Become a Teacher in California

Steps to Becoming a Teacher in California

Important Note: Education licensure requirements, statistics and other information are subject to change. makes its best effort to keep content accurate; however, the official sources are the state education departments. Please confirm licensing requirements with your state before applying for licensure or renewal.

Last updated: 10/31/2016

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Vanderbilt University's Peabody College offers an online Master of Education in human development counseling with a specialization in school counseling for students interested in becoming school counselors and making a meaningful difference in K–12 settings.

The Master of Arts in Teaching degree (MAT) is for aspiring teachers who want to gain the skills and knowledge they need to become great educators.

The online Master of Science in Teaching program prepares aspiring teachers (grades 1-6) for initial teaching certification or dual certification in teaching and special education.

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Getting a teaching credential in California will require you to fulfill the designated undergraduate coursework, a teacher preparation program, and standardized testing. Teaching at the elementary level requires a Multiple Subject Teaching Credential, teaching at the secondary level requires a Single Subject Teaching Credential, and teaching special education students requires an Education Specialist Instruction Credential.

Novice teachers begin with a Preliminary Credential, with which they are allowed to teach for up to five years. At the end of that period, they must meet the criteria for a Clear Credential. The requirements for the Clear Credential can be satisfied in one of three ways:

  1. General Education Induction Program
  2. General Education Clear Credential program at a California college or university
  3. Certification from the National Board of Professional Teaching Standards.

Learn more about getting your California teaching credential through the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing or on Teach's credential page.

You may also reach out to the California Department of Education for more detailed questions.


Prerequisite Coursework in California

All states require that prospective teachers have at least a bachelor’s degree and complete a state-approved teacher preparation program to receive certification. Some states also have specific course and credit-hour requirements.

Teacher education programs generally consist of two elements—curricula and fieldwork.

Curricula generally include instruction on teaching fundamental skills, pedagogy (the science of teaching), and preparing students to research, design, and implement learning experiences in their field of study. Fieldwork often includes field observations, internships, student teaching, or a combination of all three.

California does not list specific course or credit-hour requirements, but every college or university teacher preparation program will have requirements of its own. However, all California teachers must take a class on the U.S. Constitution, as well as a Developing English Language Skills course. Contact your teacher preparation program or the Commission on Teacher Credentialing for more information.



California Teacher Certification Programs

Teacher preparation typically involves the completion of an accredited teacher education program. Teacher education programs consist of a combination of curricula and fieldwork. The curricula include foundational knowledge and skills, contemporary pedagogy, and lesson plan implementation. The fieldwork component can include field observations, student teaching, and an internship. A list of accredited teacher preparation programs in California can be found through the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing’s Approved Program dashboard.



Required Tests for California

In order to become a certified teacher in California, you must complete a basic skills requirement and any subject area competence tests needed for your desired area of instruction. The basic skills requirement can be fulfilled by taking the CBEST (California Basic Educational Skills Test), the CSET Multiple Subject Plus Writing Skills Examination, or the CSU Early Assessment Program. The subject area competency requirement can be fulfilled by the CSET (California Subject Examinations for Teachers).

You can learn more about these California certification exams by visiting the CSET and CBEST information pages provided by Teachers Test Prep, where you can also access free online practice tests and study guides for each exam, plus a variety of paid test prep options for those who need additional help, including live prep classes, one-on-one tutoring, and on-demand online prep.

Read more about teacher certification tests on

Alternative Certification in California

Aspiring teachers with a bachelor’s degree that is not in education who have not yet earned a traditional teaching certificate can still receive an alternative teaching certificate by satisfying certain requirements. (Note: California does not offer undergraduate majors in Education.) Here’s a list and description of some alternative routes to certification in California:

  • College or university internship programs
  • School district internship
  • Get credit for private school teaching experience
  • Get credit for Peace Corps teaching experience

The Mountain Pacific Region Troops to Teachers program is another alternative pathway to teacher certification in California. See the Commission on Credentialing’s How to Become a Teacher in California page for more information about traditional and alternative California teacher certification routes.

Ohio Teacher Certification Information & Links


Certification Reciprocity in California

California participates in the Association of State Directors of Teacher Education and Certification’s Interstate Agreement, meaning that California accepts teaching credentials from other states, but may not accept all teaching credentials from other states. Be sure to contact the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing to inquire about your specific situation. You can also learn more on the reciprocity page.


California Teaching Jobs

The California Department of Education runs a teaching job site with certification information, career analysis, and a teacher shortage page. On this site, the Department of Education articulates its specific needs from teachers and gives general information about teaching in California.

Learn more about finding a teaching job on

California Teacher Salary and Incentives

California is one of the highest paying states for teachers, with elementary school teachers making an average of $72,360 per year and secondary school teachers making an average of $74,770 per year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Teacher salaries vary by location within California. The 2015–2016 salary schedule from Los Angeles rewards teachers with a slight increase in salary for each semester unit of undergraduate coursework taken, as well as for years of experience. California teachers are eligible for the Good Neighbor Next Door program, which provides a significant discount on housing in certain areas.

Learn more about teacher salaries on

Teacher salaries were provided by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ May 2015 Occupational Employment Statistics report and the National Education Association’s Rankings of the States 2015.

California Teacher Benefits and Retirement

The California State Teachers’ Retirement System provides information on health care, dental care, disability support, earnings credit, and retirement benefits, as well as retirement plan progress reports. For more information, visit the benefits page.

Learn more about benefits for teachers on

Financial Aid in California

California residents are eligible for the Applegate/Jackson/Parks Future Teacher Scholarship as well as the TEACH Grant, a grant that gives financial aid to students in return for an agreement to teach in a high-need field in a low-income area.

Learn more about how to finance your master's degree on


Professional Development for California Teachers

California’s Department of Education has a number of professional development initiatives designed to improve the quality of teaching and keep it dynamic. Development opportunities include staff mentoring, peer assistance review (PAR) programs, and statewide workshops. Resources include seminars on iTunes U. The California Department of Education and Commission on Teacher Credentialing co-sponsor the Beginning Teacher Support and Assessment (BTSA) Program. The program helps newly credentialed teachers fulfill the requirements for the California Clear Multiple and Single Subjects credentials. The California Department of Education also offers information on internship programs for prospective teachers.

Benefits of a Master's Degree in California

A master’s degree in the field of education gives teachers more field experience and pedagogical knowledge, which leads to increased competence in the classroom. The Los Angeles teacher salary schedule offers a flat $584 annual salary increase for teachers with a master’s degree, in addition to a slight increase for each semester unit of courses taken.

Learn more about the benefits of a Master of Arts in Teaching vs. Master of Education on