How to Become a Teacher in California

If you’re researching how to become a teacher in California, you’ve probably already realized that there are a variety of programs and institutions that can help you achieve your goal. Many of these programs are government operated, but not all are. The California Commission on Teacher Credentialing supplies information on many alternative routes to becoming a teacher in California. These programs include traditional colleges and universities, as well as internships, private programs and even through service in the Peace Corps.

Here are the general steps you will have to go through to become a teacher in California.

Coursework / Prerequisites
Regardless of which program you choose, many of the requirements are the same. You’ll most likely be required to have at least a Bachelor’s degree. If you’re planning to teach a specific subject, like high school biology, you may also be required to meet particular undergraduate criteria regarding the number of hours you have spent studying the subject you’re looking to teach.

California Teacher Programs
The next step in becoming a teacher in California is to undergo an accredited teacher education program. You’ll choose what you want to teach (elementary education, high school, special education, etc.) and enroll in a California Commission-approved teacher preparation program. You can find a list of program options at the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing’s Prospective California Educator page.

Fieldwork and Student Teaching
During your teacher preparation program, you’ll participate in fieldwork, which is also referred to as an internship, observation or student teaching (and which is often a combination of these). Student teaching experiences often last six or more weeks depending on the program and offer hands-on practice in implementing the theories of pedagogy and content delivery that you have been studying during your coursework.

After you finish your teacher education program and fieldwork, you will likely participate in the Beginning Teacher Support and Assessment (BTSA) program. BTSA is co-sponsored by the California Department of Education and helps teachers fulfill the requirements to achieve California Clear Multiple and Single Subjects Credentials, which are necessary for all California-certified teachers. These credentials ensure that you are fit to teach your particular subject area.

Assessments and Examinations
Part of the requirements to become a teacher in California include assessments throughtesting. Teaching candidates must complete Basic Skill Test requirements and possibly Subject Area Competence assessments. These include at least one of the following:California Basic Educational Skills Test (CBEST), the California Subject Examinations for Teachers – Multiple Subject Plus Writing Skills Exam or the CSU Early Assessment Program or Placement Examination. You may also have to take other CSET assessments to demonstrate proficiency in specific subject areas. Aditionally, if you want to become an elementary school teacher in California, you’ll generally have to pass the Reading Instruction Competence Assessment (RICA).

If you’re moving to California from another state and already hold a valid, non-emergency teaching certificate, you may be exempt from testing.

Formal Recommendation
Once you’ve passed your tests and met all requirements, you’ll become a certified teacher in California with a formal recommendation from your preparation program.

Remember that the above outlines only the general steps necessary to become a teacher in California. Your specific situation may differ, so it’s best to get in touch with the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing to figure out the exact process through which you can receive your California teacher credential.

Interested in becoming a teacher in California? Check out our page on California teacher credentials and salaries.

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