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Eligibility requirements for SC teaching certificate programs

30 minutes
30 minutes

Eligibility requirements for SC teaching certificate programs

Everything you need to know about teacher prep program requirements: From getting your transcripts to personal essays and exams, this guide has you covered.

So you want to apply to an educator preparation program (a.k.a. teaching program), and you’re figuring out what you need to enroll. That’s great news!

When you apply, program staff will want to make sure you’re eligible and a good fit for admission. They’ll look at a few different pieces, which could include: 

  • Any academic history requirements 
  • Any required test scores
  • Your related work experience 
  • Your essay
  • Letters of recommendation
  • An interview

In this guide, we’ll look at each of these components.

If you have any questions about your teaching program applications, reach out to a TeachSC coach or your program’s admissions staff for support. We’re here for you.

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Understand your program options

To earn your teaching certificate, you’ll attend either a standard degree-based certification pathway or an alternative certification program. 

Standard programs and alternative certification programs can both be great options to earn your teaching certificate. They vary in time, cost and the amount of supervised practice you’ll get during your program.

As you choose your pathway, consider what kind of financial support, mentorship and experiences are most important to you.

Standard certification programs

Standard certification programs take place in a college or university and include an unpaid student teaching experience. This can be a good option if you have less experience working with students, as standard certification programs offer extra time and practice. 

A standard program can be a pathway to either a stand-alone teaching certificate or a teaching certificate with a master’s degree. 

Alternative certification programs

If you’re concerned about affordability, or want to teach full-time while you get certified, an alternative certification pathway could be a good fit for you.

These programs let you start teaching (and earning a salary) while you complete certification preparation and training outside of school hours. This might include classes in the evenings, on weekends or over school breaks. 

Now that we’ve gone over what these programs mean, let’s look at eligibility requirements for both. 

Do I need a degree? 

You don’t need a bachelor’s degree when you start a teaching program, but you’ll need one before you can become a certified teacher. Many programs let you earn your bachelor’s and certification at the same time.

To learn more about your program options, look at the statement below that best fits your situation. You can also visit the TeachSC About Programs page for a closer look at choosing a program.

Your academic history

When you apply to a teaching program, you’ll need to show your transcripts and any previous degrees or college credits you’ve earned.

What transcripts do I need?  

With your transcripts, teaching programs want to see your GPA and what courses you’ve already taken (that includes transcripts for any college classes you took in high school!). 

You may be able to upload unofficial transcripts for the initial application, but you’ll need to formally request your official transcripts before (or shortly after) you’re admitted.

To request your transcripts:

Contact the transcript office or records office of the schools you've attended.

Follow their transcript request procedures. You can often find the procedures on the school’s website. You can also try calling or emailing the school.

Budget at least three to five days for processing.

Some schools will send transcripts by mail; others may have electronic copies.

In your request, be sure to include:

  • Your name. If your name has changed since you attended school, be sure to let them know your name as it appeared when you attended the school. Note: If your transcripts are under an old name, make sure you submit them under your current name! The transcripts your program receives should match the name they have on file for you. 
  • Your student ID number, if you have it.
  • How many copies of your transcript you need.
  • Your signature.
  • Where to send the transcript. This might be the physical or email address of the program you’re applying to.

Sometimes you’ll need to pay a fee to order an official transcript. Not to worry! TeachSC offers up to $100 in fee reimbursements for this kind of expense. Visit our Fee Reimbursements page to learn more.

Test scores

When you apply to a teaching program, you’ll usually need to submit scores from either a core skills test or a subject area exam.

We’ll briefly go over each of these tests here. You can find more detailed information about what the tests cover and how to prepare in our Testing Guide.

The Core Skills Test

If you’re applying to an undergraduate program, you’ll need to provide test scores that show you’ve mastered core skills in reading, writing and math. 

The SAT or ACT both count toward this requirement! If you haven’t taken these tests, or if you need a higher score, you can sign up for the Praxis Core exam (our testing guide also has info about required test scores). 

If you take the Praxis Core, some programs only require you to register for the test before you apply. Ask your teaching program staff about the core skills requirement to find out what they need from you.

The Subject Area Assessment

If you already have a bachelor’s degree, you don’t need to take a core skills test. You may need to take a content exam though, to show you know your subject matter well enough to teach it.

Most South Carolina teachers will take the Praxis subject area test. If you’re getting a world languages teaching certificate, you might take an ACTFL (that’s the American Council for the Teaching of Foreign Languages) test instead. Our Testing Guide has more info on both of these tests.

Depending on your program, you may need to pass your subject area exam before you apply. Other programs only require you to have registered for your test when you submit your application. Check with program staff if you’re not sure when you need to take your subject area test.  

How do I send my test scores? 

Like your transcripts, you may need to send your official test score reports with your application. 

For most exams, you can designate several schools and the SC Department of Education to automatically receive your scores when you register for the test.

You can also request additional score reports later. We’ve gathered the links to make it easier for you!

Practical experience

In addition to your academic history, admissions staff may look at your work experience so far, including any experience you’ve had working in education or in your subject area.

What kind of experience do I need?

Some teaching programs—especially alternative certification programs—will require you to have a certain amount of meaningful experience working in education.

Education experience

Ideally, you’ll already have experience working with the age group and subject area that you want to teach, but other education experience can work too. Maybe you’ve worked in an after-school program or as a classroom paraprofessional. Maybe you’ve been a camp counselor or an instructor for a weekend program, like Saturday school or Sunday school. Those all count!

Subject area experience

If you’re a career changer, your work experience can also be useful for your teaching program applications.

For example, if you’ve worked in business administration or marketing, you might be a great candidate to teach business education. Or you might be an experienced musician who could teach music classes. Or maybe you’ve worked as a researcher or computer scientist—you could make a skilled science or technology education teacher.  

How much practical experience do I need?

The exact number of experience hours you’ll need will vary. Ask your program about their specific requirements.  

Whatever your experience, you’ll want to highlight your achievements and responsibilities. Check out our Resume Guide and template for ideas and advice to create a top-notch resume. 

Other application materials

Finally, you’ll probably need to submit an essay or personal statement and at least one letter of recommendation in your application. You may also need to complete an interview.

Essay or personal statement

In most applications, you’ll need to either write a personal statement about your interest in the program, or answer a series of essay-style questions. This is your chance to share a little more about your background and interests, to show why you’re a good fit.

If there’s anything in your academic or work history that you’re worried about, these can be good places to address those. 

For many people, the essay can feel like the most stressful part of the application process. But there are resources to make it easier! Check out our Essay Guide for advice and a template to get started. 

Letters of recommendation

You’ll need to include at least one letter of recommendation from a former teacher, supervisor or colleague in your application. Letters of recommendation can show off your strengths in a way that’s hard to do for yourself.

To get a stellar letter of recommendation, it’s important to follow some basic asking etiquette. We’ve got you covered there too—take a look at our Letter of Rec Guide and template for more.

Interviews

For many teaching programs, you’ll also need to interview with program admissions staff. This is an opportunity to tell your story, share what you’ll bring to the program and show why you’ll make a great teacher. 

How to prepare for your teaching program interview

Practice talking about yourself

You’ll get to explain why you want to be a teacher—and why you’ll make a great one—in your admissions essay. The interview is your chance to tell your story out loud. Ask a friend or family member to listen to your answer, then aim to tell the story in about two minutes, give or take.

You’ll also want to practice explaining what you will bring to the program. What will make you a great colleague to your fellow classmates? What unique perspectives or teamwork skills do you bring?

Get to know yourself on paper

Your interviewers may want to know more about your academic background or have questions about specific courses, changes in major or grades on your transcripts. Review your transcripts with a critical eye. What questions might your interviewers have? Practice answering them. 

As with your admissions essay, this is your chance to use potential negatives to your advantage, showing how you have grown from challenges.

Prepare to give specific examples that show how you work

Interviewers often ask about how your life experiences demonstrate the qualities they’re looking for. They may want to know how you creatively tackle challenges, collaborate on projects or handle stress. 

You’ll want to do more than tell them you’re creative and a great collaborator. This is your chance to show your great qualities with short anecdotes. Think of specific examples from school, jobs or other experiences. Come ready with a few great stories that illustrate your skills and how you work.

To set yourself apart, follow your interview by sending short thank you emails or a handwritten card to your interviewers. Let them know you value their time and are excited to get started in the program!

Need more of an interviewing 101 refresher? Check out these interviewing tips from The Muse.

Application Requirements for International Students

If you’re from outside the U.S., you may need to provide additional paperwork to show that you’re ready for your program or certification. For more information, click on the statement below that fits you best.

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