As long as people have things they need to learn, they will need someone to teach it to them. The Bureau of Labor statistics numbers confirm this. As of 2019, there are more than 4.1 million teachers in the country, spread across all grade levels, and the number is only predicted to keep increasing. Employment for high school and middle school teachers has an 8 percent projected growth rate for 2016-2016. For kindergarten and elementary school teachers, the growth rate is only slightly lower, at 7 percent.
If you have already earned your bachelor's or master's in education, you are probably already aware of the next step to take before you can begin teaching in the classroom: earning your teaching credential. A teaching credential program, also known as a teacher preparation program, is required to take the state exam to become a public school teacher. Some universities offer it as part of their coursework, while in other cases it must be taken separately. Either way, however, you may be wondering: how am I going to pay for a teaching credential? That is the topic we are here to discuss.
"Can I earn a teaching credential online?"
It is currently not possible to earn your teaching credential completely online. However, parts of a teaching credential program can be completed online.
In general, a teaching credential program consists of multiple foundational courses in subjects such as educational psychology, creation of instructional plans, and literacy skill evaluations, as well as student-teacher fieldwork that takes place inside an actual classroom. Oftentimes, the courses in a teaching credential program can be taken online, as long as your school offers those courses in an online format in the first place.
The fieldwork is the part of the program that cannot be completed online. However, at some accredited colleges, distance learners have the option to perform their fieldwork at a school that is closer to their home. For example, a student who lives in Indiana but is remotely attending a New York school might be able to perform their fieldwork at an Indiana high school, or a California student who lives in northern California but attends an online college in southern California may be able to perform theirs on a northern California college campus.
In brief, even if you can't complete a teaching credential program 100 percent online, distance learning can still be helpful for helping students fit such a program into their schedule.
"Is there financial aid for students earning a teaching credential online?"
Pursuing a teaching credential program is not a decision to be made lightly, in particular because it can be expensive. Some credentialing programs, such as the one available through TeacherReady in Florida, cost approximately $6,000. That's quite a bit of money for a recent college graduate! The good news is that financial aid is available for those who qualify.
Start by filling out the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) online. FAFSA is the federal government's one-stop application for financial aid. It's free to submit, but it can be a bit tricky to answer some questions correctly. If you have questions or concerns, our Ultimate Guide to the FAFSA may be able to help answer them.
Some schools and universities have specific requirements in terms of how these questions should be answered for students pursuing teaching credentials. You may want to meet with a financial aid officer or counselor from your school to put yourself in the best possible position to earn aid from the FAFSA.
Kinds of Financial Aid for Online Teaching Credential Programs
- Grants: Grants for teacher certification are generally need-based awards. They tend to be everyone's favorite type of financial aid, since they don't need to be paid back. They are available from the federal government (including Pell Grants for those pursuing teaching credentials and TEACH Grants for new teachers in high-demand fields such as math) and state governments, and they can vary widely in scope and availability. Be sure to check your state's grant offerings. Have a look at our Ultimate Guide to Grants 2019 to get started.
- Scholarships: Like grants, this form of financial aid doesn't need to be paid back. There are a few main sources of college scholarships: common sources are the institution you are attending, private sources and organizations, and state governments. Some scholarships are quite specific, such as the scholarship awarded by the National Teacher Association and AFCEA, which awards a STEM scholarship to new teachers who are pursuing a graduate degree or credential/licensure and will teach STEM disciplines once they graduate.
- Loans: Unlike grants and scholarships, loans for college -- including loans for teacher certification -- DO need to be paid back. There are three different kinds of loans: federal, state and private. Interest rates and terms are usually more attractive for federal loans, but these are not always available for online students. Meanwhile, examples of state loans include the MSSE (Math, Science and Special Education) Loan in Arizona, which is a forgivable loan for future Arizona public school teachers who commit to certain years of teaching.
- Fellowships: There are a number of fellowships available around the country, usually created and administered by private foundations. For instance, in Georgia and Pennsylvania, there's the Woodrow Wilson Teaching Fellowship, which aims to support future STEM teachers in high-need secondary schools. This particular fellowship includes funds for teacher certification and a master's degree program, plus a stipend. Fellowships for teacher certification are usually are a relatively small part of the financial aid that's available, but it's worth searching them out.
- Work-study programs: As the name implies, this federal program allows you to work part-time to finance your education while also going to school, allowing you to earn both money and job experience. In addition, there are related programs such as the one offered by the Veterans Administration, which is available to vets who are attending school at least ¾ time. Many universities also offer these programs, so consider asking your financial aid counselor about potential opportunities. Work-study is administered through FAFSA; to learn more, check our Understanding Work-Study page.
State programs to help pay for online teaching credentials
Because teachers are in such high demand in so many states, many states have created educational initiatives to encourage students to pursue this time-honored profession. These initiatives often supply financial benefits that can help students earn a bachelor's degree in teaching or earn their teaching license, and some even assist with both.
For instance, the state of Nevada offers Troops to Teachers. All current and former members of the United States Armed Forces are eligible to apply for this program, which includes up to $10,000 in financial aid to facilitate the transition from the military to the classroom.
In Kentucky, the Kentucky Higher Education Assistance Authority offers a teacher scholarship program, which awards financial aid to state residents pursuing teacher certification in the state of Kentucky. The award is for up to $2,500 per semester and is intended for those earning their teacher certification who demonstrate financial need. Each scholarship recipient must teach one semester at a Kentucky public school for each semester he or she receives a scholarship.
There are many other state-specific financial aid programs for those pursuing teaching credentials online -- many more than we can cover here. Check your state's Department of Education website to learn more about the kinds of initiatives that might be available in your state.
Does Where You Teach Matter for Financial Aid?
While teaching is a career that is in demand as a whole, there are some kinds of teachers that are in higher demand than others. Based on the schools, industries and careers that are in demand around a particular city or metro area, as well as the size of various age groups in the area, certain kinds of teachers may be in particularly high demand. Not only does this help inform what kind of teaching jobs might be available in your area, but it may even influence how to pay for teaching credential programs in your area as well.
Some states, such as New York, are trying to attract teachers to their state, especially to low-performing districts. The Teachers of Tomorrow Reimbursement Program, administered by the New York State Education Department, aims to alleviate the problem of teacher shortage in the five large New York school districts (New York City, Buffalo, Rochester, Syracuse and Yonkers). Enacted in 2000, this legislation funds a variety of incentives and reimbursement programs for low-performing schools and those experiencing shortages, as well as specific programs for teachers of science, mathematics, bilingual education, and English as a second language.
You may have heard of Teach for America, an educational nonprofit with the goal of providing quality education to all children in this country. Those in the TFA Corps commit to teaching in a low-performing public school for a few years, and in exchange they receive TFA-sponsored summer training, housing, food and transportation costs during that time. TFA also offers AmeriCorps Awards, which include additional funding to help pay off student loans or to defer the costs associated with obtaining teaching certification. As the cherry on top, TFA also offers loan forgiveness programs, which can help students who have gotten over their head with college debt.
More Information on Paying for Teaching Credential Programs
Did this page not have the answer to all your questions? If you need more help finding financial aid for teaching credential programs, consider these alternative sources of information:
- Look up some state-specific financial aid in your state using our handy states pages.
- Research financial aid in its many different forms using the articles in our How to Pay section.
- We've said this already, but it bears repeating: we highly recommend visiting the financial aid counselor at your school to ask about financial aid. Financial aid counselors are usually familiar with aid offered by companies and foundations in their areas, and they may be able to help you find opportunities you wouldn't be able to find on your own.
You might also want to consult the following links:
- Teacher Grant Programs by the Ventures Foundation
- The Teaching Ambassador Fellowship
- Teacher's Aid Program
Finally, the internet is your friend. Try some simple and more advanced searches for keywords such as:
- "Financial aid for teacher certification in [your state]"
- "Grants for future teachers"
- "Scholarships for teacher certification"
- "How to pay for teacher certification"
Best of luck!