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.
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.
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.