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What Is an Alternative Education Certification?

G. Wiesen
G. Wiesen

An alternative education certification is typically a means by which someone can acquire a teaching license without completing a bachelor's degree in education. The traditional route to teaching in the US is to complete a bachelor's degree in a field like English or math education, and then to complete the exam necessary for licensure. An alternative education certification allows a qualified individual to be able to teach without completing such a degree, and is provided by numerous states. There are usually limitations on this, however, such as the need to pass background checks and tests and the certificate only lasting for a limited time.

As the name implies, an alternative education certification gives someone a way to become licensed to teach without going through the standard method. This is usually meant for individuals who may be knowledgeable in certain subjects, but who have not completed the education often necessary to become a teacher. For example, someone who has worked as a laboratory scientist for 10 years typically knows a great deal about science, and may have focused on a particular field such as chemistry. An alternative education certification can allow this person to become a science teacher without going through additional schooling to gain a bachelor's degree in science education.

Woman with hand on her hip
Woman with hand on her hip

Different states in the US set up various requirements for someone to gain alternative education certification, just as they set the restrictions on traditional teaching licensure. Some form of special recommendation may be required, such as the principal of a school or someone within the district suggesting that a professional is qualified to teach. A bachelor's degree or higher education is still typically required of someone seeking alternative education certification, but it does not have to be in teaching. Much like other professional teachers, these individuals typically have to pass a background check to ensure they are trustworthy and legally allowed to work around young people.

Tests or exams are often required of an applicant for an alternative education certification, to ensure they know the subject matter they wish to teach. While professional experience may be needed for them to qualify for consideration, it is important that they can demonstrate knowledge within their field. Some states may also require that a new teacher take brief courses to learn different teaching methods, and someone with an alternative education certification usually works with an established teacher as a guide or mentor. This type of certification is usually limited, allowing the person to teach on a probationary basis until a review after several years to either revoke the certification or grant a long-term teaching license.

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