Can I get a teaching certificate at Penn State?

Students with a bachelor’s degree who wish to pursue secondary English teacher certification may do so as non‐degree “certification‐only” students, or if desired, they may pursue certification concurrent with a master's program. To apply, prospective students should apply via the Penn State Graudate School and select certification as the program objective.

How many/which courses will I need?
How long does the program take?

This depends on what you took as an undergraduate. If admitted, students are assigned to a faculty adviser. The adviser will evaluate prior course work and help determine what course work will be needed to complete certification. A checklist of courses used for this evaluation (effective for students admitted May 2009 and later) is attached. On average, the program takes about one and a half to two years of full‐time study for students possessing a bachelor's degree in English. However, this varies greatly according to your individual preparation, and only an academic adviser can formally make this determination.

If I begin my course of study as a certification-only student, can I later matriculate into a master’s program?

Once you are here as a certification‐only student and your program is under way, you may wish to apply for admission to the Master of Education program in Curriculum and Instruction (M.Ed. in C I) with an emphasis in Literacies and Language Arts. Admission to the M.Ed. program is NOT automatic. The admissions process is competitive.

To apply to the M.Ed. program, students must begin with a new application. Information on how to apply is available on the program's admission page. Master's degree applications are reviewed in confidential, competitive review by a committee of program faculty.

If admitted, your faculty adviser will work with you to plan additional, graduate‐level course work and discuss your master’s paper or project. More information on the master’s requirements and paper is available at the department's website.

Do I need a laptop computer?

Yes. The English/Communications certification program is part of the “EDUCATE at Penn State” initiative, in which each student purchases and uses a MacBook® computer across courses and field experiences in the major. Complete information about EDUCATE can be found at the EDUCATE website.

What if my bachelor’s degree is in a field other than English?

If you have a bachelor’s degree in a field other than English, you can pursue certification, but you will need to make up deficits in your content area background by taking additional course work. This can add significant time and expense to your program. An academic adviser can help you determine the specific courses you would need.

Can I complete any of the program online, such as via Penn State World campus? Can I complete any of the program at another Penn State campus or at another college near my home?

A few courses can be taken online, such as some of the courses in special education or in educational theory and policy. However, online offerings are inconsistent, and you should plan to be at University Park for course work. Some English courses, if you need them, may be available at other campuses or institutions, but these are rare. You should plan to be at University Park for course work.

Is financial aid available? Can I get a graduate teaching assistantship?

Financial aid is available through Penn State’s Office of Student Aid. There are also a number of College of Education scholarships, for which you can apply for at the College's website.

Graduate assistantships are not normally available to master’s students in our program.

Can I keep my job while pursuing certification?

In the early stages of the certification program, it is very possible to work, taking courses part time or even just one course at a time. However, working gets more difficult as you near the end of the program: the third‐to‐last semester includes a block of three courses (nine credits total) which must be taken as a block, the second‐to‐last semester includes a block of courses along with a half‐day school placement daily, and the final semester is spent in full‐time student teaching during which it is not possible to work.

What is the Professional Development School (PDS) and is it for me?

We have two program tracks from which you can choose: the Professional Development School (PDS) and the regular campus program. The PDS program involves an intensive, full-time internship in the State College schools in which much of your course work and field experiences are fully integrated. The regular campus program involves a mix of courses on campus and field experiences in nearby schools. Admission to the PDS is selective; you can apply by visiting the PDS website. Applications are due October 1 each year, with a second round due February 1.

Students like the PDS for (among other reasons) its focus on independent inquiry, the experience of working directly in a school from the first day, and the opportunity to remain in State College. Students like the campus program for (among other reasons) the chance to remain in a more traditional “student mode” while completing course work as well as a more graduate entrance into field experiences.

If I do not choose the PDS, where will I student teach?

Most undergraduate placements are in Altoona, a 45-minute drive from our campus. Thus, for the term of final student teaching, most students continue to live in State College, while a few choose to relocate to Altoona where rents are much lower.

Are there opportunities to student teach in locations outside Pennsylvania?

Yes. There are also student teaching placements available in Norway, the Netherlands, and at a Native American boarding school in South Dakota. Short‐term student teaching abroad is also possible; the program combines a typical U.S. placement with a shorter international experience afterward. More information on all of those options is available online.