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Fingerprint Clearance Requirement

Arizona state law requires any person who participates in a teacher preparation program that is approved by the Arizona State Board of Education to obtain a fingerprint clearance card before participating in field experience in which services will be provided directly to pupils. Although Rio Salado College and Scottsdale Community College are the only State Board approved colleges in the Maricopa County Community College District, many school districts are requiring that college students be fingerprinted PRIOR to participating in field experiences at their schools.

For more information about fingerprint clearance cards, click here.


Secondary Education


In order to teach grades seven through twelve in Arizona’s public and most private and charter schools, you must have a Secondary Teaching Certificate. Secondary education requires a potential teacher to have in-depth knowledge of a specific academic area and the appropriate strategies and methodologies for teaching that content area. It also requires knowledge of how adolescents develop and learn. In order to attain this certificate, you must 1) have a bachelor’s degree or higher from an approved teacher education program (including student teaching), 2) pass the Arizona Education Proficiency Assessment, 3) pass the U.S. and Arizona Constitution classes, and 4) be fingerprinted by the Arizona Department of Public Safety.

A typical bachelor’s degree in Secondary Education includes at least 120 credits of post-secondary coursework. The first 60 credits of lower division courses can be completed at a community college or a university.

The first two years of a secondary education program include 35 hours of general education studies and 25 hours of more specific course work.  The general education coursework, that prepares students to be well-rounded teachers in all content areas, usually includes English, mathematics, science, humanities and fine arts, social and behavioral sciences, literacy and critical thinking. All community colleges in the state provide strong academic programs that will prepare students to pass the content portion of the teacher licensure exam. To read more about the general studies component, view Arizona General Education Curriculum (AGEC). The other 25 hours of the first two years are a combination of program requirements, core education courses and electives. Most programs have a field component built into the first two years.

The second two years are filled with upper division professional education courses specific to teaching secondary students, an academic specialization, some electives and student teaching. The academic specialization can require anywhere from 36 – 60 hours in the specialized field. Check with a specific college or university for required hours in specified fields. Courses taken in the lower division can also apply toward this total.

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There are many programs available in the state of Arizona to achieve a bachelor’s degree in education and many avenues to accomplish this. All community colleges around the state offer lower division courses or an associate's degree, which can include beginning courses in education. Most community colleges also offer transfer partnership degrees that allow students to smoothly transfer to a university. Universities offer both lower division and upper division courses.

All ten Maricopa Community Colleges offer coursework that can lead to a bachelor’s degree in secondary education.

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The Arizona Department of Education requires all potential teachers of seventh through twelfth grade students to pass the Arizona Educator Proficiency Assessment (AEPA) in order to become certified. The AEPA test objectives are broad, conceptual statements written in language that reflects the skills, knowledge, and understanding that an entry-level educator needs to practice effectively in Arizona schools, and are based on Arizona’s Professional Teacher Standards.

The AEPA consists of a subject knowledge test and a professional knowledge test. The subject knowledge portion tests the potential candidate’s competency in the content area he or she may teach. Subject knowledge tests for secondary certification include: Art, Biology, Business, Chemistry, Earth Science, Economics, English, French, Geography, German, Health, History, Mathematics, Music, Physics, Political Science/American Government, Social Studies, and Spanish. The professional knowledge portion tests the potential candidates competencies in the professional skills required to be a teacher.

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The following institutions have State Board Approved Professional Teacher Preparation Programs: Argosy University, Arizona Christian University, Arizona State University, Capella University, Grand Canyon University, Northern Arizona University, Ottawa University, Pima Community College, Prescott College, Rio Salado College, Scottsdale Community College, University of Arizona and University of Phoenix.

Once you have completed your coursework, passed the AEPA and obtained a fingerprint clearance card issued by the Arizona Department of Public Safety, you can apply for a teaching certificate. A potential teacher must acquire a provisional certificate first, which is valid for two years and not renewable. After holding a provision teaching certificate for two years, a standard teaching certificate must be obtained. The standard certificate is valid for six years and renewable. Emergency Certificates may be offered in extreme circumstances if a school district requests the certificate. There are specific requirements and it is valid for one year.

Arizona reciprocates with every state that offers a comparable certificate. Applicants apply for a Reciprocal Provisional Teaching Certificate and have one year to complete the required AEPA, and waivers are offered for those teachers who meet specific criteria. Applicants must also obtain a fingerprint clearance card issued by the Arizona Department of Public Safety, or submit information verifying a valid fingerprint card from an approved state.

Substitute Certificates require a bachelor’s degree from an accredited institution and a fingerprint clearance card issued by the Arizona Department of Public Safety. They are valid for six years and are renewable. A substitute teacher is limited to teaching 120 days in the same school each school year, and may not be assigned a contract position. A person holding a valid Arizona Teaching or Administrative Certificate is not required to hold a Substitute Certificate to be employed as a substitute teacher.

Maricopa Community Colleges - 2411 W. 14th St. - Tempe, Arizona 85281