirements: the Educative Teacher Performance Assessment (edTPA) and the Praxis exam.

The edTPA is the new standard in Tennessee teacher license exams and replaces the Principles of Learning and Teaching (PLT) exam. The edTPA aims to test the educator's pedagogical knowledge and performance in the classroom.

Educators must complete the corresponding Praxis tests for teachers to showcase their content knowledge in each specialization area in which they are eligible for endorsement.

edTPA Assessment

Tennessee requires prospective educators to complete an edTPA that best aligns with their area of endorsement. Candidates must pass the edTPA to qualify for a practitioner teaching license in TN.

The exam consists of three performance-based tasks. As a submission requirement for the edTPA, candidates must record themselves teaching three to five lessons. It is ideal for candidates to utilize their time during their EPP clinical experience or job-embedded program to complete the edTPA task requirements.

The DOE requires only one edTPA to be taken and submitted for scoring. Candidates should seek help from their teacher mentor, EPP faculty, or academic advisor for which exam to register for if they pursue more than one endorsement.

Examinees may register for the assessment on the edTPA website and should plan to give themselves enough time to complete the required tasks while still conducting clinical practice. Tennessee-approved EPPs will submit candidates' scores to the DOE automatically. Out-of-state testers must specify that they want their scores sent to the Tennessee DOE during the registration process.

The following edTPA endorsements are available in Tennessee:

NOTE: Qualifying scores will be adjusted starting January 1, 2023.

Assessment Test Code Passing Score
Agricultural Education 6 - 12 150 40
Agriscience 6 - 12 151 40
American Sign Language 6 - 12 172 35
American Sign Language Pre-K - 12 171 35
Arabic 6 - 12 160 35
Arabic Pre-K - 12 478 35
Biology 6 - 12 126 40
Business Education 6 - 12 152 40
Business Technology 6 - 12 153 40
Chemistry 6 - 12 127 40
Chinese 6 - 12 161 35
Chinese Pre-K - 12 479 35
Computer Science K - 12 173 40
Cons/Homemaking 5 - 12 450 40
Dance K - 12 445 40
Early Childhood Education Pre-K - 3 467 40
Early Development and Learning Pre-K - K 468 40
Earth Science 6 - 12 128 40
Economics 6 - 12 130 40
Elementary Education K - 5 120 40-48
English 6 - 12 159 40
English as a Second Language Pre-K - 12 490 40
English/Language Arts 6 - 8 121 40
Family & Consumer Sciences 6 - 12 154 40
French 6 - 12 163 35
French Pre-K - 12 491 35
Geography 6 - 12 131 40
German 6 - 12 164 35
German Pre-K - 12 492 35
Gifted Ed Pre-K - 12 466 Unavailable
Government 6 - 12 132 40
Greek 6 - 12 165 35
Greek Pre-K - 12 484 35
Health and Wellness K - 12 419 40
History 6 - 12 135 40
Instrumental/General Music K - 12 429 40
Japanese 6 - 12 166 35
Japanese Pre-K - 12 485 35
Latin 6 - 12 167 35
Latin Pre-K - 12 493 35
Library Information Specialist PreK - 12 473 40
Marketing EDU 6 - 12 158 40
Mathematics 6 - 12 125 40
Mathematics 6 - 8 122 40
Other World Language PreK - 12 496 35
Other World Language 6 - 12 170 35
Physical Education K - 12 420 40
Physics 6 - 12 129 40
Psychology 9 - 12 426 40
Russian 6 - 12 168 35
Russian Pre-K - 12 494 35
Science 6 - 8 123 40
Social Studies 6 - 8 124 40
Sociology 425 40
Spanish 6 - 12 169 35
Spanish Pre-K - 12 498 35
Special Education Comprehensive K - 12 461 40
Special Education Hearing Pre-K - 12 463 40
Special Education Interventionist 6 - 12 145 40
Special Education Interventionist K - 8 144 40
Special Education Pre-school/Early Childhood PreL - 3 459 40
Special Education Vision Pre-K - 12 462 40
Speech Communications 146 Unavailable
Technology Engineering Education 6 - 12 157 40
Theatre K - 12 405 40
Visual Arts K - 12 427 40
Vocal/Gen Music K - 12 428 40

Principles of Learning and Teaching (PLT) Exam

The Department of Education accepts passing scores on the PLT exam for in-state candidates whose specialization area has no corresponding edTPA. Out-of-state candidates for a TN practitioner teaching license must also submit scores on either the PLT or edTPA that aligns with their area of specialization.

Applicants should register to take the PLT exam that represents the grade range they wish to teach, and candidates may register online through their Praxis account. There is a Praxis registration fee for each exam, even for at-home testing options.

Registrants should plan to take the PLT well before they need to submit their scores, for they may take over a month to appear in the completer's account. Testers completing the exam at a Praxis testing center will have their scores automatically sent to the DOE. Candidates testing outside of Tennessee must select to send their scores to the Tennessee DOE manually during the registration process.

Assessment Test Code Passing Score
PLT: Early Childhood 5621 157
PLT: Grades K-6 5622 160
PLT: Grades 5-9 5623 160
PLT: 7-12 5624 157

Praxis Test in Tennessee

Each specialization area the candidate pursues to qualify for endorsement in Tennessee requires its own Praxis test. These content knowledge tests are grade-specific and account for early childhood, elementary, middle, or secondary students.

Depending on individuals' Praxis test dates, they may not receive their scores for more than one month following completion. Candidates can register for Praxis exam online through their ETS account. The DOE receives Praxis exam scores automatically for residents of Tennessee, but candidates testing outside of the state must list the Tennessee DOE as a score recipient when registering.

A specialty area Praxis exam must be completed for each intended area of endorsement. There are no alternative testing options for out-of-state applicants.

State Board Policy 5.105 provides a complete list of available TN Praxis exams for specialization areas.

For more information on available exams and required Tennessee Praxis scores, click here.

Additional Tennessee Teacher Certification Requirements

Anyone in a profession that involves working with children is subject to mandatory fingerprinting and background checks.

For a candidate to enroll at an EPP, they must submit to fingerprinting and a background check conducted by the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (TBI) and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).

Licensed educators must have their fingerprints on file and a valid background check performed by the TBI. Background checks must occur once every five years.

EPPs will instruct individuals on the facility at which to scan their fingerprints. The provider or the state may subsidize associated fingerprinting and background check fees. If not, applicants assume responsibility for covering associated costs.

Educators are generally not subject to drug testing. However, this practice may differ from school to school.

Tennessee Teaching License Process

The Tennessee State Board of Education teacher licensing process requires that candidates create a TNCompass account. Applicants can complete and submit any required forms or waivers directly on this platform.

An application's approval or denial may take months whether the individual is applying from within or outside the state. Applicants can check their status online through their TNCompass account or the TN DOE Educator License Information site.

Should the State Board deny an individual's application, they may reapply at any time. However, remember that candidates should meet or appeal to any additional requirements specified in the denial notice before submitting another application.

Alternative Teacher Certification in Tennessee

There are no alternative ways to get a teaching license in TN. However, there are alternative types of licenses.

The primary alternative teacher certification Tennessee has to offer is the occupational license. This option requires that candidates have a minimum of a high school diploma. However, it still requires that they complete a preparation program, obtain a recommendation, take all required tests for endorsement, and be certified by the industry they aim to teach.

Occupational licenses are available at the practitioner and professional levels.

As of October 1, 2021, the Troops to Teachers program is in the process of being phased out and will no longer be an available alternative option for teacher certification in TN.

Tennessee Teacher Certification for Out-of-State Teachers

As of July of 2021, out-of-state teachers transferring to Tennessee who hold a professional teaching license may receive a professional license in TN. Educators holding a professional-level license do not need to submit test scores or a transcript until license renewal.

Should the applicant hold an initial-level license or no license, the process is essentially the same as previously described. However, TN accepts Praxis test score reports in place of the edTPA for out-of-state educators.

Becoming a teacher in Tennessee from an out-of-state pathway requires the candidate's EPP and IHE to align with in-state standards.

The applicant must submit their transcript and all test scores to the Tennessee Department of Education and meet all standards required of in-state candidates.

Tennessee Teacher Employment Outlook and Salary

Teacher employment in Tennessee is in demand across all public-school grade levels. During the 2018-19 school year, 1,862 public TN schools employed 64,116 educators. From 2018 to 2029, the National Education Association projects that student enrollment will increase by approximately 36,000 from the 2018 statistic of 1,007,642 public school students.

In 2018, the student-teacher ratio was 15:7. For the state to maintain that figure into 2029, Tennessee teaching jobs will need to increase by over 2,300 positions.

Tennessee educator salaries have gradually increased every year since 2010. During the 2019-20 school year, the average salary for TN teachers was $52,596

The following table shows average/anticipated job openings and salaries for educators by grade range as provided by the Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development:

Grades Avg. Salary Yearly Openings
Elementary $51,088 2,420
Middle $50,315 820
Secondary $52,023 1,495

These openings and salaries do not include special education teachers. Average Tennessee teacher salaries vary depending on degree level, years of experience, and county/district.