The California Teaching and Certification Resource
For aspiring teachers looking for California teacher certification, the state is certainly a great place to work as a teacher. Like most states, however, there are plenty of requirements to becoming an accredited teacher in the Golden State.
California’s educational system is distinct in that it offers several diverse options when it comes to California teachers licensing, which makes the system a bit more flexible than some states. The teacher preparation process – the licensing and credentialing of professional educators – is regulated by the Commission on Teacher Credentialing. Below we will outline the multiple pathways set by this commission to become a certified teacher in California.
How to Become a Teacher in California
There are several ways to become a teacher in California. First and foremost, California law states that all public school teachers are required to hold, at minimum, a bachelor’s degree, preferably in education. However, it is not mandatory that applicants hold a bachelor’s degree before beginning a California educator certification program. In this case, the Department of Education does allow for a “blended” program that permits applicants to pursue an undergraduate degree and teaching credential simultaneously.
- MS in Education (for Existing Teachers Grades K-12)
- MA in Teaching (for Aspiring Teachers Grades 5-12)
Perhaps the most important step in obtaining a California teacher certification is choosing an accredited institution. When evaluating potential programs, it’s imperative to confirm they are accredited by California standards as well as the standards set by the US Department of Education.
For anyone who has experience teaching and holds an out-of-state teacher certification, there are options for reciprocity in California. Applicants with an out-of-state certification as well as those looking for California teacher certification renewals have a distinct set of requirements and it is best to contact the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing for the specific requirements and appropriate documentation.
Finding Approved Teacher Education Programs in California
California is very focused on providing an excellent education system and as a result, teachers are required to obtain a California educator certificate from an accredited program, recognized by California’s Department of Education.
There are six accreditation agencies that accredit teaching schools around the US. These organizations are overseen by the US Department of Education, but work on a regional scale. California teacher certification institutions are accredited by Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC). WASC is composed of three accreditation commissions that evaluate Senior Colleges and Universities, Community and Junior Colleges, and various interdisciplinary schools systems within the state.
The first step in choosing a California teachers certification program is to confirm that the program is in good standing with the WASC. Additionally, online teaching certification schools must be accredited as well, which means that even if the program is headquartered out of state (for example, University of Phoenix in Arizona), they must be accredited by one of the six regional agencies.
Additionally, all California teaching programs must have accreditation by the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing. Within this organization, the Committee on Accreditation formally approves teaching programs that meet the stipulated requirements.
Although, the two accreditation organizations mentioned above are mandatory for California teaching programs, there is another organization that, although not required, denotes a highly distinguished standard in the field of teacher preparedness. As of July, 2013, two former organizations, the TEAC and NCATE have been consolidated under the name, Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparedness or CAEP. These two organizations, although recently united under its new name, have worked for years to guarantee quality control in the teaching profession in terms of curriculum, staff, operations, facilities, etc. Most quality schools apply for this accreditation as it is a marker of the program’s ability to meet the rigorous CAEP standards.
See our list of CAEP accredited schools in California.
- I want to be a teacher in California, but don’t have a degree: Earn an Education Degree
- I want to be a teacher and have a degree, but not in education: Learn about California’s Alternative Certification Process and Programs
- I have a teaching degree and am interested in more education: Learn about Master’s Degree Education Programs or Doctorate Education Programs and Information.
California Teacher Education Requirements
Aside from holding a bachelor’s degree to become a certified teacher, applicants must decide on what age group they would like to teach. The Commission on Teacher Credentialing has a distinct pathway and various guidelines based on specific grade levels.The requirements for becoming a teacher in California change depending on the subject matter/grade level, ensuring that future teachers will be well-prepared to teach the appropriate curriculum. Different grade levels require different pathways:
Elementary School Teachers
Applicants who want to teach in elementary school have to complete a Multiple Subject Teaching Credential.
High School Teachers
Applicants who want to teach in high school have to complete a Single Subject Teaching Credential.
Special Education Teachers
Applicants who want to teach special education students have to complete a Education Specialist Instruction Credential.
The most traditional route to receiving a teaching certification in California is to complete a state-approved teacher education program from a regionally accredited university and follow through on these specific credentials. However, applicants for becoming a certified teacher in California can also obtain a multiple subject credential through other means, such as through a college internship program, a school district internship program, private school teaching experience, an early completion internship option, or experience teaching through the Peace Corps.
The Occupational Supply & Demand System estimates 31,680 annual job opportunities in education and library related fields through 2018. In 2008 and 2007 respectively, the National Center for Education Statistics reported 303,647 public school and 50,150 private school teachers registered in California. The average starting teaching salary in California is $41,181 and the average overall teaching salary in 2010-2011 was $67,871, the 4th highest in the nation as reported by the National Education Association. The NEA also indicates a specific need for math, life sciences, ESL, and special education teachers. For more information visit The California Teachers Association which publishes relevant news and resources for education professionals in California.
California Teacher Testing Requirements
All applicants for a preliminary California teaching certification must meet basic skills testing requirements. This may be done through completion of the C-BEST, the CSET, the CSU Early Assessment Program or the CSU Placement exam. All of these test basic skills in reading, math, and writing. Specific subject matter competence is tested through the content tests of the CSET. California used the Praxis exam in the past for certification purposes; so, if an applicant’s Praxis test scores are less than 5 years old, those can be accepted instead.
Additional California Teacher Certification Requirements
California law states that every teacher/employee in the public school system must complete a 41-LS (Live Scan) Service, which is the required fingerprinting application. The 41-LS form can be downloaded and printed from the Commission’s website. Additionally, all applicants must also apply for a certificate of clearance, which shows potential employers that the applicant does not have a criminal background.
California Teachers Licensing Application Process
Although there are several routes to California teacher certification, once applicants have completed the requirements they must be sent to the Commission on Teacher Credentialing.
- Take the appropriate exams (C-BEST, the CSET, the CSU )
- Obtain a LiveScan Service and a certificate of clearance
- Verification of teaching certification in California
- Submit a completed application form with the appropriate processing fee (non-refundable) and supporting documentation (e.g., college transcripts, exam scores).
California Commission on Teacher Credentialing
1900 Capitol Avenue,
Sacramento, CA 95811-4213
Visit the California State Department of Education for more details on obtaining California teacher certification.
California Teacher Salary and Jobs
|Type||Number Employed||Average Annual Salary|
|Elementary School Teachers||132,560||$69,690|
|Middle School Teachers||48,300||$68,680|
|Secondary School Teachers||90,470||$69,330|
Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics as of May 2012.
California School District Requirements
California Teacher Interviews
Interview with Vanessa Escobar, California Kindergarten Teacher
Interview with Michelle Griffo, California Kindergarten Teacher
Interview with Joanne Becker, President of the California Association of Mathematics Teacher Educators
Frequently Asked Questions about Becoming a Teacher in California
Question: How do I become a science teacher in California?
Answer: To become a science teacher in California, you must first show competency in the subject. This means taking the required courses and exams at a university or college. You must also enroll in a teacher preparation program and take all required courses and participate in a student teaching experience.
Question: How do I become a substitute teacher in California?
Answer: Each district has its own requirement for hiring substitute teachers, so contact the human resources department of the districts to which you want to apply. To make yourself more marketable as a substitute, you can get a substitute teaching permit through the state of California. It allows you to work in any position for 30 days. To get this permit you must have a bachelor’s degree from an accredited university, and have met the basic skill requirement for teaching in California.
Question: How do I become a substitute teacher in Los Angeles?
Answer: To work as a substitute teacher in Los Angeles, you must apply through the district’s human resources department. The district prefers substitute teachers to be fully credentialed through the state of California. To apply, you must fill out an application. If you are credentialed, you must also supply references, student teaching evaluations, transcripts, and verification of being Highly Qualified according to the No Child Left Behind law.
Question: How do I become a math teacher in California?
Answer: To become a math teacher in California, you must earn a bachelor’s degree in math, or show competency in the subject by taking a test. You must also complete a teacher preparation program, which includes taking all the appropriate courses and completing a portion of student teaching.
Question: What are the requirements to become an elementary school teacher in California?
Answer: To be an elementary teacher in California, you need to earn an elementary teaching certification through the state. The first step towards the certificate is to complete a teacher preparation program at an approved university or college. You must also meet the basic skills requirement by passing a test and also pass tests in the subject areas you will be teaching. Finally, you must complete a reading assessment.
Question: What are the California preschool teacher requirements?
Answer: To work as a preschool teacher in California, you must hold a child development teacher permit. To be qualified for the permit, you must complete at least an associate’s degree in early childhood education or in child development or 24 credit hours in related coursework as well as 16 general education credit hours. In addition to coursework, you must also complete field experience to be eligible for the permit.
Question: How do I become a high school teacher in California?
Answer: To become a high school teacher in California, you need to earn a college degree and complete a teacher preparation program. After completing your education, you must pass a subject area test to show competency in the subject you hope to teach. You must also complete courses in reading, technology, and the US Constitution. When these requirements are met, you can apply to the state for certification and then interview for jobs.
Question: How do I become a high school math teacher in California?
Answer: To be a high school math teacher in California, you must have a bachelor’s degree. You also need to complete a teacher preparation program and include courses in reading, the principles of the U.S. Constitutions, and technology. Once you have finished those programs, you need to take and pass a math subject test and then apply to the state for your certificate.
Question: How do I become a kindergarten teacher in California?
Answer: To become a kindergarten teacher in California, you need to be certified through the state. Elementary certification requires a bachelor’s degree as well as a teacher preparation program with a student teaching component. You also have to pass the state’s subject matter tests.
Teaching and Education Programs
- Master of Arts in Education/Curriculum and Instruction
- A.A. in Education
- M.A. in Education/Secondary Teacher Education
- And more...
- MS in Education (for Existing Teachers Grades K-12)
- MA in Teaching (for Aspiring Teachers Grades 5-12)
- Education, MS - Teaching and Learning
- Career College Administration Graduate Certificate
- Education, Joint MS - MBA (Online)
- And more...
- Global Training and Development - EdS
- E-Learning - EdS
- General Education - Doctor of Education
- And more...
- Ph.D. in Education - Mixed-Model
- Ed.S. in Assessment Evaluation and Accountability - General Program
- Ph.D. in Education - Mixed-Model - Global and Comparative Education
- And more...
1. California State Department of Education: http://www.cde.ca.gov/pd/bt/ce//
2. California Commission on Teacher Credentialing: http://www.ctc.ca.gov/commission/default.html
3. US Department of Education: http://www2.ed.gov/admins/finaid/accred/accreditation_pg6.html
4. Bureau of Labor Statistics: http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes_ak.htm#25-0000
Page edited by Charles Sipe.