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Earn Your License to Teach
Everything you need to know about getting licensed to teach in North Carolina.
Earn Your License to Teach
Everything you need to know about getting licensed to teach in North Carolina.

To get licensed to teach in North Carolina:

Note: We do our best to keep all information updated, but because licensure requirements are regularly reviewed and revised, it is best to confirm requirements with your educator preparation program and the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction (NC DPI) before applying.

Which statement fits you best?

In North Carolina, teachers earn a license to teach a specific set of grades and subjects. Whether you want to focus on a specific subject, like math, or a particular student population, like second-language learners, you’ll find a teaching area that fits.

If you know what ages or grades you want to teach—your next steps are to:

  • Decide which subject/licensure area you’d like to teach (next section).
  • Select an educator preparation program that offers your desired licensure area and matches your current education level (undergraduate or graduate).
  • Apply to your educator preparation program.

Pro Tip: There are lots of different subject areas to teach at all ages and grade levels. At any level, getting licensed in a high-demand area provides more job opportunities. Your employment prospects may be stronger, especially at the elementary level, where there are a large number of applicants. 

If you want to teach elementary school, consider choosing a high-demand area: 

  • Exceptional Children: General curriculum (K-12)
  • Exceptional Children: Adapted Curriculum (K-12)
  • English as a Second Language (K-12)

If you prefer middle or high school, high-demand areas include:

  • Exceptional Children: General curriculum (K-12)
  • Exceptional Children: Adapted Curriculum (K-12)
  • Math (9-12) and Middle Grades Math 
  • Science (9-12) and Middle Grades Science
  • Agriculture (6-12)
  • Technology Education (6-12)
  • World Languages
  • English as a Second Language (K-12)

To broaden your options, you could also consider a subject area that allows you to teach in all grades, PK-12 (for a complete list, see Choosing a Licensure Area):

  • Special Education
  • English as a Second Language
  • Technology Education
  • Physical Education & Health
  • Music & Art

Read more about high-needs and critical shortage areas for teachers, and the perks that come with teaching in these crucial areas.

Heads Up: Most licensure areas require specific tests. Review the NC Department of Public Instruction’s testing requirements on their FAQ page to get a leg up on which assessments are required for the subject area you wish to teach.

  • I know what ages/grades I want to teach.

    If you know what ages or grades you want to teach—your next steps are to:

    • Decide which subject/licensure area you’d like to teach (next section).
    • Select an educator preparation program that offers your desired licensure area and matches your current education level (undergraduate or graduate).
    • Apply to your educator preparation program.

    Pro Tip: There are lots of different subject areas to teach at all ages and grade levels. At any level, getting licensed in a high-demand area provides more job opportunities. Your employment prospects may be stronger, especially at the elementary level, where there are a large number of applicants. 

    If you want to teach elementary school, consider choosing a high-demand area: 

    • Exceptional Children: General curriculum (K-12)
    • Exceptional Children: Adapted Curriculum (K-12)
    • English as a Second Language (K-12)

    If you prefer middle or high school, high-demand areas include:

    • Exceptional Children: General curriculum (K-12)
    • Exceptional Children: Adapted Curriculum (K-12)
    • Math (9-12) and Middle Grades Math 
    • Science (9-12) and Middle Grades Science
    • Agriculture (6-12)
    • Technology Education (6-12)
    • World Languages
    • English as a Second Language (K-12)

    To broaden your options, you could also consider a subject area that allows you to teach in all grades, PK-12 (for a complete list, see Choosing a Licensure Area):

    • Special Education
    • English as a Second Language
    • Technology Education
    • Physical Education & Health
    • Music & Art

    Read more about high-needs and critical shortage areas for teachers, and the perks that come with teaching in these crucial areas.

    Heads Up: Most licensure areas require specific tests. Review the NC Department of Public Instruction’s testing requirements on their FAQ page to get a leg up on which assessments are required for the subject area you wish to teach.

  • I know what subject I want to teach.

    If you know what subject you’d like to teach, your next steps are to:

    • Decide which ages or grade levels you’d like to teach.
    • Identify your licensure area (next section).
    • Select an educator preparation program that offers your desired licensure area and matches your current education level (undergraduate or graduate).
    • Apply to your educator preparation program.

    Pro Tip: When selecting ages or grade levels to teach, consider that your employment prospects may be stronger at the middle and high school levels than at the elementary level. 

    The greatest need for teachers is in state-designated shortage areas, many of which are at the middle and high school levels: 

    • Math (middle and high school)
    • Science (middle and high school)
    • Exceptional Children (all grades)

    To broaden your options, you could also consider a subject area that allows you to teach in grades PK-12 (for a complete list, see Choosing a Licensure Area):

    • Exceptional Children
    • English as a Second Language
    • Technology Education
    • Physical Education & Health
    • Music & Art

    Heads Up: Most licensure areas require specific tests. Review the NC Department of Public Instruction’s testing requirements on their FAQ page to get a leg up on which assessments are required for the subject area you wish to teach.

  • I'm open to teaching different subjects

    If you’re open to teaching different subject areas, your next steps are to:

    • Explore licensure areas for different grade levels and subjects (next section).
    • Select an educator preparation program that offers your desired licensure area and matches your current education level (undergraduate or graduate).
    • Apply to your educator preparation program.

    Pro Tip: You can narrow down which grade levels and subject areas to teach by considering state-designated shortage areas, or other in-demand subjects, where the need for teachers is greatest and your employment prospects may be stronger.  

  • I'm considering a career change.

    If you’re considering teaching as the next stage in your career path, your next steps are to:

    • Decide which ages or grade levels and the subject area you’d like to teach.
    • Identify your licensure area (next section).
    • Select an educator preparation program that offers your desired licensure area and matches your current education level (undergraduate or graduate).
    • Apply to your educator preparation program.

    Pro Tip: If you’ve already earned a bachelor’s degree or have vocational work experience, you may be eligible for alternative pathways to licensure that put you in the classroom faster.

    • Do you have a bachelor’s degree? Licensure-only or school district residency programs can get you licensed to teach without earning an additional degree. These programs may take less time and cost less than traditional licensure programs. Head over to Programs to learn more.
    • Are you a tradesperson? If you have vocational experience, you can get licensed to teach as a trade instructor for a Career & Technical Education program in a middle or high school through an alternative program. Positions may be available in fields such as automotive, manufacturing, construction, culinary arts, hospitality, plumbing, and others.
    • Are you a military veteran? North Carolina students need veterans to serve again as their teachers. Check out Troops to Teachers for resources and opportunities available for veterans interested in teaching.
  • I'm already licensed to teach.

    If you’re already licensed to teach—in North Carolina or elsewhere—your next step is to learn more about your eligibility for licensure by reviewing the NC Department of Public Instructions licensure page.

    These resources will help determine your pathway to North Carolina licensure if you are:

    • An out-of-state or international educator looking to teach in North Carolina.
    • A licensed North Carolina educator interested in renewing or advancing your licensure.
    • A licensed North Carolina educator wanting to add additional teaching areas to your license or earn an administrator licensure.

    Are you an international educator? North Carolina has several partner programs that help place qualified international teachers in North Carolina schools. You can read more on the Department of Public Instruction’s page for Beginning, Out-of-State, and International Teachers.

Consider a Critical Needs Subject or Shortage Area

You’ll have more job opportunities—and make a bigger impact—teaching in a high-needs area. If you already have a bachelor’s degree, you may also be able to start teaching (and start getting paid) sooner through a school district’s residency program. 

The North Carolina State Education Assistance Authority lists the following areas as shortage areas that qualify for teacher loan forgiveness:

  • Biology
  • Chemistry
  • Comprehensive Science
  • English as a Second Language
  • Foreign Language
  • Math 
  • Middle Grades
  • Physics
  • Exceptional Children (K-12)

Several programs offer forgivable loans to pay for your education preparation program if you commit to teaching in a state-designated shortage area:

  • The state offers Forgivable Education Loans for Service of up to $3,500 a semester ($7,000 a year) for bachelor’s degree programs and $5,000 a semester ($10,000 a year) for master’s degree programs leading to licensure in one of the shortage areas listed above. Generally, a loan for one academic year will be forgiven for one year of full-time employment.
  • The North Carolina Teaching Fellows program offers forgivable loans of up to $4,125 a semester ($8,250 a year) for up to four years to highly-qualified students committed to teaching special education or a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering or Mathematics) field in a North Carolina public schools.
  • You may also be eligible for student loan relief from Uncle Sam if you’re willing to commit to teaching for several years in high-need areas, thanks to the federal Teacher Loan Forgiveness Program.

Choosing a Licensure Area

Once you know your grade and subject preferences, you can select a licensure area.

Pro Tip: You can add licenses in different grade levels and subject areas throughout your teaching career. You don’t have to get all your licenses at once. ?

  • Elementary & Early Childhood

    These licensure areas allow you to teach in multiple subject areas at the early childhood and elementary school levels.

    Licensure Area Grade Range Critical Need
    Birth to Kindergarten Birth-K  
    Elementary Education K-6  
    Elementary Math K-6  
    Elementary Science K-6  

     

  • Exceptional Children

    These licensure areas allow you to teach students with disabilities or students who require additional academic supports at the elementary, middle and high school levels.

    Licensure Area Grade Range Critical Need
    Special Education: General Curriculum K-12
    Special Education: Adapted Curriculum K-12
    Learning Disabled K-12  
    Mentally Disabled K-12  
    Severely & Profoundly Disabled K-12  
    Deaf & Hard of Hearing K-12  
    American Sign Language K-12  
    Audiology K-12  

     

  • Humanities & World Language

    These licensure areas allow you to teach in humanities subject areas in middle or high school, and reading or world languages at all levels.

    Licensure Areas Grade Range Critical Need
    English 9-12  
    Language Arts, Middle Grades 6-9  
    Reading K-12  
    History 9-12  
    Comprehensive Social Studies 9-12  
    Social Studies, Middle Grades 6-9  
    Chinese K-12  
    Classical Latin K-12  
    French K-12  
    German K-12  
    Japanese K-12  
    Spanish K-12  
    English as a Second Language K-12

     

  • Science & Math

    These licensure areas allow you to teach science and math subjects at the middle school or high school levels.

    Licensure Areas Grade Range Critical Need
    Biology 9-12
    Chemistry 9-12
    Earth Science 9-12
    Physics 9-12
    Comprehensive Science 9-12
    Science, Middle Grades 6-9
    Mathematics 9-12
    Mathematics, Middle Grades 6-9

     

  • Fine Arts, Media, Physical Education, & Health

    These licensure areas allow you to teach in one of several enrichment subject areas at the elementary, middle and high school levels. 

    Licensure Area Grade Range Critical Need
    Art K-12  
    Dance K-12  
    Music K-12  
    Theatre Arts K-12  
    Health Specialist K-12  
    Physical Education K-12  
    Health & Physical Education K-12  

     

  • Career & Technical Education

    These licensure areas allow you to teach in career and technical-education subject areas at the middle and high school level.

    Licensure Area Grade Range Critical Need
    Agricultural Education 9-12  
    Business Education 9-12  
    Family & Consumer Sciences 9-12  
    Marketing Education 9-12  
    Technology Education 9-12  
    Trade & Industrial Education 9-12  

     

Your Pathway to Teaching

Once you know what you want to teach, you're ready to start your journey to become a licensed teacher! Most North Carolina teachers begin with a Professional Educator's Initial License for educators with less than two years of experience.

  1. Earn a bachelor’s degree from a regionally accredited university.

    North Carolina accepts degrees from a large number of universities, but you should confirm that yours is a regionally accredited college or university. The bachelor’s degree you earn should be in a field closely related to what you want to teach. To be accepted into a North Carolina educator preparation program, you generally need a minimum cumulative grade point average (GPA) of 2.7  for all undergraduate courses.

    Keep in mind that you can earn your degree and your teacher licensure at the same time, so if you’re an undergraduate, see step 2 below.

  2. Graduate from a state-approved educator preparation program.

    You can meet this requirement either as part of your undergraduate coursework (e.g., earning a BA in Education), or by applying to and graduating from a post-baccalaureate educator preparation program after earning your bachelor’s degree. 

    Generally, you’ll need a minimum cumulative grade point average (GPA) of 2.7 for all undergraduate courses and passing scores on the Praxis Core Academic Skills Tests or SAT or ACT. Each program sets its own requirements for admission and completion. 

    Through your preparation program, you will:

    • Take coursework related to (1) the specific subject and grade levels you are seeking licensure in and (2) the teaching profession more broadly (i.e., pedagogy).
    • Participate in hands-on, clinical experiences in a variety of classroom settings, where you can observe and practice with instructors, mentors and teachers who are effective and experienced.
    • Prepare an edTPA portfolio of lesson plans, student work and other artifacts during your student teaching placement to submit for assessment.

    Get started by browsing the Programs page

  3. Pass North Carolina licensure assessments.

    Most teacher candidates have to pass specific tests that evaluate your knowledge of teaching (e.g., Foundations of Reading) and the subject area you wish to teach (e.g. Praxis II). Your education preparation program will determine the timing of when you will take these assessments.

    In addition, all teacher candidates completing preparation programs must participate in and meet minimum score requirements on the edTPA portfolio-based assessment. To meet this requirement, candidates prepare a portfolio of lesson plans, student work and other artifacts to submit for assessment as a part of your student teaching experience.

  4. Submit an application to the state and pay the application fee.

    After you meet the requirements above, it’s time for you to formally apply for your teaching license. First, confirm with your educator preparation program that you are eligible to apply. After that, you can contact the Department of Public Instruction with any questions. 

    Pro Tip: By creating an online account for the NC DPI’s Online Licensure System, you can apply for your license online, pay fees, check the status of your application, or print unofficial copies of your license. 

Adding it Up

Teaching is the greatest opportunity to shape the trajectories of young people’s lives—and the future of our world. While the experiences you’ll have are priceless, you may be wondering what it costs to get licensed to teach in North Carolina. 

The total costs will vary depending on the educator preparation program you attend and the tests required for your licensure area. Below are some of the costs you can expect while earning and obtaining your license: 

  • Initial educator license: $70
  • Out-of-state initial educator license: $100
  • edTPA Portfolio assessment: $300
  • Content-specific exams: Starting at $120

Pro Tip: It's understandable to have your eye on the cost of educator preparation programs, but there are lots of scholarships, loan forgiveness and other funding opportunities that may lower program costs for North Carolina’s future teachers, including the We Promise program, where you can earn a bachelor’s degree for $1,000 per year in tuition at certain UNC system schools. Check out Financial Aid & Scholarships to learn more.

Additional Resources

Looking to dive a little deeper? ?

  • Educator Preparation Program Profiles

    Head over to Programs to learn more about TeachNC’s participating educator preparation options.

    Learn More
  • Troops to Teachers

    Find out about exclusive opportunities available to North Carolina’s military veterans to get licensed to teach. 

    Learn More
  • Teach for America in North Carolina

    Teach for America (TFA) partners with two North Carolina regions to train dedicated leaders to expand access to equitable education. TFA Charlotte-Piedmont Triad and TFA Eastern North Carolina.

  • North Carolina's Approved Educator Preparation Programs (EPPs)

    Review which North Carolina EPPs offer licensure areas in which grade levels and subject areas. 

    Explore
  • NC DPI’s Frequently Asked Questions

    Skim through this set of FAQs to get your questions answered. 

    Learn More

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