How to Become a Teacher in San Diego

The largest public school district in the San Diego area is the San Diego Unified School District (SDUSD), which educates over 121,000 students, making it the second-largest school district in California.1 You must have a teaching certificate to work in the public school district, which involves completing a bachelor’s degree, a teacher preparation program, and the California Basic Educational Skills Test (CBEST) and the California Subject Examination for Teachers (CSET). Charter schools also require applicants to have a teaching certificate, although private schools set their own requirements. See the private and charter school section for more details, and continue reading to learn more about teaching careers in San Diego.

San Diego Teacher Certification Requirements

To become a teacher in San Diego, individuals must complete a bachelor’s degree program and an approved teacher preparation program, pass the CBEST and CSET tests, and complete a fingerprint check. This will enable you to earn the California teacher certificate through the Commission on Teacher Credentialing. Students currently enrolled in a teacher preparation program may be eligible to complete a paying internship and earn classroom experience. To learn more about certification requirements, please visit our California teacher certification page.

Aspiring teachers who possess a bachelor’s degree but have not completed teacher preparation can earn certification through an alternate route by enrolling in a teacher preparation program and simultaneously working as a district intern. This can help you save time meeting the certification requirements while gaining experience. See our guide to California alternative teacher certification to learn more.

Teacher Certification Programs in San Diego

The following San Diego-area colleges and universities offer teacher certification programs that can prepare you for first-time licensure or additional endorsements, if you are already licensed. You can read more about teacher preparation programs in the state on our California schools page.

  • Point Loma Nazarene University
  • San Diego State University
  • University of San Diego

San Diego School District Steps for Becoming a Teacher

To become a teacher in San Diego, you will need to be certified through the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing. There are many ways of completing the requirements for certification, including earning a bachelor’s degree in education or an alternative educator program. See the certification section for more information. To apply for a position in the district, follow these steps and check job postings frequently as positions are available throughout the year.

Step 1: Complete your application.

First, you should create an account on the school district’s website and complete the online application, including information on your educational background, criminal history (if applicable), and work experience. You will also be required to upload a resume and may be required to answer written questions or provide references.

Step 2: Be interviewed by a school leader or panel.

If your application is selected by the school, you may be asked to attend an interview. The interview process may include a written evaluation or test and/or a teaching presentation to demonstrate teaching skills.

Step 3: Complete the hiring process.

Successful applicants will be extended an offer of employment with the school. Offers of employment are contingent on successful verification of your credentials, reference checks, a drug test, a TB test, and a fingerprint clearance. In some cases, you may also need to complete a physical exam. Details will be provided at the time of hiring.

Contact Information

San Diego Unified School District
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/SanDiegoUnified
Twitter: https://twitter.com/sdschools

4100 Normal St
San Diego, CA 92103
(619) 725-7700

How to Become a Substitute Teacher with the San Diego School District

For substitute teaching positions (also known as “visiting teacher” positions in the San Diego Unified School District), you must hold a bachelor’s degree and pass the California Basic Educational Skills Test (CBEST). Teacher certification is preferred, but in high-needs areas prospective substitute teachers can apply for an emergency 30-day substitute teaching permit. The substitute permit, which is valid for one year and must be renewed annually, allows substitutes to teach in any of the 42 schools in San Diego County. However, substitutes with this permit can only teach for a maximum of 30 days in the same classroom. You can view open positions and apply through the district’s website.

Private and Charter School Teacher Requirements in San Diego

California law requires that charter school teachers in San Diego hold a current teaching certificate or its equivalent. Private schools in San Diego have some latitude to set their own separate requirements for prospective teachers. Schools that are not part of the public school system are not required by the state to hire certified teachers but may prefer candidates who hold California teacher certification. Take a look at the websites of individual private schools to learn more about specific hiring practices.

The Largest K-12 Schools in San Diego

To help you compare public, private, and charter schools in San Diego we have compiled the following table that compares the largest schools in the San Diego area.

SchoolTypeGrade Level# StudentsStudent-Teacher
Rosa Parks Elementary SchoolPublicK-597425:1
Porter Elementary SchoolPublicK-691126:1
Dingeman Elementary SchoolPublicK-578227:1
Marshall Middle SchoolPublic6-81,50925:1
Lewis Middle SchoolPublic6-81,11424:1
Standley Middle SchoolPublic6-81,03427:1
Henry High SchoolPublic9-122,39725:1
Mira Mesa High SchoolPublic9-122,32225:1
Scripps Ranch High SchoolPublic9-122,23428:1
The O’Farrell Charter SchoolCharterK-121,78221:1
Charter School of San DiegoCharter7-121,43630:1
Gompers Preparatory AcademyCharter6-121,30519:1
Cathedral Catholic High SchoolPrivate9-121,63015:1
Francis Parker SchoolPrivatePK-121,18510:1
The Bishop’s SchoolPrivate6-128008:1

See Table Notes and References at bottom of page.

San Diego Teacher Salary and Jobs Outlook

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, secondary school teachers in the San Diego-Carlsbad area earn the highest average salary at $77,630, followed by elementary school teachers at $71,990, middle school teachers at $73,150, and kindergarten teachers at $66,720.1 These average salaries are slightly below statewide averages but notably above national averages.2,3,4

San Diego-area teaching positions for kindergarten, elementary, middle school, and secondary school are projected to grow between 7.6% to 9.9% through 2026.5 Even stronger growth is projected for preschool teachers, at 14.6% during the same time period.5 Each year, openings will be created by new positions and replacements for existing positions. Elementary school teachers are projected to have the highest number of total job openings each year (922) followed by secondary school teachers (877) and preschool teachers (486).5

San Diego Teacher Shortage Areas

The US Department of Education bases some student loan forgiveness programs on teacher shortage areas, meaning that your chances of qualifying for loan forgiveness may be stronger if you are teaching a subject that has been formally identified as a shortage area. You may also qualify for other funding opportunities or a more competitive salary based on your endorsement(s). Note that shortage areas may change from year to year, so you should be sure to check with state education agencies, your selected education program, and your student loan providers about funding options. For the 2020-2021 school year, the following subject areas were recognized as shortage areas in California (statewide):6

  • Bilingual Education
  • Career Technical Education
  • Mathematics
  • Science
  • Special Education

San Diego Teaching Jobs Boards

To find teaching job opportunities in the San Diego area, regularly check online job boards for new postings throughout the year. Here are some sites with postings in the area. You can also check out our jobs board to search for teaching jobs in San Diego.

Additional Resources

Frequently Asked Questions

Question: What is the typical San Diego teacher salary?

Answer: San Diego public school teacher salaries are based in large part on the number of years of experience that a teacher has, as well as his or her education level. First-year teachers in schools with a 184-day schedule who have a bachelor’s degree start at a salary of $48,791 per year.7 Higher first-step salaries, up to a maximum of $60,703 for a bachelor’s degree plus 90 graduate credit hours, are offered.7 All teachers receive regular step increases based on experience.

Question: What is the pay rate for a San Diego substitute teacher?

Answer: Substitute teachers, also known as visiting teachers, are paid $166.69 per day for short-term assignments or $186.28 per day for long-term assignments.8 “Established” day-to-day visiting teachers, those who work 50% or more of the instructional year, are paid $176.49 per day.8

Question: How do you become a kindergarten teacher in San Diego?

Answer: To become a kindergarten teacher in San Diego public or charter schools, you must complete a bachelor’s degree and an approved teacher preparation program in early childhood education and then pass California’s state exams for early childhood educators. You can read about the requirements in detail through the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing. Private school requirements may vary by school.

Table Notes and References:
1. Niche, Largest Schools in San Diego: https://www.niche.com/k12/search/largest-schools/t/san-diego-san-diego-ca/

1. San Diego Unified School District: https://www.sandiegounified.org/
2. Bureau of Labor Statistics, May 2018 Metropolitan and Nonmetropolitan Area Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates, San Diego-Carlsbad Metropolitan Division: https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes_41740.htm#25-0000
3. Bureau of Labor Statistics, May 2018 State Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates, California: https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes_ca.htm#25-0000
4. Bureau of Labor Statistics, May 2018 National Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates, United States: https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes_nat.htm#25-0000
5. State of California Employment Development Department, Employment Projections 2016-2026: https://labormarketinfo.edd.ca.gov/data/employment-projections.html
6. US Department of Education, Teacher Shortage Areas, California, 2020-2021: https://tsa.ed.gov/#/reports
7. San Diego Unified School District Salary Schedules: https://www.sandiegounified.org/departments/human_resources/salary_schedules
8. San Diego Unified School District Visiting Certificated Employee Salary Schedule: https://www.sandiegounified.org/departments/human_resources/salary_schedules