What are Education Certifications?
Current and prospective educators can choose to pursue several different types of credentials that are available. In some cases, education certification refers to board certification, which verifies that certain professional standards have been met. Some specialty certifications are also offered. These demonstrate expertise in working with specific student populations, as well as within targeted content areas. Certifications like these are often managed by national and state organizations and associations.
Professionals in this field are more likely to earn academic certificates. These are generally offered by colleges and universities. While they are similar to degrees, the programs typically stand alone and take less time to complete. Those enrolled can expect to gain skills and knowledge related to a particular aspect of the profession. While many certificate programs are offered at the graduate level, some options are available to those with nothing more than high school diplomas or equivalent.
It's important to realize that certifications are different from licensure. Most states require teachers to be licensed, but expectations and the specifics of the process vary. In general, licensure is issued by state regulatory boards and signifies that a professional has permission from the state government to work in public schools. Notably, requirements may be different for those pursuing jobs at private schools and institutions.
Who Needs an Education Certification?
Depending on the intended profession, certifications may be necessary and/or preferred for many education professionals. Those in education may require certification in order to obtain full licensure. Most pursue addition credentials to demonstrate mastery over the knowledge, skills, and frameworks needed to provide specific instruction and/or specialized services to designated student groups. Others simply want to expand upon their personal understanding in order to enhance their performance.
Licensed teachers, for example, may pursue graduate certificates in their content areas. Programs are often designed to provide additional tools and resources that can make instruction more effective. Alternatively, these professionals can seek further education in order to teach at higher levels. Some academic programs help current instructors obtain and develop the knowledge and skills necessary to work with college students. Graduates may be qualified for positions at community colleges or private institutions, which often pay more than public schools.
Many states also pay teachers with master’s degrees more. While graduate certificate programs are not as extensive as graduate degrees, many colleges and universities allow students to transfer the credits earned. In this way, it’s possible to obtain an impressive credential and begin working toward a more advanced degree.
Why You Might be Required to Have Education Certifications
Earning certifications academic certificates can be extremely beneficial for educators. As certificates signify mastery over topics in a field, they often lead to more varied employment opportunities and promotions into advanced positions. This is especially relevant to professionals seeking positions in leadership such as vice principal, principal, or school administrator.
Educators with certifications and/or academic certificates will also be more competitive when applying to jobs in specialized areas. Additionally, those with state licensure who graduate from certificate programs, and have additional certifications in specialized areas, are likely to earn higher salaries than professionals in the field who lack these credentials.
Further, continuing education is often an important part of maintaining state licensure. Attending classes offered as part of graduate certificate programs and earning certifications can often help fulfill these requirements.
Where to Find Education Certifications
Education certifications can be offered by national boards, as well as organizations and associations. A good example of this is the National Association of Special Education Teachers (NASET), which oversees the Board Certification in Special Education (BCSE) credential. Being certified demonstrates mastery over the knowledge, skills, frameworks, and practices deemed necessary by the certifying body.
Education certificates are academic in nature and are generally offered by colleges and universities, although some other facilities may offer programs, as well. Traditional institutions will be either public or private, with funding sources at the state, local, and federal levels. Regarding instructional methods, some programs require in-person attendance, but many are offered with distance learners in mind. Online courses are becoming increasingly popular, with many education certificates offered remotely. This allows students to complete coursework from anywhere with consistent internet access, often making it easier for current professionals to pursue credentials while working full-time.
Top Education Certifications
Obtaining education certifications offers many potential benefits for current and prospective professionals in the field. These additional credentials can lead to more varied employment opportunities and often make candidates more competitive when applying for jobs. Additionally, employers often give preference to applicants with more advanced academic degrees and certificates.
Earning certifications, academic certificates, and licensure also leads to higher-level positions in the field. Those with academic certificates related to content areas or a certain type of instruction are also qualified to provide specialized services.
Subject-Specific Certifications (English, Mathematics, Science, History, etc.)
- Graduate Certificate of Completion in English
Graduate certificates in English and related topics are available at several colleges and universities throughout the nation. Participants generally possess bachelor’s degrees, but admittance requirements vary by institution. The purpose of these programs is to give current teachers opportunities to expand their career path and teach undergraduate courses at two-year or four-year schools of higher education. Those enrolled will received advanced training in the English discipline and the field of education.
Those who receive certificates of completion will have more career opportunities at college and universities, technical schools, and textbook publishers, to name a few. Graduates often qualify to work as English and literature teachers for undergraduate institutions. Other potential jobs include language and literature instructor, professional writer, curriculum specialist, researcher, and educational materials creator.
- Graduate Certificate of Completion in History
Graduate certificates in history and related topics are available at several colleges and universities throughout the nation. Participants generally possess bachelor’s degrees, but admittance requirements vary by institution. The purpose of these programs is to provide current teachers with the knowledge necessary to instruct at two-year or four-year academic facilities. These certificates typically serve as ideal continuing education pathways for educators seeking to further advance their careers. Those enrolled will build upon their preexisting knowledge of American and world history to make it more applicable to undergraduate classrooms.
Those who receive certificates of completion in history will be qualified to pursue positions in higher education. Graduates often apply for jobs as college and university professors, although some find work with companies that specialize in educational research and publishing.
- Graduate Certificate of Completion in Mathematics
Graduate certificates in mathematics and related topics are available at several colleges and universities throughout the nation. Participants generally possess bachelor’s degrees, but admittance requirements vary by institution. The purpose of these programs is to provide students with the mathematics content and pedagogical knowledge needed to teach effectively at community colleges. Those enrolled will learn various ways to engage new learners with important mathematics concepts that are essential for success in continuing their studies or pursuing employment.
Those who receive certificates of completion in mathematics are often able to teach college mathematics with sufficient depth and rigor while planning for and responding to non-standard questions. Graduates can apply for instructor positions in higher education.
Grade-Specific Certifications (K-3, Elementary, Middle School, High School, Higher Education, etc.)
- Preschool Certification
Most public-school preschool teachers are required to have bachelor’s degrees in early childhood education (ECE), but some states are satisfied with associate degrees or high school diplomas. Requirements vary for private school teachers.
Certificates in early childhood education and related topics are also available at several colleges and universities throughout the nation. The purpose of these programs is to help those enrolled become more effective preschool teachers or administrators. Students will learn how to set young children up for future academic success while fostering love for learning.
Graduates will qualify to work with children from birth to age eight, which makes them eligible for a wide variety of career opportunities. In addition to preschool teacher, those with certificates can apply for work as childcare providers, after school care workers, and childhood camp counselors.
- Elementary Certification
Most public-school elementary teachers are required to have bachelor’s degrees in elementary education and must obtain licenses though their state boards of education. Licensure expectations are different every state. Requirements also vary for private school teachers.
Certificates in elementary education and related topics are also available at several colleges and universities throughout the nation. The purpose of these programs is to help those enrolled become more effective elementary school teachers or administrators. Students will learn how to set young children up for future academic success while fostering love for learning.
Graduates will qualify to work with children at the elementary level, which is up to fourth grade in some areas and up to sixth grade in others. This may vary from state to state.
- High School/Secondary School Certification
Most public-school, high school or secondary education teachers are required to have bachelor’s degrees and must obtain licenses though their state boards of education. Requirements vary significantly by state.
Certificates in secondary education and related topics are also available at several colleges and universities throughout the nation. The purpose of these programs is to help those interested in teaching math, science, English, or social studies to high school students (grades six to 12). Those enrolled generally complete extensive coursework in their content areas and participate in supervised field experiences.
Graduates are often prepared to apply for state licensure and or certifications when applicable. Those with certificates can seek employment as high school teachers, middle school teachers, lead teachers, and department heads.
- Child Development Associate
The Child Development Associate (CDA) credential is administered by the Council for Professional Recognition. This is a widely recognized certification for early childhood education (ECE) professionals. It is based on a core set of competency standards that ensure those in the field become qualified educators for young children. CDAs know how to nurture the emotional, physical, intellectual, and social development of children.
CDA candidates will need to pass the CDA Exam, which is a 65-question, computer-based exam that test knowledge of basic early childhood best practices in thirteen functional areas. There is also a Verification Visit component of the CDA credentialing process, during which candidates are observed while working with children/families as a lead teacher in a specific age group.
- Certified Childcare Professional
The Certified Childcare Professional (CCP) credential is administered by National Early Childhood Program Accreditation (NECPA). While it’s designed specifically for early childhood educators and teachers, the certification is ideal for professionals who have not completed a college degree or who have degrees in other fields. CCPs are viewed as highly qualified in childcare and early childhood education.
CCP candidates must be 18 years of age or older and possess high school diplomas or the equivalent. They also need 720 hours of child care experience serving children between birth and six years of age within the last five years in a licensed center-based early childhood program. Other requirements include 180 hours of education and training that reflect nine Professional Ability Areas as defined by NECPA. A portfolio, parent evaluations, observation assessment, letters of endorsement, writing samples, and passing score on the National Early Childhood Education specialist credentialing exam are also necessary.
- Board Certification in Special Education (BCSE)
The Board Certification in Special Education (BCSE) credential is administered by the National Association of Special Education Teachers (NASET). This classification signifies highly skilled expertise, experience, and commitment to the special education field. It also represents professional qualifications in a specific field. Notably, the BCSE does not replace state licensing or recertify professionals.
Candidates must possess a minimum of a master’s degree from a United States or Canadian institution accredited by a regional, state, provincial, or national accrediting body. The degree must be in a field involved with students with special needs or related fields. The BCSE consists of seven in-depth course modules.
- Special Education Teacher Certification
The Special Education Teacher Certification credential is administered by the American Board and available to professionals in Florida, Wisconsin, Idaho, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, and several private and international schools. There is a standard and premium version of this program, with the ladder providing more resources. Both programs require students to pass the same exams.
This is the only certification for professionals with graduate degrees who possess the knowledge and skills necessary to serve individuals with disabilities across a wide range of disabling conditions. These professionals offer highly specialized services that evaluate, determine, coordinate, and manage the rehabilitation process.
CRC candidates must be enrolled in or graduates from master’s-level CACREP-accredited academic programs. Evidence of the completion of a 600-hour supervised internships is also required. Notably, there are alternatives for those working on or graduated from programs not accredited by CACREP. Applicants with master’s or doctoral degrees in related fields of study may also be considered.
- Gifted Education
Graduate certificates in gifted education and related topics are available at several colleges and universities throughout the nation. Participants generally possess bachelor’s degrees and work as teachers, administrators, school psychologists, or behavioral analysts. The purpose of these programs is to empower enrollees to identify and serve highly capable students by creating the necessary conditions for success in advanced learning. Curriculums vary, but many focus on theory and pedagogy as it relates to high-performing students.
Those who receive certificates in gifted education will know how to develop and provide the most current and relevant instructional methods and services to gifted learners. Graduates often qualify for jobs as education administrators, gifted teachers, guidance counselors, teacher assistants, and vocational education teachers.
Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) and Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL)
Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) and Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) certification programs are available from a wide variety of education facilities and academic institutions. While similar, the TESOL credential is most appropriate for those who plan to teach in the United States, while the TEFL typically prepares professionals to work abroad. In both cases, enrollees learn how to teach English skills to students that will help with daily communication and academic success.
It is possible to obtain the TESOL credential as a certification, Bachelor of Arts degree, Master of Arts in Education (MAE) degree, or Doctorate in Education (EdD). The TEFL is only offered in certificate form. Both certificates require 120 hours of coursework.
Those with the TESOL credential will have varying career opportunities depending on the level of education achieved. Employment ranges from tutor to English as a second language (ESL) department director. Those with the TEFL often find jobs education-oriented jobs overseas.
- Education Administration
Graduate certificates in education administration and related topics are available at many four-year colleges and universities at the master’s level. Participants must usually possess bachelor’s degrees prior to enrollment and may need teacher licensure and/or experience in administrative roles. The purpose of these programs is to provide students with knowledge in areas related to the management of human resources, administration, and finance. In addition to classroom instruction, internships are common. This allows enrollees to put the knowledge gained into practice prior to joining the workforce.
While credentialing requirements are set and managed by each individual state, those who receive certificates in education administration may have the qualifications necessary to obtain licensure as school administrators. Most graduates seek leadership positions in schools and school districts.
Certified Health Education Specialist (CHES) and (MCHES)
The Certified Health Education Specialist (CHES) credential is administered by the National Commission for Health Education Credentialing (NCHEC). This national certification signifies that individuals have met all required academic preparation qualification and have successfully passed a competency-based examination. They must also satisfy various continuing education requirements to maintain their status.
Experts in the field may also obtain the Master Certified Health Education Specialist (MCHES) credential. This demonstrates that individuals have met all required academic eligibility with courses in health education, as well as all experience requirements in the field. They must also pass a comprehensive written examination and maintain an ongoing commitment to advanced-level continuing education and professional development.
CHES and MCHES professionals can work for various employers including universities, public schools, health departments, hospitals, corporations, and non-profits. They often seek employment as health educators, wellness coordinators, training specialists, and outreach specialists.
Certificates in E-learning and related subjects are available at many academic institutions and education facilities. Participant requirements vary, but most do not necessitate bachelor’s degrees prior to enrollment. The purpose of these certificates is to provide an introduction to the process of creating, administering, and teaching online learning programs. Students learn about the various tools and techniques available, as well as best practices in the field.
Those who receive certificates in education administration will be able to design online learning content for organizations and institutions of higher education. Many programs also allow graduates to transfer credits towards affiliated master’s degree programs.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is an extra education certification better than a master’s?
There are many benefits to earning certificates instead of master’s degrees, such as a smaller financial commitment and faster return. Enrollees often spend less time and money completing coursework and can enter the workforce as more qualified professionals sooner than they could if pursuing graduate degrees. Ultimately, however, this comes down to personal preference. A master’s degree is a higher-level academic credential that could lead to jobs with higher pay in the future. Additionally, some employment opportunities require candidates to have graduate degrees.
What qualifications do I need to move from educator to administrator?
Most states require educators to have bachelor’s degrees and teaching licensure. In order to advance to administrator positions, however, professionals will need to obtain extensive experience working in classrooms and then earn master’s degrees. Acceptable majors include educational leadership and education administration, as well as other closely related subjects. Graduates can then apply for licensure through their states, which often require passing at least one knowledge and aptitude test. Once licensed, individuals can begin applying for vice principal, principal, and administrator jobs.
Will earning a new education certification allow me to find a new job?
Many certificate programs are meant to either introduce students to subject matter or expand upon foundational knowledge already obtained. Whether or not the certification leads to a new job will ultimately depend on the intent of the curriculum. As a result, it’s important to carefully review the prerequisites, purpose, and required coursework prior to enrolling.
- About the Child Development Associate (CDA). Council for Professional Recognition
- Certified Childcare Professional (CCP). National Early Childhood Program Accreditation (NECPA)
- Become a Special Education Teacher. American Board
- Board Certification in Special Education (BCSE). National Association of Special Education Teachers (NASET)
- Choose Your Certification Path. National Commission for Health Education Credentialing (NCHEC)