2020 Analysis of State Music Education Certification Practices in the United States

Teacher certification and licensure practices for music educators vary by state. Preservice music teachers, in-service music teachers, and music teacher educators can all benefit from knowing what the music teacher certification practices are in each state. As a result, we continue to gather and update information on music teacher certification for all 50 states and the District of Columbia to help support music education policy efforts, preservice music teacher preparation programs, teacher mobility, and reciprocity. 

teacher certificationPhoto: michaeljung / iStockPhoto

The 2020 music teacher certification table is a result of a tremendous collaborative effort involving representatives from the National Association for Music Education Advocacy Leadership Force (ALF), the Society for Music Teacher Education, and music education colleagues from universities throughout the country. We took care to compile information using individual state department of education websites, university teacher preparation program websites, surveys, and email. The table contains information regarding the levels of certification offered in each state, age-level, and subject area designations (e.g., music PK–12, Choral Music K–12), testing requirements, teacher performance assessments, reciprocity, and state certification fees. New to the 2020 table are links to the state office of education website to find more information about initial certification and alternative routes to licensure.

The most notable changes between the 2018 and 2020 analysis are the ever-evolving testing requirements and the adoption or abandonment of pedagogical assessments. Additionally, alternative pathways to licensure look different in each state. Many states continue to offer alternative licensure routes to include options for obtaining emergency certification or completing pedagogical coursework while teaching. Some states have expanded their alternative routes to licensure so that it is possible to procure a teaching license with a bachelor’s degree and successful passing of content knowledge and/or pedagogical assessments for the field the candidate intends to teach, making it unnecessary to complete a teacher preparation program. 

State certification practices and policies are always changing. As a result, we strongly encourage individuals to take the time to visit the individual state office of education website for the state in which they intend to pursue certification. We recommend that music educators continue to regularly reexamine teacher certification as federal and state policies and mandates continue to alter certification requirements. Additionally, both music teacher educators and K–12 music educators should be proactive in familiarizing themselves with legislative policy issues surrounding certification in their state, as these policies can directly affect teacher preparation programs, hiring decisions, and teacher mobility.

To keep the 2020 table up-to-date, we would appreciate being notified of any inaccurate information or updates to teacher licensure as changes occur. Please feel free to contact brittany_may@byu.edu.

Researchers: Brittany Nixon May, Kylie Decker, Karen Willie, Cherilyn Worthen, Allyssa Pehrson

Brittany Nixon May, Ph.D.
Associate Professor of Music Education
Brigham Young University, School of Music