Teacher Certification in Tennessee, TN

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The most straightforward way to obtain a Tennessee teaching license is to attend a college or university and a teacher preparation program in Tennessee. An aspiring teacher, whose goal is to become a licensed elementary or secondary teacher in Tennessee, must:

  • Earn at least a bachelor’s degree.
  • Successfully complete a preparation program in the area of interest at an approved teacher education institution.
  • Take and pass the required Praxis Series Exams.
  • Receive recommendations for licensure from the Dean of Education and the Certification Office of the college/university.

Apprentice Teacher License

The Apprentice Teacher License is a full license for teaching in Tennessee. It is issued to an educator who has:

  • Completed a bachelor’s degree.
  • Completed an approved teacher preparation program.
  • Submitted minimum qualifying scores on required teacher licensure examinations.

This Initial full license is valid for five years and is renewable.

A teacher with an Apprentice License has five years in which to teach for three years in a Tennessee public or state-accredited non-public school. After using the Apprentice License for three years in an approved Tennessee school, it is no longer valid. At the end of the three years of teaching, the school system must submit a positive local evaluation so the teacher can advance to the Professional License.

The Professional License in Tennessee

The Professional License is a full teacher license issued to the holder of an Apprentice Teacher License or Out-of-State Teacher License. The Professional License can be granted to a teacher who has:

  • Received a positive local evaluation from an approved Tennessee school.

Completed a minimum of three years of acceptable teaching experience in:

  • An approved Tennessee school.


  • A combination of in-state and out-of-state schools.
  • The last year of acceptable teaching must be completed in an approved Tennessee school in order to participate in the local evaluation process to be eligible to advance to the Professional License.

The Professional License is valid for ten years and is renewable.

The Transitional License

The Transitional License became effective during the 2009-2010 school year. A superintendent or director of schools in a Tennessee school district requests the Transitional license, which is not a full teaching license. It is granted to a teacher who, while employed, is still completing specific licensure requirements. The license is issued for one school year at a time and is renewable. Individuals may teach with a transitional license for a maximum of three years.

Requirements include the following:

  • Candidates must have at least a bachelor’s degree from a regionally accredited institution of higher education.
  • Candidates must verify fulfillment of content area requirements by one of the following:
    • An acceptable major in their content/endorsement area.


Documentation that they have at least 24 semester hours in the teaching content area.


  • Verification that they have passed the required Praxis II content exam(s) for the endorsement areas sought.
  • The institution of higher education or school system of employment must verify that content knowledge requirements have been met.

The applicant must also have obtained:

  • An “intent to hire” statement, including a commitment to provide mentoring, which must be signed by a Tennessee director of schools and state that the candidate will be the teacher of record.
  • Agreement from the school system that it will submit completed applications for the Transitional License, with supporting documentation, to the Tennessee State Department of Education Office of Teacher Licensing.
  • Official copies of the candidate’s college transcripts.
  • Documentation of eligibility for admission, admission to, or enrollment in an approved transitional licensure preparation program.

Out-of-State and Online Transitional Licensure

In addition to all of the general Transitional License requirements, candidates seeking Transitional licensure through an out-of-state or online program must:

  • Have a verifiable affiliation with an out-of-state or online institution of higher education that is:
  • Regionally accredited.


  • State approved for teacher education by at least one state other than Tennessee and for the licensure endorsement area(s) at the appropriate grade level range.

Out-of-State Teacher License

An Initial three-year license may be issued to applicants with teaching experience in other states. The applicant must have completed a bachelor’s degree and an approved teacher education program or a program under terms of a signed reciprocal contract with another state. The teacher must also submit minimum qualifying scores on the required teacher licensure examinations.

Tennessee has some type of reciprocity agreement with all other states. Teachers, who have completed educator licensure requirements in another state, must submit an out-of-state license application packet to apply for a Tennessee teaching license.

The following documentation is needed for evaluation per Tennessee’s agreement:

  • Out of State Application must be complete with original signature and mailed to the Tennessee State Board of Education office.
  • Original/Official Transcripts from all college(s)
  • Copy of educator credential from other state(s) with validity dates.
  • Acceptable experience in a K-12 school outside the state of Tennessee must be submitted on the Experience Verification Form.
  • Praxis Series II Tests, the need for which is determined after applications are reviewed.

This three-year license is renewable.