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Provisional Teacher Certification

by Trudie Longren, studioD

Many state departments of education offer paths to provisional teacher licensure for those who do not hold degrees in education. Individuals with a provisional teacher certification can temporarily teach in the public schools of the state issuing the certificate. States require those seeking provisional teacher certification to demonstrate knowledge in certain subjects by successfully passing content knowledge examinations. Provisional teaching programs also train and provide field experience to prepare license holders to give classroom instruction.


Eligibility requirements for provisional teaching certificates are determined by state departments of education; there are no national eligibility criteria. Generally, provisional certificates are available only to individuals who have completed, at minimum, a bachelor's degree from a nationally or regionally accredited school, though some states also require you to have a degree in education or to have completed a state-approved teacher preparation program. For provisional certification at the secondary level, the bachelor's degree must be in the field of instruction of the teacher; for example, if you are going to teach high school science, your bachelor's degree must be in one of the physical or health sciences.


To obtain the provisional certification, states require applicants to have demonstrated adequate knowledge in the area in which they plan to teach. Most states require applicants to have achieved a passing score on a general knowledge assessment or subject matter knowledge assessment. The Praxis is the commonly accepted examination offering tests for both general knowledge and subject matter expertise.


While holding the provisional certification, teachers are also expected to make progress toward the standard teaching certificate by completing training. The nature of the training differs by state but usually includes instruction in pedagogical technique and strategies for classroom management as well as practical experience in the classroom. In addition, programs provide mentors who demonstrate classroom strategies and assist the teacher in the theory and practice of teaching.

Period of Validity

Provisional teaching certificates are designed to temporarily permit a non-licensed teacher to deliver classroom instruction in a public school; therefore, such certificates are valid only for a determined period, allowing the teacher to transition into a standard teaching license. The period for provisional licensing varies by state; many programs last for three years, while others last for the time it takes the holder to fulfill the requirements for a standard certificate.

Other Names

Provisional teacher certification is also known by other names. In some states it is referred to as a temporary or emergency certificate or license. The certificate given to individuals choosing an alternate route to licensure is also a provisional certificate but is sometimes referred to as an "alternate" or "alternate route" certificate.

About the Author

Trudie Longren began writing in 2008 for legal publications, including the "American Journal of Criminal Law." She has served as a classroom teacher and legal writing professor. Longren holds a bachelor's degree in international politics, a Juris Doctor and an LL.M. in human rights. She also speaks Spanish and French.

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