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 teaching credentials doesn't have to be complicated. These seven simple steps will set you on the path to becoming a teacher.

California state

  1. Research what teaching is all about.

    Teaching is a challenging yet rewarding profession that requires teachers to be lifelong learners. Before pursuing this profession, make sure you thoroughly research the occupation's requirements, time commitment, and pros and cons in order to determine if teaching is the right fit for you. In order to folly understand the commitment you are going to make, speak to any friends or family members who have experience teaching and learn about the latest trends in education through e-newsletters and other resources.

  2. Assess your situation.

    What type of education and work experience do you already have? Do you have teaching experience? Teachers come from a variety of backgrounds. Figure out which areas interest you the most and look through your résumé to see what work you've done in the past that involved the skills necessary for teaching.

  3. Choose what you want to teach.

    Consider what type of students and which subject you'd like to teach. Do you want to teach in elementary school? High school? Special education? The Commission on Teacher Credentialing has separate steps and guidelines for teachers with different goals. You can change your mind later, but having an idea of where you want to end up allows for an easier, more seamless journey to obtaining your California teaching credentials.

  4. Consider enrolling in a teacher preparation program.

    If you want to teach in a K–12 setting, you may want to consider applying to a teacher preparation program where you can be recommended for a California teaching credential. Teacher prep programs such as our Master of Arts in Teaching program or our MAT–TESOL program are both offered online.

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  5. Gain teaching experience.

    While learning in a teacher prep program is important, it is also essential to gain real-world experience teaching in a classroom. Our Master of Arts in Teaching program allows students to gain hands-on teaching experience assisting a professional teacher in their area.

  6. Complete the certification process and get a formal recommendation.

    The next step to becoming a teacher in California is passing teacher certification exams such as the CBEST — a test on reading, writing and math — and the CSET — a subject-matter competency exam. You can also take CSU Placement examinations in place of the CBEST to meet the requirement. The CBEST requirement can also be met by passing another state's basic skills examination. Evaluations can usually be taken several times (a fee is required each time) if you do not pass the evaluation the first time. 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 a California elementary school, it is required to pass the Reading Instruction Competence Assessment (RICA), unless you are coming from out of state.

    Once you pass your teacher certification exams and meet student-teaching and degree requirements, you will need to submit a formal recommendation for the credential from your college, university or teacher preparation program. Many students also put together a portfolio or ePortfolio to showcase their experience and readiness to teach.

  7. Find a job.

    The key to finding a job is to research vacancies and determine your ideal work environment. After completing a teacher preparation program and earning your credentials, you should have a very clear sense of where you want to teach as well as a network of colleagues in the education space. Our programs provide you with a career and credentialing advisor as well as the necessary resources to advance your teaching career.

Alternative Routes

The steps detailed above represent the most common path you can take to become a teacher in California, but there are also other ways to achieve your career goal. For example, if you would like to teach elementary, middle or high school students, 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 by having teaching experience in a private school or in the Peace Corps, or obtaining National Board Certification. Special education teachers can obtain their credentials only through a college, university or designated internship program.

The Learning Never Ends

Once you land your first job and start teaching in California, it is essential to continue learning through professional development opportunities. Teachers in California must stay on top of trends and educational research by taking occasional classes and participating in workshops. Becoming a teacher in California is a commitment that impacts our future leaders, so remember to chart your path as clearly as you can and put your best foot forward. It's an incredible journey.

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