What is Alternative Certification?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Alternative certification is a route to teacher certification designed for people who have not completed teacher certification programs through a college or university. People in such programs teach while completing program requirements to work towards a certification. This approach to certification is designed for people with life experience and skills of potential value in the classroom and is intended to combat teacher shortages while diversifying teaching staff. It is managed on a regional basis; in the United States, for example, individual states administer their own alternative certification programs.

Alternative certification allows people who lack formal teaching certifications to become teachers.
Alternative certification allows people who lack formal teaching certifications to become teachers.

To qualify for alternative certification, someone usually needs to hold a bachelor's degree and to have some form of life experience relevant to the classroom. Alternative teacher certification programs typically have a list of subject areas people can choose from, covering topics ranging from English composition to chemistry. Someone who has been working in scientific research, for example, might pursue certification in biology or another area of the sciences, while a person with language skills and experience as a translator or tutor might become certified as a language instructor.

People applying for alternative certification are carefully screened, like conventional teachers, to check for issues of concern in their backgrounds. Once people pass screening, they are often required to take short coursework to become familiar with pedagogy techniques, classroom decorum, and related topics so they are ready to take a class of students. While teaching on a probationary certification, the teacher has an opportunity to interact directly with students and develop teaching skills, while completing program requirements like background reading on curricula.

At the end of a probationary year, the teacher can apply for full certification and become licensed and credentialed. Alternative certification can be a good option for people who want to teach, but cannot afford to take time off to go to school, and need access to things like benefits provided to teachers. Such programs increase the number of people from disadvantaged backgrounds working in the classroom, as well as increasing the numbers of older adults with valuable life experiences.

After completing an alternative certification program, a teacher is licensed to teach freely in the subject area or areas certified, and can teach in classrooms throughout the region. Holding certifications also allows people to work as substitute teachers, a flexible form of work some teachers like to pursue as an option if they cannot take a class for a whole year.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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