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Are Teacher Licenses Honored in All States?

If you are a teacher thinking about moving to another state, you’re not alone. Teachers move for many reasons — to live closer to family, accommodate a spouse’s career move or enroll in a specialized teacher education program offered by that state, such as ESL or special education.

To teach in another state, you need to do your research on teacher reciprocity. It’s not as simple as trading teaching licenses from one state to another. Depending on the state, the process may be quite complex. You may even need to fulfill additional requirements, such as testing, specific coursework and/or classroom experience.

Here are some things you need to know if you are thinking about teaching in another state.

What Is Teacher License Reciprocity?
In the public school system, every state requires its teachers to earn that state’s teaching credential (e.g., teaching licenses and certificates) before legally allowing someone to teach there. Teacher reciprocity is an agreement between states that recognizes the teaching credentials issued by each other to facilitate teacher mobility.[i]

However, reciprocity is not as simple as trading those credentials; it’s more like a guarantee that your application for a teaching position in another state will be reviewed by that state’s teacher licensing agency to see if you meet that state’s requirements. It’s done on a case-by-case basis, and the requirements vary from state to state.[ii]

The reason why teacher reciprocity exists is to allow teachers to move from one state to another in the hope of alleviating teacher shortages across the nation. It basically cuts down on the complexities. For example, if you move to another state and want to teach there:[iii]

  • You may not need to get a teaching license for that specific state
  • You may not be required to go through that state’s entire teacher education program
  • In many states, you will be allowed time to fulfill any additional requirements while teaching on a temporary or provisional license in that state

​These conditions usually apply only if you have a standard professional certificate (not an emergency or provisional teaching certificate) to teach in the state you are moving from.

Types of Teacher Reciprocity
The National Association of State Directors of Teacher Education and Certification (NASDTEC) Interstate Agreement for Educator Licensure allows for increased teacher mobility in the U.S. across 44 states and the District of Columbia. By signing this agreement, participating states specify which other state teaching credentials they accept; however, full reciprocity between states is not guaranteed. Just because one state recognizes teaching licenses from another doesn’t signify that recognition goes both ways.[iv]

However, the interstate agreement has many benefits. For example, you may be able to get certified in one state and licensed in another, as long as both states participate in the interstate agreement.[v] It helps to know what to expect before you move. Review the teacher reciprocity requirements for the “host” or destination state by looking at NASDTEC’s information for out-of-state applicants.[vi]

Most states require that you have a bachelor’s degree from a regionally accredited school and state-approved teacher preparation program. You may also be required to pass one or more tests based on competency and subject and provide institutional recommendations. If you have a master’s degree or advanced teaching certificate, a portion of the requirements may be waived.[vii]

Some states also participate in regional agreements to allow for more specificity and compliance among those states and compensate for some of the restrictions within NASDTEC’s interstate agreement. Two additional organizations aim to standardize criteria in multiple states and further simplify the teacher reciprocity process are The National Board for Professional Teaching Standards (NBPTS) and the Interstate New Teacher Assessment and Support Consortium (INTASC). To facilitate teacher mobility, NBPTS offers the national board certificate, an advanced teacher certificate recognized in most states.[viii]

As mentioned earlier, some additional requirements for teaching in another state may be waived for teachers with advanced degrees. If you are thinking of pursuing a career in special education, you may want to consider the Online Master of Science in Education in Special Education at Purdue University. To learn more, call 877-497-5851 to speak to an admissions adviser.


[i] “Teacher certification reciprocity.” Teach.com. https://teach.com/where/teaching-in-america/teacher-certification-reciprocity/ (accessed February 18, 2016).

[ii] “The teacher certification reciprocity guide.” Teachercertificationdegrees.com. http://www.teachercertificationdegrees.com/reciprocity/ (accessed February 18, 2017).

[iii] “Teacher certification reciprocity.” Teach.com. https://teach.com/where/teaching-in-america/teacher-certification-reciprocity/ (accessed February 18, 2016).

[iv] “Interstate agreement.” NASDTEC.net. http://www.nasdtec.net/?page=Interstate (accessed February 18, 2017).

[v] “Interstate agreement.” NASDTEC.net. http://www.nasdtec.net/?page=Interstate (accessed February 18, 2017).

[vi] “Information for out-of-state applicants.” NASDTEC.net. http://nasdtec.site-ym.com/?InterstateAgreements (accessed February 19, 2017).

[vii] “Information for out-of-state applicants.” NASDTEC.net. http://nasdtec.site-ym.com/?InterstateAgreements (accessed February 19, 2017).

[viii] “Teacher certification reciprocity.” Teach.com. https://teach.com/where/teaching-in-america/teacher-certification-reciprocity/ (accessed February 18, 2016).