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How to Choose a Teaching Program

Know your licensure options in North Carolina, and learn what to consider in a teacher preparation program.
Browse Programs

How to Choose a Teaching Program

Know your licensure options in North Carolina, and learn what to consider in a teacher preparation program.
Browse Programs

To get your North Carolina teaching license, you’ll need to complete a teaching program. Teacher preparation programs equip you with the skills and knowledge to teach in your chosen grade and subject. 

Here, we’ll go over the types of teaching programs available in North Carolina, and what criteria you might use to choose the right program for you. 

Attending a teaching program is one of several steps to get licensed in North Carolina. Get a full explanation of licensure, plus a downloadable guide, at our North Carolina licensure page.

On this page:

Find your teacher preparation pathway 

Whether you’re in school, out of school or considering a career change, there’s a pathway for you to become a teacher. The right program partly depends on your educational background. Click through the tabs below for more information about each pathway. 

With TeachNC’s program explorer, you can find and compare teaching programs across the state. Each program profile includes info like the program’s duration, format, licensure areas and tuition costs. You’ll also find hallmarks such as hands-on experience, mentorship and coaching, insider info from current students and more.

Teaching Pathways in North Carolina

In North Carolina, most licensure-only programs are residency licensure programs. However, a few universities also offer “traditional” licensure-only pathways. These take less time than a master’s program and include a student teaching component. 

A licensure-only program may be a good fit if:

  • You decide later in college or after earning a degree that you want to teach in a field closely related to your undergraduate major.
  • You want a more affordable teaching program option. 

With a licensure-only program, you can:

  • Practice teaching with a mentor teacher before you lead your own classroom.
  • Explore full-time and part-time program options.
  • Control when you enroll in your program.
  • Licensure-only

  • Undergraduate licensure and bachelor’s

  • Master's degree and licensure

  • Residency Licensure 

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Make sure your program works for you

Once you have an idea of which pathway is right for you, you’ll want to make sure that your must-haves are covered. 

Your teaching program should:

  • Offer a credential in the grade and subject you want to teach.
  • Be approved for licensure in North Carolina. TeachNC’s program explorer can get your search started.
  • Work for you financially.
  • Work with your schedule. Program coursework can be mostly online, in-person or a mix of both, and all programs require fieldwork in schools.  
  • Be accredited by the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP). This is an optional part of program criteria, but can be valuable. Accreditation essentially means quality assurance: the CAEP reviews a college or university’s teaching program (but not the university as a whole) to ensure its teacher prep practices are effective and up-to-date.

Once you have these logistics covered, you can look more closely at the values and focus of the programs you’re considering, to find the best fit. 

TeachNC’s program profiles each have a “Program Hallmarks” section. There, you can learn more about opportunities like hands-on experience and mentorship for each program. In the next section, we’ll go over what program hallmarks to look for and how to evaluate them for a program you’re considering.  

TeachNC offers support for every step of your teacher prep journey, including how-to guides, deadline reminders, application checklists and 1-on-1 support. Learn more.

What to look for in a teaching program

Each teaching program has its own approach to skill-building, mentorship and instruction. As you explore teaching programs, consider how you learn best and what skills are important to you. 

Current teachers, teacher preparation program officials and school district HR chiefs (you know, the experts) say that a strong teaching program should offer these hallmarks:

  • Lots of hands-on experience
  • Preparation to teach diverse populations
  • Mentoring and coaching
  • Commitment to continuous improvement

How do you know what teaching programs have to offer in each of these categories? We can help with that! 

How to use this section

When you visit a teaching program’s profile through the program explorer, you’ll see that most profiles include a “Program Hallmarks” section (toward the bottom of the profile). Program hallmarks explain how individual programs incorporate each of the categories we listed above. 

Below, we’ll go over what each category includes, why it matters and how to find out what it looks like at your prospective programs. Basically, this is a guide to help you understand the information on the TeachNC program profiles—and dig deeper into why each program hallmark is meaningful. 

Have more questions? Don’t worry! You can talk through your program options with free 1-on-1 coaching. Get advice from an experienced teaching professional, over phone, video chat or email (text coming soon!).

Teaching Program Hallmarks and Tools

What is hands-on, pre-service experience? 

Pre-service experience refers to any teaching practice you get before you lead your own classroom. This experience can come in a variety of forms.

Pre-service experience in traditional licensure programs

In traditional undergraduate, master's or licensure-only programs, your pre-service program typically includes one or two semesters of working in an experienced teacher’s classroom. This is usually called "student teaching" and often occurs during your final year. 

Why is hands-on experience important? 

Teachers are more likely to feel prepared for their first year in the classroom if they get plenty of classroom experience as a part of their prep program. Opportunities to observe other teachers and to practice teaching can make all the difference for early-career educators. 

As a rule, more pre-service experience is better, but quality definitely matters. 

Make sure to ask any prospective programs about what their pre-service experience entails, including:

  • How long it lasts.
  • How the program selects mentor teachers.
  • How you will receive feedback on your practice.
  • Hands on, pre-service experience

  • Preparation to teach diverse populations

  • Mentoring and coaching

  • Commitment to improvement

  • Use data to pick the right program

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