Professional Development For Teachers (Reqs For 5 States)

Back in the old days (okay, maybe more like the 1980s), teachers held lifetime certifications. Sometime in the 1990s, that all changed. States mandated that teachers renew their licenses, typically every 5 years or so.

Requirements vary by state, but now every state has its own set of criteria for attaining a license renewal. States require that teachers participate in professional development

Professional Development For Teachers

What is Professional Development?

Professional development is essentially ongoing education for teachers. This can take many forms, as we’ll see.

There are several goals for this ongoing education including keeping teachers current with education trends, helping teachers to better motivate their students and manage their classrooms, and allowing teachers to connect with other educators to broaden their overall knowledge and expertise. 

How is Professional Development Measured?

Generally, states require that every teacher attains a certain number of hours in approved professional development activities.

States may measure the amount of hours using units such as Professional Development Points (PDPs), Continuing Professional Education (CPE) hours, or even Continuing Education Units (CEUs) but they all are ways of measuring the clock hours spent in ongoing education.  

As an example, Massacuchusetts uses Professional Development Points to track teachers’ professional development achievements. A PDP is generally considered 1 clock hour of time spent in an approved professional development capacity.

There are many ways teachers can earn PDPs: taking a college course, attending a conference, or going to workshops, to name a few. We’ll explore several options here today.

States require a certain number of professional development hours in order to renew a teacher license. Many states require about 150 hours of professional development.

Let’s examine a few states’ requirements.

Educators must earn 150 PDPs
with the following stipulations:
-At least 15 PDPs in content
-At least 15 PDPs in pedagogy
-At least 15 PDPs related to
Sheltered English Immersion
(SEI) or English as a Second
Language (ESL)
-At least 15 PDPs related to
training in strategies for
effective schooling for
students with disabilities and
the instruction of students with
diverse learning styles
-Remaining 90 PDPs in
electives that address other
educational issues
150 hours of education-related
professional learning
Activities accepted for renewal:
-College semester credit hours.
Each semester credit is equal to
25 professional learning hours
-State Continuing Education
clock hours
-District provided professional
development hours
North CarolinaEvery
80 clock hours of professional
development which is
equivalent to 8 CEUs
(Continuing Education Units)
Depending on the level of
licensure, requirements may
To renew a grade 6-12 license,
for example, 3 CEUs must be in
subject area, 2 digital learning,
and 3 in general area
Of note – NC issues a lifetime
certificate if an educator attains
30 years of creditable service
within the education system.
Activities accepted for renewal:
-College or university courses
-Local in-service courses or
-Approved classes or
workshops that are outside
the school system
Classroom teachers need 150
CPE (Continuing Professional
Education) hours;
Administrators need 200 CPE
Must accrue a minimum of
180 professional development
Virginia offers several options
for earning professional
development points: college
credit, professional conference,
publication of an article,
publication of a book,
mentorship, educational
project, professional
development activity
This table gives examples of continuing education requirements for teachers in 5 states.

How Does Professional Development Help Teachers & Students?

As mentioned, it used to be that teachers were licensed to teach for life. While this is great for teachers, it’s not always great for students!

Trends change, technology changes, and sometimes the courses teachers teach may change! The idea is that if teachers continue their education throughout their professional careers, they will be more effective teachers which translates to higher achieving students.

Let’s face it, teaching computer science 25 years ago is very different from teaching it today!

old computer
Computers change a lot over time, and so does the knowledge needed to teach computer science!

According to the National Education Association (NEA),

“investing in yourself as an educator is the best way to ensure both career growth and academic growth for your students.”

Participating in professional development activities can help you grow as a teacher. It gets you out of your classroom where you’re able to interact and learn with other teachers.

You’re also able to expand your knowledge base, ultimately helping you to be a better teacher. Professional development can help you stay up to date with current educational trends.

algebra on chalkboard
Professional development helps you stay up to date on educational trends.

There are many reasons that professional development helps a teacher grow as an educator. And, in some cases, depending on your district’s salary schedule, there may be financial incentives as well. Bonus!

It follows that better teachers equate to higher achieving students! Teachers who haven’t changed their teaching methods in decades perhaps won’t engage students in learning as well as those teachers who are able to integrate the latest technology into the classroom or who have teamed up with a teacher in another discipline to offer a new course.

Who Pays for Professional Development?

Many school districts offer a large number of free options for obtaining professional development hours. Workshops, seminars, and teacher professional days are all options for earning the required number of hours.

If you’re currently employed as a teacher, you’ll likely receive lots of emails with different in-house professional development options. In most school districts, there are early release days and full day professional development days built into the school calendar.

Typically, workshops and seminars are offered during these times. These options are free of charge and because they’re already part of your schedule, they are easy ways to earn some professional development hours.

Sometimes, the state itself will provide no cost options for teachers. For example, Massachusetts requires that teachers attain a total of 150 PDPs in 5 years; at least 15 of those points must be in “effective schooling for students with disabilities and instruction of students with diverse learning styles.”

To help Massachusetts teachers reach that goal, the MA Department of Elementary and Secondary Education offers a free online course Foundations for Inclusive Practice. I’ve taken the course!!! It was nice to have a no cost option to fulfill that requirement. 

Teachers can also take courses at colleges and universities. These courses can be very expensive though. Outside of your school district, there are also lots of online options that can help you reach your professional development goals in the comfort of your own home!

Let’s look at a few good choices.

Online Options for Professional Development


One of my favorite online options is Edx has over 3,000 courses available from universities like Harvard, Columbia, MIT, and Berkeley, to name just a few.

Courses are free to take. Most are self-paced. To obtain a verified certificate however, there is an associated fee, typically around $100.

I’ve taken courses in Statistics and Applied Calculus. The courses were high quality, challenging, but not overwhelming.

And, because the courses were self-paced, there was no pressure to get to the next lesson so the courses were low stress. I was able to spend as much time as needed on a particular topic before advancing to the next lesson.

Course of interest

Teaching Critical Thinking through Art with the National Gallery of Art – This course is designed for teachers of all levels and subjects and takes about 14-20 hours to complete.

The class is free with an optional fee-based upgrade to obtain a verified certificate. The instructor Julie Carmean is a Museum Educator and Manager of National Teacher Programs at The National Gallery of Art in Washington.

One of the goals of the course is to get students to engage in critical thinking by analyzing works of art. And, you don’t need access to works of art or a museum to take the course. Everything that’s needed is online!

2. ed2go

Another option for online teacher training is ed2go. These courses are not free, though they are reasonably priced.

They currently offer 49 courses for Teacher Professional Development including courses such as Survival Kit for New Teachers and Teaching Students with ADHD. Courses are self-paced or instructor-led; many courses offer both options.

The courses I looked at were priced around $115 for self-paced courses that take 24 course hours to complete. Courses with more hours are more expensive. For example, a 72 hour Educator Fundamental Series will cost you about $300.

Still, compared with taking a class at a college or university, these prices aren’t too bad!

Course of Interest:

Teaching High School Students – This course is instructor led and helps teachers learn more effective teacher strategies to be a better high school teacher. Here are some of the skills that will be learned in the course, taken from the website:

  • Learn to create an orderly, smooth running classroom through ideas about seating arrangements, low-tech and high-tech aids to enhance instruction, and establishing a classroom constitution
  • Discover ways to gain parental backing
  • Learn ways to deal with a violent or potentially violent situation


This site offers free one hour webinars for teachers in a wide range of topics. Upon completion, certificates are available for participants.

For example, an upcoming webinar in January 2023 is Developing Language Through Content for English Learners. This webinar is presented by  Eugenia Mora-Flores, Ed.D., Assistant Dean of Teacher Education and Professor of Clinical Education, Rossier School of Education at the University of Southern California.

To determine if your state allows certificates from, check out this handy state map.

4. Learner’s Edge

This site offers lots of online teacher courses. The courses tend to be longer and more expensive than other sites but are high quality. 

Course of Interest: 

Parent Trap: Achieving Success with Difficult Parents & Difficult Situations. This 3 credit course helps teachers find strategies for helping to build strong positive relationships with the parents of students and to help gain the support of the parents which then increases student achievement. 

Hopefully, you’ve learned more about professional development. Just be sure you have a plan of action for completing professional development requirements. The bottom line: make sure you’re very familiar with your state’s requirements! 

If you are thinking about switching careers, you can find 5 interesting careers for former teachers here.

You can learn about the requirements to become a math teacher in Massachusetts here.

I hope you found this article helpful.  If so, please share it with someone who can use the information.

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About the author:
Jean-Marie Gard is an independent math teacher and tutor based in Massachusetts. You can get in touch with Jean-Marie at

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