In State Reciprocity, Teacher Certification

In teaching, the term ‘state reciprocity’ refers to using an existing teacher certification to get a teaching license in another state. Because teachers are more and more on the move, most states developed certification agreements to outline the process to accept teacher certification issued from other states. The term itself can be misleading since many teachers assume that their teaching license is automatically accepted in other states. One teacher who recently moved to another state described her experience below.

“I could never understand how I could be fully certified, even tenured, in one state and have to jump through so many hoops to become certified in another. I have five separate state certifications, and it has been a challenge every time.”

The reciprocity process can be hard to navigate if you don’t know how to get started. The following information should help you with your teaching career move to another state.


Although teacher certification requirements in all 50 states are similar, specific certification requirements vary widely. To become a certified teacher, most states require at least the following:

1. bachelor’s degree
2. field experience/student teaching
3. passing score on 1 or more teacher certification exams

The variety of requirements in field experience and teacher exams creates barriers to teaching in different states. Also, there are many variations of teacher state licensures ( initial, interim, emergency, professional, temporary, transitional, conditional).


1. Americans move more often today for many reasons.

  • spouse’s job transfer
  • caretaker of a loved one
  • closeness to family
  • improved quality of life and opportunity
  • major life changes like death and divorce
  • seeking a different climate
  • travel and experience in other places
  • increased compensation and benefits
  • better working conditions

2. The national teacher shortage requires some states to recruit teachers from out-of-state to fill vacancies.

3. A growing number of alternative teacher preparation programs prompted some states to develop additional certification requirements to maintain quality of teaching and learning.


Teacher certification requirements vary so widely because of state differences in:

  • state government structures
  • historical background
  • availability of critical need subject areas, special education, math, science and English as a 2nd language
  • wide discrepancies in salaries, pensions and benefit

Because of these differences, education leaders work with legislatures to promote standards of excellence and quality teaching across the country.

Understanding guidelines for certification reciprocity among 50 states is a complicated process. Fortunately, most states have established interstate agreements that make the process easier. Also, many states allow certified teachers with experience to teach on a temporary basis with specific timelines while they complete additional requirements.

Teachers must officially apply for a new state license when relocating. This can take several months. After you apply, the state licensing agency reviews the application on a case by case basis. Some teachers may have to take additional classes and/or exams. You should also research how your pension can be affected by a state move.


The National Association of State Directors of Teacher Education and Certification (NASDTEC) is an organization representing professional standards boards, commissions and state departments of education in all 50 states. NASDTEC is involved with:

  • high standards for educators
  • teacher mobility across state lines
  • comprehensive personnel screening
  • clearinghouse for teacher discipline


1. Contact NASDTEC to see if the state has established a licensure agreement with them.
2. Contact the state licensing agency to research teacher reciprocity guidelines and requirements.
3. Contact the following State Reciprocity List to find additional information about the state.
4. Submit your official application with all attachments at the same time.
5. Determine the cost and time that it may take you to teach in the state.
6. Update your resume and order official copies from your university.
7. Consider joining NASDTEC to access information found in their many teacher publications

If you are considering moving to another state to teach, we hope this information helps you understand the Teacher Certification State ‘Reciprocity Rules of the Road’.
The more you know beforehand, the easier your move will be!

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  • Dona Duckworth

    What about if I move out of the country to teach?

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