Teaching in Nebraska and the Midwest: License Requirements

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Teachers are among the most important members of the workforce. They impart vital knowledge and prepare students to be good citizens and workers. Teachers are often the first role models young people encounter outside of their families, and many students cite teachers as having a significant, lasting positive impact on their lives. According to a 2018 survey by the Varkey Foundation, teachers are considered one of the top 10 most respected professions in the world. 

Because of the tremendous responsibility that comes with being a teacher, a state-issued license is required. Teachers must meet several requirements, which vary from state to state, to obtain a license. 

The emergence of certain trends offers an encouraging outlook for the job market for teachers, and earning a license is a necessary step on the career path. If you’re interested in teaching in Nebraska or other parts of the Midwest, you should understand the various education and licensing requirements you’ll need to meet.

Teaching License Requirements

All states require public school teachers to be licensed or certified (the terminology varies by region, but the terms licensure and certification are synonymous) for the grade level they plan to teach. Private school teachers, on the other hand, generally may not need to be licensed. 

To obtain a license, teachers must meet certain prerequisites. Each state has its own teaching license requirements, though some requirements are fairly universal. They typically include the following:

  • A bachelor’s degree with a minimum GPA 
  • Completion of a student teaching program
  • Passing of a background check
  • Passing of a teaching certification/licensing test, as well as a test that demonstrates knowledge in the specific subject they plan to teach

There are many different paths to licensure including the most common method: earning a degree and a license simultaneously. A teaching license can also be obtained independent of a college degree; this option is great for those who may be pursuing a teaching career on a less traditional timeline. 

Bachelor’s Degree and Certification               

Many teachers earn their license at the same time as their undergraduate degree, with a combination of general education and specialized coursework in the particular subject matter they plan to teach. This path is commonly known as the traditional path to licensure. According to the National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ), about 80% of teachers take this traditional route. Upon graduation, students must have both a degree and a license to begin teaching.

Certification Only

While earning a degree and a license concurrently is the most common route, those looking to teach can also earn their certification independent of an undergraduate degree. A number of states, including Nebraska and other parts of the Midwest, offer alternative routes to certification through programs at various institutions. 

These programs may be ideal for recent college graduates or mid-career professionals. The requirements for each program vary, though they generally require students to have some form of undergraduate degree to be eligible. Specific requirements can be found on each state’s department of education website. 

Nebraska Teaching License 

The requirements to obtain a Nebraska teaching license are very similar to the requirements for teaching licenses in other states. The licensing requirements vary by the type of license you’re seeking. 

Nebraska offers several different kinds of licenses, but the main version is a regular license. A regular license can take the form of an initial license, a standard license or a professional license.

Initial Teaching License    

An initial teaching license is necessary to begin teaching in Nebraska. The requirements are:

  • A bachelor’s degree
  • Completion of a teacher education program at a state-approved college or university
  • Completion of Nebraska’s human relations training course at a state-approved institution
  • Completion of the special education training program
  • Completion of the Praxis Core Academic Skills for Educators and the Praxis Subject Assessments tests
  • Recent college credits or employment experience within the last five years (six credit hours in education coursework or teaching experience outside of Nebraska). You may also meet this requirement if you hold an expired teaching license from another state and are scheduled to take a 15-hour teaching program at a college in Nebraska.

In addition to the above requirements, first-time teachers in Nebraska must submit their fingerprints to state authorities. The only exception is if you’ve lived in the state for the previous five years from the date of your application.

Standard Teaching License
A standard teaching license is for those who already have an initial license. The requirements to obtain a standard teaching license are identical to those for an initial license, with one variation:

  • Nebraska teachers seeking a standard license must have two years’ teaching experience as  contractual teachers. (Substitute teaching experience doesn’t apply.)

Both an initial and a standard Nebraska teaching license last five years. 

The application process to receive a teaching license takes about eight to 12 weeks, though the Nebraska Department of Education has said it’s working to make the system more efficient and reduce the turnaround time.

Other Midwest States

Other states have similar requirements for initial teaching licenses, with some slight variations, for example:

  • Illinois: Applicants must demonstrate that they’ve completed coursework covering the following: methods of teaching exceptional children, reading methods, content area reading, and methods of teaching English language learners. 
  • Iowa: An initial teaching license is valid for two years and may only be renewed twice. Additionally, Iowa specifies that applicants must have 14 weeks of student teaching experience to be eligible.
  • Kansas: In-state applicants must have either eight credit hours in education coursework or one year of accredited teaching experience in the last six years.
  • Michigan: Educators must complete specific coursework in teaching reading, must complete a course in first aid and cardiopulmonary resuscitation, and must pass the appropriate content examinations. 


If you’re interested in obtaining more information about specific teaching license requirements for other Midwest states, the U.S. Department of Education’s website provides contact information for each state’s department of education. 

Reciprocity

The National Association of State Directors of Teacher Education and Certification (NASDTEC) Interstate Agreement allows teachers some career mobility. The agreement makes it possible for a teacher who holds a license in one state to more easily obtain a license in another state, an arrangement commonly referred to as reciprocity. 

For example, if you’re a teacher in Florida and would like to teach in Nebraska, you can do so, presuming that you meet Nebraska’s licensing requirements. Nebraska has reciprocity agreements with 43 other states, including most Midwest states, except Iowa and Minnesota. 

You may be eligible to receive what’s known as a provisional license while you work toward meeting Nebraska’s training or recency requirements. In some cases, work experience can be substituted for the training requirements. 

To qualify for a provisional license, you must meet the following requirements:

  • A bachelor’s degree
  • Completion of a teacher education program at a state-approved college or university
  • Completion of Nebraska’s human relations training requirement

A provisional license is valid for two years. 

How to Obtain a Teaching License in Nebraska if You Have a Master’s Degree 

Most teachers earn a bachelor’s degree and a teaching license at the same time. However, if you’d like to further your education before beginning your teaching career — or perhaps even after you’ve landed a teaching job — numerous benefits await you. 

For those interested in teaching in Nebraska or other parts of the Midwest, let’s explore how to obtain a teaching license in Nebraska if you have a master’s degree and the advantages an advanced degree offers. 

Master’s Degree and Certification

If you’ve already earned a bachelor’s degree, some teacher prep programs allow you to earn a master’s degree and a license simultaneously. As part of the traditional path to licensure, students complete this program while earning an advanced degree in education or instruction.

If you already have a license, earning an advanced degree can still be advantageous. A master’s degree provides additional coursework in your chosen teaching subject and more practice in classroom instruction. The additional coursework can be beneficial if you have less experience working with students. An advanced degree program may also provide additional test prep resources, which can help you get ready for the Praxis exams.

In addition to giving you the chance to further hone your skills as an educator, a master’s degree can also create opportunities for advancement and a higher salary.

Professional Teaching License

One of the perks of earning a master’s degree is that you may qualify for a Nebraska professional teaching license. Compared with the five-year limit on initial and standard licenses, a professional license is valid for 10 years. A professional license demonstrates a higher level of expertise and commitment to teaching.

The requirements to obtain a professional teaching license are identical to those for initial and standard teaching licenses, with the caveat that you must also possess a master’s degree. You need to have earned your master’s degree no more than 10 years prior to the date of your application for a professional license. Educators qualify for a professional license if they have a master’s degree in one of the following subjects:

  • Curriculum and instruction
  • Educational technology
  • Special education
  • A subject related to their content area

Salary

In addition to honing your skills as an educator and opening up new career paths, a master’s degree can help you earn a higher salary as a teacher.

According to the NCTQ, 88% of large districts in the country offer additional pay to teachers with master’s degrees. The NCTQ reports that, on average, teachers with a master’s degree earn $2,760 more in their first year of teaching than those who only hold a bachelor’s degree. By the time a teacher reaches the highest end of the pay scale, that number grows to $7,358 per year.   

Teacher Salaries in Nebraska

In recent years, the U.S. has experienced a nationwide teacher shortage — driven by factors such as pay and stress — which has created significant challenges for school districts across the country. However, this moment also presents opportunities for those interested in teaching in Nebraska or other parts of the Midwest. 

Recent data regarding salary and the job market paints a somewhat encouraging picture for the future of teaching in this region. 

Teacher Salaries

The table shows salary data from the National Education Association (NEA) for teacher salaries in Nebraska and the rest of the Midwest for the 2019/20 school year.

 

State

Average Starting Salary

Average Salary

Illinois

$40,484

$68,083

Indiana

$37,573

$51,475

Iowa

$37,908

$58,184

Kansas 

$38,314

$51,320

Michigan

$37,549

$63,568

Minnesota

$40,310

$58,663

Missouri

$32,970

$50,817

Nebraska

$35,820

$55,267

North Dakota

$40,106

$53,525

Ohio

$37,569

$61,406

South Dakota

$39,636

$48,984

Wisconsin

$38,678

$59,431


The NEA projected that the average salary for teachers in Nebraska would climb about 2.16%, to $56,463, for the 2020/21 school year.

Job Outlook

Nationwide, employment of elementary and secondary education teachers is expected to grow by 4% between 2019 and 2029, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). That matches its job growth projection for all other occupations.

Although demand for teachers is high, recent reports reveal that the country has a shortage of teachers, particularly highly qualified teachers. Finding teachers with the appropriate experience and credentials in mathematics, science and special education has been especially challenging, according to the NEA. 

How the COVID-19 pandemic will affect the teaching profession is unclear, but early reports suggest that it may lead to an exodus of teachers. A survey by the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) conducted in August and September 2020 revealed that one in three teachers said they were more likely to retire early or leave teaching as a result of the pandemic. This, coupled with the number of baby boomer teachers reaching retirement age, may create opportunities for new teachers across the country. 

Nebraska was in a better position than many other states according to the Nebraska Department of Labor in 2019. Nebraska experienced growth in several key areas — including the issuance of new initial teaching credentials and teacher wages — while the U.S. as a whole saw declines. 

The Nebraska Department of Labor reported that the number of new initial teaching credentials increased by 42.8% from 2009/10 to 2016/17. By comparison, during the same period, the number of new initial teaching credentials issued nationwide fell by more than 10%. Of the 22 states that saw gains in the issuance of these credentials, Nebraska had the ninth-most growth.

Advancing Your Teaching Career

Mirroring a nationwide trend, Nebraska and the rest of the Midwest have a substantial need for high-quality teachers. If you’re interested in teaching in Nebraska, you have multiple paths to become licensed, and the latest data regarding the job market for educators in Nebraska is encouraging.

Peru State College is Nebraska’s first college, established in 1867 as a teacher training school. A century and a half later, Peru is renowned as a training ground for educators. Its School of Education offers bachelor’s programs specializing in Early Childhood Education, Elementary Education, Special Education, and more.

An advanced degree, such as Peru State College’s Online Master of Science in Education, can prepare you for a rewarding career in education. The program, which requires students to hold a teaching license, can help aspiring teachers hone essential skills and open up new career paths with higher earnings.

Explore Peru State College Online’s master’s in education program and curriculum to discover how it can help you advance your career in education today.

Recommended Readings

Exploring a Career Path in Education Through Online Learning
Key Insights into Lifelong Learning and the Field of Education

National Higher Education Day: Appreciating Students and Educators

 

Sources:
Hart Research Associates, Parents’ and Teachers’ Views on Reopening Schools
Illinois State Board of Education, PEL Teaching Endorsements
Iowa Board of Educational Examiners, Initial Teaching License
Iowa Department of Education, Become an Educator
Kansas State Department of Education, Applicant Requirements for an Initial Teaching License
Michigan Department of Education, How Can I Become a Teacher in Michigan?
National Association of State Directors of Teacher Education and Certification, Interstate Agreement
National Council on Teacher Quality, “How Do School Districts Compensate Teachers for Advanced Degrees?”
National Council on Teacher Quality, What Makes Teacher Prep “Traditional” or “Non-Traditional”?
National Education Association, Teacher Pay and Student Spending: How Does Your State Rank?
National Education Association, “Teacher Shortage is ‘Real and Growing, and Worse Than We Thought”
National Education Association, Teacher Pay and Student Spending: How Does Your State Rank?

Nebraska Department of Education, Advancing Your Certificate Type
Nebraska Department of Education, Applicant Manual
Nebraska Department of Education, Educator Certification
Nebraska Department of Education, FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)