What Are Teacher Certifications? (With Different Types)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published June 4, 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Certifications for teachers can improve the credibility of teachers depending on their location and interests and require consideration of the different specializations available. You can determine which one is right for your goals by knowing more. In this article, we discuss the definition of teacher certifications, explore the importance and benefits of each, discover the different types, and answer some FAQs.

What are teacher certifications?

Teacher certifications provide you with credentials to work as a teacher. The precise credentials required differ depending on the province you live in, but there are some commonalities. Here's a guide for those who want to become teachers:

Obtain an education

If you want to become a teacher, you first require a high school education. From here, it's beneficial to obtain a bachelor's or master's degree. This education includes courses on the legal parameters of teaching and childhood development and development across the lifespan. It's also helpful to complete additional coursework regarding curricula planning.

Determine specialty

Some professors and teachers determine their specialties, including age groups and specific topics. For example, some teachers teach English as a second language, and others work with children with disabilities. When teachers want to work in higher levels of education, like universities, this requires additional post-secondary degrees and research.

Related: 15 Interesting Jobs With a History Degree

Obtain experience

Many teachers benefit from having experience before applying to certification programs and job openings. They can obtain this experience through volunteer or entry-level positions, such as a camp counsellor. Alternatively, some teachers can get experience through internships during their studies.

Related: How to Become an ESL Teacher (With Salary and Work Conditions)

Develop skills

Here's a list of skills that teachers can use to succeed in their careers:

  • Communication skills: Teachers benefit from having communication skills because they speak to colleagues and students regularly. They also use written communication skills when sending notes and emails to others.

  • Note-taking: Teachers use note-taking skills to note students' progress, behaviour, and development.

  • Organizational skills: Teachers benefit from using organizational skills to maintain robust filing systems and to help them plan multiple activities and lessons for their students.

  • Empathy: Teachers benefit from having empathy because they try to understand their students' needs and the obstacles they experience. These empathy skills help ensure that teachers show more adaptability and flexibility when students require it.

  • Collaboration: Teachers use their collaboration skills daily because they regularly interact with students and professionals. These skills help them collaborate with other professionals to review the development and progress of students and communicate with guardians to discuss required changes or improvements.

Related: Essential Teaching Skills and How to Develop Them

Why are certifications for teachers important?

Teacher certifications are important because they provide credibility and allow public and private teachers to establish their qualifications. These certifications help ensure that all public educators hold the same credentials and provide teachers in public and private institutions with the opportunity to show they are qualified to teach a particular subject.

Certification courses uphold the best practices for teaching any grade level or age group. They allow parents, administrators, and instructional staff to stay accountable to a set of standards that govern all aspects of the classroom and school environment. Educators also choose to earn certifications for professional development, gaining credentials that can provide opportunities for career growth.

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Benefits of teacher certifications

Certifications for teachers provide foundational training and standards for all public educators. They also offer additional credentials for public and private school teachers, providing opportunities to earn higher wages. Certifications also give teachers recognition for subject expertise. The certification process includes guidance, so students in public school settings can receive the same education throughout classrooms, grade levels, and schools.

Related: How to Become an Online Teacher

Five certifications for teachers

Earning a teacher certification is an extensive and rigorous process involving coursework, student teaching hours, examinations, and documentation with your province. Here are the teacher certifications you may require:

Age and grade-level certifications

Teachers can select an area of focus when earning a degree in education and pursuing teaching certification. The age level of interest alters the required qualifications. Here are several age and grade-level certifications to consider:

1. Early childhood education

Early childhood education certification involves coursework and testing on standards and practices for children ages three to eight. This credential certifies that teachers working in this capacity can understand the developmental changes and meaningful experiences young children experience in the classroom and outside of school. An early childhood certification also recognizes the importance of play in a child's learning.

2. Elementary education

Certification for elementary school teachers involves assessing overall instructional abilities and foundational learning in all core classes. Since they typically teach all subjects, certification assessments for elementary educators focus on general knowledge and professional classroom methods. Getting certified for elementary-level teaching helps ensure a comprehensive understanding of early learning and instructional practices that benefit students at a young age.

3. Secondary education

Secondary teaching certifications provide norms and standards for those who want to work with adolescents or those who want to work in a high school setting. These certifications help teachers focus primarily on one subject of expertise. Teachers choose a core subject area of focus, including mathematics, science, English, and social studies. They can also choose to teach in specialized subjects, such as:

  • Music

  • Theatre

  • Art

  • Languages

  • Health and fitness

  • Technology

  • Journalism

  • Agriculture

Exceptional education certifications

Teachers can choose to work with students with specific needs, like learning disabilities and health issues. These teachers require additional training and certification to help ensure they can fulfill the needs of their students:

4. Gifted and talented education

Earning a certification in gifted and talented education (GATE) is an additional process for educators who want to instruct students with these exceptionalities. First, teachers require basic certification. After passing certification requirements for general classroom teaching, educators follow provincial regulations regarding GATE classes and students, including additional college coursework, an examination, or both. You can communicate with your provincial department of education to discover specific details for where you plan to teach.

5. Special education

A special education certification provides teachers with the credentials to teach students with various learning disabilities, including autism, emotional or behavioural disorder, and hearing and speech impairments. Professionals who choose this certification study educational methods that support these students and help them develop coping mechanisms for obstacles they may encounter. This certification requires extensive study and, in some provinces, a master's degree in the special education discipline.

Related: A Guide on How to Become a Private Homeschool Teacher

Frequently asked questions about teacher certifications

Here's a list of answers to common frequently asked questions about certifications for teachers:

What are the steps for teacher certification?

Since each provincial department of education governs the certification process, the steps can vary depending on your location. Typically, teachers start with coursework in a Bachelor of Education program. During their time in school, teachers also undergo student teaching assignments in various classrooms and grade levels.

As they prepare to graduate, students register with the province to receive a temporary teaching certificate pending the results of certification assessments in general knowledge, subject, and professional teaching standards. Those pursuing alternative certification often register with the province and then take assessments and alternative certification classes.

Is certification for teachers the same as obtaining a teaching licence?

The terms certification and licence apply to the same process for teachers earning the credentials to practice in public schools and some private institutions. It's a good idea to get familiar with the terms your province uses to describe the process for educators to gain professional qualifications. While some provinces may use both terms, others prefer one or the other.

Can you teach without a certification?

There are circumstances when you can work as a teacher without having a provincial certification, but professionals working in public schools require these certifications to obtain and maintain their job. Private schools and higher levels of education don't always require teaching certifications or licences. Many educational institutions expect teachers to possess credentials in the subject area they plan to teach. Professionals who have worked in their field for many years often decide to work in teaching to share their expertise with the next generation of learners.

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