a teacher and her students

Do You Need a License to be a Teacher?

Jeff Renfrow, Director of Undergraduate Education for School of Education Professions at CCU Online

There are many questions you should be asking if you are considering becoming a teacher. Let’s start with an important question you need to answer: Do I need a license to be a teacher?

Before we answer that question, let’s ask ourselves a few introspective questions.

Is a license required in order to be a teacher?

Where do I want to teach?

If you want to teach in a traditional, publicly-funded neighborhood school then a teaching license is required. Public schools are managed by their state and teaching licenses are issued by each state in accordance with their unique requirements. Once you hold your teaching license you will be able to only work in your licensure area in traditional public schools and only in the state of licensure. You will also be able to work in most states’ public charter schools, private schools, and international schools.

What can I do with a non-licensure degree?

It is possible to earn a teaching degree and not hold a license. These are often referred to as “non-licensure degrees”. You might wonder why a person would choose this option. Well, educators who hold a teaching degree, but not a license, may not be interested in teaching in public schools; They are often interested only in teaching at charter schools, private schools, international schools, and home schools.

However, there is an exception wherein a non-licensed educator may teach in a public school. The exception is a special pathway to a teaching license often referred to as an Alternative Licensure Program or ALP. This pathway allows anyone with a bachelor’s degree in any subject to be hired as a teacher while simultaneously being enrolled in a state-approved ALP teacher licensure program at a university. After you’ve answered the “where to teach” question, you should answer the “what to teach” question.   

What do I want to teach?

Regardless of whether a license is right for you, you’ll need to decide what it is you want to teach. This will determine the degree (with or without licensure) that you will want to pursue. There are dozens of teacher preparation programs and licenses out there that allow you to teach in any number of different areas. For example, you can choose a career in special education, elementary education, early childhood education, etc. This decision will set you on a very specific path of study, so choose wisely! 

Where do I want to learn?

Once you know where you want to teach and what you want to teach, you’re ready to start researching universities and colleges to find the ones that offer your desired program. Most universities offer some teacher degree or licensure programs, but no single university offers all possible teacher degree and licensure programs. CCU Online offers a variety of teaching degrees with and without licensure at both the undergraduate and graduate levels. Additionally, CCU offers an Alternative Licensing Program if that’s the right option for you.


Colorado Christian University does not guarantee any job placement as a result of earning this or any other degrees offered by the university.

Do you want to learn more about teacher preparation programs at CCU’s School of Education Professions? 

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