Alternative Teacher Certification in Florida

 In Career Change, Teacher Certification

A growing teacher shortage is disrupting the learning environment in the United States, and Florida is no exception with 3,500 vacancies entering the 2019-2020 school year. The consequences for students are concerning. Florida districts need qualified teachers, particularly in the subject areas of math, science and special education. But, the pool of teachers who are graduating from college with an education degree and choosing to teach in Florida is growing ever smaller. It is estimated that about 300,000 students started this school year with a temporary or substitute teacher. These are dedicated people who want to make a difference but often lack the experience or credentials to make teaching a career… for now. As education leaders in Florida, we can create opportunities for aspiring teachers, turn their passion into skill, and make them more than a stand-in at the front of the classroom.

It is now more common than ever to find second-career teachers inspiring students to love to learn. According to the Economic Policy Institute, the percentage of teachers who did not take a traditional route into teaching is growing. This is especially true in higher poverty schools where 77% of teachers who took a traditional route into teaching leave the field. In these schools, second-career teachers are embracing the alternative certification paths to making a difference for the next generation.

What is Alternative Teacher Certification?

There are two paths to teacher certification in Florida:

The Traditional Path

In the past, there was only one way to become a certified teacher. You completed four years of college, including one to two semesters of student teaching, to earn a bachelor’s degree in education. If you wanted to enter the teaching field from another career, you had to go back to school full time to make it happen.

The Alternative Path

Today, education and career paths have changed. If you are changing careers, you can take an alternative certification program. These typically take less time and cost less money. You can also find programs with more flexible schedules.

The National Association for Alternative Certification (NAAC) broadly describes an alternative route to certification as any preparation program other than a traditional undergraduate, degree-granting program leading to certification. Today, if you have a bachelor’s degree in any area, you can pursue alternative teacher certification through state-approved programs.

Two Types of Teacher Certificates in Florida

  1. Professional Teaching Certificate: the highest level certificate, valid for five years, renewable
  2. Temporary Teaching Certificate: valid for up to three years, not renewable
    To qualify for a temporary certificate, you must be teaching full-time while completing all requirements to earn a Professional Teaching Certificate within a three-year period.

Requirements for Alternative Teacher Certification in Florida

  •  A Bachelor’s degree in any subject area
  •  An Educator Preparation Program
  •  Student Teaching/Field Experience with a mentor teacher
  • A passing score on three Florida State Certification Exams (FTCE)
    • General Knowledge: English-language skills, essay writing, reading and math
    • Professional Education: theories and professional practices in teaching and learning
    • Subject/Content Area: competencies and skills in each of the 39 subject areas

Types of Alternative Educator Preparation Programs in Florida

1. Educator Preparation Institutes (EPI)

EPI’s are offered by many postsecondary institutions and qualified private providers. They provide training in the practices that make a successful teacher. You do not have to currently be teaching to participate in an EPI. There are now a few options for online EPI programs that are especially beneficial for full-time workers and new teachers.

2. Professional Development Certification Programs (PDCP)

PDCP’s are offered by Florida school districts and charter schools. You must be teaching full-time on a Temporary Teaching Certificate to participate in a PDCP.
These programs are often the most cost-effective, because they are offered by the district where you are employed. However, they tend to last 18-24 months and tend to have a more rigid attendance schedule than some other alternatives.

3. American Board for Certification of Teacher Excellence (ABCTE)

The ABCTE is a nonprofit teacher certification program provided through a federal grant. It is offered in a few states, including Florida. They certify only in critical need areas: Biology, Chemistry, Elementary, English, History, Math, Physics, Reading, Science and Special Education. After passing two of the three exams, the Subject Area and the Professional Education, you receive an ‘American Board Passport’. The next step is to get hired in a school district to teach a critical need area and then apply for a Temporary Teaching Certificate. If hired, you must complete all state and local requirements before you apply for a Florida Professional Teaching Certificate.

TeacherReady Program, the EPI for the University of West Florida

Since 2005, we have certified thousands of teachers throughout the U.S. and in over 95 other countries. Our program is nationally accredited by the Council of the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP) and is a member of the Professional Education Unit at the University of West Florida. Upon successful completion of the program, students receive a five-year Professional Teaching Certificate. Our students experience top-tier benefits including:

  • Outstanding customer service from individual student advisors for each student
  • Instruction from expert former educators and administrators
  • Support and guidance to pass the Florida Teacher Certification Exams (FTCE)
  • Ability to begin the program at any time throughout the year
  • Online coursework for a more flexible schedule
  • Ability to complete program in approximately nine months
  • Practical & applicable curriculum which reflects successful practices in teaching today and accommodates various learning styles
  • In-classroom field experience with a mentor teacher
  • Free, online clinical training workshop for mentor teachers
  • Graduate credit hours for advanced degrees through university partnerships
  • Low interest student loans through Sallie Mae or Wells Fargo
  • Financial assistance, scholarships, and state fee waivers for military members and veterans

If you want to enter the teaching profession but lack an education degree or specific education classes, the alternative teaching certification in Florida accelerates your path to the classroom. Frequently, it’s after finishing college and working in other fields that you figure out what you really want to do. Teaching allows you to make a difference in the lives of young people and motivate them to realize their potential. You will be able to use your life and work experience to demonstrate the importance of life-long learning. Most important of all, you will live the joy of purpose, worthwhile work and making a difference.

Alternative Certification Outside of Florida?

Fortunately, you do not have to live in Florida to become a certified teacher in the state. If you earn a Florida certification through an alternative certification program, your licensure will be  accepted in other states and countries through the process of reciprocity. Be sure to check with your state’s Department of Education to see how Florida certifications can be transferred to your state.

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