FOR STUDENTS: The Traditional Path to Becoming a Teacher

take a look at teaching

If you are about to enter college, or are in college and have not yet decided on your career choice, here is some key information you need to know about the path to becoming a teacher in New York State.

STEP 1: Earn your bachelor's degree.

A bachelor’s degree is required to become a teacher in New York state. Enrolling in a New York state teacher education program, which is pre-approved to meet the educational requirements for teacher certification, including student teaching, is the traditional route.

PRO TIP: When choosing a program, consider the subject area (for example, science, English as a second language, or special education) and the grade level (such as elementary vs. secondary) you wish to teach. Not all teacher education programs provide training in all subject areas or grade levels.

For a degree in teacher education, there’s no better place to start than New York.

Here's our listing teacher education programs available through the state's network of SUNY and CUNY colleges and universities.

STEP 2: Take the New York State Teacher Certification Exams.

Once you’ve earned a bachelor’s degree in teacher education, the next step toward becoming a certified teacher is completing and passing a series of New York State Teacher Certification Exams.

Candidates for an initial teaching certificate must pass three main tests:

  • the Educating All Students (EAS) exam;
  • the edTPA; and
  • the Content Specialty Test(s) in their area of certification.

More information on each of these tests can be found on the New York State Teachers Certification Exams website.

STEP 3: Fingerprinting.

When you are seeking a job that will see you as a trusted overseer of children, there are certain precautions the state takes. One is to keep your fingerprints on file.

Fingerprinting is the final step toward reaching the first teaching milestone: initial certification.

STEP 4: Obtain your initial certification.

Once you’ve earned your initial teaching certificate, professional certification is the next step. But reaching this milestone requires a return to the classroom — this time as a graduate student.

You have five years to earn your master’s degree after qualifying for your initial certificate.

Professional certification will also require you to have at least three years’ teaching experience in your certification area and one year of mentored teaching. Once these qualifications are met, you’re ready to apply to NYSED for professional certification.

Mentored teaching

New initial certificate holders must receive mentoring from an experienced teacher in their first year, to help them improve their teaching skills and transition into their first professional public school teaching experience. A mentor’s primary role is to provide the new teacher with guidance and support. Mentoring activities may include planning, observation, advisement and skills assessment.

Mentoring programs are locally designed and can vary greatly between schools and in teaching contexts.

STEP 5: Get your master's degree.

For a graduate degree in teacher education, there’s no better place to start than with New York State’s network of SUNY and CUNY colleges and universities.

Students can earn a master’s degree in teacher education at 23 different campuses statewide. Check out our complete listing for more information.

STEP 6: Earn your professional certification.

Holders of initial teaching certificates are expected to progress to the professional teaching certificate, within the stated five (5) year period, by completing the requirements for professional certification:

  • Successful completion of an appropriate master's degree
  • Three years of teaching experience
  • One year of teaching with a mentor
  • Completion of the 6-hour DASA training workshop

 We have more resources on New York State Teacher Certification available online at

STEP 7: Participate in ongoing professional development.

Maintaining a professional teaching certificate requires a lifetime of learning — educators must log 100 hours of professional learning every five years.

Joining the ranks of NYS teachers takes rigor and perseverance. But it’s that commitment to excellent that makes NYS teachers among the nation’s best.

Fortunately, a wealth of courses are offered through NYSUT's Education and Learning Trust so you can keep your certification up to date on your own time.

Learn more at


If you have questions about the process of becoming a teacher, please contact us:
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certification path

This chart (PDF version) shows New York's traditional route to licensure, where the prospective educator first earns a bachelor's degree in teacher education. The steps include:

  • BA/BS in teaching
  • Certification exams
  • Fingerprint clearance
  • Initial certification
  • Mentored teaching
  • Earn master's degree
  • Obtain professional certification
  • Earn tenure
  • Continued professional learning