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Licensure F.A.Q. for Prospective Students

Q: How can I get a teaching license?

A: Requirements vary from state to state. In Tennessee, a teaching license is granted by the State Department of Education when a state-approved institution verifies that the student has completed its program for the license and endorsement area(s) as well as the state-required PRAXIS tests. The number of programs and requirements for program completion differ among state-approved institutions.

In order to determine which institutions are approved by the state to recommend teachers for which endorsements (i.e., early childhood, elementary, secondary, special education, school counseling), call the Tennessee State Department of Education at 615-532-4885. Contact the institutions to inquire about the programs in which you are interested.

Each state-approved institution in Tennessee designs its own programs that meet state standards and submits its program for state approval. A few program components are common to all institutions:

  1. A licensed teacher must have at least a bachelor's degree.
  2. A "traditional" teacher education program includes a full-time, supervised student teaching/internship experience at two grade levels over 15 weeks.
  3. Undergraduate teacher education students must maintain a cumulative GPA of at least 2.5 (some institutions require a higher GPA).
  4. Students must be screened and admitted formally into teacher education by the institution.
  5. Students recommended for licensure in Tennessee and most other states must have passed PRAXIS I (or be exempt from it) and PRAXIS II testing appropriate to the license and endorsement(s).
  6. Approximately half of the course work required for an undergraduate teacher education program must be devoted to liberal arts studies, and all undergraduate teacher education students (except Special Education) must complete a non-education major.
  7. There are three components of academic qualifications for teacher licensure at the secondary (grades 7-12) level. They are (a) appropriate liberal arts background, (b) major or its equivalent in at least one endorsement (subject to be taught) with sufficient course work for any additional endorsements, and (c) professional education preparation. For early childhood, elementary, and special education, the primary focus is on two components: (a) strong liberal arts background with sufficient acquisition of knowledge in grade-specific curriculum areas, and (b) professional education.
  8. The institution where the student completes the teacher education program recommends that the Tennessee Department of Education award the license to the student.

Some institutions offer both undergraduate and graduate teacher education programs, while others offer programs at only the undergraduate or graduate level. Tennessee does not require a master's degree for licensure. Although undergraduate teacher education students must maintain a cumulative GPA of at least 2.5 and have an SAT of at least 1020 or ACT of at least 22 to be admitted to teacher education*, graduate-level admissions testing and GPA requirements for graduate teacher licensure programs vary among institutions.

*If an undergraduate student's admission test score does not reach this level, the student must pass the ETS PRAXIS I basic skills test, choosing from the traditional paper/pencil test named Pre-Professional Skills Test (PPST-PRAXIS I) or the computer-based version called the Computer-Based Test (CBT-PRAXIS I). In the Nashville area, the CBT can be taken by appointment with Prometrics in Metro Center, just north of downtown Nashville.

Q: How long does it take to get a teaching license?

A: The number of hours and duration of the program vary according to the institution's program and degree level. At Peabody, an undergraduate program resulting in teacher licensure can be completed in four carefully planned years; however, especially if the program is not begun in the fall of the freshman year, it may require overloads, summer course work, or added semesters to complete all requirements. It is helpful to begin the program in the freshman year.

For Vanderbilt graduate students who already have a bachelor's degree and the appropriate background in liberal arts (and mastery of the content for a secondary education endorsement such as English, mathematics, history), a master's level licensure program requires one to two years. For some programs, the duration is shortest if the full-time program is begun in the summer.

Q: What programs for teacher licensure are available at Vanderbilt's Peabody College?

A: At both the undergraduate and graduate levels, Peabody College offers most licensure programs for the following endorsement areas:

Early Childhood (birth through 3rd grade; undergraduate only)

Elementary (grades K-5)

Secondary Education (grades 6-12)

    • Biology
    • Chemistry
    • Earth Science
    • English
    • History (other social studies fields such as economics, psychology or sociology can be added to the history endorsement)
    • Mathematics
    • Physics
    • Political Science

Special Education

  • Interventionist Specialist (to teach K-12 students w/ learning disabilities, behavior disorders, or mild mental retardation)
  • Comprehensive (to teach K-12 students w/ multiple/severe/profound disabilities)
  • Vision (to teach PreK-12 students w/ visual disabilities)
  • Early Childhood (for M.Ed degrees only - an early intervention program to work with infants through third grade)

Music (Instrumental K-12) or Music (General/Vocal K-12) - for entering freshmen in Vanderbilt's Blair School of Music

Programs are available to Vanderbilt students enrolled through Peabody College as well as students enrolled through Vanderbilt's other colleges/schools (the College of Arts and Science, Blair School of Music, and the School of Engineering).

The music licensure program begins with the freshman year in Vanderbilt's Blair School of Music. The undergraduate part of the program includes specified liberal arts course work along with the Blair major in musical arts and some professional education course work and practica. After acceptance during the spring of the senior year into the graduate part of the program at Peabody College, a one-year M.Ed. degree program completes the professional education requirements in course work and field work for one of two music endorsements: General/Vocal Music K-12 or Instrumental Music K-12. For more information, visit the Blair School of Music.

Also available are programs that require a master's degree and which qualify for advanced licensure endorsements as follows:

  • School counseling (to serve as a school counselor in grades pre-K through 12)
  • Reading (to serve as a reading specialist in grades pre-K through 12)

The School Counseling program results in a license with a School Counselor pre-K through 12 endorsement (for preschools through high schools). Licensure does not require a previous teaching license or teaching experience. For additional information about this program, visit the Department of Human and Organizational Development's M.Ed. program in Human Development Counseling.

The Reading Education degree program qualifies graduates for a teaching endorsement to serve as a reading specialist pre-K through 12. Liscensure includes a prerequisite of three years of teaching in a state-approved school. For additional information visit the Department of Teaching and Learning.

Q: Can I be licensed to teach more than one subject (endorsement)?

A: It is possible to pursue more than one endorsement. Many undergraduates pursue multiple endorsements, for example in both elementary education and special education. Undergraduate and graduate students in secondary education can qualify for more than one endorsement. (i.e., one endorsement would be based on the undergraduate major or its equivalent, and, in some cases, a second endorsement could be based on a minor or its equivalent. This does not work for all endorsement areas, however.) Combinations of endorsements are individualized, depending on the student's teaching interests and academic background.

Q: What are the admissions requirements for a licensure program?

A: At Vanderbilt, admissions requirements for undergraduate and graduate licensure programs are the same as they are for admissions to degree programs without licensure. It is helpful for those seeking licensure to include information about the previous experiences working with children in references and statements of intent.

Undergraduate and graduate admissions require appropriate admissions test scores (undergraduates should file SAT or ACT scores; graduate students should file GRE or MAT scores), transcripts, letters of recommendation, and statement of intent. Departmental faculty admissions committees review applications and consider all components of the application.

Q: I already have a bachelor's degree, but it didn't include professional education courses. Are there prerequisite education courses that I need to have to enter a graduate program in teacher education?

A: There are no prerequisite professional education courses required for admission. Master's degree programs for licensure are designed for those who have a strong liberal arts background with no professional education course work. All professional education requirements are included in the programs for initial licensure at the graduate level.

Q: I already have a bachelor's degree. Can I just do course work for licensure and not get another degree?

A: Peabody does not offer this as an option. Tennessee does not require a master's degree for an initial teaching license. However, at Peabody, post-baccalaureate teacher licensure programs are designed to encompass master's degree requirements. Admissions standards are the same, regardless of the licensure status, including GPA, test scores, recommendations, and statement of intent evaluated by faculty admissions committees. Even applicants who already have a master's or doctoral degree earn licensure with a master's degree. Graduate-level teacher licensure programs in the Department of Special Education require completion of the master's degree.

Q: Which states will accept my Tennessee license if I complete the licensure program at Peabody?

A: In general, all states. There are several avenues for receiving licensure in other states. There are official agreements between Tennessee and forty other states. Some states will grant a license for any teacher who has completed a nationally accredited program. Peabody/Vanderbilt University is accredited by the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE). Still other states require a transcript analysis for teachers who come into their state with a license from another state. Students should be aware that each state has its own set of requirements and that our program requirements are designed to ensure eligibility of a teaching license in Tennessee. All states require completion of applications and testing requirements.

Q: Do I have to be licensed to teach in a private school?

A: It depends on the school. It is highly recommended that everyone in the teaching profession be licensed. Most accredited private schools require that their new teachers be licensed; however, in some cases, private schools can waive that requirement in order to recruit an individual teacher to teach a subject for which they have a need. Most also require, though, that the non-licensed teacher becomes licensed within a prescribed period of time.

If you are licensed in the state in which you teach at a private, state-approved school, your years of teaching at the private school may be recognized by the state if you later teach in the public school system. For example in Tennessee, if you teach for two years in a private, state-approved school after you become licensed and you then sign a contract to teach in a public school in that state, your two years of teaching experience may be counted toward your salary and level of licensure in the public sector. If you were not licensed during those two years of teaching, the state would not count those years.

Q: Where do Peabody teacher education graduates go after graduation?

A: Graduates with licensure can, and often do, teach virtually anywhere in the world. In the past five years, licensed graduates have accepted teaching positions in most states and in many foreign countries. Typically, approximately 50 percent of teaching graduates complete their first year of teaching in Tennessee or Georgia. Our graduates frequently comment that they were offered multiple teaching contracts, including a contract from their first-choice school or system, regardless of where in the world the school is located. Each year approximately 92% of our teacher education graduates begin teaching or enter a graduate program within the first year after graduation.