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7 Steps to Become a Teacher in California


Becoming a teacher in California may seem like a confusing, daunting process. But getting the proper teacher training and California teacher credentials doesn’t have to be an experience of navigating bureaucratic labyrinths. Following these seven simple steps will get you to the front of a classroom without losing all of your hair from frustration along the way.

California state 1. Choose What You Want to Teach
Before you become a teacher in California, you’ll want to consider what type of students and what subject you’d like to teach. Elementary school? High school? Special education? The Commission on Teacher Credentialing has separate steps and guidelines depending on which type of teaching you want to do in California. You can change your mind later, but it might make your journey to obtain your California teaching credentials a bit longer.

2. Get a Degree
Generally, to become a teacher in California, a candidate will begin by completing a baccalaureate or advanced degree. Consider your major based on the age level and subject you plan to teach. A school counselor or advisor can help you decide if you’re not sure what to major in. And of course, some people who want to teach in California begin by pursuing a Master’s in Teaching, which offers more extensive teacher training and support throughout the teacher credential process.

3. Enroll in a Teacher Preparation Program
This step usually coincides with seeking a degree, but can be completed on its own. A complete list of the institutions who offer a Commission-approved teacher preparation program for individuals wishing to become a teacher in California is available on the Prospective CA Educator website.

4. Complete a Student Teaching Experience
Many programs will also include an “observation” experience first, but a requirement for all enrolled teacher candidates in California is student teaching. Successful student teaching includes creating and implementing lesson plans, and often writing reflections or putting together a portfolio.

5. Take a Computer Class… or Two
All individuals who wish to obtain their California teacher credentials need to demonstrate fluency with computers and technology. According to the state’s specific requirements, California teachers must “complete foundational computer technology coursework that includes general and specialized skills in the use of computers in educational settings.” This can often be done while in college or enrolled at a Commission-approved teacher preparation program.

6. Pass the Tests
The next step to becoming a teacher in California is passing tests such as the CBEST — a test on reading, writing and math — and the CSET — a subject matter competency exam. The CSU Placement examinations can also be taken in place of the CBEST and CSET to meet the requirement. Evaluations usually can be taken several times (a fee is required each time) in the case that a teacher candidate does not initially pass.

In the event that a teacher is transferring to California from out of state, the teacher may be exempt from testing if they hold a valid, non-emergency teacher credential and meet other qualifications. Also, if you want to teach in California but skipped steps or didn’t enroll in an approved teacher preparation program, you’ll likely have to pass the Reading Instruction Competence Assessment (RICA).

7. Obtain a Formal Recommendation
Typically after student teaching and a degree is completed, a formal recommendation for the credential from your college, university or teacher preparation program will need to be submitted. Many students also put together a portfolio or ePortfolio to showcase their experience and readiness to teach.

Alternate Routes
There are other paths to becoming a teacher in California besides the one detailed above. If you want to teach elementary, middle or high school, you may be able to obtain your California teacher credentials through a teaching internship. Alternatively, you may be able to earn your elementary or high school teacher credential with experience from instructing at a private school, in the Peace Corps or through obtaining National Board Certification. Special education teachers can only obtain their credentials through a college, university or designated internship program.

The Learning Never Ends
Once you land your first job and start teaching in California, the learning doesn’t end. Teachers in California must stay on top of trends and educational research by taking occasional classes and participating in professional development workshops. Becoming a teacher in California is a lifelong process of shaping the future, so remember to chart your path and put your best foot forward. It’s an incredible journey.

  • dubious daisy

    Sounds unbelievable but i’ve been told if you coach sports and teach sports related courses you do not need teaching credentials in a CA city college. Is this true??

    • tasteless chap

      College teaching doesn’t require a credential.

      • E. B. Andrade

        College teaching, however, requires a minimum of a M.S., a bachelor’s is not sufficient.

        • tasteless chap

          Depends on which field you’re in, and what type of school you’re teaching. One of my professors for my master’s degree doesn’t have a college degree at all!

          • E. B. Andrade

            Oh wow! That is REALLY rare! I have been teaching college for 7 years, I am my discipline’s coordinator, and even our coaches have to have masters! Maybe it is an older professor that has been teaching there forever? Old rules stay there forever if they are tenure. But, I bet you the current rule is M.S. or M.A. minimum.

          • tasteless chap

            This particular professor is full-time and tenured at a private university. Private schools can hire whoever they want.

          • Bhis

            not really a “professor” is he/she?

          • tasteless chap

            Well, he’s at the top of his field despite not having a degree. Getting a college degree at this point would not give him any more information than he already has. He’s an expert, regardless of being un-papered.

  • Szevinah S. Sunga

    I was a public school teacher in the Philippines for almost 3 yrs and migrated here in CA.. What should be my 1st step if I want to practice my profession here? Thank you and God bless

  • Mary

    I have a BA in English and will begin my fifth year teaching at a private elementary school. Does teaching experience account for anything during this process? What tests do I need to take if so? Some teachers at my school are going through a process called BTSA. I haven’t seen this in the steps.

  • vivian

    I was a private teacher in the Philippines for 25 years. What are the things i have to do to have a teaching job here in California? Do i have to go to the schools and apply personally or online application is enough?

  • Doug Forney

    I passed the CSET exams, but cannot afford to take time off from my fulltime job to enroll in a credential program or internship. Can I do anything (sub, etc) now that I have passed the CSET?

    • Irina

      I only know that if you received a BA in Liberal Studies and passed the CBEST – you can be a substitute..

      • Sonya

        You can have BA in anything, just as long as you’ve passed the CBEST you can be a substitute. You have to apply for a 30 day credential which costs about $130, then you can enlist your name with different substitute calling lists, each district has one.

        • Candacie Riggins

          Go to ctc.ca, California teacher commistion site, tells f the requirements for getting calif. teaching permits and individual requirements, renewals, fingerprinting info, etc.

    • Kimberley

      If you already have your BA you can sub with an emergency credential if you pass the CBEST. You should check into interning…you get paid for that! All the info you need is at the CA gov teaching website. It’s a lot of info so once you’re there try to specify your topic as much as possible to reduce the amount of info they throw at you. Good luck!

  • Ateka Chowdhury

    I am an under graduate in Economics with 4 years experience of teaching in elementary and middle school in Bangladesh. I have moved back to CA. What should I do to be eligible for teaching in CA?
    I am really lost. Please guide me.

    • Erika Phyall

      Hi, the first step is to contact our admissions team, they will be able to offer further advice. Call 1.888.628.1872

  • Ross Banick

    I’m confused. I can’t imagine that “just” an internship (i.e., on-the-job training) will legally suffice for long-term K-12 teaching in California. It seems there are really only two avenues (with or without internships). The first is a 75-credit Masters Degree in Education, with the teaching credential included, and the second seems to be a teaching credential preparatory program (e.g., a 36-credit preparatory program). Even then, you still have to teach within two years, because the credential is only preliminary, until a two-year clearance credential is granted. But all this confuses me. Does anyone actually know how it works to get a teaching credential in California?

  • Dorkus_Amorkus

    If you have an MFA do you still need to get a teaching credential?

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