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Choosing an Educator Prep Program
With the right preparation and mentorship, you can become a great teacher.
Browse Programs
Choosing an Educator Prep Program
With the right preparation and mentorship, you can become a great teacher.
Browse Programs

To become a fully licensed teacher in a North Carolina public school, you need to complete an approved educator preparation program (EPP). EPPs arm you with the skills, experience and knowledge to teach in your chosen grade and subject. Not all EPPs are the same, though.

How to Pick an EPP

Here's what current teachers, educator prep program officials, and school district HR chiefs (you know, the experts) say you should look for when selecting an educator prep program (EPP).

Everyone seems to agree: The more hands-on, pre-service experience in the classroom—where you observe and practice with an effective teacher who gives you helpful feedback—the better.

Why is this important?

Practice makes perfect. In fact, teachers with pre-service (classroom) experience as a part of their prep program are more likely to feel prepared for their first year in the classroom. Having the opportunity to observe other teachers and practice teaching is important for success as a first-year teacher.

What can this look like?

Pre-service, hands-on experience can come in a variety of forms.

In traditional undergraduate or master's 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. 

Some alternative licensure programs offer several weeks of pre-service practice with an experienced teacher during summer school, and some will allow you to do a semester of student teaching while enrolled.

Residency programs, or one-year programs for candidates that meet the content requirements of licensure but may still need pedagogy requirements, usually offer a full year of pre-service teaching experience, where you may have some practice in the summer and then a "clinical year" embedded in a school. 

Heads Up: Several alternative licensure programs have "internship" components. This can sound like pre-service experience, but it is just the term for your first year as the primary adult in the classroom before the program has recommended you to receive your license. Some programs will have pre-service experience before this internship year—just make sure you understand the details of the program components before you sign up. For more information about our partner programs, click on a program in the Program Explorer and read the profile.

As a rule of thumb, more pre-service experience is better, but quality definitely matters. Make sure to ask any prospective programs about what the pre-service experience entails, including how long it lasts, how they select mentor teachers and how you will receive feedback on your practice.
 

  • Hands on, pre-service experience

    Everyone seems to agree: The more hands-on, pre-service experience in the classroom—where you observe and practice with an effective teacher who gives you helpful feedback—the better.

    Why is this important?

    Practice makes perfect. In fact, teachers with pre-service (classroom) experience as a part of their prep program are more likely to feel prepared for their first year in the classroom. Having the opportunity to observe other teachers and practice teaching is important for success as a first-year teacher.

    What can this look like?

    Pre-service, hands-on experience can come in a variety of forms.

    In traditional undergraduate or master's 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. 

    Some alternative licensure programs offer several weeks of pre-service practice with an experienced teacher during summer school, and some will allow you to do a semester of student teaching while enrolled.

    Residency programs, or one-year programs for candidates that meet the content requirements of licensure but may still need pedagogy requirements, usually offer a full year of pre-service teaching experience, where you may have some practice in the summer and then a "clinical year" embedded in a school. 

    Heads Up: Several alternative licensure programs have "internship" components. This can sound like pre-service experience, but it is just the term for your first year as the primary adult in the classroom before the program has recommended you to receive your license. Some programs will have pre-service experience before this internship year—just make sure you understand the details of the program components before you sign up. For more information about our partner programs, click on a program in the Program Explorer and read the profile.

    As a rule of thumb, more pre-service experience is better, but quality definitely matters. Make sure to ask any prospective programs about what the pre-service experience entails, including how long it lasts, how they select mentor teachers and how you will receive feedback on your practice.
     

  • Preparation for teaching diverse populations

    Your program should help you understand many different student needs, backgrounds and learning styles, and be well prepared to meet the unique academic, social and emotional needs of individual students.

    Why is this important?

    North Carolina schools have among the most diverse student populations in the nation. With a growing immigrant population, a high percentage of rural students, and over 40% of the population not born in-state, diversity is a key strength and core value of the community.

    Teachers who are Special Education and Bilingual licensed are in high demand (so are Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) teachers). These teachers sometimes receive signing or yearly bonuses from their districts.

    A lot of students come to school impacted by trauma, especially those experiencing poverty. Trauma can cause students to enter "fight or flight" mode more often, making it harder for them to absorb lessons. Luckily, there’s a growing body of research, preparation and supports to help educators understand how to effectively engage these students, so that they are able to thrive in school.

    What can this look like?

    A lot of things:

    • Coursework specifically addressing the diverse needs of student populations.
    • Understanding Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) or trauma
    • Getting coaching and feedback on culturally relevant pedagogy. 
    • Learning about how unconscious biases among educators can lead to disproportionately disciplining some students (usually students of color).
    • How to check for biases when teaching.

    Some programs will specifically address trauma and how to help your students.

    A few will even dive into how stress might be impacting your well-being, and how to develop tools to keep you healthy and thriving while in the classroom for as long as you intend to be there. After all, teaching—like all impactful professions—is challenging, and having strategies and tools for self-care will help you thrive as a teacher.

  • Mentoring and Coaching

    Your program should provide an experienced and highly effective mentor, teacher and coach to provide meaningful feedback during your preparation process. Ideally, your school or district should also provide support in your first few years and as you develop in your profession.

    Why is this important?

    Teachers told us that observing other teachers was important for them during their preparation and first years of teaching. They also said that having a mentor teacher, especially a mentor who is in a similar subject area and grade level, is critical for success.

    North Carolina prep programs and districts have underscored the importance of having a successful, highly effective teacher mentor for both aspiring and new teachers alike. You want to learn from someone whose work you want to emulate. (Practice doesn’t make perfect; perfect practice makes perfect, after all.) 

    What can this look like?

    Most educator prep programs will put you in a classroom under the supervision of a mentor, master or host teacher (different names for essentially the same thing) during your pre-service experience.

    You might start off only observing, and eventually, through "gradual release," you will start teaching more and more. Mentor teachers then give you constructive feedback to help you grow in ability and confidence.

    Programs also send coaches to visit and observe you in your classroom at regular intervals. This resource gives you feedback and helps you think through challenges you're experiencing. Sometimes, coaches will visit you (even after your pre-service experience is over) when you are the primary teacher in a classroom. 

    Ask your potential program(s) how they select mentor teachers, what they expect from them, and how they are ensuring that mentor teachers model effective practices and give helpful feedback. Be sure to ask these same questions about coaches who visit your classroom. Be picky! You will be a better prepared teacher if you are mentored by an engaged, highly-effective teacher in your chosen field. 
     

  • Commitment to Improvement

    You should look for a prep program that shows commitment to continuous improvement and collecting, sharing, and using data and research to improve their preparation practices (for the ultimate benefit of your future students)!

    Why is this important?

    Our world is changing rapidly, so the skills we need to be preparing our students for is changing too. To be prepared for the classrooms of today and tomorrow, you will want to know that your prep program is on top of the burgeoning research about childhood development, the brain and how humans learn and grow, equity, etc.

    What can this look like?

    A commitment to improvement might be the hardest criteria to spot as you shop for programs. Don’t be afraid to ask questions about how the program uses data and research to reflect and improve practice!
     

3 Ways to Complete Your Teacher Preparation

Everyone approaches the teaching profession differently. Depending on where you are in your current situation, you might consider earning your teaching license as part of your undergraduate degree, or as part of your master's degree or post-graduate coursework. You might also consider an alternative licensure program. 

Here are a few recommendations on where to start if you currently have:

  • A high school degree: Consider undergraduate licensure + bachelor’s
  • Some higher education, but no bachelor’s degree: Consider undergraduate licensure + bachelor’s
  • A bachelor’s degree, but not in education: Consider post-graduate licensure or alternative licensure
  • A bachelor’s degree in education: Consider post-graduate licensure

Click through the tabs below for more information about each path. And don't forget, we have coaches on hand ready to answer any questions you have about the different pathways to teaching.

 

  • Complete your educator preparation program as part of earning your bachelor’s degree, reducing total cost and time.
  • Great for individuals who decide in high school or early in college that they want to become a teacher.
     
  • Undergraduate licensure + bachelor’s

    • Complete your educator preparation program as part of earning your bachelor’s degree, reducing total cost and time.
    • Great for individuals who decide in high school or early in college that they want to become a teacher.
       

  • Post-graduate licensure

    • Most higher education institutions with an undergraduate teaching program also have a postgraduate program.
    • Gain even greater knowledge of your content and/or practice teaching before entering the classroom as the “teacher of record” (aka primary adult in the classroom).
    • Flexibility to choose (1) between a shorter “licensure-only” route vs. a more in-depth master’s degree route, (2) if you want to be a full-time vs. part-time student, and (3) when you enroll.

  • Alternative licensure

    • Often allows you to start teaching (and earning a salary) on a probationary licensure while you satisfy requirements missing from your current educational background.
    • Design of programs can vary significantly by provider, as well as how much support is provided in getting hired as a teacher.
    • Often designed and committed to preparing candidates for success in high-needs schools.
    • May be more challenging to get hired, especially in licensure areas or schools that are not high-needs.
    • May provide stipends during the first year and ask for multi-year commitments to teach.

Not All Programs Offer Everything

Double-check that your program:

Find Programs

Ready to explore some EPPs? Check out the State Board of Education approved educator preparation programs in North Carolina to find a program that fits your preferences.

Need help thinking through your options? Chat with an expert to talk more about your choices for educator prep.

And remember, when you are ready to apply, keep track of your applications and take advantage of free advice and best practices.

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