Ready to begin the road to becoming a teacher? Use the information to become informed of the credential and education requirements to hold various teaching positions in California.


Preparation Required to Become a Teacher in California

In California, preparing to become a teacher involves three separate phases:

  1. Subject Matter Preparation
    Coursework can begin at the community college level and is completed after transfer.

  2. Preliminary Preparation
    Education pedagogy classes and student teaching is completed at the 4 year university level with the exception of any approved Education courses which may be taught at the community college level.  For example, PCC’s EDUC 13: Teacher Preparation Foundations and Field Experience, is such an approved course for many colleges and universities. The teaching credential may be earned while completing the Bachelor’s Degree at some institutions or it may be completed after the Bachelor’s degree.

  3. Induction into the Profession
    If you are pursuing a Multiple Subject Teaching Credential in order to teach elementary school you must pass the basic skills requirement and the Multiple Subject CSET (California Subject Examination for Teachers).  If you are pursuing a Single Subject Credential in order to teach middle or high school you must pass the basic skills requirement and follow one of two routes:

    • Complete an approved subject matter preparation program for the Bachelor’s Degree, i.e. a Bachelor’s Degree in Mathematics if they wish to teach Mathematics.  (This usually means completing the major in your chosen field with an approved subject matter preparation)
    • Pass the designated subject area of the CSET for the subject you wish to teach at the middle or high school level. For example, if the student did not complete a Bachelor Degree in Mathematics and they wish to teach Mathematics, they would have to pass the CSET in Mathematics in order to prove subject matter competency.

Credential Requirements

To become a qualified elementary school teacher you must obtain a Level 1 Multiple Subject Credential which requires:

Initially, you must obtain a Level 1 Multiple Subject Credential which requires:

  • Earn a Bachelor’s or higher degree with a cumulative 2.76 GPA
  • Pass the CBEST (California Basic Educational Skills Test) and RICA (Reading Instruction Competence Assessment) tests. Students are encouraged to take the CBEST after completing Math 15 or higher and Engl 1A.  It is beneficial to CBEST before transferring to a 4 year university. The RICA will not be taken until after completing reading methodology classes at the university level.
  • Pass the CSET (California Subject Examination for Teachers ) in Multiple Subjects
  • Pass the U.S. Constitution and Developing English Language Skills courses at any graduate level teacher preparation program.
  • Have no criminal record, no felonies or misdemeanors - Certain misdemeanors will not exclude a person from applying for a credential program, while others will. A certificate of clearance is sometimes available, if needed. Applications are submitted to the California Department of Education.
  • Complete an approved teacher preparation program (credential program at the university) including student teaching or internship. .  When individuals have already completed their Bachelor’s degree, they may begin teaching with an internship or pre-internship program at a school district in lieu of completing a traditional teacher preparation program. Only a school district can offer this option while the individual is completing certain requirements for the credential.
  • Complete the approved health education, special education and computer technology coursework required for the Multiple Subject credential. This can be accomplished at either the undergraduate or graduate level.

To become a qualified secondary school teacher, you must obtain a Level 1 Single Subject Credential which requires:

  • Earn a Bachelor’s Degree or higher with a 2.76 cumulative GPA
  • Pass the CBEST (California Basic Educational Skills Test). Students are encouraged to take the CBEST after completing Math 15 or higher and after English 1A.  It is beneficial to take the CBEST before transferring to a 4 year university.
  • Earn a Bachelor’s Degree in the discipline you will teach (with approved subject matter competence) ORpass theCSET (California Subject Examinations for Teachers) in one of the following single subjects:
    • Agriculture
    • Art
    • Business
    • English
    • Health Science
    • Home Economics
    • Industrial and Technology
    • Education
    • Language other than English
    • Mathematics
    • Music
    • Physical Education
    • Biological Sciences
    • Chemistry
    • Geosciences
    • Physics
    • Social Science
  • You will not need to take a CSET if you have completed an approved subject matter program Bachelor’s Degree program in the specific discipline you plan to teach. (i.e., if you have a Bachelor’s Degree in Mathematics (approved subject matter program), you will not need to take the CSET Mathematics Single Subject exam.)
  • Pass the U.S. Constitution and Developing English Language Skills courses or pass a test in the subject, depending on the university’s policy.
  • Have no criminal record, no felonies or misdemeanors. Certain misdemeanors will not exclude a person from applying for a credential program, but other will. A certificate of clearance is sometimes available. Applications are submitted to the California Department of Education.
  • Complete an approved teacher preparation program (credential program at university) including student teaching or internship. When individuals have already completed a Bachelor’s degree, they may begin teaching with an internship or pre-internship program at a school district in lieu of completing a traditional teacher preparation program. Only the school district can offer this option while the individual is completing certain requirements for the credential.
  • Complete the approved courses in health education, special education and computer technology. These can be completed at the undergraduate or graduate level.

Special education teachers teach in the area of specialization listed on the credential in the following settings: special day classes in public schools, special schools, home/hospital settings, correctional facilities, nonpublic schools and agencies, and resource rooms.

To become a Special Education Teacher you must:

  • Complete a bachelor’s degree with at least a cumulative GPA of 2.76  or higher.
  • Pass the CBEST (California Basic Educational Skills Test). Students are encouraged to take the CBEST test after completing Math 15 and English 1A. It is beneficial to take the CBEST prior to transferring to a four year school.
  • Complete an accredited Education Specialist Credential program in an education specialist category, including student teaching (at the university level)
  • To teach in settings with elementary aged children, pass the CSET (California Subject Examinations for Teachers) in Multiple Subjects. For special education settings with middle or high school aged students, there may be the choice of either the Multiple Subjects CSET or the individual Single Subject CSET.
  • Pass the RICA (Reading Instruction Competence Assessment) test.
  • Pass U.S. Constitution and Developing English Language Skills courses or pass a test in the subject, depending on the university’s policy.
  •  Complete the approved courses in health education, special education and computer technology. These can be completed at the undergraduate or graduate level.

Certain school districts are allowed to hire substitute teachers students who have completed 90 units of college-level class work and who have passed the CBEST (California Basic Educational Skills Test).It is more common that a substitute teacher would have earned a Bachelor’s degree and have passed the CBEST. You can call a particular school’s district office to find out their required qualifications for substitute teachers.

School districts are currently only employing new Instructional Aides who are considered "highly qualified" by the No Child Left Behind educational reform standards. The qualifications are:


Complete a 2-year college Associate Degree OR
have completed 48 college-level units OR
pass a rigorous test created by the individual school district