Apple Dumplings and Hershey’s Kisses — How to Become a Teacher in Pennsylvania

Apple Dumplings and Hershey’s Kisses — How to Become a Teacher in Pennsylvania
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Lizzie Perrin profile
Lizzie Perrin June 1, 2018

From Pittsburgh to Scranton, the fifth-most populous state in the country has plenty of teaching career opportunities. Read on to learn about teaching in Pennsylvania, and learn what you need to do to start your teaching career.

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Established in 1787, Pennsylvania was the second colonial territory to receive statehood. Pennsylvania, or the Keystone State, is home to the Liberty Bell, Hershey Company, Gettysburg, and the Pennsylvania Dutch. If you are a current or prospective teacher, and are interested in planting your roots in a culture that is rich in history and tasty treats, you should consider a Pennsylvania career in education. However, before making this important decision, you must check off a few boxes to ensure you will be ready to secure a teaching job in Pennsylvania. Learn what it takes to become a teacher in Pennsylvania, starting with obtaining Pennsylvania teacher certification.

Pennsylvania teacher certification requirements

In order to become eligible to teach in Pennsylvania, you must satisfy state-mandated educational and exam requirements. First and foremost, the teaching certificate offered by Pennsylvania requires you to have a bachelor’s degree in education from an accredited institution. This should include coursework in core subjects, such as mathematics, English, ESL education, and teaching skills. Additionally, all teachers must pass multiple core competency exams, and complete a certification program approved by the Pennsylvania Department of Education. While there is some flexibility if you change your mind down the road, the type of Pennsylvania teaching certification you obtain should be based on the subject area in which you plan to teach.

The following items are required in order to obtain a Pennsylvania teacher license:

  • Completed online application
  • Proof of bachelor’s degree
  • Proof of teacher certification from an approved program
  • Letter of recommendation from your certification program
  • Background check
  • Submission of passing test scores on all necessary exams

Pennsylvania provides the opportunity for three licensure levels: Intern, Instructional I, and Instructional II. Intern certifications are issued to educators who have completed an approved teacher intern certification program. Instructional I certifications are issued to teacher candidates who meet all of Pennsylvania’s educational and exam certification requirements. After earning an Instructional I certification, teachers can seek additional education and/or experience in order to qualify for an Instructional II certification. For example, if a teacher completed a master’s degree while holding an Instructional I certification, that individual would then be eligible to apply for an Instructional II certification.

Demand for teachers in Pennsylvania

The State of Pennsylvania has over 500 public school districts that serve 1.7 million students. With 3,000 schoolteacher vacancies posted on Indeed.com, Pennsylvania currently has an approximate 2% vacancy rate, which is slightly lower than the current national average. Philadelphia is responsible for the highest number of vacancies, with approximately 600 jobs posted, followed by Pittsburgh, Lancaster, Harrisburg, and West Chester.

Each year, the U.S. Department of Education publishes the Teacher Shortage Areas Nationwide List, which provides documented teacher demands by state. As of the June 2017 report, Pennsylvania had shortages in the following school districts and academic disciplines or subject areas.

PA Teachers Needed: School Districts

  • Allentown
  • Armstrong
  • Central Bucks
  • Chambersburg Area SD
  • Chester-Upland SD
  • Coatesville Area
  • Counsel Rock
  • Erie City
  • Everett Area
  • Fannett-Metal
  • Gettysburg Area
  • Harrisburg City
  • Hazleton Area
  • Homer-Center
  • Loerr Merion
  • Mifflin County SD
  • Montgomery Area
  • North Penn
  • Northern Cambria
  • Northern Lehigh
  • Palisades
  • Pennridge
  • Philadelphia City
  • Pittsburgh
  • Port Allegany
  • Punxsutawney Area
  • Saint Clair Area
  • Shanksville–Stoneycreek
  • State College Area
  • Union City Area
  • Waynesboro Area
  • Weatherly Area
  • Williamsport Area

PA Teachers Needed: Academic Disciplines or Subject Matter

  • Fine and Performing Arts PreK-12
  • English as a Second Language
  • Foreign Languages (PreK-12)
  • Mathematics (Middle and Secondary Levels)
  • Science
  • Special Education
  • Hearing Impaired
  • Visually Impaired
  • Vocational

“I’m ready for a degree!”

University and Program Name Learn More

Steps to becoming a teacher in Pennsylvania

There are a few paths to becoming a Pennsylvania schoolteacher. The steps you take will depend on your professional and educational background.

I have a bachelor’s degree in education.

Congratulations, you are nearly there! Your next step is completing a Pennsylvania Department of Education-approved teacher certification program. Once you have done this, you will be ready to complete the appropriate content area test(s). If you receive passing scores on all necessary exams, you will be able to initiate the application and interview process to become a teacher. Start by submitting an application through the Pennsylvania Department of Education Teacher Information Management System. You must provide a letter of recommendation from the certification program you completed, and participate in a background check. Once these steps have been completed, you can move forward with networking and applications to your desired schools or districts.

I have a bachelor’s degree in a non-education subject.

You are in luck. Pennsylvania recognizes the American Boards of Certification for Teacher Excellence for alternative certification if your bachelor’s degree is in subject other than education. Note, however, that you must have a bachelor’s degree in an approved subject. Once you have complete the American Board program, you are eligible to obtain a teaching position in a Pennsylvania school and apply for a temporary teaching permit. This permit is valid for one year. After this initial teaching experience, you can upgrade your temporary permit into a Level I Pennsylvania Instructional and Educational Specialist Certificate by completing a 12-week mentoring program and two graduate courses through Pennsylvania Department of Education’s Point Park University. The certificate is valid for six years. We will discuss other teaching alternatives available for bachelor’s degree holders later on.

I am a teacher in Pennsylvania but want to change subjects.

Having multiple Pennsylvania teaching certificates can be a useful career tool. If you are already a licensed educator that is eligible to teach in any Pennsylvania public school, you do not need to take additional coursework and may simply add instructional content areas to your existing certificate. You can do this by passing the content area test for approved subject areas.

Pennsylvania teacher certification reciprocity and out-of-state certification

The National Association of State Directors of Teacher Education and Certification (NASDTEC) creates a path for teachers to move from state-to-state and continue their careers in education. This is facilitated through an interstate agreement. The agreement outlines what is required for an existing teacher to become credentialed in another state. Pennsylvania is part of the NASDTEC interstate agreement, but does not provide full reciprocity; meaning, although you have a teaching credential from another state, you must provide substantiation that your coursework and exams meet Pennsylvania standards.

Teaching candidates with a NASDTEC-approved credential in a state other than Pennsylvania:

There are other out-of-state methods that will allow you to leverage your education and experience to become a Pennsylvania educator.

Teaching candidates with a National Board for Professional Teaching Standards credential that is comparable to a Pennsylvania certificate:

Teaching candidates with an active/valid teaching certificate and two years of successful classroom teaching experience:

  • Verify that you hold a comparable Pennsylvania certificate
  • Provide sealed transcripts and a valid copy of your teaching certificate that is comparable to Pennsylvania requirements
  • Provide proof of two full years of classroom teaching experience
  • Confirm that your content area exam and passing scores are approved by the Pennsylvania Department of Education
  • Complete an online application

Teaching candidates who want to teach in Pennsylvania, but are not from the U.S.:

  • Verify that you have a degree that is the equivalent of a U.S. bachelor’s degree or higher
  • Verify that you hold a comparable Pennsylvania certificate
  • Obtain a passing score on the necessary Pennsylvania Teacher Certification Assessment
  • Demonstrate proficiency in speaking the English language, by passing the American Council for the Teaching of Foreign Languages (ACTFL) English Language, Oral Proficiency Interview
  • Provide proof of citizenship or a resident visa that allows you to work in the U.S., or file a declaration of intent to become a citizen
  • Provide notarized proof that your transcripts have been evaluated and approved by the National Association of Credentials Evaluation Services (NACES)

Certification programs in Pennsylvania

The Pennsylvania Department of Education provides a complete list of approved certification programs. Once you complete your bachelor’s degree and are ready to move on to the next step, we encourage you to explore the following programs, which include several online options.

Online Pennsylvania teaching certification programs

Pennsylvania teaching exams

Depending on the type of educator you want to be, you must successfully complete one or multiple exams prior to obtaining a teaching credential in Pennsylvania. The exams are intended to measure your competency level in the subject area that you wish to teach. Typically, you will complete the first set of exams prior to admittance to a certification program.

Basic skills exam. Most teachers must successfully complete the basic skills test prior to taking the specific licensure area exam. This includes the Pre-service Academic Performance Assessment or all of the following exams: Core Academic Skills for Educators: Reading; Core Academic Skills for Educators: Writing; and Core Academic Skills for Educators: Mathematics.

Specific licensure area exam. The tests required for specific licensure areas will assess your expertise in the subject that you wish to teach. The broad licensure areas include Middle Level (Grades 4-8); Secondary Education (Grades 7-12); PK-12 Specified Content Areas; Special Education; Education Specialist; Administration; and Vocational Instruction. If you are a licensed school psychologist or nurse, you may be exempt from completing the Education Specialist exam series. For a comprehensive guide on the specific exams that are right for you, we encourage you to review the Pennsylvania Department of Education testing requirements.

All of these exams are supported by The Praxis Tests and details regarding the exam structure and costs can be found on their information bulletin.

Pennsylvania teaching credential areas

Below is a detailed outline of the certification areas recognized by the Pennsylvania Department of Education. This is a breakout of the specific licensure area exams you are eligible to take once you have completed your bachelor’s degree and have enrolled in a Pennsylvania teacher certification program.

Middle Level (Grades 4-8)

  • Citizenship/Social Studies
  • English
  • Mathematics
  • Science
  • Elementary Grades 5-6

Secondary Education (Grades 7-12)

  • Biology
  • Chemistry
  • Citizenship
  • Communication
  • Earth and Space Science
  • English
  • General Science
  • Mathematics
  • Physics
  • Social Studies

PK-12 Specified Content Areas

  • Fundamental Subjects
  • Agriculture
  • American Sign Language
  • Art
  • Business, Computers & Information Technology
  • Chinese (Mandarin)
  • Environmental Education
  • Family and Consumer Sciences
  • French
  • German
  • Health
  • Health and Physical Education
  • Latin
  • Library Science
  • Marketing/Distributive Education
  • Music
  • Reading Specialist
  • Spanish
  • Technology Education

Special Education

  • Hearing Impaired
  • Speech & Language Impaired
  • Visually Impaired

Education Specialist

  • School Counselor
  • School Psychologist
  • Home and School Visitor
  • Instructional Technology Specialist
  • Speech Pathologist


  • Principal or Vocational Director
  • Superintendent
  • Supervisor or Vocational Supervisor

Vocational Instruction

  • Vocational Instructional I: Reading and Writing
  • Vocational Instructional II: Mathematics

Pennsylvania alternative teaching certification paths

If you have a bachelor’s degree but don’t meet the standard requirements to obtain a traditional Pennsylvania teacher certificate, the state offers some alternatives. If you choose to follow the Pennsylvania alternative teacher certification path, you will still need to complete the same exams that the traditional teaching certificate requires. The significant difference, however, is the manner in which you qualify for these exams, and what you will be eligible to teach while qualifying for an Instructional I certificate.

Pennsylvania teaching internship

Obtaining a Pennsylvania intern certification will allow you to fill a full-time professional teaching position. If you wish to gain more experience and earn income while completing your certification program, this is a great alternative to the traditional certification route. To be considered, you must hold a bachelor’s degree, meet all testing requirements, enroll in an approved certification program, and secure a full-time or long-term substitute position.

Obain a Pennsylvania emergency teaching permit

If you have a bachelor’s degree, a Pennsylvania public school can hire you by requesting an emergency permit, even if you do not possess a Pennsylvania teaching certificate. The school is required to post the vacancy for a minimum of 10 days prior to filling the position with an emergency permit candidate. To be considered, you must submit an online application, and provide a copy of your transcripts. A great way to find one of these opportunities is to search for job openings in your desired district and look for vacancies that have been posted for longer periods of time. Reach out to the school and inquire whether they would be willing to fill the position with an emergency permit candidate.

Become a Pennsylvania private schools teacher

Educators who teach in a private school that is licensed by the Pennsylvania Department of Education must either hold a traditional certification or a private academic teacher certification. However, if the private school is fully non-public (e.g. a religious entity), teachers are not required to possess teacher certification. Although, the school is authorized to require that their educators hold a valid teaching certificate and most desire a bachelor’s level education.

Pennsylvania substitute teaching

Pennsylvania substitute teacher requirements vary by district. If you would like to substitute teach in Pennsylvania, it is best to start by contacting the school directly, as each school district has their own application process. For example, the School District of Philadelphia partners with Kelly Educational Staffing to secure all substitute teachers. Generally, if you hold an active teaching certificate, you may be eligible to become a day-to-day substitute. Otherwise, substitute teachers may only work up to a total of 90 days per school year.

Pennsylvania teacher salary

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ (BLS) May 2017 data, Pennsylvania holds 168,000 pre-kindergarten through 12th grade teaching positions (including special education). This makes up about 4% of the national total. The BLS indicates that while teachers’ salaries average at $58,780 across the U.S., Pennsylvania teacher salaries average $61,453. By this measure, teacher salaries in Pennsylvania are approximately 4.6% higher than the national average. Substitute teachers in Pennsylvania are also paid more than their average national counterparts, $32,740 and $31,510, respectively. This makes Pennsylvania substitute teacher salaries about 3.9% above the national average wage.

By obtaining additional education, Pennsylvania teachers are eligible to add certifications and increase their salaries. If you obtain your master’s degree while teaching under Level I certification in Pennsylvania, you automatically satisfy the education requirements for Level II certification — and become eligible for a pay raise. For example, the School District of Philadelphia offers an annual salary increase to teachers with a master’s degree or higher.

Final thoughts about teaching in PA

There are many different ways to become an educator in Pennsylvania. Although the Pennsylvania teaching requirements are complex and may seem difficult to navigate, this outline should set you in the right direction. With a high number of teacher vacancies, and an above-national-average annual salary, the state of Pennsylvania is a great place to start your career as a teacher.

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