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Alternative Licensure Programs

If you are a college graduate looking for a career change, Western Carolina University's alternative licensure programs may be a good fit for you. 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 Residency License. Residency license replaced "lateral entry" in 2019. A Residency License teacher must meet all of  the following requirements:

  • Holds a bachelor's degree
  • Has either a completed coursework relevant to the requested licensure area or passed the content area examination relevant to the requested licensure area that has been approved by the State Board
  • Is enrolled in a recognized educator preparation program
  • Meets all other requirements established by the State Board, including completing preservice requirements prior to teaching

For more information, see Residency License Information at the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction (NC DPI) website.

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.

You must apply and be accepted to WCU before registering for teacher licensure courses.  Birth to Kindergarten and AIG applicants may complete the undergraduate distance application. K-12 Special Education (all course work is online), K-12 Art, 9-12 Biology, English, and Social Science, (initial coursework is online) applicants may complete the graduate application.

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.


AIG Licensure

Description: The AIG licensure program is for licensed teachers who want to add the AIG licensure area to an existing license. The AIG add-on certification is composed of 4 courses: 1 offered in the Spring, 2 offered during the Summer, and 1 offered during Fall semester.

Level: 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. 

AIG Add-On Alternative Licensure Checklist

Eligibility: Existing teaching license and minimum 3.0 GPA. 

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

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

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

Contact: Bridget Lopez: blopez@wcu.eduor 828.227.2000

Special Education Alternative Licensure

Description: The Special Education initial licensure includes two options: General Curriculum license and Adapted Curriculum license.  Completion of the Special Education - General Curriculum program satisfactorily leads to recommedation for the Exceptional Children: General Curriculum license in NC and eligibility to teach students with IEPs in grades K-12 who may be identified as students with Behavior Disorders, Intellectual Disabilities, or Specific Learning Disabilities. Completion of the Special Education - Adapted Curriculum program satisfactorily leads to recommendation for the Exceptional Children: Adapted Curriculum license in NC and eligibility to teach students with IEPs in grades k-12 who may be identified as students with Significant Intellectual Disabilities, Autism with significant cognitive disabilities, or Multiple Disabilities.

Special Education General Curriculum Alternative Licensure Checklist

Special Education Adapted Curriculum Alternative Licensure Checklist

Level: Graduate - Level Courses

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 in Special Education.

Instructional Format: Special education courses are offered completely online. All courses in the program have some level of field or clinical experience that requires additional time beyond class meetings and assignments. 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, Residency License teachers may complete internship using their own classroom.  

Admission: Rolling admission allows students to begin Spring, Summer, or Fall semester. The GRE is not required for admission. Instead, applicants are asked to submit a written essay describing professional goals and addressing a specific topic. 

Contact: Bridget Lopez: or 828.227.2000

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.

Birth to Kindergarten Alternative Licensure Checklists can be found on the Birth-Kindergarten (BK) Program website.

Level: Undergraduate

Eligibility: Baccalaureate degree with a cumulative 3.0 GPA.     

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

Contact Deb Henry: or 828.227.3313

Other Licensure Areas

WCU also offers routes to a teaching license 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, Biology, Social Science, Art) Masters of Art in Teaching Requires relevant undergraduate degree. Programs are considered residential, although initial licensure coursework (PHASE I) is offered in an online format
Elementary, Middle Grades (6-9 English, Science, Social Science, and Math), Health and PE, 9-12 Math, and Music Second Bachelor's Degree These are residential (face-to-face) programs and courses are primarily offered during the day

All licensure 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 in Phase I is successfully completed. The internship is not a paid internship however, residency license 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 WCU's Alternative 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, background check, books, supplies, etc.

Undergraduate Distance Application (Birth to Kindergarten, AIG)

Graduate Application (Special Education, AIG graduate level, Biology, English, Social Science, ART)

Step Three - Send us Your Transcripts

Send your official transcripts to the appropriate office as directed by the application (WCU Undergraduate Admissions or WCU Graduate School). Be sure to follow up with your undergraduate institution to verify the transcripts were sent. 

Step Four - Check your email for updates

Many programs have a two-stage admission process. You may need to acknowledge an offer of admission or return an Intent to Enroll form. Be sure to regularly check the email account you provided on your application for updates.

Step Five Apply to Teacher Education

The Teacher Education Program is a separate application process required for all initial licensure candidates after admission to the University and academic program. See 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 ( or 828.227.3179) if you have questions. 

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