Corps members don’t have to have studied education prior to applying to the corps. In fact, most corps members did not. But nearly all corps members must receive a state-issued teaching credential, certificate, license or permit before they’re hired by a school and must be considered “highly qualified” under federal law. Since most corps members haven’t completed a traditional course of study in education before teaching, they’re considered “non-traditional” teachers in most states. The credentials they receive are often referred to as “alternative” certificates or licenses, though each state has different specific requirements and rules around these credentials. 

Becoming Certified

Prior to Teaching

In most states, corps members must pass a content-knowledge test and/or have completed specific college courses as part of a major or minor related to the subject they will teach. Some states also have additional specific requirements, such as GPA minimums. 

During Their Teaching Commitment

Corps members typically must complete coursework toward the next level of certification or licensure. Depending on the region, corps members can complete coursework through a local college or university, another certification provider such as a school district, or a nonprofit such as Teach For America.

In many of our regions, corps members also have the option of completing a master’s degree by the end of their two-year teaching commitment.

Teach For America regional staff members work with corps members to make sure they meet initial requirements and have the required credentials before teaching. The costs for certification programs, including tuition at local colleges, universities, or other providers, vary by region. Many corps members use their AmeriCorps grants to cover at least some, if not all, of these costs, noting that these grants are not guaranteed. Some states and districts provide additional financial assistance, but in some cases, corps members must cover the remaining costs.

Where We Work

Learn about the 48 communities nationwide where our corps members, alumni, and staff members work together to reach educational equity. 


Check out our regions and the corps members, alumni, and supporters who live there »

Regional Cost Calculator

Use the cost calculator on each of our regional pages to see how your income and expenses could vary by region.

Go to our regions »

How to Apply

Get all the details about our application process, plus tips about how to prepare a successful application.

Find out more »