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Earn Your NC Teaching License

To teach in North Carolina, you'll need to know the license requirements. We can help you each step of the way. Read this page or download our guide.
Get StartedDownload the Guide

Earn Your NC Teaching License

To teach in North Carolina, you'll need to know the license requirements. We can help you each step of the way. Read this page or download our guide.
Get StartedDownload the Guide

Decide What Subject and Grade to Teach

North Carolina teachers earn a license to teach a specific set of grades and subjects. Find a teaching area that fits you.

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

  • Decide which subject and 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.

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. (1) Remember, 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.

If you want to teach elementary school, consider a teacher shortage 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
  • Technology Education (6-12)
  • World Languages
  • English as a Second Language (K-12)

To broaden your options, consider a subject area that allows you to teach in all grades:

  • Special Education
  • English as a Second Language
  • Technology Education
  • Physical Education & Health
  • Music & Art
  • For a complete list, see Choosing a Licensure Area
  • I know what ages or grades I want to teach

  • I know what subject I want to teach

  • I'm open to teaching different subjects

You’ll have more job opportunities—and make a bigger impact—teaching in a high-needs area. When you get licensed to teach in a shortage area, you may also become eligible for generous student loan forgiveness programs.

Consider a Critical Needs Subject or Shortage Area

Why teach in a North Carolina teacher shortage area?

You’ll have more job opportunities—and make a bigger impact—teaching in a high-needs area. When you get licensed to teach in a shortage area, you may also become eligible for generous student loan forgiveness programs.

If you already have a bachelor’s degree, you may 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
  • Earth Science
  • English as a Second Language
  • Foreign Language
  • Math (middle grades and high school)
  • Science (middle grades)
  • Physics
  • Exceptional Children (2)

If you teach full-time for five complete and consecutive academic years in a low-income school or educational service agency, and meet other qualifications, you may be eligible for forgiveness of up to $17,500 on your [federal student loans]. (3)

— U.S. Department of Education

Explore teaching programs that offer forgivable loans if you commit to teaching in a state-designated shortage area:

  • North Carolina 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. Generally, a loan for one academic year will be forgiven for one year of full-time employment in one of the teacher shortage areas listed above.
  • 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.
  • The federal Teacher Loan Forgiveness Program offers up to $17,500 in federal loan forgiveness when you teach for five years in a school that serves low-income students.

Choose the Right Licensure Area

Once you know your grade and subject preferences, you can select a licensure area. Click the tabs below for a full list of teaching license options.
  • Science and Math

  • Fine Arts, Media, Physical Education and Health

  • Career and Technical Education

  • Elementary and Early Childhood

  • Exceptional Children

  • Humanities and World Languages

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.

Choose Your Teacher Education Pathway

To teach in North Carolina, your next steps will look different depending on your background. We'll help you figure out what you'll need to move forward.

If you’re considering teaching as the next stage in your career path:

  • Decide which ages or grade levels and the subject area you’d like to teach.
  • Identify your licensure area (see above).
  • 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.

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 Residency Licensure 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 our Alternative Licensure page 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. (4)
  • I'm considering a career change

  • I'm an international student

  • I'm already licensed to teach

Get Started on Your Teaching License

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. This is a teaching license for educators with less than two years of experience.
  1. Earn a bachelor’s degree from a regionally accredited college or university.

    North Carolina accepts degrees from a large number of colleges and universities, but you should confirm that yours is regionally accredited. Your bachelor’s degree 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. (5)

    Keep in mind that you can earn your degree and your teaching license at the same time—so if you're an undergraduate, see Step 2 below.

    Paying for your program can feel like a lot. That's where our financial aid guide comes in: get our favorite tips to find grants, scholarships, loan forgiveness opportunities and other strategies to cover your costs.

  2. Graduate from an approved educator preparation program.

    You can meet this requirement either as part of your undergraduate coursework. If you already have a bachelor's degree, you can attend a licensure-only, master's and licensure or residency licensure program.

    Through your preparation program, you will:

    • Take coursework related to the specific subject and grade levels you are seeking licensure in, as well as the teaching profession more broadly. This might include courses on teaching strategies or classroom management skills.
    • 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 a portfolio of lesson plans, student work and other artifacts during your student teaching placement to submit for assessment.

    The TeachNC teacher prep program application guide has all the info you need to ace your exams, request your transcripts, win over your interviewer and more.

  3. Meet North Carolina teacher testing requirements

    Most teacher candidates have to pass specific tests that evaluate your knowledge of teaching and the subject area you wish to teach. Your education preparation program will determine the timing of when you will take your teaching license tests.

    Before you finish your program, you'll also participate in a portfolio-based assessment. To meet this requirement, you'll prepare a portfolio of lesson plans, student work and other artifacts to submit for assessment as part of your student teaching experience.

    Stressed about testing? You're not alone! Our testing guide covers everything from exam registration to study materials to what to expect on test day. 

  4. Submit your teaching license application to the state

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

    You'll create an online account with the NC DPI’s Online Licensure System. There, you can apply for your license online, pay fees, check the status of your application or get a copy of your teaching license.

How do I apply for my North Carolina teaching license?

To formally apply for your teaching license, you’ll first want to confirm with your educator preparation program that you’re eligible to apply. Once you get confirmation, you’ll create an account through the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction’s online licensure system. (6)

You’ll need to be ready to submit the teaching license application fee, as well as specific forms and documentation of your education and test scores. This could include:

  • Official transcripts from all degree programs you’ve completed. That includes any bachelor’s, master’s and other post-high school programs.
  • Official test scores from your licensure content area exams.
  • Verification from your educator preparation program that you’re eligible to apply for licensure. 

Not sure how to get your official transcripts and test scores? Check out our Teacher Prep Program Application Requirements Guide and Licensure Test Guide for information on requesting these documents.

It’s understandable to have your eye on the cost of educator preparation programs. Remember, there are lots of scholarships, loan forgiveness and other financial aid opportunities to lower your teaching program costs.

How much will it cost to get a North Carolina teaching license?

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 (7): 

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

It's understandable to have your eye on the cost of educator preparation programs. Remember, there are lots of scholarships, loan forgiveness and other financial aid opportunities to lower your teaching program costs. For example, the We Promise program lets you earn a bachelor’s degree for $1,000 per year in tuition at certain UNC schools. Check out TeachNC's Financial Aid & Scholarships page to learn more.

How long does it take to get a North Carolina teaching license?

How long your teaching licensure depends on your background and the type of educator preparation program you choose. 

Some colleges and universities offer undergraduate licensure and bachelor’s degree programs, which let you earn both a bachelor’s and teaching license in four years (give or take). 

If you already have a bachelor’s degree, you can typically complete a licensure-only program in a year or less. A master’s degree and licensure program may take longer, usually 1-3 years to complete. Residency licensure, also known as alternative licensure programs can take 1-2 years. (8)

Have more questions about teaching licensure? Visit the NC DPI Forms & FAQs page for a comprehensive list of license-related topics and questions.

How much money do teachers make in North Carolina?

As a teacher in North Carolina, your pay will depend on your years of experience and where you work. North Carolina has a standardized state salary schedule for all teachers. Most districts pay teachers an additional salary supplement on top of the state salary. The supplemental salary is often a percentage of your overall base salary, so it will increase as you gain more years of experience. (9)

You can also increase your salary with added credentials, such as a master’s degree or National Board Certification. 

Teachers who have participated in National Board Certification have overwhelmingly stated it is the most powerful professional development experience of their careers. They say the experience changes them as professionals and that through the process they deepen their content knowledge and develop, master and reflect on new approaches to working with their students.

— North Carolina Department of Public Instruction (10)

To see North Carolina’s state salary schedule, visit the Compensation for Public School Employees page. For more information on supplemental salaries, benefits and other teacher perks, check the TeachNC Salary and Benefits resource.

People also ask

Getting licensed to become a teacher might seem daunting, but we’ve got you covered. Let's start with the basics.
  • Do I have to get licensed to teach?

  • How do I get licensed?

  • What should I know before getting started?

Learn more about NC teaching licensure programs

Want to keep exploring? The TeachNC About Programs page has more in-depth information on teaching licensure pathways, including the types of programs available and how to evaluate whether a program is right for you. Click below to take the next step.

Learn About Programs

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  • Create a career roadmap.
  • Get 1-on-1 expert advice from a North Carolina teacher.
  • Follow how-to guides for getting licensed.
  • Access prep program application checklists.
  • Be in the know for the next scholarship opportunity.
  • Claim fee reimbursements towards application and testing expenses.

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References

  1. Report to the North Carolina General Assembly: 2019-2020 State of the Teaching Profession in North Carolina, North Carolina Department of Public Instruction.
  2. Future Teachers of North Carolina Loan Forgiveness FAQ, North Carolina State Education Assistance Authority. 
  3. Teacher Loan Forgiveness, Federal Student Aid, U.S. Department of Education.
  4. Career and Technical Education, North Carolina Department of Public Instruction. 
  5. Pathways to Teaching, North Carolina Department of  Public Instruction. 
  6. Beginning the Process for Educator’s License, North Carolina Department of Public Instruction. 
  7. North Carolina Department of Public Instruction Licensure Fees, North Carolina Department of Public Instruction. 
  8. Approved Programs, North Carolina Department of Public Instruction. 
  9. Average Local Salary Supplement for K-12 Teachers in North Carolina Traditional Public Schools, by LEA (2019-20), Best NC, Tableau Public. 
  10. National Board Certification, North Carolina Department of Public Instruction.