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Teaching License Updated August 2, 2014

California Teacher Certification: How to Become a Licensed Teacher in California

By Room 241 Team August 2, 2014

If you want to work as an educator in California, you must learn about California’s licensure requirements. There is more than one way to become a certified teacher in California, so getting information about all the different paths available is important for your success.

Requirements for certified teachers in California

According to the California Department of Education, the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing is responsible for awarding licensure to teachers within the state. To qualify for preliminary credentials, you must have at least a bachelor’s degree, and you must complete a teacher preparation program. Educators in California must also satisfy the basic skills requirement, which requires a passing score on the California Basic Educational Skills Test (CBEST), California Subject Examinations for Teachers (CSET), the CSU Early Assessment Program, the CSU Placement Examinations, or a basic skill examination from another state.

You must also complete a multiple subject teacher preparation program, including a successful period of time as a student teacher, and prove your subject matter competence by either passing a state-approved examination or completing a state-approved program. In addition to these requirements, California educators (with the exception of special education teachers) must pass a U.S. constitution course, a reading instruction course, a developing English language skills course, and a fundamental technology skills course.

Most teachers complete their education preparation program while pursuing a bachelor’s degree. If you choose this path, you will choose a subject area and/or grade level as your specialty early in the program. The specialty that you choose will determine the type of license you must obtain when your program is complete.

After you complete your program, you will obtain your preliminary credential, which will be active for five years. During this time, you must successfully complete the teacher induction program with your assigned mentor, and you must obtain National Board Certification in order to qualify for clear credentials (standard licensure). Clear credentials must be renewed every five years.

If you did not complete an undergraduate education program, you can become a certified teacher in California by completing an accelerated teacher preparation program. To participate in such a program, you must have at least a bachelor’s degree. In some cases, you may be able to work as an intern teacher while you complete the program.

California jobs for licensed teachers

According to the Commission on Teacher Credentialing, teachers must obtain specific credentials based on the type of job they plan to obtain. Below are three of the most common credential categories available to teachers in the state of California.

1. Elementary teaching (multiple subject): This credential allows you to teach in self-contained classrooms for students in grades K-12, as well as preschoolers and adults.

2. Secondary teaching (single subject): This credential authorizes teachers to work in a departmentalized setting for students grades K-12, as well as preschoolers and adults.

3. Special education: This credential authorizes licensed teachers to work with students who have disabilities that impair learning.

If you plan to teach a subject designated as a Teacher Shortage Area (TSA) by the U.S. Department of Education, you might be eligible for student loan deferment or cancellation. The following TSAs have been approved for California for the 2015-2016 school year:

  • English/Drama/Humanities
  • History/Social Science
  • Mathematics/Computer Education
  • Science
  • Self-Contained Class
  • Special Education (Including State Special Schools)

A full and current list of TSAs for each state is available via the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Postsecondary Education.

Teaching license reciprocity in California

California participates in a teaching license reciprocity agreement with the National Association of State Directors of Teacher Education and Certification (NASDTEC). When you apply for a teaching certificate in one state using an existing license from another, the “destination state” is actually recognizing your credentials as verification that you are qualified to teach. You must still meet all requirements before you can teach there.

Fortunately, the NASDTEC Interstate Agreement for Educator Licensure streamlines this application process and expedites the goal of teaching in your new state. For more information, see Teaching License Reciprocity Explained.

Disclaimer: Licensing requirements are subject to change. Please visit your state board of education to check for recent revisions to teaching license requirements.

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