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 for each different pathway to certification. Requirements for teachers in the state are set by the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing (CTC), which provides both traditional and alternative paths to becoming a certified teacher in the state. Below we outline the 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 all public school teachers are required to hold a bachelor’s degree. Those who do not already hold a bachelor’s degree may complete 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 who do have a bachelor’s degree but did not complete a formal teacher preparation program.
Finding Approved Teacher Education Programs in California
Projected Job Growth
Growth in Teaching Jobs in CA through 20262
Perhaps the most important step towards obtaining California teacher certification is completing a teacher preparation program on the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing’s approved programs list. You can compare key metrics for these state-approved teacher preparation programs in California by using the sortable table on our California schools page.
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 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 to be eligible for certification.
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, 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.
- 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 Doctoral Education Programs
- I am already certified and want to teach in another state: Learn about Teacher Certification Reciprocity.
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:
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.
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 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. Prospective educators must also complete a two-semester hour course in the US Constitution as part of their teacher education program.
California Teacher Testing Requirements
California 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) and the California Subject Examinations for Teachers (CSET) including the basic writing test.
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 series of exams, but will no longer accept Praxis II scores as a basis for initial educator credentialing. For more information on testing, see the CTC’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) fingerprinting application. The 41-LS form can be downloaded and printed from the CTC’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 CTC’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 Ave
Sacramento, CA 95811-4213
Visit the California State Department of Education for more details on earning California teacher certification.
California Teacher Outlook, Salary, and Jobs
As of the 2016-2017 school year, there were just over 6.3 million students enrolled in California’s 10,291 K-12 public schools.3 With an estimated 271,287 public school teachers, this gives California a student-teacher ratio of 23:1.3
Estimates project 12,130 average annual job openings for elementary school teachers, 3,850 average annual job openings for middle school teachers, and 8,260 average annual job openings for secondary school teachers through 2026.2 Elementary school teachers in the state earn an average annual salary of $80,100, while middle school teachers average $75,660 per year and secondary school teachers average $80,510 per year.4 For more information visit the California Teachers Association, which publishes relevant news and resources for education professionals in California.
|Type||Number Employed||Average Annual Salary|
|Preschool Teachers, Special Education||1,470||$47,870|
|Elementary School Teachers||162,440||$80,100|
|Special Education Teachers, Kindergarten and Elementary School||15,230||$80,370|
|Middle School Teachers||46,500||$75,660|
|Middle School Teachers, Special Education||4,710||$76,860|
|Secondary School Teachers||112,960||$80,510|
|Secondary School Teachers, Special Education||10,520||$82,380|
|Secondary School Teachers, Career/Technical Education||4,620||$77,580|
Data from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics as of May 2018.4
California Teacher Interviews
- Kindergarten Teacher, Vanessa Escobar
- Kindergarten Teacher, Michelle Griffo
- President, California Association of Mathematics Teacher Educators, Joanne Becker
- Professor and Director, San Jose State University School of Information, Dr. Sandra Hirsh
- Lecturer, San Jose State University School of Information, Dr. Mary Ann Harlan
California School District Requirements
If you would like to learn more about the specific requirements for becoming a teacher in the following California cities, check out our city pages below. On these pages, you will find a step-by-step description of how to become a teacher in the city’s public school district as well as information on how to become a substitute teacher, school contact information, and private and charter school information.
Frequently Asked Questions
Question: How much do teachers make in California?
Answer: Average California teaching salaries vary by grade level and other factors, but excluding special education and career/technical education, at the elementary level, the average annual teacher salary is $80,100; at the middle school level it is $75,660; and at the high school level it is $80,510.4
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. California offers an emergency substitute teaching permit through the state. To get this permit you must have at least 90 college credits from an accredited university, be enrolled in college, and have met the basic skills requirements for teaching in California.
Question: Is there a teacher shortage in California?
Answer: According to the US Department of Education, California reports teacher shortages for the 2020-21 school year in the following areas: language arts, special education, mathematics, science, and elementary education.5
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 and how much do California high school teachers make?
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. High school teachers in California earn an average annual salary of $80,510.4
Teaching and Education Programs
1. California Commission on Teacher Credentialing: https://www.ctc.ca.gov/commission/default
2. Projections Central, Long Term Occupational Projections: https://projectionscentral.com/Projections/LongTerm
3. National Center for Education Statistics, State Nonfiscal Public Elementary/Secondary Education Survey Data, 2016-2017: https://nces.ed.gov/ccd/stnfis.asp
4. Bureau of Labor Statistics, May 2018 State Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates, California: https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes_ca.htm
5. US Department of Education, Teacher Shortage Areas: https://tsa.ed.gov/