What It Takes to Be a Teacher in California

Brad Henry once said, “A good teacher can inspire hope, ignite the imagination, and instill a love of learning.” If you have ever had an amazing teacher, be it a kindergarten teacher or a college professor, you know how the impact they left on you can last a lifetime. Great teachers can inspire us to go for our biggest goals and leave us believing that nothing is out of our reach. They can inspire us to look at the world in a new way and think on an entirely new level of thought.

If your goal is to become a teacher in California, you are beginning an adventure that will be challenging and rewarding all at once. Teachers, no matter the grade level, get to invest their time, energy, and emotions into pupils who will one day be the leaders of our communities. It can be a daunting task, but if it your calling, the good days will far outweigh the bad ones.

However, before it’s time to apply for teaching jobs and start decorating your classroom, you will need to be sure you meet all of the requirements for a teaching job in California. While the list of requirements may seem like a lot of hoops to jump through, just remember that it is all to make sure the students in our communities are receiving a top-notch education that will prepare them for their futures. And with this article in mind, you will be well on your way to your dream teaching career.

The California credentialing process varies depending on your education and career objectives. Fortunately, the California Commission of Teacher Credentialing has provided clear steps for each pathway and information about approved teacher programs and examinations.

An overview of becoming a teacher in California

California offers three different types of teaching credentials. These credentials are used to define the classroom environment where you plan to work. For example, they offer California teaching credentialing for elementary teachers, secondary teachers, and special education teachers. All California teachers must earn a baccalaureate degree, pass required examinations for a teaching credential in California, and complete a commission-approved credential program. While each of these California teacher credentials share these basic requirements, each credential also includes specific requirements for its teaching area.

Single Subject: The single subject credential is for individuals hoping to teach secondary or middle school classes. This means the teacher is certified to teach a specific subject, such as english, history, or science.

Multiple Subject: The multiple subject credential is for individuals hoping to teach in an elementary school. This means the teacher is certified to teach multiple subjects in a self-contained elementary classroom.

Special Education: The education specialist instruction credential is for individuals hoping to teach special education in California. This credential allows special education teachers to work in a number of environments, as well as allowing for an area of specialization.

Alternative Certification: California teaching credentials may also be earned through the alternative certification or Early Completion Intern Option. If candidates meet the basic requirements, they may be allowed to work as a teacher under supervision while they complete the rest of credentialing coursework.

Teachers and types of teachers in California

According to multiple sources, California is currently facing a teacher shortage. The California Teachers Association reports, “With about a third of the teaching force nearing retirement, the Center for the Future of Teaching and Learning estimates that California will need an additional 100,000 teachers over the next decade.” This shortage in teaching jobs in California is especially noticeable in urban and rural schools reaching crisis proportions. Additionally, California ranks last for teacher-to-student ratios. While these statistics are alarming, they are also encouraging for individuals hoping to teach in California. California needs teachers desperately!

The California Department of Education reports a total student enrollment in 2016-2017 of 6,228,235 students across 10,477 schools in 1,024 school districts across the state. That is a lot of students in need of quality educators! In 2016-2017, California employed 247, 246 teachers for all these students.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, California employs more elementary school teachers than secondary (or high) school teachers. They report 149,340 elementary teachers as compared to 104,530 secondary teachers. The mean annual wages for elementary teachers is $74,270. The mean annual wages for secondary teachers is $74,940.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics also reports that California employs 16,740 special education elementary teachers and 10,140 special education secondary teachers. Special education teachers in the elementary setting have an annual mean wage of $72,260, whereas special education teachers in the secondary setting have an annual mean wage of $76,310.

Special note: The student population of California schools are 54.24% Hispanic or Latino according to the California Department of Education. Therefore, there is a special need for bilingual educators. Theresa Harrington explains in Spanish-speaking teachers getting special training to meet California's demand for more bilingual teachers that this is especially important as California recently ended a mandate for English-only classrooms, and teachers need to be able to teach common core standards using English and Spanish.

California teaching certification requirements

California teaching licensure includes a two-tiered credentialing process. California teacher licensure candidates will first work to obtain a preliminary certificate to begin teaching. Then, they will work on earning a clear credential. Since the way to earn your California teaching credentials varies depending on a number of factors, here are some checklists of California teacher certification requirements.

I have a bachelor’s degree in education and plan to teach elementary

The process to go into elementary education is layed out below:

  • Show proof of basic skills through examination scores (either CBEST, CSET, CSU or waivers from high SAT or ACT scores).
  • Earn a passing score on the California Subject Examinations for Teachers (CSET): Multiple Subjects plus Writing.
  • Take a Developing English Language Skills course.
  • Earn a passing score on the Reading Instruction Competence Assessment (RICA).
  • Pass a U.S. Constitution course OR pass an exam on the subject given by an accredited institution.
  • Take a computer education course.
  • Complete a California teacher preparation program that includes student teaching.
  • Receive formal recommendation for a California teaching credential.

At this point, you will hold a Preliminary Credential (or a California teacher certificate) that is valid for 5 years. To earn a Clear Credential (or full teaching certification in California), you will need to do one of the following three things:

  • Complete a general education program through your school district.
  • Complete a clear credential education program through an approved university.
  • Earn National Board of Professional Teaching Standards certification.

I have a bachelor’s degree in education and plan to teach secondary

You have a bachlor's degree in education and plan to teach secondary education, follow the steps below:

  • Show proof of basic skills through examination scores (either CBEST, CSET, CSU or waivers from high SAT or ACT scores).
  • Take a Developing English Language Skills course.
  • Show subject-area competency through either earning a passing score on the California Subject Examinations for Teachers (CSET) subject matter examination OR completing a California Teaching Commission approved program.
  • Pass a U.S. Constitution course OR pass an exam on the subject given by an accredited institution.
  • Take a computer education course.
  • Complete a California teacher preparation program that includes student teaching.
  • Receive formal recommendation for a California teaching credential.
  • At this point, you will hold a Preliminary Credential that is valid for 5 years. To earn a Clear Credential, you will need to do one of the following three things:

  • Complete a general education program through your school district.

  • Complete a clear credential education program through an approved university.
  • Earn National Board of Professional Teaching Standards certification.

I have a bachelor’s degree, but in something other than education

So your bachelor's degree is in a different subject? Don't let that stop you from reaching your dreams of teaching, follow the steps below:

  • Show proof of basic skills through examination scores (either CBEST, CSET, CSU or waivers from high SAT or ACT scores).
  • Pass a professional knowledge assessment.
  • Pass the Teaching Performance Assessment (TPA). Candidates must pass the TPA on the first attempt in order to be considered for the early completion option.
  • Pass a U.S. Constitution course OR pass an exam on the subject given by an accredited institution.
  • Earn a passing score on the California Subject Examinations for Teachers (CSET): Multiple Subjects plus Writing (for elementary) OR show subject-area competency through either earning a passing score on the California Subject Examinations for Teachers (CSET) subject matter examination.
  • Complete fingerprint processing.
  • Have an offer of employment to teach.
  • Enroll in a commission-approved early option intern program.
  • If enrolled in an alternative program, candidates hold an intern credential for two years, during which time they must complete the full requirements for the preliminary teaching credential in California.
  • Complete a California teacher preparation program that includes student teaching. (For individuals who have a bachelor's degree in another area, you will earn credentialing through an alternative certification program, an intern option, or post-baccalaureate programs.)
  • Take a computer education course.
  • Earn a passing score on the Reading Instruction Competence Assessment (RICA).
  • Receive formal recommendation for a California teaching credential.

At this point, you will hold a Preliminary Credential that is valid for 5 years. To earn a Clear Credential, you will need to do one of the following three things:

  • Complete a general education program through your school district.
  • Complete a clear credential education program through an approved university.
  • Earn National Board of Professional Teaching Standards certification.

I am not from the U.S. but want to teach in California

For individuals who have completed a teacher preparation program outside of the United States, you may be eligible for a preliminary teaching credential by following the below steps:

  • Show proof of university degree from a college or university that is equivalent to accredited United States universities using the Foreign Transcript Evaluation.
  • Show proof of completion of a valid preparation program that included student teaching using the Foreign Transcript Evaluation.
  • Show proof of equivalent teaching credential.

At this point, you will hold a Five-Year Preliminary Teaching Credential. To earn a Clear Credential, you will need to meet the following requirements:

  • Show proof of basic skills.
  • Either complete a Developing English Skills course OR pass the RICA exam.
  • Take a U.S. Constitution course OR pass the Provisions and Principles of the U.S. Constitution exam.
  • Show subject-matter competency either by achieving a passing score on the necessary examination OR completing a commission-approved subject-matter teaching program.
  • Complete a professional teacher induction program OR a general education clear credential program.

I am already a teacher, but in a state other than California

For individuals who hold a teaching license in any state outside of California are eligible for a California credential depending on their number of years of teaching experience.

For individuals with less than two years teaching experience:

  • Hold a bachelor’s degree of higher from an accredited college or university.
  • Show proof of basic skills.
  • Hold a comparable teaching credential. With these requirements met, individuals will be granted a Five-Year Preliminary Teaching Credential. Over the next five years, individuals will need to meet the following requirements for a clear credential:
  • Show subject-matter competency.
  • Either complete a general education induction program OR complete a general education clear credential program.
  • Show proof of ability to teach English-language learners.

For individuals with two or more years of out-of-state teaching experience:

  • Hold a bachelor’s degree of higher from an accredited college or university.
  • Show proof of basic skills.
  • Hold a comparable teaching credential.
  • Present a letter from employer showing proof of more than two-years of experience as a teacher, as well as two satisfactory teaching evaluations.

With these requirements met, individuals will be granted a Five-Year Preliminary Teaching Credential. Over the next five years, individuals will meet to meet the following requirements for a clear credential:

  • Show subject-matter competency.
  • Complete professional requirements through one of the following: 150 clock hours of professional activities, earning a master’s degree or higher, OR obtaining a bachelor’s degree that consisted of a minimum of 150 semester units.
  • Show proof of ability to teach English-language learners.

For individuals who hold National Board for Professional Teaching Standards Certification will be issued a California clear teaching credential.

I am already a California teacher but want to teach another subject

If you wish to teach another subject, you will need to obtain an additional credential. The Adding a Teaching or Content Area to Multiple and Single Subject Credentials document is a great guide.

  • Show subject-area competence.
  • Take a three-semester-unit or four-quarter-unit course in methodology in the subject are you seek credentialing.
  • Hold English learner authorization issued by the Commission authorizing service in English Language Development (ELD) and Specially Designed Academic Instruction delivered in English (SDAIE).
  • Complete application and pay required fees.

If you hold a single-subject clear credential and wish to hold a multiple-subject clear credential, you will also need to do the following:

  • Show elementary subject-matter competence.
  • Takes courses in developing English language skills for beginning readers
  • Pass the Reading Instruction Competence Assessment (RICA)

Types of teacher training programs in California

There are multiple different teaching credential programs in California to help individuals on their paths to California teacher credentials.

For high school or young college students, California offers the Teacher Preparation Pipeline. In high demand areas of California, these programs allow students to complete prerequisites at California Community Colleges and then transfer them to a Commission-approved university that offers a teacher preparation program where students plan to earn their baccalaureate.

Some California universities offer blended or integrated programs where students earn their baccalaureate and their California teacher certification. These programs are specifically designed for individuals who know they want to teach while they are pursuing their education. Students will want to choose a Commission-approved program for teacher certification in California.

However, you may choose between an educator preparation program or a subject matter preparation program. While all candidates must complete an educator preparation program for California teaching credentials, they will also need to either show competency in their subject area by completing a subject-matter preparation program or passing the required subject-area examination. Therefore, many students choose to enroll in a subject matter preparation program to be more prepared.

Additionally, teaching candidates may earn their credentials through an approved California alternative teacher certification program, such as the intern program. These routes are designed for individuals who want to work while earning certification and already hold a baccalaureate degree.

Finally, individuals without teaching experience may also consider enrolling a post-baccalaureate educator program. These programs provide students with the opportunity to do some student-teaching, so they gain classroom experience to earn a California teaching certificate.

Approved California teacher training programs

To earn a clear California teaching credential (or California teaching certificate), candidates must complete a Commission-approved General Educator Preparation Program. Below, we list Commission-approved programs at accredited institutions offering clear teaching credentials for California along with their individual websites. Before deciding on a program, keep in mind that not all Commission-approved programs offer subject-matter preparation programs. If you do not feel confident passing a subject-matter exam without taking subject-matter courses, we encourage you to seek a Commission-approved program that offers both.

Use the dashboard of The California Commission of Teacher Credentialing to narrow your search.

Online teacher training programs

There are online teacher preparation programs that are approved by CTC; however, there are no programs that are fully online. This is because student teaching must be completed and supervised.

Alternative routes to certification

California teaching candidates may earn their teaching credentials through alternative, challenging certification routes, such as the intern program. These routes are excellent options for those changing careers who already possess subject-area knowledge and a bachelor’s degree. According to California Teacher Corps, there are multiple alternative teacher credential programs throughout the different regions in California.

Here are the Commission-approved intern pathway programs for California alternative teacher certification:

California teaching exam information

To earn California teaching credentials, you must pass (or be exempted from) a basic skills assessment. The California Basic Educational Skills Test (CBEST) includes three sections: reading, writing, and mathematics. Candidates must score a total scaled score of 123. Individuals may repeat any exam section until passed. Once the test is passed, the candidate will not have to take the test again. To find more information about the CBEST and to register, please visit California Educator Credentialing Examinations.

In addition to the CBEST, candidates for California teaching credentials will need to take a California Subject Examination for Teachers (CSET) as required for their credentials. For example, those seeking the multiple-subject teaching credential in California will be required to take the multiple-subject CSET in order to teach multiple subjects to elementary students. However, those seeking single-subject credentials in California for teaching middle or high school will be required to take the subject-area CSET specific to the content area they hope to teach.

You must earn a passing CSET in order to be a credentialed teacher in California. Out of a scaled score ranging from 100-300, candidates must score a 220 to pass. You can visit California Educator Credentialing Examinations to see the various CSET subject area exams.

If you have a desire to change lives and shape minds, California needs you! With the need for qualified teachers in the state, they offer multiple pathways to become a credential teacher in California. For the most up-to-date information regarding teaching credentials in California, visit California Commission on Teacher Credentialing and Teach California.

Sources:

  • California Commission on Teacher Credentialing. (n.d.). Retrieved February 09, 2018, from https://www.ctc.ca.gov/
  • California Educator Credentialing Examinations. (n.d.). Retrieved February 09, 2018, from http://www.ctcexams.nesinc.com/
  • California - May 2016 OES State Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates. (n.d.). Retrieved February 09, 2018, from https://www.bls.gov/oes/2016/may/oes_ca.htm#25-0000
  • Fingertip Facts on Education in California - CalEdFacts. (n.d.). Retrieved February 09, 2018, from https://www.cde.ca.gov/ds/sd/cb/ceffingertipfacts.asp
  • Harrington, T. (n.d.). Spanish-speaking teachers getting special training to meet Californias demand for more bilingual teachers. Retrieved February 09, 2018, from https://edsource.org/2017/spanish-speaking-teachers-getting-special-training-to-meet-californias-demand-for-more-bilingual-teachers/586137
  • Issues & Action. (n.d.). Retrieved February 09, 2018, from https://www.cta.org/en/Issues-and-Action/Retirement/Teacher-Shortage.aspx
  • TEACH California will help you make and manage a Personal
  • Career Plan! (n.d.). Retrieved February 09, 2018, from https://www.teachcalifornia.org/
  • Teacher Preparation Pipeline. (n.d.). Retrieved February 09, 2018, from https://teacherpipeline.com/
  • What is alternative certification? (n.d.). Retrieved February 09, 2018, from http://www.cateachercorps.org/alternative_certification/
Nedda
Nedda Gilbert

Ms. Gilbert is a certified social worker and 30 year educational consultant with an interest in helping college-bound and graduate school students manage the process and stress of admissions effectively. She is one of the senior founding managers of the Princeton Review Test Preparation Company, and the author of The Princeton Review Guide to the Best Business Schools and another book, Business School Essays that Made a Difference (Random House). She is a guest contributor to Forbes Magazine on college and college life. Ms. Gilbert is also certified as a collaborative family law professional in New Jersey. She received her BA from the University of Pennsylvania and MS from Columbia University.