What Is a License?
A license is legal permission to teach or work in a school setting. Educator licenses, which may also be referred to as certifications or credentials in some states, are issued by state offices and agencies. A license can be suspended or revoked if you fail to abide by certain laws and regulations. Some states also issue endorsements to licenses that allow the educator to teach in an additional content area.
Why Are Educators Regulated?
Student protection: Licensing laws guarantee that educators have met a minimum standard of education and training. In other words, professional licensing ensures professional competency and preparedness.
Safety and professional integrity: Licensing also serves a gatekeeping function. It prevents some people from working in schools and provides a means of accountability for ethical violations. If you step out of bounds, you can lose your license and the ability to teach or work in schools.
Who Needs a License?
It is important to distinguish between P–12 educational settings (early childhood, elementary, and secondary schools) and post-secondary or higher education settings, when determining if a license is required.
Licensure is usually required for teachers, administrators, school counselors and school psychologists working in early childhood, elementary, and secondary education settings.While an appropriate license is always required in public schools, some private schools may not require a license for teachers or administrators. Charter schools are public schools, so all teachers are required to be licensed or certified. However, some states may not require charter school administrators to be licensed. All of these licensure requirements can vary by state, so it’s essential to research and understand requirements specific to your state.
Licensure is generally not required for administrators and instructors at colleges and universities, although some counseling positions in post-secondary settings may require a counseling license. Also some states license adult educators teaching through a school district program, as opposed to a college or university setting.
The primary qualification for teaching in higher education is subject matter expertise. This expertise is gained through graduate study in the subject in which you plan to teach, as well as practical experience in that field. For example, a mathematics professor would be required to have an advanced degree (most likely a PhD) in mathematics, rather than a degree in education. There are exceptions to this rule, for persons holding extensive work experience in a specific area but hold a graduate degree in a different subject. A graduate degree may not be required to teach in a trade-specific discipline, such as auto repair or massage therapy.
Leadership or student affairs positions often require graduate course work, but the preferred subject area may vary depending on the type of position. Positions in direct student services (career counseling, residence life, student activities) may require a degree in psychology, counseling, or a related field. Those seeking to move into higher level leadership positions may benefit most from a degree that emphasizes post-secondary leadership and management.
Capella University cannot guarantee licensure, certification, or endorsement. State regulations vary regarding professional licensure and salary benefits. It is learners' responsibility to understand and comply with requirements for their state.