California Alternative Teacher Certification

There are several alternative pathways to becoming a certified teacher in California. Regardless of the pathway, however, all candidates must meet California’s basic skills requirements for reading, writing, and mathematics and either take a course on the US Constitution or pass an examination proving adequate knowledge. All candidates must also complete an application for a teaching credential and submit the necessary form for a criminal background check. The California Commission on Teacher Credentialing oversees all requirements for teacher certification, both through traditional and alternative pathways.

Requirements for Alternative Certification

The basic qualification for alternative teacher certification is a bachelor’s degree, preferably in a teachable subject. Those who are interested in teaching a specific subject must verify knowledge of the subject matter. Verification of subject matter knowledge is done by passing the California Subject Examinations for Teachers (CSET). Those interested in teaching in self-contained classrooms (grades K-8) must also verify content area knowledge by passing the appropriate CSET exams. The CSET exams are typically taken after completing a teacher preparation program, though some programs may require candidates to sit for the exams prior to admittance.

Types of Alternative Teaching Licenses in California

There are several different alternative pathways a candidate can take to achieve certification in California. These include through a university internship program, a school internship program, teaching at a private school, or the Peace Corps. More information about each of these options can be found through the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing.

University Intern or District Intern Credential

Internship programs allow hopeful new teachers to work in the classroom, gaining practical experience while completing coursework in a teacher preparation program. Whether working through a state-approved university or public school (district) internship program, all credential-through-internship applicants must have already completed a bachelor’s degree, passed the California basic skills test, and met the fingerprinting and background clearance requirements. Candidates must also pass the appropriate subject assessments for the subject(s) to be taught, and complete an appropriate course or exam in the US Constitution. Those pursuing this pathway are expected to complete all requirements for a professional certificate within two years; a one-time, one-year hardship extension may be requested.

Credentialing Through Private School Experience

Not all private schools require teachers to be certified through the state. Those with at least three years of experience in private school classrooms may apply for public school teacher credentialing with the state and have the student teaching component waived. Those candidates with six or more years of classroom experience may have the teacher preparation program requirement waived entirely.

Credentialing Through the Peace Corps

Applicants for California teacher credentialing who served at least 18 months in the Peace Corps may be eligible to teach while working towards meeting the teacher preparation program requirement. Candidates must have spent at least 50% of the Peace Corps experience in a classroom setting and must meet all other requirements for credentialing, including holding a bachelor’s degree, satisfying the basic skills requirement, meeting English language skills and reading requirements, and completing a course or exam in the US Constitution, as well as passing the appropriate subject matter exams. Once issued, the certificate is valid for up to five years as the candidate completes an approved teacher preparation program in order to qualify for a standard teaching license.

Sojourn Certificate

Individuals who are academically qualified to teach a foreign language or culture through completion of a college-level program in a foreign country may be eligible for the Sojourn Certificate. In addition to meeting education requirements, individuals must have taught within a foreign country within the past year, satisfy the basic skills requirement, receive an employment offer from a California school district, and pass a background check. If issued, the Sojourn Certificate allows the holder to teach a foreign language as they work towards meeting standard teacher certification requirements.

Transferring Teaching Licenses from Another State

For teachers holding an out-of-state certificate, there are options for reciprocity in California. These applicants must have a bachelor’s degree, meet California’s basic skills requirement, and have an active teaching credential that is considered comparable to California’s. For more information on reciprocity, see our guide to reciprocity or the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing website.

Additional Resources

Schools with Alternative Certification Programs in California

Because the alternative certification process is complex, we have researched and provided specific school programs below for individuals who have a bachelor’s degree outside of education and want to become a teacher. We recommend you request information from one or more of these specific programs:

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1. California Commission on Teacher Credentialing: https://www.ctc.ca.gov/