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DESE Certification

What is DESE Certification? 

Guides & Resources / March 16, 2024
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Pursuing a teaching certification can be confusing. Depending on a variety of factors including the state you want to teach in, the type of school you are working in, and the type of degree you hold, there are different certifications.  


What is DESE? 

Within the United States, education is primarily the responsibility of each state rather than the federal government. Each state has its own Department of Education that sets regulations for schools and oversees the education system in that state. Within Missouri, DESE refers to the Department of Secondary and Elementary. Other states may use different acronyms for their respective department of education. For example, Kansas’ Department of Education is referred to as KSDE


What is DESE teacher certification? 

Teacher certification or licensure is handled by each state’s department of education. In pursuing access to high-quality public education each state determines its requirements for certification. Holding a teacher certification designates that the individual is deemed by the state as qualified for a teaching position. Just as law school students must first pass the bar to be eligible to practice law, each state has its own requirements for individuals to be legally eligible to teach. 

Do I need to be certified to teach? 

Typically yes. But before pursuing your teaching certification through DESE, it’s important to first identify if you need a teaching certificate and if so, which kind. Consider the following: 

  1. Type of school: Public schools and most charter schools will typically require you to have a teaching certificate to teach. However, private school teachers in Missouri are not required to hold a teaching certificate. Different factors like job mobility and teacher pay should be considered when determining what type of school you would like to teach at. 
  2. Full-time teaching vs. substitute teaching: The Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education has a separate teaching certificate for substitute teachers vs. certificate for teachers of record. 


How do I receive certification from DESE?

There are various ways to pursue teaching certification. 

Traditional route – Pursue an Education degree

Many bachelor’s level degree programs at a college or university’s college of education will lead to teacher certification. Missouri requires a Bachelor’s degree to obtain your certification, so if you do not yet have a degree, you will need to obtain one.

  • Note that not all master’s degree programs lead to certification. While some do, other advanced education degrees are geared towards individuals who already are certified, and are looking to advance their knowledge and personal education level. 


Alternative Route to DESE teacher certification

Outside of a traditional University or college, there are also alternative ways to meet DESE teacher certification requirements. These typically involve an accelerated pace and or hands-on experience in the classroom. 

      • Teacher Residency Model: Teacher residency programs typically don’t require prior experience in the classroom. In this model, aspiring teachers are placed with a veteran teacher in the classroom where they gradually take on more responsibility over the school year. This model is paired with certification coursework and may offer a master’s degree. The Educator Academy’s teacher residency program also involves financial supports and an additional 3 years of coaching & professional development after initial certification. 
      • Teacher Fellows Model: For individuals who are already in the classroom in an uncertified role, there are options for gaining certification while continuing to teach. Through The Educator Academy’s teacher fellows program, individuals with instructional experience can earn their initial certification through DESE. 
      • Teach for America: This AmeriCorps program recruits future leaders to serve in the classroom for 2 years. Prior teaching experience is not required for this program and they work with schools around the country. 
      • ABCTE: The American Board for Certification of Teacher Excellence describes themselves as “A non-profit organization established by the U.S. Department of Education and dedicated to building strong communities through preparing, certifying, and supporting teachers.” This online program operates in 11 states and allows individuals with a bachelor’s degree to obtain their certification. 
      • Other alternatives: gathers information on both traditional and non-traditional teaching certification programs across the country. 


Doctorate route:

If you hold a doctorate in a related subject matter, you can take a test in that content area to qualify for certification. For example, if you hold a Ph.D. in math and want to teach 9th-grade geometry you can receive your certification for that content area of study by passing a test.

      • Note that the state of Missouri is altering its teacher certification tests, and this test will sunset in 2024


If I’m certified to teach in another state, can I teach in Missouri? 

Potentially. Because each state has its own requirements there may or may not be alignment between one state’s certification and another. Depending on several factors including which state your teaching certificate is from and your years of teaching experience, and what school you taught at, The Missouri Department of Education may issue you a teaching certification. 


Becoming a certified teacher

There are many pathways to becoming a certified teacher. Apply to join the Educator Academy and earn your DESE certification to be a teacher! 

Apply to become a certified teacher