How To Become a Teacher in Wisconsin
At the heart of “America’s Dairyland,” Wisconsin ranks among the national leaders of milk and cheese production, manufacturing, and agriculture. Emerging from a decade-long teacher shortage, Wisconsin also offers lucrative teaching careers to licensed educators.
In Wisconsin, earning a teaching degree at any level can lead to career opportunities in education. Wisconsin’s residents hold associate degrees at a higher rate than the national average. Teachers in the state require a bachelor’s degree to qualify for state certification, the state offers many alternative paths to licensure. Wisconsin also provides financial incentives to aspiring teachers in high-need districts.
Many schools also incentivize teaching in Wisconsin by offering convenient online degrees. Such programs may offer accelerated completion times and flexible enrollment options, potentially reducing tuition costs. Most accredited teaching degrees in Wisconsin allow students to complete their degree and the state-required teacher training program concurrently.
The following guide comprehensively explains how to become a teacher in Wisconsin.
Wisconsin at a Glance
|Per Capita Income||$34,568|
|Full-Time Equivalent Teachers||59,484|
|Number of Public School Districts||464|
|Number of Public K-12 Schools||2,255|
|Number of Higher Learning Institutions||31|
Average Annual Temperature: 43.1 ℉
Annual Precipitation: 32.6 inches
|Major Sports Teams|
Green Bay Packers
Top Wisconsin Schools for Teaching
- Maranatha Baptist University
- University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point
- University of Wisconsin-Stout
- University of Wisconsin-Superior
- University of Wisconsin-River Falls
- Concordia University-Wisconsin
- Lakeland University
Why Go to College for Education in Wisconsin?
Students enrolled in teaching programs in Wisconsin enjoy numerous benefits, especially for studying online. The percentage of Wisconsinites enrolled in distance-based higher education programs (45.2%) exceeds the national figure of 34.7%, as shown below. Wisconsin also offers tuition rates lower than the national average for nearly every type of school except private four-year and public two-year institutions.
Many Wisconsin schools enable students to complete their online teaching degree while fulfilling in-person requirements at locations near their homes. Distance learners may also enjoy in-state tuition rates, regardless of their resident state. While most teachers in Wisconsin work in elementary schools, the state offers teaching preparation programs in all grades and subjects.
Featured Online Programs
Education ranks second on the list of popular online majors at the University of Wisconsin. With incentives including performance-based compensation and additional pay for working in high-need schools, the state encourages students to pursue lucrative careers in education. Wisconsin’s population of 59,484 full-time teachers guided students to a 90% high school graduation rate in 2017-18.
Postsecondary Education Statistics for Wisconsin
Wisconsin houses 84 two- and four-year colleges, each offering a unique path toward a teaching career. College students in Wisconsin prefer learning online, with more students enrolled in distance education than the national average. Among degree-holders, associate-level graduates over 25 in Wisconsin surpass the national total for this degree.
|WI Data||National Data|
|Number of Four-Year Colleges||66||3,004|
|Number of Two-Year Colleges||18||1,579|
|Percentage of Students Enrolled in Distance Education||45.2%||34.7%|
|Postsecondary Education Appropriations per Full-Time Student||$6,846||$8,196|
|Percent of Tax Revenue Allocated to Higher Education||5.2%||5.8%|
|Percentage of Adults Over 25 With an Associate Degree||10.7%||8.4%|
|Percentage of Adults Over 25 With a Bachelor’s Degree||19.4%||19.4%|
|Percentage of Adults Over 25 With a Graduate Degree or Higher||10.1%||12.1%|
Accreditation for Wisconsin Schools
Students pursuing a teaching degree should only consider accredited schools. While schools may receive regional or national accreditation, regional accreditation typically applies to nonprofit institutions, with national accrediting agencies serving for-profit and community colleges. Accreditation ensures that a program meets stringent performance standards.
As the regional accrediting body for many midwestern states, the Higher Learning Commission accredits some of the best schools in Wisconsin. Other schools in the state receive national accreditation through an agency approved by the U.S. Department of Education and the Council for Higher Education Accreditation.
Many education programs also receive programmatic accreditation through an agency such as the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE). Such accreditation ensures that an education program prepares students properly for certification and field experience.
Considerations for a Teaching Degree in Wisconsin
Students considering teaching in Wisconsin must weigh many factors to find the right program. Many begin by deciding whether to pursue an online or campus-based program. More than 45% of Wisconsin college students study online, compared to 34.7% nationwide.
Other critical factors include paying for school, degree level, and grade and subject specializations. Nearly all types of colleges in Wisconsin offer lower tuition rates than the national average, especially public four-year universities.
Teaching Degree Levels
While the state requires a bachelor’s degree for initial teaching certification, degrees at every level can prepare students for teaching in Wisconsin. Each degree type offers opportunities for students to specialize in a particular grade level or subject, preparing graduates for certification in an area of expertise.
Associate Degree in TeachingEarning a two-year associate degree in teaching can prepare students to become early childhood educators (birth through pre-K) in Wisconsin. Graduates of associate programs may also go on to pursue a bachelor’s degree, which is the minimum education requirement for Wisconsinites to obtain licensure to teach grades K-12.
Bachelor’s Degree in TeachingAs the minimum education requirement for teacher certification, an accredited bachelor’s program includes a teacher training component. Students typically choose a major and pursue endorsement in an area such as elementary education or special education. Aspiring teachers with a bachelor’s degree in a non-education major may choose a general education program. Graduates of a four-year bachelor’s in education may also pursue education administration careers.
Master’s Degree in TeachingStudents aspiring to a specialized area of teaching in Wisconsin may pursue a master’s degree, which takes 1-3 years to complete. Schools may offer a master of education (M.Ed.) to prepare students for careers in fields such as administrative leadership or curriculum and instruction. A master of arts in teaching program develops direct teaching skills. Students may also pursue a master’s in a particular teaching subject or grade level.
Ph.D. in TeachingEarning a Ph.D. in teaching can lead to a career as a postsecondary instructor. Doctoral degrees in education can also prepare students for educational research and policy careers. Some schools offer similar terminal degrees such as the doctor of education (Ed.D.), leading to jobs in educational administration and leadership. A Ph.D. or Ed.D. typically takes 4-6 years to complete.
What Grade or Subject Will You Want To Teach?
Degree-seekers interested in teaching in Wisconsin should consider which grade or teaching subject they prefer. Since Wisconsin grants certification to teachers based on the age of their students and the subject they plan to teach, aspiring teachers can earn a degree in a concentration aligned with their individual career goals.
On-Campus Versus Online Program Options
Schools offer programs in a variety of learning styles for students interested in teaching in Wisconsin. Many schools enable students to choose whether to attend an on-campus, online, or hybrid program.
|Enrolled Exclusively in Distance Education Courses||Enrolled in Some but Not All Distance Education Courses||Not Enrolled in Any Distance Education Courses|
|United States Students||16.3%||18.4%||65.3%|
Paying for Your Teaching Degree
Part of learning how to become a teacher in Wisconsin involves researching degree-financing options. Most college students require financial aid to pay for their teaching degree. Schools typically require students to submit the FAFSA to determine their eligibility for financial aid, which may include federal funding, scholarships, fellowships, grants, and loans.
As shown below, the average cost of tuition and fees for most types of schools in Wisconsin is lower than the national average. Public four-year institutions in Wisconsin offer average savings of more than $2,100 compared to national tuition rates. Wisconsin supports loan forgiveness and cancellation programs for teachers, including TEACH grants, through the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction (DPI). Learn more at the links below.
|Average In-State Tuition and Fees (Public Four-Year)||$8,475||$9,037|
|Average Out-of-State Tuition and Fees (Public Four-Year)||$23,500||$25,657|
|Average Tuition and Fees (Private Four-Year)||$33,156||$30,731|
|Average In-State Tuition and Fees (Public Two-Year)||$4,337||$3,243|
|Average Out-of-State Tuition and Fees (Public Two-Year)||$6,257||$7,971|
In-State Versus Out-of-State Tuition
Among the many perks of online learning, in-state tuition rates can make earning a degree especially affordable for nonresident students. Many Wisconsin schools offer online teaching degrees with in-state tuition rates for distance learners regardless of their state of residence. Schools such as the University of Wisconsin and Marquette University offer set per-credit rates for online coursework.
Wisconsin also engages in a reciprocity agreement with surrounding states through the Midwest Student Exchange Program (MSEP) under the broader Midwestern Higher Education Compact. MSEP represents the largest program of its kind in the Midwest, enabling nonresident students at participating schools to pay in-state or discounted tuition rates.
Wisconsin’s Cost of Living
Beyond the cost of attending college, the cost of living in a particular state impacts a student’s choice of where to learn. Wisconsin offers a lower cost of living (97.3) than the national average of 100. Among the notable sub-factors contributing to this score: Wisconsinites also enjoy housing, utilities, and transportation costs below the national average.
Other School Selection Criteria
Students often consider a long list of crucial factors that can impact their school selection process. Such considerations may include:
Teaching in Wisconsin
Wisconsin ranks among the top 15 states in the nation for education. Specifically, U.S. News & World Report ranks Wisconsin 11th in higher education and 16th in preK-12 education.
The state boasts a favorable high school graduation rate (88.2%) and statewide NAEP math score (288). On both counts, Wisconsin ranks above the respective national averages.
The Nation’s Report Card shows math, reading, and science scores among fourth- and eighth-graders in Wisconsin increasingly exceeding the national average for multiple consecutive years. Middle school teachers, the second-highest-paid group of educators in Wisconsin, help prepare students for these achievements.
Wisconsin includes more than 2,000 public schools in 421 public school districts. The state enrolls nearly 855,000 students, with the majority considered economically disadvantaged. While large districts in Milwaukee, Madison, and Kenosha employ the most teachers, the DPI recently launched the Rural School Teacher Talent Pilot Program to drive incentive for educators in these areas.
Additionally, the DPI created the Model to Inform Culturally Responsive Practice in 2017 to address education gaps between white and minority student groups. This initiative includes access to Embracing Equity, a free comprehensive online course for educators, to promote the DPI’s long-range vision of “every child, a graduate.”
How to Become a Teacher in Wisconsin
Pursuing teaching in Wisconsin involves a unique process specific to educators in this state. Teachers who earn a license in Wisconsin cannot simply transfer their credentials out of state. Based on qualifications and experience, Wisconsin follows a tiered licensing structure for teachers in this order: provisional, professional, and master’s.
Most students complete a bachelor’s degree in pursuit of a provisional (initial) teaching license in Wisconsin. Candidates must hold a degree from an accredited school with a DPI-approved teacher training program. Applicants must also pass the Praxis Core exam and any additional Praxis subject tests in their specialty.
Often embedded within a teaching degree, teacher training programs include field practicums and student teaching requirements to supplement education coursework. Students must complete a minimum of 80 hours in a field practicum, and spend 5-6 hours per day as a student teacher, for at least one full semester.
Steps to Becoming a Wisconsin Teacher
- Step 1: Earn a bachelor’s degree in a field such as early childhood education, elementary education, middle school education, secondary education, or special education. The degree from an accredited institution must include a state-approved teacher-training program.
- Step 2: Take and pass the Praxis Core Academic Skills for Educators exam.
- Step 3: Take and pass the Praxis content knowledge assessment for a particular grade level and/or teaching subject as follows:
- 3a: Early Childhood (Birth-3): Elementary education content knowledge
- 3b: Elementary and Middle School (K-9): Middle school content knowledge
- 3c: Middle and High School (4-12): Computer science, English language arts, mathematics, science, or social studies content knowledge
- 3d: PreK-12 (subject tests): Subjects vary from agriculture education to theatre
- 3e: Early Childhood Special Education: Elementary education content knowledge
- 3f: Special Education (Blind and visually impaired, cross-categorical preK-12, or deaf and hard of hearing): Middle school content knowledge
- Step 4: Submit fingerprints and undergo a criminal background check.
Education Requirements for Wisconsin Teachers
While earning a degree is the first step toward teaching in Wisconsin, the state offers a variety of paths to licensure. Learners can pursue a degree at any level and in their choice of specialization. Like any profession, the average salary of teachers in Wisconsin reflects their credentials and experience.
Pursuing a license for teaching in Wisconsin requires a bachelor’s degree, typically completed over a four-year period. Wisconsinites with a bachelor’s degree in a non-education major may pursue an alternative path to licensure. Alternative licensing paths often prove ideal for students with a degree in a teaching shortage area or at least three years of unlicensed teaching experience (e.g., in a private school). Some learners pursue a master’s degree to change careers or achieve additional certification.
To qualify for the necessary Praxis exams, students must complete an accredited bachelor’s degree and a teacher training program, which includes student teaching in the classroom. Aspiring pre-K and elementary teachers complete a broad curriculum in multiple teaching subjects, while middle and high school teachers specialize in one or more subjects. Students may also earn a degree in special education or English as a second language.
Teacher Certification and Licensure in Wisconsin
Wisconsin teachers in public K-12 schools must hold a state-issued teaching license. Private schools and alternative learning institutions do not maintain the same universal standards for teacher licensure. Wisconsin requires aspiring teachers to take and pass ETS’ Praxis Core Academic Skills for Educators exam to receive initial licensure. The test spans 4.5 hours.
Teachers must also pass the Praxis subject test(s) in their respective grade level and teaching subject(s). Early childhood, elementary, and middle school teachers can pursue general teaching certification per grade level. ETS administers Praxis subject tests in more than 90 individual teaching subjects for middle/high school and preK-12 teachers. Completion times vary, with fees between $50 and $170.
The DPI issues licenses to qualified teachers in Wisconsin and participates in the National Association of State Directors of Teacher Education and Certification, which dictates reciprocal out-of-state licensing terms. Initial (provisional) licensure lasts for three years, with unlimited renewals. Experienced teachers may apply for a lifetime (professional) license. Students may also pursue a one-year, three-year, or five-year substitute teaching license.
Student Teaching and Other Required Experience
Teaching in Wisconsin requires field practicums and student teaching experience. Many bachelor’s degrees in education include field experience as part of the state’s teacher training program requirements. All teachers in public preK-12 schools must complete a full-time, semester-long student teaching experience with their degree.
Most bachelor’s degrees in education also include field practicums. Like the student teaching component, practicum placement varies by grade and teaching subject. As an alternative pathway to licensure, graduates of a bachelor’s or master’s program in a non-education field may complete a standalone teacher training program at a DPI-approved facility.
Once teachers have completed six months of experience on their provisional license, they can apply for a professional license, renewable every five years. Teachers in this category must complete a minimum of six semester credits of continuing education units (CEUs) and undergo a background check during each renewal period. Students may apply for a one-year, nonrenewable extension to meet professional license CEU requirements.
Alternative Paths to Becoming a Wisconsin Teacher
Many aspiring teachers in Wisconsin pursue a bachelor’s degree and initial teaching licensure in the state after graduating from high school. Others seek an alternative path toward becoming a teacher in Wisconsin. The DPI offers several programs to accommodate students who do not meet the traditional criteria for a provisional teaching license but possess unique education or experience.
For example, graduates of a bachelor’s program in a non-education field may return to school to earn a master’s degree and complete a teacher training program through the post-baccalaureate pathway. Students who hold a degree in a teaching subject shortage area may qualify for licensure in that area. Others may qualify for licensure in a grade or teaching subject in which they possess at least three years of experience — at a private school, for example.
Out-of-state teachers may apply for initial licensure in Wisconsin. The DPI offers three tiers of substitute teacher licensing: short-term, long-term, and temporary substitute teachers in an area outside of their specialty. Since substitutes must complete a substitute training program to qualify for licensure, they may apply for initial teaching licensure only after completing a general teacher training program.
Finding a Teaching Job in Wisconsin
Students can access a variety of career resources to pursue teaching in Wisconsin. Beyond local events like job fairs and annual education conferences, many professional organizations specializing in teaching jobs maintain active online hubs. Job seekers should also seek out mentor recommendations and networking opportunities. The following job boards consistently promote lucrative teaching jobs in Wisconsin.
- Wisconsin Education Career Access Network This one-stop resource enables students to submit a single application to qualify for K-12 teaching jobs across all public school districts in Wisconsin.
- Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction The DPI offers open positions for teachers in Wisconsin categorized by public school, private school, or out-of-state teaching credentials.
- Indeed.com Aspiring teachers in Wisconsin can search Indeed for jobs in various specializations of education and specific locations across the state.
- K12JobSpot.com Students can search this board for teaching jobs by preferred grade level and job type, including full-time, part-time, and seasonal schedules.
Notable Wisconsin Schools and Districts
Milwaukee Public Schools
Serving nearly 78,000 students and home to more than 160 public schools, MPS is the largest school district in Wisconsin. U.S. News & World Report named several high schools in this district among the best in the state. This district’s budget, which includes top salaries for high school and specialty teachers, exceeds one billion dollars. 82% of students qualify as economically disadvantaged.
Madison Metropolitan School District
Wisconsin’s second-largest school district, MMSD houses more than 27,000 students and 52 schools, with the majority dedicated to elementary education. Nearly 61% of teachers in this district hold a master’s degree or higher. MMSD boasts an 84% graduation rate and an overall literacy benchmark of 79%. Literacy increased by 7% overall and 13% among African American students in recent years.
Kenosha Unified School District
KUSD serves more than 21,000 students and houses more than 40 schools. The district boasts an attendance rate of nearly 93%. More than 60% of students in KUSD earned passing scores of three, four, or five on recently taken AP tests. KUSD features its own educational support center for students, faculty, and employees.
Wisconsin Teacher Salaries
Students interested in teaching in Wisconsin earn variable salaries based on the grade and subject they teach. While Wisconsin teachers may not always earn as much as the national occupational average, the state offers a variety of lucrative career options. Teacher assistants and substitute teachers, for example, earn well above the national average salary, as shown below.
Among educators, secondary school teachers in Wisconsin earn the highest mean salary ($59,180), followed closely by middle school teachers, who earn an annual mean salary of $58,940. While Wisconsin requires only a bachelor’s degree for licensure, teachers with a master’s degree earn $16,000 more on average than bachelor’s degree-holders with the same experience.
The table below suggests that elementary and secondary teachers with 0-2 years of experience and a bachelor’s degree can expect a base starting salary of $39,730. Beyond experience, other factors that may affect Wisconsin teacher salary averages include metro or rural districts, grade levels, and shortage subject areas.
Wisconsin Teacher Salaries
Average Annual Salary of Public Elementary and Secondary Teachers, 2018-19
Annual Mean Wage by Teaching Level in Wisconsin, 2019
|Special Education, Preschool||$44,970||$67,060|
|Elementary School Teachers||$57,980||$63,930|
|Special Education, Kindergarten and Elementary School||$56,820||$64,420|
|Middle School Teachers||$58,940||$63,550|
|Special Education, Middle School||$54,410||$65,740|
|Secondary School Teachers||$59,180||$65,930|
|Special Education, Secondary School||$55,080||$65,710|
Annual Base Salary of Elementary and Secondary Teachers by Education and Experience, 2017-18
|0-2 Years||3-5 Years||6-10 Years||11-20 Years||20+ Years||Average, All Levels|
|WI Teachers with a Bachelor’s||$39,730||$41,770||$43,620||$50,800||$53,810||$45,380|
|National Average of Teachers with a Bachelor’s||$42,440||$44,490||$46,990||$54,380||$60,770||$49,890|
|WI Teachers with a Master’s||$45,470||$52,090||$58,070||$65,120||$61,280|
|National Average of Teachers with a Master’s||$51,050||$56,140||$65,700||$73,430||$63,120|
Wisconsin Trends in Education
Statistics Surrounding Wisconsin Schools and Education
|Total Students, All Grades||859,333, 2018-19||56.4 million, Fall 2020|
|Pupil/Teacher Ratio||14.45, 2018-19||16.0, 2016|
|Per-Pupil Expenditure, 2018||$12,446||$12,654|
|Change in Public Elementary and Secondary School Enrollment, 2017-2020||-2%||+7%|
|Projected Change in Public Elementary and Secondary School Enrollment, 2017-2029||-3%||+1%|
|Adjusted Cohort Graduation Rate (ACGR) for Public High School Students, 2017-18||90%||85%|
|Full-Time Equivalent (FTE) Teachers||59,483.65, 2018-19||3.7 million, Fall 2020|
|Percentage of Teachers 55 or Older, 2017-2018||14.4%||16.5%|
Number of Public Schools by Level, 2017-18
WI Employment by Teaching Level
|Teaching Level||WI Employment||WI Projected Growth, 2018-28||National Employment||National Projected Growth, 2018-28|
|Special Education, Preschool||140||+7.1%||24,000||+7.9%|
|Elementary School Teachers||32,740||+5.7%||1,434,400||+3.3%|
|Special Education, Kindergarten and Elementary School||1,660||+4.8%||184,300||+2.8%|
|Middle School Teachers||14,800||+5.8%||615,700||+3.5%|
|Special Education, Middle School||860||+4.7%||86,800||+2.8%|
|Secondary School Teachers||21,450||+5.9%||1,072,500||+3.6%|
|Special Education, Secondary School||1,150||+5.2%||142,000||+3.0%|
Wisconsin employs a workforce of more than 59,000 full-time teachers, educating nearly 860,000 students across the state. In comparison to the national statistics, Wisconsin houses more elementary schools than other types and employs more elementary school teachers than other grade levels. Teacher assistants rank as the second-most populous employment group of teachers in Wisconsin.
The state holds job growth potential for teachers in competitive specializations. Special education preschool teachers, in particular, represent the smallest employment group (140) and the highest projected job growth rate (over 7% from 2018-2028). Projections for kindergarten teachers in Wisconsin also indicate high job growth potential (6.3%) over the same period.
Wisconsin can attribute several points of pride to its talented teaching community. As shown above, the state boasts a lower pupil-to-teacher ratio than the national figures. Wisconsin also nearly met the national per-pupil expenditure for education as of 2018. The state reported a 90% adjusted cohort graduation rate (ACGR) for public high school students for 2017-18, exceeding the national 85% ACGR for that year.
Frequently Asked Questions
Does Wisconsin have online teaching programs?
How do you get a teaching license in Wisconsin?
Do you need a master’s to teach in Wisconsin?
Can you be a teacher without a teaching degree in Wisconsin?
How much do teachers make in Wisconsin?
While salaries vary, teachers with a bachelor’s degree in Wisconsin can earn roughly $39,000-$54,000 per year. Public elementary and secondary school teachers in Wisconsin earn an average annual salary of $51,453.
Is there a teacher shortage in Wisconsin?
In response to its ongoing teacher shortage, Wisconsin developed the Talent Development Initiative in 2015 to increase education programs for teachers and provide alternative paths to licensure for high-quality educators in the state.
Professional Teaching Organizations in Wisconsin
- Wisconsin Education Association CouncilWEAC advocates for all 865,000 children enrolled in public schools in Wisconsin. As the state’s only organization created by educators for educators, its members include teachers, specialists, and counselors at all levels of practice.
- Association of American Educators – WisconsinThe Wisconsin branch of AAE offers professional, student, and retiree memberships. AAE members enjoy benefits including liability insurance, employee rights coverage, and access to classroom scholarships and grant opportunities.
- Wisconsin Early Childhood AssociationWECA is a branch of the National Association for the Education of Young Children. The organization offers four membership categories, from entry-level to family coverage. Benefits include online networking opportunities, insurance and retail discounts, and access to online courses.
- Wisconsin Parent Teacher AssociationFounded in 1910, Wisconsin’s PTA played an instrumental role in implementing required kindergarten education and teacher certification statewide. The Wisconsin PTA encourages literacy through educational programs and policy. Prospective PTA members may contact their school to join the organization.
Teaching Programs in Wisconsin
The following ranking of the best schools for teaching in Wisconsin includes only accredited programs. Students should confirm that their school holds legitimate national or regional accreditation by checking the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) site, which updates annually. In addition to maintaining institutional accreditation, the following schools successfully train students to become certified teachers in Wisconsin.