Frequently Asked Questions: California Teaching Credentials

Teaching has the potential to be a rewarding, fulfilling, and flexible career. Today’s educators have countless opportunities to inspire some of tomorrow’s brightest young minds. In California, where educators are paid more than in almost any other U.S. state, a teaching career can also be financially attractive.  

If you’re considering a career in education, read on to learn how to become a teacher in California. This guide covers all the basics you need to know, including how to get a teaching credential in California, which type of credential you should pursue, and how much education you need to become a teacher, along with some additional state requirements. 

What Are Some Different Types of Teaching Careers? 

As a teacher in California, you can explore dozens of career paths. For example, you can focus on teaching a specific subject, such as music, history, or mathematics. You can also look to specialize by teaching a specific group of students, such as ESL students or students with disabilities. Additionally, you can focus your teaching career on educating students at a specific level,  as becoming an elementary, middle, or high school teacher.

Depending on your goals and interests, you may also wish to consider transitioning into an administrative role, such as becoming a superintendent, principal, or a director for something more specific like arts, admissions, or athletics. 

Which Types of Teachers Are in High Demand? 

According to recent data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), teachers with the best job outlook include such specializations as preschool teachers (7 percent growth) and postsecondary teachers (11 percent growth). 

The highest paid teachers were postsecondary teachers, with a 2019 median salary of nearly $80,000, along with high school and special education teachers, who both earned between $61,000 and $62,000 annually. 

What Are the Requirements for Becoming a Teacher in California? 

In order to become a teacher in California, you’ll need to fulfill specific requirements in order to earn your credential as an elementary, middle, high school, or special education teacher. In addition to covering those requirements, we’ll also share with you a basic overview of what credentials are and how they are issued. 

What is a Teaching Credential in California? 

To become a teacher in California or other parts of the U.S., you must earn the appropriate teaching credentials and meet other requirements, which vary from state to state. In California, credentials are issued by the Commission on Teacher Credentialing (CTC), which sets rigorous quality standards for the state’s public schools. Only by earning the appropriate CTC credential can you become a state-certified teacher in California

What Credentials Are Required for Elementary School Teachers in California? 

The type of CTC credential you need depends on the type of teacher you plan to become. For example, elementary school teachers have their own credential requirements, which differ from those of secondary school or special education teachers.

To become an elementary school teacher in California, you must earn a credential called a Multiple Subject Teaching Credential. As its name suggests, this credential prepares you to teach a broad range of subjects — ideal for grade school settings. That said, educators with this credential may also teach students who are in “preschool, [other levels of] K-12, or in classes organized primarily for adults.” 

There are many ways you can earn your Multiple Subject Teaching Credential, such as completing a college program, volunteering with the Peace Corps, or using your work experience from teaching at private school. 

What Credentials Are Required for Middle and High School Teachers in California? 

Middle and high school teachers are both classified as secondary school teachers. To become a high school teacher in California, or to teach middle school classes, you will generally need to earn a Single Subject Teaching Credential. This credential prepares you to teach one topic or type of class, such as math, science, physics, or a language. Give some thought to your area and subject of specialization as this will determine which courses you should focus on. 

Like the Multiple Subject Teaching Credential, the Single Subject Teaching Credential can be earned in several ways, as outlined by the CTC. If you are considering taking the college or university route (as opposed to, for instance, the school district internship route), be sure to choose an accredited institution — otherwise, you may be unable to obtain CTC approval

What Credentials Are Required for Special Education Teachers in California? 

To become a special education teacher in California, you will need to obtain an Education Specialist Instruction Credential. As the CTC explains, this credential prepares the teacher to work with a variety of students, including students with low vision, students with hearing loss, and physically or mentally disabled students. 

What Other Requirements Do I Need to Meet? 

Meeting the CTC’s teaching credential requirements, though crucial, isn’t the only step toward becoming a teacher in California. You’ll also need to take some additional steps, which include earning a college degree, gaining classroom experience, and passing standardized exams such as the CBEST and CSET. Continue reading to learn more about these important requirements for California teacher certification. 

Do You Need a Degree to Become a Teacher in California? 

In short, yes: under California’s strict regulations, which set minimum education requirements for teachers, all teachers must earn a bachelor’s degree or higher. For instance, NU offers a Bachelor of Arts in English with a Single Subject Teaching Credential and a Bachelor of Arts in Early Childhood Development with a Multiple Subject Teaching Credential, to name just a few of our accredited education programs. You can even earn your California teaching credential online, depending on which program you enter. 

While an undergraduate degree and certificate can unlock a rewarding career, many students continue to the graduate level, earning advanced degrees such as a Master of Arts in Education (MAE) or Master of Science in Educational and Instructional Technology. In fact, more than half of all public school teachers — approximately 58 percent, as of 2018 — report holding a master’s degree, education specialist degree, or doctoral degree, according to the National Center for Education Statistics

What is the CBEST Test Requirement?  

Under California law, teachers are required to pass several exams and assessments. For example, all teachers must pass the California Basic Educational Skills Test (CBEST), in addition to the California Subject Examinations for Teachers (CSET). These tests assess prospective teachers in areas like mathematics, reading, and writing to help ensure that they will meet quality standards in the classroom. In addition to the CBEST and CSET, most students who are pursuing Multiple Subject Teaching Credentials, including students who want to teach special education, must pass the Reading Instruction Competence Assessment (RICA). 

For a comprehensive overview of how the CBEST is graded and scored, click here. Or, click here to see a complete list of required exams that all students in the NU Teacher Education Department must pass. 

Are There Classroom Experience Requirements for Teachers in California?  

Classroom experience is vital if you want to be hired for a full-time teaching job in California. To satisfy its fieldwork requirements, the CTC requires student teachers to complete at least 600 hours of “clinical practice,” a term which refers broadly to student teaching exercises. Fortunately, NU’s fast-paced education programs integrate classroom experience alongside coursework, giving students the opportunity to teach while they learn. 

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