Piano teacher certification proves to potential and current students and their parents that you are a professional with the education, experience and knowledge to teach piano. It builds respect and lends credibility to your teaching, and often puts your teaching at a higher premium--and price. Also, some student competitions are limited to those learning under certified teachers.
In the United States, three organizations offer piano teacher certification: the Music Teachers National Association, the American College of Musicians (more familiarly known as Piano Guild), and the Suzuki Association of the Americas. All three require a prior competency in playing the piano, as well as extensive knowledge of music history and theory. Years of private piano lessons and music classes are usually needed to pass the certification requirements.
Piano teacher certification became a concern for the major music teaching organizations, because of the variety of experience in piano teachers. With no national standards, a person who has barely mastered elementary concepts can advertise as a piano teacher. Although each organization approaches certification differently, they all contribute to raising the standards of piano teaching.
Each piano teacher certification process has its own focus. The Music Teachers National Association requires a video of your teaching and playing, with extensive written work on your philosophies and business practices. The American College of Musicians judges teachers exclusively by the grades their students receive in the annual Piano Guild Auditions. The Suzuki Association of Americas has its own methodology: It trains teachers to use the "mother-tongue" method of teaching music, involving rote-learning and listening. Certification is given upon successful completion of each course.
Lesser-known ways to achieve piano teacher certification include non-degree certification programs at small colleges, and many private music academies offer apprenticeships and classes leading to their own piano teacher certifications. The standards range from low to exemplary. Because each must be approached and judged individually, they don't offer the same recognition and instant trust the big organizations do.
While a college degree is not the same thing as certification by an organization, many piano performance programs will prepare students for a career teaching piano. Almost all music programs offer piano pedagogy courses, and more and more schools also offer a piano pedagogy degree that will provide the skills you need to get piano teacher certification. With a degree, piano teacher certification is not necessary to prove your knowledge to prospective students and parents, but it can open more networking avenues for the teacher and more competition opportunities for the students.
- piano image by Sergey Goruppa from Fotolia.com