Trends in the Alternative Teacher Certification Sector Outside Higher Education

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AACTE has partnered with the Center for American Progress (CAP), which had previously published a study of alternative teacher certification programs, to update and extend that analysis. AACTE and CAP examined trends among alternative certification programs run by organizations other than institutions of higher education (IHEs) between 2010-11 and 2018-19, the last full academic year prior to the pandemic. Our findings include:

  • In the 2018-19 academic year, non-IHE alternative certification programs existed in 33 states and Washington, D.C. In most states, the sector was relatively small; only six states hosted more than 10 programs, and seven states hosted only one program.
  • Despite growing enrollment, the number of students completing non-IHE alternative certification programs declined by 10 percent from academic year 2010-11 to 2018-19, illustrating that the expansion of this sector has not alleviated the United States’ teacher shortage.
  • Texas has by far the largest non-IHE alternative certification sector, hosting 41 programs that together account for 68 percent of enrollment in educator preparation programs in the state.
  • Programs run by for-profit organizations enroll 69 percent of the students in this sector nationally and experienced enrollment growth of more than 48,000 students, or 283 percent, from 2010-11 to 2018-19. However, the number of students completing for-profit programs rose by only 37 percent, or 2,440 students, during the same period.
  • Teachers of Tomorrow, which operated programs in eight states in 2018-19 and enrolled 58,460 students, dominates the for-profit sector and is by far the largest single teacher preparation program in the United States. It has grown rapidly since 2015 and, having recently gained accreditation, is poised for additional expansion.
  • For the first time in a decade, non-IHE alternative certification programs enrolled a slightly higher percentage of students of color than white students in 2018-19. However, white students still comprised the majority of enrolled students in IHE-based programs, and across all program types, white students made up the majority of program completers.
  • All types of certification programs enroll at least twice as many female students as male students, and no certification program type enrolls a particularly large percentage of students who identify as “other gender.”


The report takes a close look at alternative programs run by for-profit companies, which are the largest and fastest-growing part of the non-IHE alternative certification sector. Download the full report today to learn more about this rapidly changing sector in educator preparation.