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The California Teaching and Certification Resource

For anyone interested in learning how to become a teacher in California, there are several requirements that must be met and different pathways to certification. Requirements for teachers in the state are set by the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing, which provides both traditional and alternative paths to becoming a certified teacher in the state. Below we outline the more traditional pathway to teaching in California. To learn more about the alternative pathways, visit our guide to alternative teacher certification in California.

How to Become a Teacher in California

There are several ways to become a teacher in California, but typically all public school teachers are required to hold 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 California Commission on Teacher Credentialing does allow for a “blended” program that permits applicants to pursue an undergraduate degree and teaching credential simultaneously. There are also several alternative routes to teacher certification in California for those wishing to get in the classroom..

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Finding Approved Teacher Education Programs in California

Projected Job Growth

10%

Growth in Teaching Jobs in CA through 202215

Perhaps the most important step in obtaining California teacher certification is completing a preparation program on the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing’s approved programs list. The list includes programs for both subject matter and professional education preparation.

Bachelor’s degree programs at institutions that have been accredited by one of the regional accreditation agencies are generally acceptable as a starting point for earning teacher certification in California. Accreditation is a overseen by the US Department of Education, but works on a regional scale. California colleges and universities are accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC). The 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. However, even if the institution a certification candidate attended holds regional accreditation, the teacher certification program completed must be on the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing’s approved programs list.

California teacher certification requires that individuals complete a program approved by the Commission and accredited by the WASC, but there is another organization that denotes a highly distinguished standard in the field of teacher preparedness. As of July 2013, two former organizations, the Teacher Accreditation Council (TEAC) and the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE) have been consolidated under one name, the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation or CAEP. Although accreditation by CAEP is not required for a teacher preparation program in California, most quality schools apply for this accreditation as it is a marker of the program’s ability to meet CAEP’s rigorous standards.

See our list of CAEP accredited schools in California.

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California Teacher Education Requirements

In addition to holding a bachelor’s degree, applicants hoping to become certified teachers in California must decide which grade level they would like to teach and whether they want to work in general or special education. The Commission on Teacher Credentialing has different pathways and guidelines for elementary, secondary, and special education:

Elementary Teachers

Applicants who want to teach in elementary school must apply for a Multiple Subject Teaching Credential. This includes earning a bachelor’s degree as well as completing a teacher certification program in multiple subjects.

Secondary Teachers

Applicants who want to teach in middle school or high school must apply for a Single Subject Teaching Credential. Secondary teachers must earn a bachelor’s degree, complete a teacher preparation program, and prove competency in at least one teachable subject area.

Special Education Teachers

Applicants who want to teach special education students must apply for a Education Specialist Instruction Credential. In addition to a bachelor’s degree special education teachers must complete a teacher preparation program that focuses on special education.

The most traditional route to receiving 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.

California Teacher Outlook
In California the outlook for jobs for teachers is positive. The number of new positions available for elementary and secondary teachers is expected to grow by 13.4% and 6.5%, respectively, between now and 2022.1,2 These new positions are in addition to replacement openings as current teachers leave their positions. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, California elementary school teachers earn the fourth highest salaries in the U.S. with an average annual income of $69,990.3 California’s secondary school teachers are the third highest earners with an annual average salary of $72,670.4 For more information visit The California Teachers Association, which publishes relevant news and resources for education professionals in California.

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California Teacher Testing Requirements

California State SealCalifornia uses its own system of examinations for certifying teachers in the state. All applicants for a preliminary California teaching certification must meet basic skills testing requirements. This may be done through completion of the California Basic Educational Skills Test (CBEST), the California Subject Examinations for Teachers (CSET) including the basic writing test, the California State University (CSU) Early Assessment Program, or the CSU Placement Exam. All of these exams test basic skills in reading, math, and writing. Specific subject matter competence is tested through the content tests of the CSET. California previously used the Praxis exam, and will still accept Praxis test scores that are less than 5 years old. For more information on testing, see the Commission’s page on testing requirements and options.

Additional California Teacher Certification Requirements

California law states that every teacher 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. Applicants must also use the Live Scan to apply for and obtain a certificate of clearance, which shows potential employers that the applicant does not have a criminal background. For more information on the process, see the Commission’s page on fingerprinting.

California Teachers Licensing Application Process

Once all the requirements have been met, applicants for teacher certification must send all appropriate documents to the Commission on Teacher Credentialing. The required documents include:

  • Transcripts from all schools attended
  • Verified completion of an approved teacher preparation program
  • Passing scores on all required examinations
  • Live Scan fingerprints and certificate of clearance
  • A completed application for teacher credentialing

The required documents must be sent to:

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
Preschool Teachers 47,030 $34,070
Preschool Teachers, Special Education 2,040 $65,930
Kindergarten Teachers 19,960 $63,760
Elementary School Teachers 135,230 $69,990
Special Education Teachers, Kindergarten and Elementary School 15,420 $66,830
Middle School Teachers 46,340 $67,740
Middle School Teachers, Special Education 5,820 $64,960
Secondary School Teachers 86,930 $72,670
Secondary School Teachers, Special Education 8,530 $70,900
Secondary School Teachers, Career/Technical Education 2,840 $72,410

Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics as of May 2014.

California School District Requirements

How to Become a Teacher in Los Angeles
How to Become a Teacher in San Diego
How to Become a Teacher in San Francisco

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

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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 an accredited 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 requirements 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 Act.

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 student teaching experience.

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 a minimum of an associate’s degree in early childhood education or in child development or 24 credit hours of 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. Once you have finished a program, you need to pass a math subject matter 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

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References:
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 Bureau of Labor Statistics, May 2014 State Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates, California: http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes_ca.htm
4. US Bureau of Labor Statistics, May 2014 Occupational Employment and Wages, Elementary School Teachers: http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes252021.htm
5. US Bureau of Labor Statistics, May 2014 Occupational Employment and Wages, Middle School Teachers: http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes252022.htm
6. US Bureau of Labor Statistics, May 2014 Occupational Employment and Wages, Secondary School Teachers: http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes252031.htm
7. US Bureau of Labor Statistics, May 2014 Occupational Employment and Wages, Preschool Teachers: http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes252011.htm
8. US Bureau of Labor Statistics, May 2014 Occupational Employment and Wages, Special Education Teachers, Preschool: http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes252051.htm
9. US Bureau of Labor Statistics, May 2014 Occupational Employment and Wages, Kindergarten Teachers: http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes252012.htm
10. US Bureau of Labor Statistics, May 2014 Occupational Employment and Wages, Special Education Teachers, Kindergarten and Elementary School: http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes252052.htm
11. US Bureau of Labor Statistics, May 2014 Occupational Employment and Wages, Special Education Teachers, Middle School: http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes252053.htm
12. US Bureau of Labor Statistics, May 2014 Occupational Employment and Wages, Career/Technical Education Teachers, Middle School: http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes252023.htm
13. US Bureau of Labor Statistics, May 2014 Occupational Employment and Wages, Special Education Teachers, Secondary School: http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes252054.htm
14. US Bureau of Labor Statistics, May 2014 Occupational Employment and Wages, Career/Technical Education Teachers, Secondary School: http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes252032.htm
15. Projections Central, Long Term Occupational Projections: http://www.projectionscentral.com/Projections/LongTerm