Become a Teacher in California

California Highlights

Avg. Elementary Teacher Salary: $77,990
Avg. Secondary Teacher Salary: $77,390
Vacation Weeks Per Year: 15

Teacher salaries were provided by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ May 2017 Occupational Employment Statistics report.

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: 08/09/2018

This page is sponsored by our partner Rossier Online, a master level teaching degree program delivered online that enables you to earn a Master’s degree and teaching credential. Learn more about how the University of Southern California can help you become a transformative teacher in California.

To become a certified teacher in California, you will need to fulfill these requirements:

  • Step One: Complete a bachelor’s degree and other prerequisite coursework required.
  • Step Two: Complete a state-approved teacher preparation program
  • Step Three: Pass required exams.
  • Step Four: Submit a California teaching credential application.

Our goal is to make this process as easy as possible, and we are dedicated to updating with new information on a regular basis.


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Step One: California Prerequisite Coursework

The first step to getting certified as a teacher is choosing a specialization and/or grade level and earning your bachelor’s degree.All states require that certified teachers at a minimum have a bachelor’s degree. Additionally, some states have undergraduate credit hour requirements for certification in specialty areas. Prerequisite coursework for teaching in California varies depending on different teacher preparation programs and credentials; however, most programs do not have specific undergraduate credit hour requirements.

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Master’s Requirements

Many schools of education now offer online MAT programs that provide increased flexibility by allowing aspiring or working teachers to attend class and complete coursework from any location that has an Internet connection. Online MAT programs are a practical option for students who have professional and personal commitments that make it difficult to obtain teaching certification through a full-time program.

The best online programs offer the same curriculum as the school’s on-campus program and apply the same admission requirements. Providing students with the ability to communicate with instructors and classmates in a face-to-face online environment is another hallmark of a good online program. In addition, candidates in online MAT programs should be provided with the opportunity to complete student teaching fieldwork in the local community.

Learn more about getting your MAT online with USC Rossier School of Education.

Step Two: California Teacher Preparation

Next, you’ll need to complete an approved teacher preparation program. Visit the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing website to find a state-approved teacher preparation program in California. After you complete an approved program, make sure to fill out a program recommendation form, complete the Professional Fitness Questions (PFQ), and submit payment via the Commission’s CTC Online system to verify the completion of an approved program.

Typically, teacher education programs consist of a combination of curricula and fieldwork. The curricula often include instruction on foundational knowledge and skills, pedagogy ( the art and science of teaching), and preparing students to research, design, and implement learning experiences in their field of study. The fieldwork component can include field observations, student teaching, and an internship.

While the involvement in an education program may seem financially daunting, a number of financial resources specifically for teachers exist around the country. For more information on this, visit our page on scholarships for teachers. For more scholarships specific to the State of California, visit our California Teacher Scholarships page.

Alternative Certification

Graduates of accredited colleges or universities whose bachelor’s degree was not in education, and who have not yet earned a traditional teaching certificate, can still receive an alternative teaching certificate by satisfying certain requirements. It should be noted that Education majors are not offered at colleges and universities in California. Information about alternative California teacher certification can be found on the Certification Map California Alternative Certification Programs page.

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Step Three: California Required Tests

Next, you’ll need to complete the California Basic Educational Skills Test (CBEST) or the California Subject Examinations for Teachers (CSET) Multiple Subjects and Writing Skills exams. The California Commission on Teacher Credentials requires all prospective educators meet the state’s basic skills requirement, which can be achieved by passing these tests.

Prospective educators seeking a Single Subject Teaching Credential must also demonstrate competence in their chosen subject, which can be achieved by passing the appropriate CSET exam.

Visit the California Educator Credentialing Examinations website for more information on state testing requirements and registration dates.

Accepted/Passing Score(s)AssessmentTest
Passing score of 41 per section and/or total average score of 123 (with a minimum score of 37 per section)Measures basic reading, writing, and mathematical skills that are required for the job of educator in the State of California.CBEST
Passing scores are dependent on the test; visit CSET for information about your specific testing requirements.Measures examinee’s knowledge and skills towards a specific subject area.CSET

The CSET offers exams in the following areas:

  • Agriculture
  • American Sign Language
  • Art
  • Biological Sciences, specialized
  • Business
  • Chemistry, specialized
  • English
  • English Language Development
  • Foreign Languages
  • Foundational-Level General Science
  • Foundational-Level Mathematics
  • Geosciences, specialized
  • Health Science
  • Home Economics
  • Industrial and Technological Education
  • Mathematics
  • Music
  • Physical Education
  • Physics, specialized
  • Sciences: Biology, Chemistry, Geosciences, Physics
  • Social Science

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Step Four: California Application Requirements

Finally, submit a completed licensure application to get the show on the road! It’s highly recommended that you create a CTC Online Educator Profile if you are a first-time applicant. You can apply by submitting a paper or online application.

Make sure you have all your supporting documents! See the California Commission on Credentialing checklist of things you need to submit, along with your license application for first-time applicants:

  • Application fee of $100
  • Any supporting documentation, including appropriate official transcripts, letters verifying experience, examination score reports, and other information needed to determine your eligibility for the current issuance of the credential
  • For California residents, a copy of the “Request for LiveScan Service” form attached to the application packet as proof that fingerprints were taken and the finger processing fees were paid
  • For out-of-state or out-of-country residents, two fingerprint cards and a $49 fee

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California Certification Reciprocity

If you are applying for a California credential based on out-of-state preparation, you must already hold a professional-level certificate from another state. Contact the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing to inquire about your specific situation. Please see our interstate reciprocity disclaimer for more information.

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California Teacher Salary

  • Incentives to teach in high-needs schools or shortage subject areas: California provides differential pay for teachers teaching in high-needs schools and in shortage subject areas
  • Policies in place that articulate elements of effective induction: The California Department of Education and Commission on Teacher Credentialing co-sponsor the Beginning Teacher Support and Assessment (BTSA) Program. BTSA is one of the best state-funded induction programs in the country. The program is designed to aid in the development of newly-credentialed teachers, and to help teachers fulfill the requirements for the California Clear Multiple and Single Subjects Credentials.
  • Average Elementary Teacher Salary: $77,990
  • Average Secondary Teacher Salary: $77,390
  • Number of Vacation Weeks Per Year: 15

Teacher salaries were provided by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ May 2017 Occupational Employment Statistics report.

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Certification Resources & Links

1900 Capitol Avenue
Sacramento, CA 95811-4213
(916) 322-4974 – Contact the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing

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