Most California teachers hold one of three basic teaching credentials: multiple-subject, single-subject and education specialist. Multiple-subject credentials are for elementary school teachers, single-subject credentials are generally for middle and high school teachers who teach one subject, and an education specialist credential is for special education teachers.
They must first earn a preliminary teaching credential and, after additional training and mentorship during their first two years of teaching, can earn a clear credential.
To earn a preliminary teaching credential, a teacher must have:
- A bachelor’s degree.
- Completed an accredited teacher-preparation program.
- Completed 600 hours of student teaching.
- Been fingerprinted and passed a background check.
- Taken required tests or completed university-approved coursework.
- Completed a course or passed a test on the provisions and principles of the U.S. Constitution.
- Earned a recommendation from their teacher-preparation program.
A preliminary credential is good for five years.
Required tests and their alternatives
Teachers must prove they have the skills needed to educate students. Before the pandemic, tests were traditionally used to determine whether a teacher candidate was ready for a teacher-preparation program or the classroom, but new legislation gives them the option to use university-approved coursework instead in some cases. Teacher candidates can check with their teacher-preparation program administrator to determine which courses to take or have their transcript evaluated by the Commission on Teacher Credentialing.
Current flexibility: California has waived test fees through June 30, 2023.
Basic skills requirement
Teachers must prove they have the basic skills to teach. Generally, this is done before a teacher-preparation program. Here are the options:
- Pass the California Basic Educational Skills Test.
- Pass the California SET: Multiple Subjects plus Writing Skills Examination.
- Pass the CSU Early Assessment Program or the CSU placement examinations.
- Earn a qualifying score on SAT, ACT or College Board Advanced Placement examinations.
- Pass a basic skills test from another state.
- Submit a transcript that shows a grade of B or better in one course in critical thinking, literature, philosophy, reading, rhetoric or textual analysis to show reading proficiency; a course in composition, English, rhetoric, written communication or writing to demonstrate writing proficiency; and a course in algebra, mathematics, quantitative reasoning or statistics to show math proficiency.
- Complete a combination of courses and exams to meet the requirement.
Current flexibility: The Commission on Teacher Credentialing has extended the pandemic waiver that allows teacher candidates to student-teach without completing their basic skills requirement. The flexibility ends May 1, 2023. Teacher candidates must complete the requirement before being recommended for a preliminary credential.
Teacher candidates are required to demonstrate proficiency in the subject they will teach before they can earn a credential. This has traditionally been done by passing the appropriate tests in the California Subject Examinations for Teachers, or CSET, but teachers can now also take coursework or a combination of tests in the CSET and coursework to satisfy this requirement.
Teacher candidates also can complete a bachelor’s degree in the subject area of the credential they are seeking. A teacher-preparation program will evaluate the major to see whether it is acceptable, but the Commission on Teacher Credentialing will make the call for candidates who are applying to the commission directly for credentials, such as those seeking emergency-style permits.
Current flexibility: The test can be waived until the end of a teacher candidate’s preparation program if they applied for an intern credential to teach in a school by June 30, 2022.
Reading Instruction Competence Assessment
The RICA measures how well candidates for multiple-subject credentials and education specialists teach reading. The test is expected to be eliminated in 2025, when it will be incorporated into the Teacher Performance Assessment, which requires teachers to demonstrate their ability to teach.
Current flexibility: A teacher candidate enrolled in a teacher-preparation program by June 30, 2022, isn’t required to take the RICA before earning a preliminary credential, but they must pass it before earning a clear credential.
Once a teacher is in the classroom, they are required to complete a performance assessment that demonstrates how well they assess students, design instruction, organize subject matter and perform other skills. The three assessment models — the California Teaching Performance Assessment, edTPA and the Fresno Assessment of Student Teachers — require that teachers make a video of themselves teaching at the school where they work.
Special education credentials
Special education candidates must complete all the basic requirements of other teachers, as well as instruction in one of four areas — mild to moderate support needs; extensive support needs; deaf and hard of hearing, visual impairments; and early childhood special education — to earn a credential in that specialty.
Teachers moving to California must submit their college transcripts; a copy of their out-of-state teaching license; and proof they have been fingerprinted to the Commission on Teacher Credentialing.
To avoid taking unnecessary tests and training, the commission recommends that applicants submit their scores on out-of-state basic skills tests and proof of two years or more of teaching experience.
Where to apply