College of Education and Allied Professions

Office of Alternative Licensure

Western Carolina University's alternative licensure programs open the door for those who already have degrees and are ready for the challenge of teaching. Our programs are designed to recruit, train, and support recent college graduates, mid-career professionals, and retirees as they enter the teaching profession. 

As a student in Western's alternative licensure program, you will many opportunities to observe and work with public school master teachers. We have dedicated faculty with strong public school partnerships.

Our Birth to Kindergarten and K-12 Special Education programs were developed for working adults with all licensure courses offered completely online.

Upon successful completion of Western Carolina University's alternative licensure program and demonstrated proficiency in the NC Professional Teaching Standards, the university will submit a recommendation to the NC Department of Public Instruction (DPI) for licensure. DPI reviews recommendations and determines eligibility to issue a teaching license. DPI may require additional information if the licensure applicant has earned a degree from another country, has citations, listed on criminal background check, etc.

Alternative Licensure Programs

The Department of Public Instruction, based on the policies and procedures adopted by the State Board of Education, issues North Carolina teaching licenses. An alternate route to teaching in NC allows you to obtain a position and begin teaching right away, without any prior teacher training or experience; this route is known as “lateral entry.” For more information, check out Becoming a Lateral Entry Teacher.

Many of our students prefer to complete their course work before securing a teaching position. Licensure-only students learn before they begin teaching—they take all courses for licensure and apply for jobs as fully licensed teachers. If you wish to pursue one of our licensure-only programs, check out our program pages in the menu to the left for a list of courses.

You must also apply and be accepted to WCU before registering for teacher licensure courses.  Birth to Kindergarten and AIG applicants may complete the undergraduate distance application. Special Education applicants may complete the graduate distance application. The Graduate School will also require three letters of recommendation for licensure students; an additional statement of intent is required for application to the MAT in Special Education. 

If you already have a licensure plan of study ( i.e. RALC), it is important that you send the courses you are planning to take to the Office of Alternative Licensure. You can email or fax (828.227.7610) your plan to the attention of Annie McCord. You cannot be admitted or enrolled until the courses are approved.

It is important that you complete the alternative licensure application process as early as possible. Given the current volume of applications, course availability may be limited if you apply after the undergraduate and graduate application deadlines. We make every effort to enroll qualified applicants, especially lateral entry teachers, even if the deadline is passed. 

AIG Licensure

Description: The AIG licensure program is for licensed teachers who want to add the AIG licensure area to an existing license.  You may take licensure courses online at the graduate or undergraduate level.   For those who qualify, our graduate courses also fulfill a portion of the requirements for a MAEd in Gifted Education, allowing you to work toward an advanced degree at the same time you’re completing licensure coursework.  The AIG add-on certification is composed of 4 courses; 1 offered in the Spring, 2 offered during the Summer, and 1 offered during the Fall semester.

AIG Add-On Alternative Licensure Checklist

Eligibility: Existing teaching license and minimum 3.0 GPA. 

Results: Recommendation for a K-12 add-on certification.

Instructional Format: All courses are offered online; the summer course includes a field experience in Cullowhee with the popular Creativity Camp the last week in June. 

Admission: Rolling admission allows students to begin Spring, Summer, or Fall semester.

Special Education Alternative Licensure

Description: The Special Education initial licensure includes two options built on a non-categorical model: general curriculum license and adapted curriculum license.  The “general” curriculum license prepares teachers to work with children with disabilities in grades K-12 who are placed in the general education curriculum; professional education course sequences is 27 credit hours. These may include children with learning disabilities, behavior disorders, or mild intellectual disabilities. The "adapted" curriculum licenses prepares teachers to work with children in grades K-12 with significant cognitive disabilities, associated severe behavior problems, and additional physical or sensory disabilities; professional education course sequence is 30 credit hours.  

Special Education General Curriculum Alternative Licensure Checklist (mild to moderate)

Special Education Adapted Curriculum Alternative Licensure Checklist (severe and profound)

Eligibility: Conferred baccalaureate degree with a minimum 2.85 GPA. Letters of recommendation are also required for admission.

Results: Recommendation for a K-12 teaching license. 

Instructional Format: Professional education courses are offered completely online.  One full semester of student teaching is required, in the subject & grades of the licensure concentration, and should be fulfilled after all other course work is successfully finished. The internship is not a paid internship. However, lateral entry teachers may complete internship using their own classroom.  

Admission: Rolling admission allows students to begin Spring, Summer, or Fall semester.

Birth-Kindergarten Alternative Licensure

Description:  If you love children and want to be a vital force in shaping them during those crucial early years, WCU's Birth-Kindergarten (BK) Program is for you. Our goals include giving you the knowledge and skills needed to meet children's social, emotional, physical, and intellectual needs from birth to kindergarten in a variety of settings. The Birth-Kindergarten program is offered at the undergraduate level.

Birth to Kindergarten Alternative Licensure Checklist (PDF)

Birth to Kindergarten Alternative Licensure Checklist (PDF) For students returning to get their license after completing WCU's BK BS non-licensure.

Eligibility: Baccalaureate degree with a cumulative 2.75 GPA.     

Results: Recommendation for a Birth-Kindergarten teaching initial or add-on license.

Instructional Format: Online asynchronous format. Each course requires some type of field experience component. One full semester of intern/student teaching is required, in the subject & grade of the licensure concentration, and should be fulfilled after all other course work is successfully finished. Approved placements for the internship are limited to public NC Pre K, Headstart, and Kindergarten classrooms (this does NOT include Early Headstart). The internship is not a paid internship. However, lateral entry teachers may complete internship using their own classroom.

Admission: Rolling admission allows students to begin Spring, Summer, or Fall semester. Application deadline for the B-K program is November 15 for Spring term, May 1 for Summer term, and June 1 for Fall term.

Other Licensure Areas

Although WCU does not offer licensure only programs in areas other than BK and SPED, the University does offer routes to teacher licensure via second degree programs and MAT graduate degree programs. Please see below for additional information.

Licensure Area Degree Type Additional Information
Secondary Subjects (9-12 English, Science, Social Science, Art) Masters of Art in Teaching Requires relevant undergraduate degree; These are residential (face-to-face) programs and courses are primarily offered during the day
Elementary, Middle Grades (6-9 English, Science, Social Science, and Math), Health and PE, 9-12 Math, Music, and Spanish Second Bachelor's Degree These are residential (face-to-face) programs and courses are primarily offered during the day


All licensure and degree and degree programs have an internship/student teaching requirement in the subject and grades of the licensure concentration and should be fulfilled after all other coursework is successfully completed. The internship is not a paid internship however, lateral entry teachers may complete their internship in their own classrooms. Rolling admissions allow students to begin Fall, Spring, or Summer.

Please follow the steps below to apply to Western's alternative licensure programs.

Step One - Choose A Program
Review ourAlternative Licensure Programs to see which program is right for you.

Step Two - Apply to WCU 
Apply to Western Carolina University. Out of state applicants should check out our Applicants Outside of NC page to determine eligibility and residency for online programs. Tuition and Fees are calculated by the credit hour. Be prepared to factor other costs into your program budget, including but not limited to subscription to an electronic portfolio system for completion of edTPA, books, supplies, etc.

Undergraduate Distance Application (Birth to Kindergarten, AIG, some RALC)

Graduate Distance Application (Special Education, AIG graduate level, some RALC)

Step Three - Send us Your Transcripts 
Please send a copy of your official transcripts to our office. Transcripts should be addressed to the Office of Alternative Licensure at the address below.

91 Killian Building Lane

Suite 201

Cullowhee, NC 28723

If you would like us to send your official transcripts back to you once we have verified GPA for admission, please send a self-addressed, stamped envelope to our office within 3 months of submission. Transcripts will be shredded after three months.

Step Four - Apply to Teacher Education

Application to our formal Teacher Education Program is a separate application process after admission to the University. See teachereducationapp.wcu.edu for details.

Most of Western’s alternative licensure programs are available as Distance Learning Programs (DLP) because courses are held online. Tuition for distance learning programs is calculated by credit hour. We also offer residential courses allowing you to take classes at our Cullowhee campus. Graduate resident tuition is based on a full-time or part-time status. Undergraduate resident tuition rates are based on full-time status. To see how individual programs are offered, please view our Alternative Licensure Programs.

Visit WCU Tuition and Fees for detailed information regarding tuition for the upcoming semesters.

In addition to tuition and university fees, you'll need to factor other costs of attendance into your graduate school budget. These may include incidental costs such as an electronic portfolio, transportation, books, and supplies. Visit Financial Aid for more information.

Information for Out-of-State Students
Out-of-state students need to visit WCU's Applicants Outside NC to view eligibility of online programs.

Establishing North Carolina Residency
You must complete the North Carolina Residence and Tuition Status Application to establish North Carolina residency. Contact Elizabeth Frazier (efrazier@email.wcu.edu or 828-227-3179) if you have questions. 

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