Converting Your Certificate
The initial certification issued to a new teacher in Pennsylvania is not a permanent certification. It is temporary and is called a Level I certificate. It must be converted to a Level II or “permanent certificate” if the teacher wishes to continue teaching. A teacher cannot teach on an invalid Level I certificate.
What is a valid certificate?
It is a certificate having an allotted period of usable time remaining on it. The period of validity can be either based on calendar time (Intern) or service time (Instructional I, Educational Specialist I).
- Instructional I Certificates - six years of service in Pennsylvania in any area(s) for which the certificate was issued.
- Educational Specialist I Certificates - six years of service in Pennsylvania in each educational specialist certificate area.
- Vocational Instructional I Certificates - six years of service in Pennsylvania in any occupational competency area(s) for which the certificate was issued.
- Administrative and Supervisory Certificates - five years of satisfactory service in Pennsylvania in each administrative/supervisory certificate area.
- Instructional Intern/Vocational Intern Certificates - three calendar years.
What does Level mean in reference to Pennsylvania certification?
Pennsylvania has had a two-tiered certification system for many years for Instructional and Educational Specialists. Initial or entry level certificates are called Level I. They have a limited life of service time to them and must be “converted” to a Level II before that time expires. Out-of-state candidates, whether they have experience or not, must begin with a Pennsylvania initial Level I credential.
What are the requirements to convert a Level I to a Level II certificate?
- Three years (six semi-annual evaluations) of successful teaching attested to by a chief school administrator
- Twenty-four post-baccalaureate credits
- Completion of a Department-approved induction program
- The State Board now also requires candidates to “present evidence of satisfactory achievement in assessments (PDE 427 evaluation) prescribed by PDE under §49.18 (a) of Chapter 49, 22 Pennsylvania Code.”
My Instructional I certificate says that it is valid for six years. I earned the certificate five years ago but taught only one year. Will my certificate expire at the end of this year? No. Your Instructional I Certificate is good for six years of service, not six calendar years. The clock is only ticking when you are employed by a Pennsylvania public school entity.
Can I renew a Level I certificate if I fail to meet the requirements in the allotted time? No.
Can I renew an Intern Permit if I fail to meet the requirements in the allotted time? No.
What service counts towards Level II certification?
An individual must serve a minimum of 50% of the employing school entity’s teaching day or week to receive credit toward Level II certification. Satisfactory service (including service as a long-term substitute) for a minimum of 45 days in a single assignment, in areas for which a Level I certificate is held, counts towards Level II certification.
Non-Optional Service - Service on a Level I certificate in the following types of schools/institutions must be credited toward Level II certification:
Career and Technical Schools
Approved Private Schools (APS)
Service in any Pre-K Counts program
Service on a program specialist certificate (ESL)
Service in a state correctional facility when providing inmate education and training to school age inmates
Service in a juvenile correctional facility or county jail: when employed by a public school entity
Service in an Alternative Education After School program if the children are receiving credit for the coursework taken
Long-term substitute service as follows:
Service must be 45 days or more in a single assignment
Service must be 50% or more of the school day or school week
Service must be in the area of certification, or the service must be under the scope of the certificate in question
Optional Service - Service on a Level I certificate in the following types of schools/institutions may be credited toward Level II certification at the option of the certificate holder:
Pennsylvania charter schools
State Board of Private Academic Schools
PDE registered non-public non-licensed schools
Schools accredited by the Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools, Pennsylvania Association of Private Academic Schools, United Private Academic Schools Association or National Association for the Education of Young Children
Approved Private Providers
Service in Head Start programs (with the exception of Pre-K Counts programs)
Service in child care facilities that are a Star 2 or above
Service in a Bureau of Corrections facility as a teacher of adult inmates
Non-Creditable Service - Service rendered in assignments for which a person lacks appropriate Level I certification is not creditable toward meeting the experience requirements for Level II certification. Likewise, this service time is not charged against the validity period of the Level I certificate.
Unsatisfactory service is not creditable toward meeting the experience requirements for Level II certification but is charged against the validity period of the Level I certificate.
Service in the following categories is not creditable toward Level II certification, nor charged against the period of validity of a Level I Certificate:
Any Intern Certificate (Instructional or Vocational)
Temporary Teaching Permits
Approved leave of absence (maternity, medical, etc.)
Time accrued outside the mandated school year (summer school)
Act 97 Waivers of Certification
A teacher of adult classes of persons 21 years of age or older (non Bureau of Corrections facilities)
Nonprofessional or paraprofessional positions
Time accrued outside the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania
Will service as a substitute teacher count as experience towards Level II conversion?
Satisfactory service as a long-term substitute for a minimum of (A) one 45 day assignment, (B) two assignments of 30 days and 15 days or (C) three assignments of 15 days or more each during a 180-day state-mandated school year in areas for which a Level I certificate is held shall be credited as a half year of service time toward a Level II certificate. Crediting service time as a long term substitute can be complicated. It would be best to seek assistance from the Bureau of School Leadership and Teacher Quality or PSEA in making this IMPORTANT determination.
If I have been inappropriately assigned, can I use the time spent working in that improper assignment towards meeting the service year requirement for Level II conversion? No.
Will service outside my areas of certification count towards Level II conversion?
No. Service rendered in assignments for which a person lacks appropriate certification is not creditable toward meeting the experience requirement for permanent certification. Likewise, this time is not charged against the validity period of the Level I certificate.
Will service at a private or nonpublic school count towards Level II conversion?
Service on a Level I certificate when performed within a licensed private school (PRRI’s) approved by the Bureau of Special Education to provide educational services to a public school entity or the PDE is both creditable toward permanent certification and charged against the period of validity of the Level I certificate. The assignment must match the public school certification held.
Service on a Level I certificate when performed within a private academic school licensed by the State Board of Private Academic schools or PDE registered non-public non-licensed schools, or schools accredited by accrediting associations approved by the State Board of Education may be credited toward permanent certification at the option of the certificate holder.
How do I convert my Program Specialist Certificate?
The Certification Regulations make provision for issuance of a Program Specialist Certificate but do not provide for conversion of that certificate to permanent status. However, since the issuance of a Program Specialist Certificate requires the holder minimally to possess a prerequisite Instructional or Educational Specialist Certificate, the holder must maintain that prerequisite certificate in valid status in order to continue service on the Program Specialist Certificate.
Beginning with school year 1987-88, service on a Program Specialist Certificate is creditable toward meeting the experience requirements for Level II certification for the prerequisite Level I certificate(s) established in the position description upon which the Program Specialist Certificate was issued. As of September 1987, such service is creditable toward Level II certification and charged against the period of validity of the prerequisite Level I certificate.
As soon as a person has completed 3 years of satisfactory service on a Program Specialist Certificate and has satisfied the academic requirements for Level II certification, he/she may convert the Level I certificate to Level II.
Persons who have accumulated satisfactory service on a Program Specialist Certificate prior to September 1987, may credit that service toward Level II certification and must convert their Level I certificate to Level II as soon as they satisfy both the attendant academic and experience requirements. If such persons have not completed the academic requirements as of September 1987, they are required to do so within a 6 year service period following that date. Service prior to school year 1987-88 will not be charged against these educators.
If I am not a U. S. citizen can I still convert my certificate? Persons who are not U.S. citizens cannot be issued Level II certification unless they are applying to convert a Level I certificate in a foreign language.
Credits That Count
Are community college credits and continuing education units (CEUs) accepted for conversion credits? For meeting the continuing professional education requirements?
Community college credits and CEUs cannot be used to meet the conversion requirements for a Level II certificate. Community college credits and CEUs can be used to meet the continuing professional education requirements of Act 48.
Must academic credits for Level II conversion be graduate level?
Credit may be either undergraduate or graduate level but must be post-baccalaureate.
Are correspondence courses and courses taken as independent study acceptable for Level II conversion? For continuing professional education requirements?
They are applicable for Level II conversion. However, the credits must be earned at and appear as a passing grade on an official transcript of a state-approved, four-year bachelor’s degree granting college. Whether they can be applied to meeting the continuing professional education requirement depends on whether the agency or institution conducting them is a recognized provider approved by a local school entity or by the state.
Do Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE) approved in-service credits count towards Level II certification? For professional education? Yes.
Will credits completed at a state-approved seminary/school of theology, medical school, and/or law school be acceptable for Level II certification?
Credits in the fields of law, medicine, real estate, and theology are not acceptable unless the certificate holder can satisfactorily demonstrate to the Department that these credits directly relate to the certificate held. It is best to obtain PDE clearance prior to taking such courses if you intend to use the credits to satisfy the 24 credit requirement.
I have more than one content area on my provisional instructional certificate (Level I). Do I have to qualify to convert each content area separately? Do I have to meet continuing professional education requirements for every content area?
No. The act of converting one content area on the certificate converts all content areas that appear on the instructional certificate. Likewise, individuals who have multiple content areas on their instructional certificates need only meet the continuing professional education requirements once during the five-year calendar period – i.e. six collegiate credits or six continuing professional development credits or 180 activity hours or a combination of hours and credits.
Every school district is required to provide and induction program for new teachers and completion of the program is required for conversion of Level I certification to Level II. The quality of the programs will vary from one district to the next. For more information about what you can expect from a program, consult PDE’s Induction Guidelines.
Applying for Level II Certification
All applications for certification, including conversion to Level II certification, must be completed using the TIMS website. Paper applications are no longer accepted by PDE.