Making the Grade: How to Become a Teacher in Kentucky

Updated: Educators in Kentucky are no longer required to earn a master’s degree after starting their careers. Previously, Kentucky teachers were required to move from Rank III to Rank II through a board-approved master’s program within 10 years of the start of their teaching career. While the requirement was dissolved in 2018, teachers can continue their education and advance their ranking when they choose.

Politician Brad Henry once said, “A good teacher can inspire hope, ignite the imagination and instill a love of learning.” Teachers can have a truly profound impact on their students, from pre-K to adulthood. But there are requirements to be considered qualified to teach.

Although license requirements vary by state, Kentucky has some of the most stringent standards in the nation for teacher licensing. This guide will help you navigate the complex – and occasionally confusing – world of Kentucky regulations so you can understand what you need to do to follow your passion and change the lives of others in the classroom.

Teaching Credentials

In Kentucky, as with any state, the proper credentials are needed to become licensed as a teacher. The Kentucky Educational Professional Standards Board (EPSB) manages the certification process and distributes teaching licenses. Their process involves several steps and requirements.

Undergraduate Degree

Each teacher in the state of Kentucky must have at least a bachelor’s degree to teach; the coursework and type of degree required depends on the educator’s specialty. Here are the basic coursework requirements:

Elementary School Teacher (Grades 1-5)
To earn certification, teachers must have completed coursework in all subject areas taught in elementary school, including English, math, social studies and more.

Middle School Teacher (Grades 6-9)
For certification as a middle school educator, teachers must have an undergraduate major in English, math, social studies or science, with the major equivalent to 30 or more semester hours of coursework. Most educator degree programs fulfill this requirement by offering concentrations in various areas of teaching.

Secondary School Teachers (Grades 9-12)
As with middle school subjects, a teacher must have a major in their subject areas. Specialty subject areas like art and music have specific requirements.

It is important to note that Kentucky requires a period of supervised student teaching that is typically arranged through a degree program. These opportunities give you the chance to get real teaching experience under the watchful eye of an experienced educator.

Required Tests

To show competency in foundational teaching skills as well as a grasp of your desired subject area, Kentucky requires teaching candidates to take several exams. The Pre-Professional Skills Test is used for basic teaching skills; this is the same test that is used as an entry exam into some teaching preparation programs. Teachers must also complete the Praxis II and the Praxis II Principles of Learning and Teaching tests for their given subject area.

These exams are very similar to other standardized tests and have a significant preparatory community surrounding them. There are plenty of books, courses and study groups that you can use to prepare for the test.

Receiving Teaching Certification

After completing all of the above requirements, you can submit an application form to the EPSB. They will require all of your official transcripts for your undergraduate and graduate coursework. Your student teaching experience paperwork must be verified by the proper official and submitted, as well as your passing Praxis scores. All of this information, along with the application form, must be sent to the EPSB office in Frankfort. This will give you a Rank III teaching certificate, the lowest level of state teaching certification.

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Alternate Teacher Certifications

There are also eight alternative routes to teacher certification that the EPSB provides for individuals wanting to become educators. They include:

Exceptional Work Experience Certification – Bachelor’s degree holders who have 10 years or more of “exceptional” work experience in a particular subject area may be eligible for this certification.

Local District Training Program Certification – This program is similar to the Exceptional Work Experience Certification but is limited to just Jefferson County Public Schools. However, applicants only need to have five years of exceptional field experience.

College Faculty Certification – For those who have at least five years of teaching in a college or university, the state offers them an opportunity to teach grades eight to 12 in Kentucky.

Adjunct Instructor Certification – This program is similar as the same as the college faculty certification but for adjunct faculty members at colleges.

Veterans of the Armed Forces – Veterans of active duty who have a bachelor’s degree in a subject matter are eligible to become teachers in this program.

University-Based Alternative Route to Certification – This is an alternative program that gives bachelor’s degree holders temporary certification in cases of emergencies.

Institute Alternative Route to Certification – Any person in a field other than education may receive a one-year temporary provisional certificate if they have met certain conditions.

Teach for America (TFA) Alternative Route to Certification – Teach for America is a nationwide nonprofit focused on closing the achievement gap among low-income students. Corps members are given a temporary certificate to teach if accepted.

Once credentialed, you may begin your teaching career. However your education does not end here; there are continuing opportunities to learn and improve your standing in the field.

Kentucky Teacher Internship Program

This internship program is designed to help new teachers experience a successful first year in the classroom. This program involves the reporting and recording of all of a teacher’s first year, including everything from lesson plans to final grade books. It also includes random observations by other educators to ensure that the new teacher is performing his or her job to an acceptable level. This program is mandatory for all first-year teachers, and is a significant part of their job status for subsequent years.

Earning a Master’s Degree in Education

Previously, a requirement for a Kentucky teacher’s certification renewal after five years was working toward a master’s degree. By the time of application, at least 15 hours of this degree program had to be completed. A teacher then had another five years to complete their master’s degree.

Kentucky teachers are still able to pursue a master’s degree if they choose; however, there is no requirement as to when it must be completed. After earning your graduate degree, you can earn your Rank II teaching certificate, which improves your standing in the teaching profession and increases pay. According to, Kentucky teachers holding a master’s degree can expect to earn around $5,400 more annually than teachers without an advanced degree. Beyond the Rank II, you can earn more graduate credit to achieve a Rank I teaching certificate. This is the highest level of teaching credentials a Kentucky educator can earn. With it comes an average increase of salary of 21 percent and significant job security.

Educational Leadership Roles

Some educators become interested in moving into leadership roles beyond the classroom. These administrative roles have their own certifications in Kentucky, and have different rules and requirements.

Guidance Counselor Certification

In Kentucky, guidance counselors must all undergo a master’s level program in school counseling. Most of these programs accept educators with degrees in education or similar experience. After completing this program, the state can issue a provisional certificate for use in any level of school. After one year of guidance counseling you will be issued a five year standard certificate.

Principal Certification

In Kentucky, all principals must have at least three years of full-time teaching experience. The state offers a series of assessments that all principal candidates must pass. Potential principals must also have a master’s degree in education and complete one year in the Kentucky Principal Internship Program. Then they can receive a five-year professional principal certification.

Advancing Your Teaching Career With an Online Degree

Although understanding the various requirements can seem complex, resources are out there to help you make sense of it all. The state EPSB offers much more information on the exact steps you need to take and options if you get stuck. The first step, however, is earning the right undergraduate and graduate degrees. Campbellsville University has been educating teachers in Kentucky for 100 years. Our curriculum is designed to help you pass the state exams, get the experience you need to succeed in the classroom and earn the appropriate certifications. Specializations are available, and all education programs are offered fully online, so busy working teachers can earn their degree when it fits into their schedule.