How to Become a Teacher in California

How to Become a Teacher in California

Today, more than ever, our nation’s schools need dedicated, qualified teachers. Our world is changing, and our children need the skills required to compete in a rapidly globalizing marketplace. They need to learn the basics, of course, but they also need a strong command of science, technology and engineering – among other skills. Our nation’s teachers are the men and women who will give our children these vital skills.

Becoming a Teacher in California

As in any state, if you want to become a teacher in California, you must follow a rigorous process of preparation, testing and credentialing. It might seem an overwhelming or confusing process, but as the saying goes, “a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step” – you just have to know what steps to take! If you are interested in becoming a licensed educator in the state of California, here are the steps you will need to complete your professional journey.

Decide what you want to teach. Before you start your education, you will need to choose which area of specialization most appeals to you. Consider your strengths and interests. Do you want to teach at the grade school level, for instance? Or does teaching high school appeal to you more? Would you want to specialize in math, science, art or computers? Would you be interested in helping children with special needs? The educational and licensing requirements you will need to meet will vary depending on the grade level or specialization you choose. In California, if you want to teach at the elementary level must earn a Multiple Subject Teaching Credential, whereas if you want to become a higher school teacher in California, you will need to earn a Single Subject Teaching Credential. To work with children who are in special education, you must earn an Educational Specialist Instruction Credential.

Select a teacher preparation program. Once you know what direction your teaching career will take, you will need to choose an accredited college or university from which to earn your Bachelor’s degree. In addition to earning your Bachelor’s, you will also need to complete a state-approved teacher preparation program. While some undergraduate programs integrate this type of curriculum into the Bachelor’s coursework, many universities offer post-baccalaureate teacher credential programs that can be completed independently of the undergraduate degree. A typical teacher credential program combines several semesters of coursework with student teaching or intern teaching. Alternative teacher certification programs are also available that allow you to work full-time as a teacher while pursuing your preliminary credential. To learn more about the different types of credentials, visit our California Teaching Credential Programs page.

Gain teaching experience. An important – and required – aspect of your licensure will be a teaching practicum. During this part of a California teacher credential program, you will actually teach in a public school alongside licensed teachers as part of a student teaching or intern teaching experience. This is your chance to pick up invaluable information from working professionals and get real-world experience.

Pass all required tests. Another important part of the credentialing process is proving you have the proper skills to be a teacher by passing a number of exams. Required exams include:

  • California Basic Skills Requirement (CBEST): This test will verify that you are proficient in basic skills. The CBEST test contains three sections: reading, writing and mathematics.
  • California Subject Examinations for Teachers (CSET): The test will verify that you are competent in the subject matters you want to teach. For Multiple Subject Teaching Credentials, you will take the CSET Multiple Subjects exam, which comprises three subtests. For Single Subject Teaching Credentials, you will take the specific CSET for whichever subject matter you want to teach.
  • Reading Instruction Competence Assessment (RICA): If you wish to become an elementary school teacher or special education teacher, you will need to pass this exam. The RICA test is designed to assess the knowledge and skills of prospective teachers to provide reading instruction to their students.

The Difference Between a Preliminary Credential and a Clear Credential

As you begin your teaching career, it’s important to keep in mind that the above steps only qualify you for a preliminary teaching credential. The preliminary teaching credential is only valid for five years and must be upgraded to a clear credential during those five years. Clear credentials can be earned in a few different ways, including through a general education clear credential program, such as Alliant’s Clear Education Specialist Teaching Credential program.

Get Started Today

If you are ready to start your journey to becoming a teacher in California, Alliant can help you get started. Our School of Education offers Single Subject Teaching Credential, Multiple Subject Teaching Credential and Education Specialist Teaching Credential programs to help new educators earn the proper credentials to start their teaching career. To learn more about our programs – or to talk to an Alliant representative who can help guide you in your program decision – contact us today!