California Teaching Credential

Earning your Master of Arts in Teaching online from USC Rossier will prepare you to obtain your preliminary teaching credential in California, the first part of a two-tiered system. It is valid for five years and cannot be renewed.

After five years, you can upgrade to a clear level certification, which must be renewed every five years thereafter.

How Do I Earn a Teaching Credential in California?

If you want to become a K–12 teacher in California, you are required by the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing (CTC) to meet the basic skills requirement. You must also pass subject-specific exams, which vary depending on your career goals.

Basic Skills Requirement

The first step toward earning your teacher credential in California is passing the California Basic Education Skills Test (CBEST). This three-part exam assesses your proficiency in mathematics, reading and writing. You must receive a score of at least 41 on each of those three sections to pass. Once you pass the CBEST, you do not have to take it again.

Learn more about preparing for the CBEST.

Subject Matter Requirement

To become a primary school teacher in California, you also must obtain a Multiple Subject Teaching Credential by taking the California Subject Examination for Teachers (CSET).

To teach a specialized subject in middle or high school, you must also obtain a single-subject teaching credential in that subject area by taking the California Subject Examination for Teachers (CSET).

Browse CSET examinations by subject.

For Out-of-State Candidates

The USC Rossier MAT online program prepares you to earn your teaching credential in California; however, you may also be eligible to obtain your teaching credentials in other states. Credential requirements differ from state to state. We recommend researching the requirements in the state in which you reside or intend to practice.

View teacher certification by state.

Become a Highly Qualified, Credentialed Educator

Earn your MAT online from USC Rossier in as few as 11-15 months.

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California Teaching Credential Requirements

To be recognized as a credentialed teacher in the state of California, you must complete the following credential requirements in addition to your teacher certification exams and program coursework.

View our complete guide to teacher certification exams.


  • Complete a baccalaureate or higher degree from a regionally accredited college or university.
  • Complete a commission-approved single- or multiple-subject teacher preparation program.
  • Obtain a formal recommendation for the credential by the program sponsor.
  • For multiple-subject teaching credential, Pass the Reading Instruction Competence Assessment (RICA). Individuals who hold a valid California teaching credential that was issued based upon completion of a teacher preparation program, including student teaching, are exempt from this requirement.

Basic Skills Requirement

Satisfy the requirement in one of the following ways:

  • Pass the CBEST exam.
  • Pass the CSET: multiple subject plus writing skills exam.
  • Pass the CSU early assessment program or CSU placement exams.
  • Achieve qualifying scores on your ACT (English score of 22+ or Mathematics score of 23+).
  • Achieve qualifying scores on your SAT (English score of 500+ or Mathematics score of 550+).
  • Achieve qualifying scores of 3+ on AP English and 3+ on either AP Calculus or AP Statistics.

Subject Matter Requirement

Pass all subtests of the CSET exam in your chosen subject area.

Tuberculosis Screening

Certificate of Clearance (CoC)

The CoC consists of a background check and professional fitness clearance, including getting fingerprinted at a Live Scan facility and completing a physical fitness questionnaire online.

United States Constitution Exam

Satisfy the requirement in one of the following ways:

  • Take an exam from one of the following institutions:
    • Chapman University
    • CSU Dominguez Hills
    • CSU San Bernardino
    • UCLA Extension
    • Notre Dame de Namur University (online exam)
  • Earn a baccalaureate degree from a California State University.
  • Complete a 2-unit course on the provisions and principles of the U.S. Constitution with a grade of C or better.

CPR Certification

Note regarding felonies and misdemeanors: In order to obtain a teaching credential, the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing (CTC) requires credential applicants to disclose convictions of a felony or misdemeanor. While a felony or misdemeanor will not necessarily prevent you from being admitted to the program, you may not be eligible to participate in student teaching which is a requirement of the program.

California Teaching Credential Renewal

Renewal requirements depend on your specific pathway and professional development. You can view your renewal requirements in your CTC Educator Account.

In most cases, you can renew your teaching credential online using a debit or credit card. The CTC does not print, distribute or mail paper documents, but you can view and print on the CTC website within 10 business days.

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