How To Become a Teacher in Colorado

Written by Staff

One of the fastest-growing states in the country, Colorado attracts new residents from across the U.S. with its beautiful landscapes, plentiful recreation opportunities, and strong economy. As an indicator of the state’s growth, public elementary and secondary school enrollment increased by 26% from 2017 to 2020, compared to the national average of 7% in the same time.

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A teaching degree at any level opens the door to a stable, meaningful career, making a difference in the lives of children and their families. Colorado’s educator shortage and growing population of school-age children promises many opportunities for new teachers. Read on to learn about teaching in Colorado, including considerations for earning your degree and what to expect from teaching in the state. We also explain the types of online teaching programs in Colorado.

Colorado at a Glance

Per Capita Income$38,057
Full-Time Equivalent Teachers53,147
Number of Public School Districts270
Number of Public K-12 Schools1,915
Number of Higher Learning Institutions87

Average Annual Temperature: 45.1℉

Annual Precipitation: 15.9 inches

Major Sports TeamsColorado Rockies, Colorado Rapids, Denver Nuggets, Denver Broncos, Colorado Avalanche

Top Colorado Schools for Teaching

  • Regis University
  • University of Northern Colorado
  • Colorado Christian University
  • Colorado Mesa University
  • Colorado State University-Global Campus
  • University of Colorado-Boulder
  • University of Colorado-Denver
  • Denver University

Why Go to College for Education in Colorado?

Colorado is home to more than 80 colleges, many with accredited education or teaching degrees. Most Colorado colleges sit along the Front Range/I-25 corridor, from Colorado State University up north in Fort Collins to Colorado College down south in Colorado Springs.

If you plan to pursue teaching licensure in Colorado, it makes sense to earn your degree there. This ensures that your degree and teacher preparation program meet the requirements of the Colorado Department of Education. If you earn a degree in another state, you must pursue alternative licensure in Colorado, which can take longer.

Students who obtain their degree in Colorado also gain the benefit of networking while still in school. The connections made while completing student teaching hours can lead to job offers after graduation, especially in states with a high demand for teachers.

Postsecondary Education Statistics for Colorado

College students in Colorado can choose from 53 four-year and 34 two-year institutions. Students considering an online degree may find it promising that more Coloradans participate in distance education than the national average.

The state spends less on postsecondary education appropriations per full-time student compared to the national average. Colorado also allocates a smaller percentage of tax revenue to higher education than most other places. Despite its reduced spending on higher education, the state still boasts a more educated populace than average, with 25.2% of the population aged 25 or older holding a bachelor’s degree.

Higher Education in Colorado
CO DataNational Data
Number of Four-Year Colleges533,004
Number of Two-Year Colleges341,579
Percentage of Students Enrolled in Distance Education36%34.7%
Postsecondary Education Appropriations per Full-Time Student$4,653$8,196
Percent of Tax Revenue Allocated to Higher Education3.4%5.8%
Percentage of Adults Over 25 With an Associate Degree8.4%8.4%
Percentage of Adults Over 25 With a Bachelor’s Degree25.2%19.4%
Percentage of Adults Over 25 With a Graduate Degree or Higher15%12.1%
Sources: NCES, SHEEO, U.S. Census Bureau – American Community Survey

Accreditation for Colorado Schools

Accreditation is a voluntary evaluation process that schools use to demonstrate they meet minimum standards. Colorado universities can hold regional or national accreditation. Regional accreditation is much more popular and prestigious than national accreditation. Students who attend regionally accredited colleges find it easier to transfer credit to another institution, qualify for federal financial aid, get into graduate school, and obtain professional certifications.

When choosing an online school in Colorado, look for those accredited by the Higher Learning Commission, the regional accrediting agency that evaluates postsecondary institutions in the state. Prospective students should also look for education programs accredited by the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation, a specialized agency that sets standards for educator preparation accreditation.

Considerations for a Teaching Degree in Colorado

There are many factors to consider for prospective students considering a teaching degree. The data below can help you figure out if Colorado is the right place to look for teaching programs. We explain different degree levels, explore which grade or subject level to teach, and examine differences between online, in-person, and hybrid programs. We also describe options for paying for your teaching degree in Colorado.

Teaching Degree Levels

The level of teaching degree you pursue impacts your school choice. Below, we explain the differences between an associate, bachelor’s, master’s, and doctorate in teaching.

Associate Degree in Teaching

An associate degree in teaching prepares students to become preschool teachers, teacher’s assistants/aides, paraprofessional educators, and childcare workers. A teaching associate program takes two years to complete. Common specializations include early childhood education, child development, elementary education, and general education.

Bachelor’s Degree in Teaching

A bachelor’s degree qualifies graduates to apply for their teaching license and work as teachers at K-12 public schools in Colorado. Potential jobs include elementary school teacher, middle school teacher, high school teacher, and special education teacher. Typical concentrations include elementary education, special education, secondary education, and English as a second language. Bachelor’s degrees in teaching typically require four years of full-time study to complete.

Master’s Degree in Teaching

Though a master’s degree is not required to become an educator in Colorado, the advanced credentials can improve salary potential and career opportunities. Administrative positions, like principal or school superintendent, may require a master’s. A teaching master’s degree usually takes two years to complete. Typical specializations include special education, school administration, math and science education, and English as a second language.

Ph.D. in Teaching

The terminal degree in the field, a doctorate in teaching prepares students for high-level careers in school administration, postsecondary education, and public policy. Doctoral education students can earn a Ph.D., which focuses on original research, or an Ed.D., which emphasizes hands-on experience. Doctoral education programs offer concentrations in higher education, educational administration, instructional leadership, and elementary education.

What Grade or Subject Will You Want To Teach?

The age or subject you plan to teach impacts the type of degree and concentration you choose. For example, to teach special education in Colorado you must hold a teaching license with an endorsement in special education. This requires a bachelor’s degree with a concentration or coursework in special education. Deciding what age or subject you want to teach before choosing a program ensures that you meet licensing requirements after graduation.


Preschool teachers in Colorado benefit from earning an associate degree or bachelor’s degree with a concentration in early childhood education or child development. However, preschool teachers can meet credentialing requirements without a degree by demonstrating experience or knowledge in other ways. Preschool teachers with higher degrees may receive better career opportunities or salaries.

Elementary School

Teaching elementary school requires a bachelor’s degree at minimum. Elementary school teachers usually add a concentration in elementary education. Those with a master’s degree often earn higher salaries.

Middle School

Middle school teachers need at least a bachelor’s degree and usually specialize in the subject area they plan to teach. A master’s degree leads to better job opportunities and pay.

High School

Teaching high school requires a bachelor’s degree. High school teachers need a concentration in the subject they plan to teach. Many high school teachers earn a bachelor’s in the subject they teach and a master’s in education.

Special Education

To teach special education requires a bachelor’s degree and a concentration or coursework in special education. Earning a master’s degree can increase career opportunities and pay. A Ph.D. can open the door to research and policy positions.

On-Campus Versus Online Program Options

Students choose from on-campus, online, and hybrid teaching programs. Below, we describe the differences between these learning formats and how to choose the right one for you.

On-Campus Programs

Colorado offers many traditional, on-campus teaching programs. Ideal students for this type of degree include those coming straight from high school who seek a classic college experience. Other types of learners may also prefer the structure of in-person classes that require weekly attendance in a specific time and place.

Online Programs

Online teaching programs offer benefits like convenience and flexibility for full-time workers and others with significant time commitments. Most distance education programs let learners log on to the virtual classroom and complete assignments whenever and wherever they want. This lets students fit school around their current life. Online programs often attract working professionals, those who have been out of school for a while, and others who need flexibility.

Hybrid Programs

Hybrid programs differ from a fully online degree experience, with some mandatory in-person requirements. Hybrid degrees may require students to come to campus a few times during the program or offer some classes online and some in person. Most hybrid teaching programs require a significant in-person student teaching component.
Percentage of Students Enrolled in Distance Education
Enrolled Exclusively in Distance Education CoursesEnrolled in Some but Not All Distance Education CoursesNot Enrolled in Any Distance Education Courses
CO Students23%12.9%64.2%
United States Students16.3%18.4%65.3%
Source: NCES

Paying for Your Teaching Degree

Qualifying for in-state tuition rates is one of the best ways to pay less for a teaching degree in Colorado. Students who pay in-state tuition save more than $20,000 a year to attend a four-year public university. Colorado residents attending a two-year public college pay nearly $7,000 less than out-of-state learners. Coloradans pay slightly more than the national average for in-state tuition at two-year and four-year public schools, but less than average to attend private postsecondary institutions.

Colorado schools offer a variety of financing options to help students pay for their education degrees, including scholarships, grants, fellowships, and loans. Some Colorado teachers who commit to teaching in high-need schools qualify for the federal Teacher Loan Forgiveness program.

Average Cost of College Tuition and Fees in CO, 2017-2018
Average In-State Tuition and Fees (Public Four-Year)$9,540$9,037
Average Out-of-State Tuition and Fees (Public Four-Year)$29,846$25,657
Average Tuition and Fees (Private Four-Year)$22,873$30,731
Average In-State Tuition and Fees (Public Two-Year)$3,638$3,243
Average Out-of-State Tuition and Fees (Public Two-Year)$10,354$7,971
Source: NCES

In-State Versus Out-of-State Tuition

Unsurprisingly, in-state tuition in Colorado costs much less than out-of-state tuition. Students must prove legal residency to pay in-state tuition. However, some schools may offer a tuition discount for online learners in other states.

Some learners in other states can save on tuition by applying for tuition reciprocity through the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education (WICHE). Colorado and 15 other states and territories belong to WICHE, the biggest regional interstate tuition savings program in the U.S. Eligible undergraduate students in the Western Undergraduate Exchange pay no more than 150% of in-state tuition to attend eligible programs outside of their home state. Graduate students may qualify for tuition savings through the Western Regional Graduate Program.

Colorado’s Cost of Living

Colorado’s cost of living index score of 105.6 indicates that living in the state costs more than the national average. Coloradans spend nearly 6% more on basic essentials like transportation, utilities, and groceries. Colorado residents face particularly expensive housing costs, paying nearly 20% more than the national average for housing. Consider researching the down payment assistance program that helps teachers buy homes in the Colorado communities where they teach.

Other School Selection Criteria

Other key factors to consider when choosing your school may include:

How Long Does the Program Take?

Program length varies by number of required credits, program schedule/class availability, and full-time, part-time, and accelerated options.

Do You Meet Program Requirements?

If you plan to apply to a competitive school, research its rate of acceptance and the average test scores/GPA of admitted students.

What Admissions Materials Do You Need to Submit?

Typical requirements include SAT/ACT or GRE scores, official transcripts, letters of recommendation, and a statement of purpose or admission essay. Application fees vary by program.

How Big is the School?

Some students prefer a large university while others thrive on a smaller campus. Regardless of school size, always check the student-to-faculty ratio — lower numbers means more opportunities for individualized interaction with professors.

What Extracurricular Activities Does the School Offer?

If planning to attend in person, look into student clubs, sports teams, and volunteer or community service opportunities.

Does the Program Prioritize Staff and Faculty Diversity?

Seek out schools that value multiple perspectives.

What Student Services Does the School Offer?

Look for a career development office, free tutoring, and access to library resources and research services. Distance learners should make sure the school offers adequate IT support.

Teaching in Colorado

A strong economy, beautiful outdoors amenities, and the relatively high percentage of adults with a college degree make Colorado an attractive place to live and teach. The high cost of living and lower-than-average Colorado teacher salary may dissuade some from pursuing a career in the state. However, Denver Public Schools and the Denver Classroom Teachers Association came to an agreement in 2019 to increase teacher compensation by 11% and provide incentives to educators in high-poverty schools.

Major Colorado school districts include Jefferson County, Denver County, Cherry Creek, and Douglas County. The Cherry Creek district increased by nearly 45% between 1990 and 2000. Colorado faces a teacher shortage, particularly for rural schools and in some specific subject areas, which may make it easier for new teachers to find jobs.

Read on for more about how to become a teacher in Colorado. We discuss the steps to becoming a teacher, education and student teaching requirements, and the process of teacher certification and licensure in Colorado. We also cover alternative paths to becoming a teacher in Colorado and the process of finding a teaching job.

How to Become a Teacher in Colorado

Each state sets its own regulations and rules for becoming a teacher, and state teaching licenses do not just transfer seamlessly. The rules for how to become a teacher in Colorado mirror the requirements of many other states. To become a kindergarten, elementary, middle, or high school teacher or to teach special education at a public school requires a bachelor’s degree at minimum and completion of an approved teacher preparation program.

To receive a teaching certificate, Colorado requires educators to obtain an endorsement for the subject or grade level they plan to teach. The time it takes to become a teacher in Colorado varies depending on whether you pursue a bachelor’s in education or hold a bachelor’s in another subject and choose alternative licensure.

Steps to Becoming a Colorado Teacher

  • Earn a bachelor’s degree from a regionally accredited college.
  • Complete an approved teacher preparation program. This must include at least 24 credits of specific coursework if pursuing grades 7-12 endorsements, early childhood education, and some K-12 endorsements.
  • Complete student teaching clinical hours.
  • Take and pass a Board of Education-approved Praxis content test, which proves competency in each endorsement sought. Alternatively, demonstrate content-area knowledge by degree, depending on content area.
  • Special education generalists (teaching ages 5-21) must pass the elementary education and the special education generalist content exams.
  • Submit fingerprints to the Colorado Bureau of Investigation and pass a criminal background check.
  • Apply for an initial teacher’s license (issued for three years) and the appropriate endorsement through the Colorado Department of Education.

Education Requirements for Colorado Teachers

Colorado educators who teach in public K-12 schools need a bachelor’s degree from a regionally accredited university, which typically takes four years to complete. All licensed educators must complete state-approved teacher preparation programs, either as part of or separately from a bachelor’s program.

A master’s degree is not required to teach most grades/subjects in Colorado, but the designation can expand career opportunities and increase salary potential. Some special teaching endorsements in Colorado may require a master’s, including those for gifted education specialist, special education specialist, and special education specialist: deaf and hard of hearing. Most teaching master’s programs take two years to complete.

The Colorado Department of Education suggests that instructional paraprofessionals and teaching assistants should hold at least a high school diploma. It also recommends they demonstrate subject matter competency by earning an associate degree, completing two years of college, or passing a formal assessment.

Teacher Certification and Licensure in Colorado

This section covers how to obtain a teaching license in Colorado. The Colorado Department of Education practices a tiered licensing system, offering initial, professional, and master certificate teaching licenses based on teacher experience.

New teachers apply for a three-year initial teacher license, renewable just once. The professional license, good for five years, requires teachers to hold an initial license and complete an approved teacher induction program. Educators can renew a professional license by completing six credits from a regionally accredited college, which can include up to 90 credits of professional development.

The highest teaching license in Colorado, the master certificate, lasts seven years. Eligible teachers hold a professional teaching license and must earn a National Board for Professional Teaching Standards certificate or demonstrate excellence in a set of state-issued standards.

To receive licensure, Colorado teachers need a grade- or subject-specific endorsement for their area(s) or specialization. They earn endorsements by completing a content exam, specific coursework, a degree, or an approved program. The state offers many endorsements, including in elementary education, secondary mathematics, and music. Special education educators choose from six special education endorsements, each with its own requirements. Some positions require multiple endorsements.

Student Teaching and Other Required Experience

The Colorado Department of Education requires 800 hours of student teaching. Prospective educators meet this criteria when completing their state-approved teacher preparation program. The requirement does not vary based on grade level or subject taught. To move from an initial license to a professional license, applicants complete a teacher induction program

Teachers in Colorado renew their professional license every five years. To qualify for renewal, they complete professional development activities totaling six semester hours or 90 clock hours. Professional development can include college credit, in-service education, educational travel, and internships. The continuing education must increase competence in the license-holder’s endorsement area, delivering instruction, or teaching literacy or numeracy.

Alternative Paths to Becoming a Colorado Teacher

Colorado offers an alternative pathway to becoming a teacher for those with a non-education bachelor’s degree from a regionally accredited university. Alternative teacher candidates immediately begin working in schools while receiving teacher training in a one-year or two-year alternative teacher preparation program. To qualify, applicants complete a criminal background check and pass the content test relevant to the grade or subject they plan to teach.

Out-of-state teaching licenses do not “transfer” to Colorado, but the state does offer conditional teaching license reciprocity. Teachers from other states can meet Colorado’s licensure requirements if they:

  • Hold a valid teaching license from another state with an endorsement identical to Colorado’s and can document at least three years of professional teaching experience in the last seven years. Or,
  • For those who do not meet the requirements above, the state can evaluate their out-of-state teaching license to determine if Colorado issues a comparable endorsement. If not, the state can help the applicant figure out how to meet Colorado’s requirements.

Finding a Teaching Job in Colorado

To find a teaching job in Colorado, grow your professional network by attending job fairs, joining educator organizations, and attending conferences. The Colorado Education Association organizes conferences and professional learning opportunities that offer the chance to make meaningful connections. Ask mentors, former teachers, and current and past colleagues for job leads and recommendations. You can also search for teaching jobs using the websites below.

  • Denver Public Schools CareersOne of the biggest public school districts in the state, Denver Public Schools employs more than 4,000 teachers. Its career portal includes frequently updated job openings and information about working for the district.
  • Colorado Association of School Executives Career CenterCASE’s career center includes a searchable database of teaching and school administration jobs located throughout Colorado.
  • K12JobSpotThis popular job board collates teaching jobs from districts throughout the state.
  • IndeedA popular national job board, Indeed finds Colorado teacher job openings from across the internet.

Notable Colorado Schools and Districts

  • Denver Public Schools

    One of the biggest school districts in the state, DPS serves students in the city and county of Denver, Colorado’s most populous city. DPS operates more than 200 traditional, charter, and magnet schools.

  • Cherry Creek Schools

    CCSD serves more than 55,000 students who regularly score above state averages on standardized tests. More than 79% of the district’s faculty hold advanced degrees. The district offers student teaching opportunities, internships, and job fairs where teachers can find out about open positions.

  • Boulder Valley School District

    One of the top Front Range school districts, BVSD boasts a graduation rate of 91.3%, about 10% higher than the state’s average. The district includes 56 schools and covers more than 500 square miles. On BVSD’s website, prospective teachers can find information about open positions, job fairs, and employee benefits.

Colorado Teacher Salaries

The average Colorado teacher salary — $53,301 — is $8,429 less than the national average for public elementary and secondary teachers. Teacher assistants in Colorado make about $3,000 more than the national average.

Teachers in Colorado can earn more by gaining professional experience and earning higher degrees. Educators with a bachelor’s degree just starting out earn an average of $41,180, while a teacher with a master’s degree and comparable experience makes $49,450 on average. Other factors like school district also affect compensation.

The tables below compare salaries of education professionals in Colorado to the national average for those occupations. The data also explores average salaries for Colorado teachers by degree and years of experience.

Colorado Teacher Salaries

Average Annual Salary of Public Elementary and Secondary Teachers, 2018-19

Average Annual Salary

Colorado Teachers

Average Annual Salary



Source: NCES

Annual Mean Wage by Teaching Level in Colorado, 2019

Annual Base Salary of Elementary and Secondary Teachers by Education and Experience, 2017-18

0-2 Years3-5 Years6-10 Years11-20 Years20+ YearsAverage, All Levels
CO Teachers with a Bachelor’s$41,180$39,510$45,000$45,970$43,740
National Average of Teachers with a Bachelor’s$42,440$44,490$46,990$54,380$60,770$49,890
CO Teachers with a Master’s$49,540$48,810$60,740$63,580$56,140
National Average of Teachers with a Master’s$51,050$56,140$65,700$73,430$63,120
Sources: NCES, NCES

Colorado Trends in Education

Statistics Surrounding Colorado Schools and Education

Total Students, All Grades911,536, 2018-1956.4 million, Fall 2020
Pupil/Teacher Ratio17-to-1, 2018-1916-to-1, 2016
Per-Pupil Expenditure, 2018$10,238$12,654
Change in Public Elementary and Secondary School Enrollment, 2017-2020+26%+7%
Projected Change in Public Elementary and Secondary School Enrollment, 2017-2029+4%+1%
Adjusted Cohort Graduation Rate (ACGR) for Public High School Students, 2017-1881%85%
Full-Time Equivalent (FTE) Teachers53,147, 2018-193.7 million, Fall 2020
Percentage of Teachers 55 or Older, 2017-201810%16.5%
Source: NTPS, NCES

An increase in people moving to Colorado caused public elementary and secondary school enrollment to grow by 26% from 2017 to 2020 — much more than the national average growth of 7%. The projected change in enrollment for 2017 to 2029 in Colorado is 4%, still higher than the national anticipated average of 1% growth. The faster-than-average growth in school enrollment may increase the demand for teachers in the state, a potential boon for newly minted educators.

Number of Public Schools by Level, 2017-18

Combined Elementary and Secondary1676,278
Special Education61,903
One-Teacher Schools0188
Source: NCES

CO Employment by Teaching Level

Teaching LevelCO EmploymentCO Projected Growth, 2018-28National EmploymentNational Projected Growth, 2018-28
Teacher Assistants20,390+16.0%1,380,300+4.0%
Substitute Teachers615,700+3.3%
Preschool Teachers8,910+19.6%523,600+7%
Special Education, Preschool890+15.7%24,000+7.9%
Kindergarten Teachers3,640+15.9%134,500+3.9%
Elementary School Teachers24,990+15.5%1,434,400+3.3%
Special Education, Kindergarten and Elementary School3,52014.8%184,300+2.8%
Middle School Teachers13,110+15.7%615,700+3.5%
Special Education, Middle School1,800+15.0%86,800+2.8%
Secondary School Teachers17,000+15.8%1,072,500+3.6%
Special Education, Secondary School2,300+16.1%142,000+3.0%
Source: Projections Central

The BLS projects faster-than-average growth for a variety of teaching occupations in Colorado. Increased demand for teaching occupations may translate to better job opportunities for new educators. Although the state pays teachers less than the national average, those who earn a master’s degree can make more than similarly educated teachers in other states. Earning a master’s in education offers a promising route for the best teaching salaries in Colorado.


Frequently Asked Questions

Does Colorado have online teaching programs?

Yes. Colorado features a variety of distance education teaching programs at different degree levels. However, education students earning otherwise online degrees must still complete in-person student teaching hours.

How do you get a teaching license in Colorado?

To get a teaching certificate, Colorado requires a bachelor’s degree and completion of an approved teacher preparation program that includes student teaching. Prospective teachers must also pass a Praxis content test in each area of endorsement they seek.

Do you need a master’s to teach in Colorado?

No, you rarely need a master’s to teach in the state. Teaching in Colorado requires a bachelor’s degree at minimum. However, earning a master’s degree in education can improve your salary potential.

Can you be a teacher without a teaching degree in Colorado?

Yes. Colorado offers an alternative licensure pathway for individuals who hold a bachelor’s in a field other than teaching. They must complete an approved teacher preparation program and meet other requirements for teacher licensure in Colorado.

How much do teachers make in Colorado?

The average Colorado teacher salary is $53,301, but it varies by grade and subject taught, degree held, and years of experience. The average salary of elementary school teachers in Colorado is $54,670. On the other hand, the average salary of preschool teachers in Colorado is only $34,440. High school teachers in the state make $56,370.

Is there a teacher shortage in Colorado?

Yes. Colorado’s teacher shortage is particularly problematic in rural areas. Statewide, schools need more teachers who specialize in subjects like secondary math and science, linguistics, and special education.

Professional Teaching Organizations in Colorado

  • Colorado Education AssociationThe largest teacher’s union in Colorado, CEA represents more than 38,000 teachers, education support professionals, and retired educators. Members benefit from the group’s advocacy efforts, advice, and resources.
  • Professional Association of Colorado EducatorsA state chapter of the Association of American Educators, PACE is a statewide professional organization of educators. Members get access to scholarships and grants, newsletters, legal protection, and a discount program.
  • Colorado Association of Science TeachersCAST supports science education and science educators in Colorado. The organization offers professional development and networking opportunities, classroom mini-grants, awards, and an individual membership to the Denver Museum of Nature and Science.
  • Colorado Department of EducationNew teachers can find a wealth of resources through the Colorado ED, including educator preparation, licensing information, a jobs database, and academic standards.

Related Reading

Teaching Programs in Colorado

Only you can decide which teaching program is right for you. The following list is a good starting point for your research on some of the best teaching programs in Colorado. All schools on this list are regionally accredited.