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Explore the options for teaching with or without a bachelor’s  

If you’re wondering if you can be a teacher without a degree, the answer is yes—in some cases. If you already have some education, and wonder if you can get a teaching credential with any degree, the answer is also yes—but with many more career options. Read on to learn more.  

How to teach without a bachelor’s degree

If you’re a prospective teacher in the state of California, you’re typically required to hold a valid teaching credential to work in public schools. However, there are some settings where you might be able to teach without a traditional credential. Here are a few:

  1. Private Schools: Private schools in California often have more flexibility in their hiring practices and may hire you without a teaching credential. Each private school sets its own requirements, so you should check with each institution for hiring criteria.
  2. Career and Technical Education (CTE) Programs: In certain CTE programs, if you have expertise in a particular field, you may be eligible to teach without a traditional teaching credential. These programs often focus on practical skills and real-world applications.
  3. Community Colleges: While teaching at a four-year college or university usually requires a higher education degree and sometimes a terminal degree, community colleges may have more flexible requirements. Some may hire individuals with professional expertise in specific fields.
  4. Substitute Teaching: You may be able to work as a substitute teacher without a teaching credential in California. Note that there are limitations on the number of days you can work as a substitute teacher without a credential. To become a substitute teacher, you will need a substitute permit, which has specific requirements.1
  5. Adult Education Programs: Some adult education programs, such as those offering English as a second language (ESL) or vocational training, may have different requirements for instructors and may not require a degree.
  6. International teaching: There are a variety of overseas teaching opportunities, many of which do not require a bachelor’s degree, teaching certificate, or teaching credential, especially if you are an expert in a desirable subject matter. 

These are good options, but if you want to teach in the public school system or pursue teaching as a long-term career, you’ll want to earn a teaching credential or certificate. The good news is, if you have a bachelor’s degree, you’ve already got a good start on the path to your teaching license. As an aspiring teacher, you can easily find teaching credential programs that incorporate graduate-level training to help prepare you for the classroom.

If you're just starting out with college and know you want to teach, embarking on an educator preparation program is a good way to earn a teaching certificate or credential. However, if you already have some college under your belt, there’s path you can take to get a teaching credential if you have any bachelor’s degree. 

California's alternative certification options

California’s credentialing options are as diverse as the state itself. Whether you're eyeing multiple subject or single subject credentials, or perhaps an added authorization for a specific subject, you have options.

And if the traditional path doesn’t appeal to you, there are alternative certification programs specially designed for people with diverse backgrounds. These programs offer fast-track and targeted training to get you into the classroom quickly. Think of these as a shortcut to your dream profession, tailor-made for those eager to make a difference.

In the realm of alternative certification programs, the California Teaching Fellows Foundation (CTFF) is a good example. Geared towards addressing the needs of high-need schools, this program is your ticket to an accelerated training experience, all while making a positive impact in underserved communities. CTFF currently serves the six counties of Fresno, Kings, Madera, Merced, Sacramento, and Tulare.2 Similarly, Teach for America works to place teachers in low-income areas, providing intensive training and ongoing support to ensure success in even the most challenging educational environments.

Meeting state-specific requirements

Understanding California's specific requirements is crucial for success in your journey to a teaching career. Steps include the California Basic Educational Skills Test (CBEST) for basic skills and the California Subject Examinations for Teachers (CSET) for subject matter competency. If tests are especially challenging, there are waiver options3 available, giving you the flexibility to meet these requirements in your own way.

How to become teacher with any degree

What if you already have a bachelor's degree in something other than education? You’re still well on your way to becoming a teacher. You’ll need to complete a teacher preparation program, demonstrate basic skills and subject matter competency, engage in a student teaching experience, get your all-important recommendation from the program, and finally, apply for your preliminary teaching credential. Here’s a step-by-step guide:

Step One:  Decide who you want to teach

Perhaps the most essential decision you’ll make is deciding what grades you want to teach.

  • If you want to teach in elementary school, you’ll need a multiple subject teaching credential, which may include training in early childhood education
  • If you choose to teach in middle or high school, you’ll need a single subject teaching credential, which may include training in elementary education
  • If you’re drawn to teaching special education, you’ll need to earn an education specialist instruction credential

Step Two:  Choose a teaching credential program. 

Once you know who you want to teach, it’s time to choose a school. Look for a teaching credential program that has California Teaching Commissions-approved curriculum to ensure your classroom experience aligns with California’s teaching standards. A top-quality teaching credential program teaches you how to teach and includes training on critical skills like lesson planning, student assessment, teaching models, developing a personal teaching philosophy, education technology, and instructional practice. 

Step Three:  Choose the practical training track that’s right for you.

Your teacher education also includes practical experience. That means you’ll be teaching in a real classroom during your education, applying your coursework in real-world situations. Most colleges and universities offer three teacher preparation tracks depending on your goals, education, and experience. Each track includes coursework plus different options for hands-on work in the classroom.

  • Student teaching is the way to go if you don’t have experience and don’t feel ready to manage a classroom on your own. You’ll work with an experienced teacher and get coaching by a field supervisor, all while you take courses to prepare for your credential. 
  • Standard intern teaching lets you earn your teaching credential while you also earn an income. This is best if you already have some classroom teaching experience, as this path gives you full teaching responsibility and management of a classroom. 
  • Early completion intern teaching is for you if you have a job offer and experience as a teacher. It’s a short version of the standard intern teaching path, where you work as a salaried teacher while taking accelerated coursework. 

Step Four: Complete the required California educator credentialing assessments.

Before you finish your classwork and your practical training, you’ll need to complete either a reading assessment test known as the RICA, a performance assessment known as the edTPA, or both, depending on which students you plan to teach. Your advisor will help you decide which testing you’ll need to take.

Once you’ve successfully completed your assessments, your school will formally recommend you for a state teaching credential. 

Navigating the certification process

The certification process in California starts with a preliminary teaching credential, valid for five years.4 This is your golden ticket to the teaching world. After this period, upgrading to a clear credential involves a few more steps, like completing a commission-approved induction program and keeping up with ongoing professional growth and development requirements.

Choosing your teacher education partner

If you have a calling to guide and support today’s youth, The California School of Education (CSOE) at Alliant is an excellent choice to help you gain the skills and experience you’ll need. CSOE offers degrees, certificates, and credentials that prepare you to make a lasting difference through teaching, counseling, leadership, advocacy, administration, management, and community work.

The online degree programs at Alliant can guide you every step of the way. Your path into the classroom is one paved with academic excellence through:

  • World-class education programs certified by the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing (CTC) and Arizona Department of Education 
  • Multiple degree options, including credentials, certifications, master’s, and doctoral degrees, many of which offer specialized emphases
  • Online course options designed with working professionals in mind
  • Hands-on training and clinical practice field experiences 
  • Multiculturalism interwoven throughout the curriculum and rooted in university culture, giving you an educational experience rich with diversity and inclusion

Alliant teaching programs have one goal—to teach you how to teach. We’ll be at your side every step of the way, from enrollment to your credential or certificate. And if you’re not sure which path is right for you, we can help you choose the right teacher preparation program for your goals. 

Find Out How You Can Turn Your Bachelor’s Degree into a Rewarding Career as a Teacher



  1. Why become a substitute?,” California Commission on Teacher Credentialing,…;
  2. In the Beginning,” California Teaching Fellows Foundation, 
  3. “CBEST Waiver Information,”, 
  4. “Roadmap to Teaching in California,” California Commission on Teacher Credentialing,…;

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