Wondering how to get a teaching certificate in Utah? The Utah State Board of Education (USBE) identifies two pathways to obtaining a Utah Professional Educator License: a University-Based Preparation Pathway and an Employer-Based Preparation Pathway. Both pathways require, at minimum, a bachelor's degree, and that the applicant display competencies in their chosen subject matter, either by obtaining a degree or through testing, and both paths culminate in an assessment of pedagogical performance. The University-Based Preparation Pathway is for applicants who have chosen to pursue a degree in education through a USBE recognized teacher education program, while the Employer-Based Preparation Pathway allows applicants with alternative backgrounds (a degree in something other than education perhaps, or credentials from a state other than Utah) to obtain their certification.
The USBE recognizes a few different levels of certification. The Associate Educator License requires a bachelor's degree and either a content prerequisite or a pedagogical prerequisite, depending on which path the teacher is on and a background check and an educator ethics review. From there, applicants go on to pursue their Professional Educator License. Professional Educator (similar to what was formerly called in Utah "Level 2") teaching license requirements include, in addition to requirements for the Associate Educator License (AEL), content competencies, clinical experiences, and/or pedagogical competencies. Educators in Utah can also get LEA (Local Education Agency)-Specific certification, which requires the LEA Board to submit an application on the teacher's behalf and to develop an educational plan for the potential educator.
Education Requirements to Teach in Utah
For an applicant to successfully obtain their teaching certificate, the State of Utah requires, at minimum, a bachelor's degree. To obtain their Associate Educator License (AEL), which shows that the applicant has met the minimum requirements to teach in Utah schools, applicants must have a bachelor's degree or be enrolled in a state-recognized degree program. In addition, they will need to have met the Content Prerequisite requirement, which can be satisfied by passing the relevant Praxis test or obtaining a bachelor's degree in a relevant subject area. To receive their Professional Educator License, they will need to have completed their bachelor's degree and, depending on the path, will have to have completed their clinical experiences (more commonly referred to as student teaching).
Utah Teaching License Preparation Programs
The USBE and the Utah State Legislature require that teachers hold at least a bachelor's degree from a regionally accredited institution. Though students following a career-based path to licensure do not have to have an education degree, their degree will need to come from an institution that meets those same accreditation standards. For applicants coming to Utah with a license from another state who are wondering how to get a teaching certificate, Utah will ask that they provide transcripts from a regionally accredited institution along with their licensure documents. Educators taking a more traditional, university-based path to a teaching certificate will need to get their degree from one of ten state-approved university-based educator programs within the state. Applicants pursuing certification through an APPEL program may have additional requirements or other university programs that satisfy their certification requirements since individual districts set those requirements. It is best to contact program directors specifically to learn more about specific program criteria. The current list of state-approved programs, as of July 2021, is as follows:
Western Governors University
Weber State University
Utah Valley University
Utah State University
University of Utah
Southern Utah University
Rocky Mountain University
Dixie State University
Brigham Young University
Testing Requirements for Utah Teaching Certification
To be licensed as a teacher in Utah, the USBE requires that applicants pass subject-matter tests relevant to their area of focus. Subject matter tests are Praxis exams administered by Educational Testing Services (ETS). By using a testing suite through Praxis, Utah can connect relevant testing criteria to an educator's chosen field or the endorsements they have chosen. To illustrate, someone who wishes to get their AEL in Elementary Education (K-8) will need to take, and pass, the Praxis 5001, which includes four subtests (5002: Reading & Language Arts; 5003: Mathematics; 5004: Social Studies; and 5005: Science), which must all be passed to fulfill the testing requirement. The Praxis scores Utah considers passing depend on the exam. However, for those mentioned above, a passing score is 157 for the 5002 and 5003, 155 for 5004, and 159 for 5005. For a complete list of required exams and passing scores, refer to USBE's website. As of August 2021, Utah requires applicants pursuing their Professional Educator License to pass a pedagogical performance assessment, which can be satisfied with either the edTPA exam or the PPAT.
Additional Requirements for Utah Teaching Licensing
In addition to educational and testing requirements, applicants will be asked to submit to an FBI background check on behalf of the USBE, which includes fingerprinting, before they can teach Utah students. Regardless of the certification path they are pursuing, all applicants are also expected to complete an Educator Ethics Review.
Utah Teaching License Application Process
Whether a student pursues a teaching license through a university-based track or an employer-based path, many requirements are similar or even identical. In either case, the applicant's first step is to undergo a background check, followed by an ethics review. To obtain the Associate Educator License (AEL), which is like a first level or preliminary teaching certificate, Utah requires that applicants either possess a bachelor's degree or are enrolled in an educator preparation program. To receive their AEL, candidates must satisfy a content prerequisite, typically by passing the relevant Praxis tests for teachers and submitting their competency-based or educator-relevant endorsement applications. This is determined by their chosen field (Utah is currently transitioning from endorsement applications to competency-based applications and will no longer accept endorsement applications as of June 2023). Career-based applications must also satisfy a pedagogical prerequisite, which means they either hold a license in another field or have completed the appropriate modules on Canvas. The applicant must submit some forms throughout the process, and some are submitted on the applicant's behalf. For example, early in the AEL process, applicants enrolled in an education program will have their institution submit a University Recommendation for them. Aspiring educators should check the USBE website to learn what they will submit and what will be submitted for them.
With the AEL in hand, applicants pursue their Professional Educator License, which effectively means they are licensed to teach in Utah. With the AEL, career-based applicants can begin teaching in public schools, which counts as their clinical experience. Conversely, educators on the university-based track receive their clinical experience through student teaching. Applicants on both tracks must demonstrate pedagogical competencies and content competencies, which are determined by the field they have chosen. Both tracks culminate in a Pedagogical Performance Assessment, which will be in the form of either the PPAT or the edTPA exam.
Alternative Routes to a Utah Teaching License
An alternative route to a teaching license for teachers in Utah is available through the Alternate Pathway to Professional Educator License (APPEL) program. This program is for educators who are already working in a local district or charter school and is administered through the school or district. Because the schools themselves set criteria for the program, requirements are likely to be different from one to another, so applicants should reach out to the program director or seek out information on the program's website. Another path to licensure would be the Local Education Agency (LEA) License. Educators will first need to go through a background check to get started on an LEA-specific process. Applicants who are getting an LEA-specific license work closely with their local board, and the board initiates the application for the applicant. The local board is also responsible for creating an individualized education plan, which candidates must submit to the state. Whichever alternative route a teacher may follow, they will be working closely with their local district to reach that end.
Utah Teaching Certification for Out-of-State Educators
Utah offers a reasonably clear path to licensure for educators who have experience teaching outside the state but are unsure how to get a teaching certificate. The process begins with a background check that includes fingerprinting. The next step is to get in the system by setting up a CACTUS (Comprehensive Administration of Credentials for Teachers in Utah Schools) ID and filling out the Out of State Educators application. Additionally, out-of-state educators will need to fill out a competency-based endorsement application (this shows they can teach Utah students in their particular field, whether that's Early Childhood Education, for example, or High School Chemistry, and so on). All applicants will also be assessed on their content knowledge, either by showing that they have at least one year of experience teaching in their chosen area and possess a license from a different state or passing the relevant content test(s). Out-of-state educators will also need to provide transcripts from any universities or colleges they have attended, as well as teaching licenses from other jurisdictions, and will be asked to complete and submit a Verification of Educator Experience form. Like all educators seeking a teaching license in Utah, out-of-state educators will also need to complete an ethics review.
Utah Educator Professional Development & Advancement
Once an educator has obtained their Associate Educator's License (AEL), they have three years to complete the requirements for the Professional Educator License, which allows them to teach in Utah and is good for five years. Because of recent changes to licensing requirements, there are several procedures a teacher might follow when it comes time to renew their license, and current teachers should check the USBE website regarding specifics for their Utah teaching license renewal.
Utah offers teachers several professional development opportunities and teacher incentive programs. The Teacher Salary Supplement Program (TSSP) provides incentives for teachers working in fields affected by staffing shortages, like Mathematics and Special Education, among others. The Effective Teachers in High Poverty Areas (ETHPS) program offers bonuses in salary for teachers who have worked for at least one year in schools identified as "high poverty." And teachers who participate in the National Board of Professional Teaching Standards (NBTPS) Certification program can access financial support and annual bonuses.
When a teacher decides to become an administrator, they can pursue an Administrative (Leadership) License. The license requires that they complete an approved university program, either in-state or out-of-state, though there are separate criteria for each, and then request that their institution submit a University Recommendation on their behalf upon program completion.
Teaching in Utah: Employment Outlook & Salary
As of the fall of 2021, there were 995 public school programs in Utah, ranging from preschool to secondary school programs, and more than 150 private schools in the state. The average student to pupil ratio currently stands at 22.75, roughly 32% above the national average. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicts a 3% growth rate for elementary school teachers and an 8% growth rate for high school teachers over the next decade. Utah teacher salaries can be affected by many factors, including grade level, private or public school, and whether the teacher can take advantage of available incentive programs like the Effective Teachers in High Poverty Areas program. However, the BLS gives salary averages that include $58,830 for kindergarten teachers (non-Special Education) to $66,140 for secondary school teachers. Here is a list of Utah teacher salary averages based on May 2020 BLS numbers:
Preschool Teacher: $31,050
Preschool Special Education Teacher: $41,040
Kindergarten Teacher: $58,830
Elementary School Teacher: $59,680
Kindergarten and Elementary Special Education Teacher: $51,220
Middle School Teacher: $66,910
Middle School Special Education Teacher: $61,480
Secondary School Teacher: $66,140
Secondary Special Education Teacher: $44,900
Frequently Asked Questions
How do I become a teacher without a teaching degree in Utah?
Though obtaining a teaching degree is one way you can become a teacher in Utah, it is not the only way. Utah offers a career-based path for those interested in obtaining their teaching license. That path does still require a bachelor's degree, however.
Is it hard to get a teaching job in Utah?
As with so many other fields, teaching has seen a lot of career educators retiring, or leaving the profession for other reasons in the last few years, and those vacancies can mean opportunities for people looking to get started in the profession. With multiple paths to certification, catering to people with degrees in fields other than education, or with credentials from other states, in addition to those who have graduated with education degrees, becoming a teacher in Utah can be a possibility to a diverse range of applicants.