Obtaining a Teaching License

What is Licensure?


Educator licensure refers to the process of documenting an individual’s qualifications to be a teacher, an administrator or to provide special services (such as a school counselor or a reading specialist) in a public school. 


The purpose for licensure is to assure high quality, competent educators. In the 18th and 19th centuries, teachers were hired based on their ability to pass a locally accepted evaluation and the possession of “good moral character”.  Over time, states exerted more control over licensure and institutions of higher education developed pedagogy-based programs in efforts to boost professionalism.  In Kansas requirements for new teachers seeking an initial teaching license include a minimum of a bachelor’s degree, completion of an approved teacher preparation, passing scores on standardized licensure exams (PRAXIS), and a criminal background clearance.  Most states also require recent knowledge or experience, referred to as “recency,” and there may be additional training mandated in topics such as first aid or identifying child abuse.


Traditional teacher preparation programs contain coursework in content and pedagogy, along with field experiences including a university-supervised “student teaching” experience. Additionally, a person with a prior bachelor’s degree may be permitted to start teaching full-time while completing pedagogy courses or professional development in a state-approved program. This would be considered an “alternative route” to licensure. These programs may be offered through a university, a school district or a state agency.


An “initial” certification program provides the training for one’s first teaching license.  Additional content areas may be added to the initial license in several ways as allowed by each state; options may include completing an additional approved teacher preparation program or passing a list of specific courses, or by passing the appropriate content area PRAXIS exam.  For example, in Kansas, a licensed Elementary PK-6 teacher may add an endorsement in Middle level Math 5-8 by passing the assigned test.


Licensure terminology varies state by state.  Some states issue a “certificate” while others issue a “license” and California issues a “credential”.  Educators must file for a new license when they move to a new state.  “Reciprocity” allows some states to issue a certificate if the applicant holds a similar certificate in another state based on comparable requirements.  There is no reliable centralized source for certification/licensure information across all fifty states.  It is essential to seek guidance from local experts, including personnel at state agencies, licensure officers at universities, and human resources staff in local school districts.


Supply and demand may affect changes in licensure requirements too, as states adapt in order to bring new candidates into the teaching ranks. 


Because teaching standards and regulations are constantly evolving and each state’s regulatory agency is the ultimate source for information and decisions about certification, anyone interested in careers in K-12 education should check with their state agency when selecting a program to achieve certification.  In Kansas, the document containing the licensure regulations and standards can be accessed here, on the Kansas State Department of Education’s (KSDE) website: https://www.ksde.org/Portals/0/TLA/Licensure/Regulation%2091-1%20Licensure%20Regulations.pdf?ver=2023-04-10-105732-250.




Types of Teaching Licenses in Kansas


Initial Teaching License: The initial teaching license is the first license that most candidates will receive after completing their teacher preparation program and receiving passing scores on the PRAXIS exams. The license is valid for two years and may be renewed once with no additional requirements within 3 years; after that, recency (the completion of 8 credit hours in the 6 years preceding the application) must be met.   


The initial teaching license will also allow a person holding this license to work as a substitute teacher in a school without any additional license. Candidates apply for their initial teaching license using KSDE Form 1.


To qualify for an initial teaching license in the State of Kansas, a candidate needs:

·       A bachelor’s degree from a regionally accredited college or university.

·       Completion of a KS state-approved teacher preparation program.

·       Recency- 8 hours of college credit or one year of accredited experience within the last 6 years.

·       Passing score on the appropriate PRAXIS content area exam.

·       Passing score on a Principles of Learning and Teaching pedagogy exam (any level).

·       Completion of a KSDE/KBI background check with fingerprints.

·       Submission of the proper KSDE application (KSDE Form 1 for initial licensure) and payment of the required application fee.

Professional Teaching License: The professional teaching license is the license that most experienced educators will hold. The professional teaching license is valid for five-years and may be renewed indefinitely based on meeting the renewal requirements printed on the educator’s license. The professional license is a requirement for certain licensure types, such as the school specialist and the school leadership license. The current requirement for educators to upgrade from the initial license to the professional license is a two-year, district administered mentorship in which the educator holding the initial license works closely with a faculty mentor in their district to complete the mentorship program. Mentorship requirements vary from district to district. If the mentorship is completed while the educator is working under any other license type (such as a waiver or one-year non-renewable), KSDE will not recognize this and they will be required to complete an additional mentorship to qualify for upgrade. Educators who have completed the mentorship requirement while under an initial teaching license can apply for upgrade using KSDE Form 21.


Accomplished Teaching License: The accomplished teaching license is the license that educators who have completed the National Board certification process are eligible to hold. The accomplished teaching license is valid for ten years and may be renewed indefinitely. To apply for the accomplished teaching license, candidates are required to submit KSDE Form 11.


Transitional Teaching License: The transitional teaching license is available for candidates who were previously licensed in Kansas but whose license has expired for six or more months and who have not been teaching. Candidates who meet this criterion may be issued a one-year, non-renewable transitional teaching license to allow them to take a teaching position in the interim while they work to meet their licensure renewal requirements. To apply for the transitional license, a candidate should submit KSDE Form 3C.


Provisional License:  Provisional endorsements allow educators to teach in a new subject area while working to complete the coursework required to add the full endorsement. Provisional endorsements are valid for two years and can be renewed for a second and final two-year provisional (for a total of 4 years). A plan of study, otherwise known as a deficiency plan, must be on file with the licensure officer at the institution where the educator is enrolled.  Most provisional licenses are in special education, but other areas are possible. Candidates must meet one of two sets of criteria. Criteria 1- A candidate in a traditional academic subject must have completed 50% of an approved plan of study to be eligible for the first provisional endorsement; Criteria 2- A candidate in a special education area must have completed a minimum of 9 hours of coursework, including courses in special education methods, characteristics, and a practicum experience. Provisional endorsements are eligible for renewal if a candidate has completed 50% of the coursework on their plan of study that was remaining at the time that they received their first provisional endorsement. To apply for provisional endorsements and renewals, a candidate must submit KSDE Form 4.


STEM/CTE Licenses: Under a new provision that took effect 07/01/2014, candidates who have a degree in a Science, Life Science, Physical Science, Earth & Space Science, Technology, Computing, Engineering, or Mathematics, Finance or Accounting (STEM) fields are eligible for a one-year teaching license if they can demonstrate proof of having 5 years of employment experience in their field and an offer to teach that subject in a Kansas school. Candidates who hold an appropriate industry certification in a Career or Technical Education field, can demonstrate 5 years of professional experience, and who have an offer to teach that subject in a Kansas school can also be granted a three-year CTE license. STEM licensure candidates apply using KSDE Form 10. CTE licensure candidates apply using KSDE Form 6E. (KSDE has issued very few STEM licenses so far; these will always be rare.)


One-Year, Non-Renewable Teaching License: This license requires candidates to have completed a teacher preparation program but does not require passing scores on the PRAXIS. As the name suggests, this license is only valid for one school year, and cannot be renewed. This license is best suited for new educators who have completed their preparation program, have not passed the PRAXIS exams at the time of application, and who hold an offer of employment to teach for the upcoming school year. Candidates can apply for the one-year, non-renewable license by submitting KSDE Form 1.  Teachers working on this license are not “highly qualified” if they lack passing content area scores.



Restricted Teaching License: This is the license for candidates who are enrolled in an alternative licensure program such as the Restricted Licensure program at Emporia State University. To be eligible, a candidate must be accepted to an alternative program, have received passing scores on the content area exam, meet minimum GPA requirements (2.75 in last 60 hours of coursework), completed a supervised practical training experience, and have secured a position as a teacher of record in an accredited school. Heritage language speakers shall qualify in their heritage language (Spanish, Chinese, etc.).  Candidates who meet these eligibility standards will work closely with their universities and must submit KSDE Form 9 to apply.


Exchange Teaching License: KSDE does not offer full reciprocity to educators licensed in other states, however we are part of an exchange agreement with the following states: Iowa, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Dakota, and Wisconsin. Teachers who completed programs in these states and hold a valid standard license in that state are given up to 2 years to complete missing requirements, such as PRAXIS exams.  To apply for the exchange license, submit KSDE Form 2.


Standard Substitute License: The standard substitute license is one type of substitute teaching license that requires an educator to have completed an approved teacher preparation program, but candidates for this license type are not required to have passed the PRAXIS exams required for initial licensure. The standard substitute license allows educators to work in schools as a licensed substitute teacher and is valid for five years. The standard substitute license may be renewed. Candidates apply for the standard substitute license by using KSDE Form 1 or Form 5.


Emergency Substitute License: The emergency substitute license does not require completion of an approved teacher preparation program and may be obtained if the candidate has completed 60 or more semester credit hours. The emergency substitute license is one that is commonly used by students still completing their teacher preparation program or others who simply want to substitute part-time. The first emergency sub license is valid for one school year and can be renewed for two years. To apply for the emergency substitute license, a candidate submits Form 8A.


Other Kansas Educator Licenses


School Specialist License: This license type is held by those employed as a school counselor, school psychologist, reading specialist, or library media specialist. These licenses typically require completion of a graduate level preparation program, a passing score on the appropriate PRAXIS exam, 3.25 GPA on graduate coursework within the program, and in most cases also requires the candidate to hold the professional level teaching license. There are direct entry programs available for school counseling candidates with no teaching experience. Direct entry programs for school counseling require the student to complete additional courses/field experience. To apply for the initial school specialist license, submit KSDE Form 1.



School Leadership License: The School Leadership license is the license held by educators working as building (principal), or district level (superintendent) administrators. School leadership licenses require that a candidate have earned previous experience working as an educator under a professional teaching license (a minimum of 5 years) and complete a graduate level program in school leadership with 3.25 GPA in program coursework.  KSDE Form 1 is used to apply for the initial school leadership license.


List of Available Endorsements through Emporia State University

(For a list of all possible Endorsements available at Kansas institutions, click here: https://www.ksde.org/Portals/0/TLA/HigherEd/Directory%20App%20Progs%20Institutions%2005012023.pdf?ver=2023-05-01-100909-907)


Art ( I, PreK-12 )

Biology ( I, 6-12 )

# Building Leadership ( A, PreK-12 )

Business ( I, 6-12 )

Chemistry ( I, 6-12 )

# District Leadership ( A, PreK-12 )

# Early Childhood Unified ( A, B-Gr3 )

# Early Childhood Unified (B-Kdg )

Earth and Space Science ( I, 6-12 )

Elementary ( I, PK-6 )

# Elementary ( I, PK-6 MS )

English Language Arts ( I, 5-8 )

English Language Arts ( I, 6-12 )

Foreign Language-Spanish ( I, PreK-12 )

# Gifted ( A, K-6, 6-12, PreK-12 )

# Health ( I, Pre-12 )

# High Incidence Special Education(Adaptive) ( A, K-6, 6-12 )

History, Government, and Social Studies ( I, 5-8 )

History, Government, and Social Studies ( I, 6-12 )

Library Media Specialist( A, PreK-12 )

Mathematics ( I, 5-8 )

Mathematics ( I, 6-12 )

Music, Instrumental ( I, PreK-12 )

Music, Vocal ( I, PreK-12 )

Physical Education ( I, PreK-12 )

Physics ( I, 6-12 )

Psychology ( I, 6-12 )

# Reading Specialist ( A, PreK-12 )

Restricted Teaching License Program # ( I, 5-8, 6-12, PreK-12 )

School Counselor ( A, PreK-12 )

School Psychologist ( A, PreK-12 )

Science ( I, 5-8 )

Speech/Theatre ( I, 6-12 )

(“I” Initial-level program; “A” Add-on or Advanced-level program; # Online option available)



Responsibilities of Emporia State University and the Kansas State Department of Education


Educator licensure is a partnership between ESU and KSDE. While KSDE establishes the regulations and standards for educator licensure, it is up to institutions such as ESU to create teacher preparation programs to fit these regulations and standards. Currently, there are 26 Kansas universities that offer teacher preparation programs. These programs will vary from institution to institution, however they all must fit the same broad set of regulations for licensure. All teacher licensure programs at ESU have been approved by the KSDE and are accredited by the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP) for national recognition.

It is ESU’s responsibility to process applications for initial licensure and to issue recommendations to eligible candidates based on completion of the approved teacher licensure program and the appropriate PRAXIS licensure examinations. When ESU issues a recommendation for licensure, this is considered verification to KSDE that a candidate has completed an approved program, so it is the responsibility of the licensure officer to verify program completion guidelines and eligibility for any candidate before recommending them to KSDE.

ESU is usually at the front line for questions and requests by current and previous students. KSDE is to provide ESU with the resources and information necessary to verify that applicants have met these program standards. Once candidates have been recommended for licensure by ESU, KSDE then reviews their application and issues the appropriate license.


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