How to Become a Teacher in Texas
Over the coming years, demand for teachers in Texas is predicted to soar. This article takes readers through the steps required to become a licensed Texas educator. Getting a teaching certificate in Texas is a multi-step process with several requirements. Prospective teachers must have a four-year degree from an accredited institution, have participated in and completed an approved educator preparation program (EPP) and have earned passing marks on all required certification exams.
Future educators must also fill out and submit the state's licensing application and provide fingerprints for a background check. The entire process is handled by the Texas Education Agency (TEA). Individuals seeking more information about how to become a substitute teacher in Texas should reach out to the district in which they wish to work.
Texas Teacher Certification Programs
There are several paths to becoming a teacher in Texas. Obtaining a bachelor's degree in education is the simplest. Texas has several colleges and universities that grant undergraduate education degrees, including options that allow students to fulfill the state's certification requirements while completing their degrees.
Here is a quick review of the Texas colleges and universities offering undergraduate coursework in education. Rice University (Houston) has a pathway for future teachers to earn a bachelor's degree in any subject along with a Texas Teacher Certification. Trinity University (San Antonio) gives students the chance to earn a minor in teaching to fill the prerequisites for admission to the university's Master of Arts in Teaching program. The University of Texas at Austin offers a bachelor's degree in Applied Learning and Development where students can become certified to teach in special education and even bilingual classrooms. Students at Texas A&M University (College Station) can earn a Bachelor of the Science of Education with an Early Childhood-3 or middle school English Language Arts/Social Studies certification. And the University of Houston offers a Bachelor of Science in Teaching in Learning with certifications in several subjects, including 4th-8th grade Math and Science. There is one major exception to the bachelor's degree requirement; those interested in teaching health sciences or certain trades can often substitute experience for education.
For those with a bachelor's degree in a subject other than education, Texas offers an alternate path to certification: approved educator preparation programs (EPPs). To qualify for admission, candidates must hold a bachelor's degree from an institution accredited by a body recognized by the Texas Higher Education Board. Most of these programs take approximately one year to complete and are held in locations throughout the state. Programs are offered through private institutes, community colleges and universities, including Austin College, Prairie View A&M University, Texas Southern University, the University of Houston and the University of North Texas. The TEA website has a searchable list of all approved EPPs and information about tuition assistance.
In addition, interested individuals can obtain certification by completing a master's degree in education. Several well-known colleges and universities in Texas offer graduate education degrees, including the University of Texas at Austin, Texas Tech University, Sam Houston University and Stephen F. Austin State University. A few even have online graduate programs, including the University of Texas A&M -- College Station, Texas Tech University, Prairie View A&M University and the University of Houston.
Prerequisite Coursework for Texas Teachers
All teacher certification programs accredited by the Texas Department of Higher Education, including post-baccalaureate teacher training programs, must meet specific coursework and service requirements. To comply with state regulations, programs must require participants to complete at least 300 hours of education-related coursework and engage in at least 30 hours of field-based experience. The regulations make some exceptions for individuals with long-term substitute teaching experience in Texas.
Approved EPPs must include instruction on effectively teaching students with disabilities, including dyslexia, and appropriately addressing youth mental health challenges and suicide. Other required topics include classroom management, state standards and student performance measurement, and information about the skills and responsibilities of educators.
Texas Teacher Certification Exams
The Lone Star State requires prospective teachers to pass a battery of Texas teacher certification exams before qualifying for certification. For starters, Texas requires all educators to obtain a passing grade on the TExES Pedagogy & Professional Responsibilities (PPR) exam -- it covers basics such as professional standards and teaching fundamentals.
Additional testing requirements often apply, depending on the subject matter and grade the candidate plans to teach. For instance, individuals interested in qualifying to teach elementary students must pass the TExEs Science of Teaching Reading (STR) test. In addition, there are several grade and content-based Texas teacher certification tests covering topics such as mathematics, social studies and language arts candidates must pass to become licensed. Keep in mind that there is no Praxis in Texas.
All candidates for certification must pass a series of TExES exams to qualify for licensure as a teacher in Texas. As we mentioned above, the TEA requires candidates to pass content and PPR-based exams to become licensed to teach.
Content-based exams cover material relevant for teaching a specific subject to a particular grade. For example, an educator interested in teaching middle school social studies would take the 4th-grade - 8th-grade Social Studies content test, while a candidate looking to teach high school history would take the 7th-grade - 12th-grade History exam. These exams indicate a candidate has mastered a particular subject.
It is often best to register for and take these knowledge-based exams as quickly as possible after passing the relevant coursework to prevent knowledge attrition. In addition, many programs require applicants to have passed the relevant content-based exams before being considered for admission.
Conversely, PPR exams test a candidate's teaching ability. Candidates usually take these exams after completing an accredited teacher education program with a service component.
A 2021 regulatory change made passing the Science of Teaching Reading (STR) exam mandatory for all individuals seeking Intern, Probationary or Standard PreK-6 certification. The test is now mandatory for candidates in five certification fields centering around early childhood education. Exceptions exist for some candidates, including teachers certified before December 31, 2021, and special education educators. The TEA website has information about the transition.
To pass, candidates must demonstrate mastery of several topics related to teaching reading early learners, including oral language development, phonology and phonics, reading fluency, vocabulary development, morphemic analysis, reading comprehension and reading comprehension skills. Pedagogical concepts covered on the exam range from providing explicit instructions to creating standards-driven lessons.
Several approved EPPs in Texas are currently participating in a pilot program -- edTPA. EdTPA is an assessment and support system developed by Stanford University geniuses in conjunction with the Stanford Center for Assessment, Learning, and Equity (SCAPE). Teacher training programs use the tool to evaluate candidates' planning, instruction and assessment skills.
Participation requires student teachers to create and submit a portfolio developed with lesson plans, activities and handouts demonstrating subject matter and pedagogical mastery.
The evaluation even requires students to submit video recordings of themselves teaching to receive feedback from experienced educators.
There is no passing score for the edTPA. Because it is an assessment used by teacher preparation programs, each institution sets its own guidelines about required scores and determines how to use edTPA results internally.
The American Association of Family & Consumer Sciences (AAFCS) offers a suite of credentialing exams for candidates interested in teaching Family and Consumer Science-related subjects. The following AAFCS teacher assessments are available nationally: Family and Consumer Sciences, Hospitality, Nutrition and Food Science or Human Development and Family Studies.
The state of Texas uses AAFCS exams to certify a candidate has the skills and knowledge required to teach several Family and Consumer Sciences-related courses, including fashion design, money matters, career preparation and e-tailing. Becoming credentialed as a Family and Consumer science teacher gives aspiring educators a wide choice of subjects to teach. A Texas educator credentialed to teach 6th - 12th grade Family and Consumer Sciences has more than 40 potential courses they can teach in fields ranging from Architecture and Construction to Human Services.
Some Texas educator programs require candidates to submit Pre-Admission Content Test (PACT) scores. These exams are most often used by candidates applying to post-baccalaureate or alternative certification programs.
EPPs often demand these subject-matter-only exams of students with GPAs below 2.5 or from individuals who majored in fields other than the one they wish to teach. Most EPPs require prospective students to demonstrate at least 12 semester credit hours of completed study in the area in which a candidate wishes to teach. PACT exams offer an alternative way to demonstrate subject matter mastery for those without the required coursework.
Some charter schools also use the exams to evaluate teacher subject matter mastery.
To be eligible to take a PACT, an individual must already have a bachelor's degree in hand. Students in their last semester of undergraduate studies may also register. Candidates who have already been admitted to an EPP are not permitted to sit the exam.
Individuals seeking to work with deaf and hard-of-hearing students need additional certification to start teaching in Texas. The state requires candidates to pass a series of exams, the Texas Assessment of Sign Communication (TASC), to demonstrate the ability to communicate with deaf and hard-of-hearing students.
The State Board of Educator Certification, the TEA Service for the Deaf and experts in Deaf education and Signed Language Linguistics collaborated to develop the exam suite.
There are three TASC assessments: Contact Sign, Morphemic Sign Systems, Signed English and American Sign Language. Exams consist of a 20-minute one-on-one conversation between an expert interviewer and the candidate -- although the entire process usually takes an hour from beginning to end when set-up time is included.
Additional Texas Teacher Certification Requirements
There's one more major Texas teacher certification requirement all educators must comply with to become certified. Candidates for the following certificates must submit fingerprints as part of the application process: Standard, Probationary, One-Year and Temporary. The TEA has more information online with instructions for submitting the required fingerprints electronically.
Getting a Teaching Certificate in Texas
Gathering the documentation and submitting the required application to the TEA is the final step to becoming a teacher in Texas. Candidates must provide the following with their application: transcripts from all post-secondary institutions attended, proof of completion of an approved EPP, official documentation of all certification exam scores, a copy of the required background investigation results, a completed application form and the required fee.
Most candidates apply for certification two or three weeks before the end of their student teaching. The TEA completes credentialling for many individuals who complete approved EPPs within two weeks of graduation.
Texas teacher certification renewals are generally straightforward. Standard teaching certificates are good for five years, and educators must complete 150 hours of continuing professional education (CPE) to be eligible for certificate renewal.
Alternative Teacher Certification in Texas
In Texas, alternative certification programs (ACPs) are post-baccalaureate programs specifically designed for individuals with a bachelor's degree who have not yet graduated from a teacher training program. ACPs have many of the same requirements as traditional teacher training programs, including certain types of coursework and field experience. To obtain certification through an ACP, candidates must obtain teaching experience in the subject matter and grade level for which they seek certification.
Because Texas ACPs require enrollees to engage in a period of student teaching, candidates must obtain a Probationary Certificate before beginning any classroom work. Certificates are valid for one year, and the process requires the educational institution at which the candidate plans to study to submit a recommendation to the certifying agency.
In addition, there are several permit and waiver possibilities available for uncertified educators -- options include the General State Certificate Teacher Waiver and SBEC Emergency Permit. Both must be requested by the district where the uncertified teacher wishes to work.
General State Certificate Teacher waivers are valid for one to three years and offer districts a fair bit of hiring flexibility. Emergency Permits are one-year, non-renewable licenses that cover already certified educators teaching outside of their area of qualification until that educator can pass any required exams and become certified in the additional field. These permits also apply to students admitted to EPP programs who still need to pass a certification test to comply with their program's admission guidelines.
Certification in Texas for Out-of-State Teachers
Individuals with valid out-of-state teaching credentials must take several steps to become licensed in Texas. The Texas teacher certification process for these candidates starts with a comprehensive credential review. Applicants must arrange to have transcripts from every academic program attended emailed directly to the TEA to complete the process.
Candidates with more than one year of teaching experience can submit documentation to request exemptions from some already-passed licensing exams. Out-of-state teachers from jurisdictions with subject-matter test requirements for licensure must submit official test reports to the TEA as part of the credential review. Teachers from states without subject-matter requirements for certification will be required to sit for the relevant TExES test.
Certified educators can apply for a One-Year Certificate which permits qualified individuals with out-of-state credentials to teach while waiting for their credential review results.
Texas Teacher Employment Outlook & Salary
Texas public school teacher salaries depend on several factors, including experience, education level and whether the individual teaches in elementary, middle or high school. The average teacher working in a Texas high school earned $58,040 in 2020. Elementary school educators made slightly less, with an average annual salary of $56,760.
According to 2020 data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were 131,370 early childhood and 97,060 secondary school educators certified in Texas. Opportunity abounds when it comes to becoming a teacher in Texas, with over 11,000 jobs regularly opening up every year for elementary school teachers and 9,200 positions for high school educators.
Texas law limits the number of students permitted per classroom. An exemption must be requested for any PreK-4 class to enroll more than 22 students. Teacher-student ratios in high schools vary -- most classrooms tend to have anywhere from 14 to 18 students per teacher.