How to Get a Teaching Credential in California
Getting a teaching credential is the final step toward becoming a successful classroom teacher in California. Completing your teaching credentials ensures you have the knowledge and skills to educate bright young students. The process varies based on where you earn your education and the field of teaching you choose.
This guide will explain how to get a teaching credential in California and answer some commonly asked questions.
What Is a Teaching Credential?
A teaching credential is a license teachers need to work for a public school. It’s required by law in all 50 states. However, since each state’s board of education creates its own rules, the requirements vary significantly from one state to another. The term even has different names. You may hear it referred to as a teaching credential, license, qualification, or certification.
Different grade levels, subjects, and programs require specific teaching credentials. In California, the main categories of certifications are:
- General Education
- Special Education
- Designated Subjects
There are other teaching credentials beyond these categories for specific purposes like providing bilingual instruction or teaching the American Indian language and culture.
Within these categories are even more options. For example, under general education, you could get a Multiple or Single Subject Teaching Credential. If you want to teach elementary school, you must earn a Multiple Subject Teaching Credential. High schools require a Single Subject Teaching Credential. Depending on which one you choose, each program has a unique set of requirements you must complete.
What Is a Credential Program?
A credential program is the pathway you must follow to meet the requirements for a teaching credential. It consists of course requirements and exams to test your knowledge and skills. When you reach the end of the program and receive your credential, you’re legally certified to teach public school students in the field you’ve chosen.
Can I Teach in California Without a Credential?
While it’s not possible to teach in a California public school without a credential, you could still work in the following positions:
- Private school teacher: According to California state regulations, teacher certification is optional for private schools. However, some private institutions may choose to require credentials anyway.
- Emergency substitute: Teaching credentials are not required for substitute teachers. Instead, you can apply for an Emergency 30-Day Substitute Teaching Permit. It allows anyone with a bachelor’s degree or higher to substitute for up to 30 days for any one teacher throughout the school year or up to 20 days for any one teacher in a special education classroom. Your permit is valid for one year, and you can renew it as many times as you want.
- Preschool teacher: To become a preschool teacher in California, you don’t need a teaching credential. However, a Child Development Teacher Permit is required. These programs are much shorter and don’t require a bachelor’s degree.
What Are the California Teaching Credential Requirements?
California follows a two-tier credential structure. A preliminary credential is granted once you complete the basic certification requirements. This certification is valid for a maximum of five years. You must complete a second tier of certification requirements to earn a clear credential during that time. Suppose you’re unable to meet the requirements for the clear credential before your preliminary credential expires. In that case, you cannot continue teaching in California public schools until you finish the program and renew your application.
The specific program requirements depend on the credential you’re working toward and the preparation pathway you choose. For example, the traditional Multiple Subject Teaching Credential program has seven requirements, while the same program for the Single Subject Teaching Credential only has six. If you have previous experience, the process may be even shorter.
Generally, most credential programs require:
- Bachelor’s degree: All credential programs require a four-year degree in teaching or another field.
- Basic skills requirement: You must verify your understanding of essential skills by providing certain test scores or course grades.
- Testing: You must also receive a passing score on the appropriate subject matter exams for your desired area of instruction.
- Commission-approved teacher preparation program: The program typically covers foundational knowledge and skills, pedagogy — the science of teaching — and how to create lesson plans. It also requires fieldwork in student teaching, field observations, or internships.
- Required courses: All teachers must complete courses on learning the U.S. Constitution, developing English language skills, and using technology in an educational setting.
- Formal recommendation: You also need a recommendation from your program sponsor.
The California Commission on Teacher Credentialing outlines the precise requirements of the program depending on the pathway you choose.
How Do You Get a Teaching Credential?
You can take various routes to earn your teaching credential. Choosing the right program depends on the certification you’re applying for, any previous experience you have, and your personal preferences. Here are some potential pathways to earn your teaching credential in California:
- College or university: The traditional way to earn a teaching credential is through a college or university program. In addition to earning a bachelor’s degree, you start developing the skills for your chosen teaching credential. Some academic programs even allow students to begin completing coursework for their certificate while earning their undergraduate degree. The focus of your final year is meeting the remaining credential requirements.
- College or university internship program: This alternative route allows you to participate in a paid teaching internship while taking classes at a college or university. You gain real-world teaching experience while completing the required coursework for your preliminary credential. Before entering an internship program, you must complete your bachelor’s degree and the required 120-hour preservice preparation.
- School district internship program: This pathway is similar to the college or university internship program, except the required coursework is provided by an approved school district or other institution. The Commission only approves institutions and programs that meet its standard of quality and effectiveness.
- Private school teaching experience: Other pathways require applicants to complete a Commission-approved teacher preparation program. If you teach at a private school for 3-5 years, your experience can replace the student teaching requirement of your teacher preparation program. Six years or more of experience fulfills the teacher preparation program requirement completely. You’re not required to complete the Teaching Performance Assessment (TPA) either. This option is only available for general education credentials.
- Peace Corps experience: The Commission also accepts Peace Corps teaching experience to replace the professional teacher preparation program requirement for a general education teaching credential. You must provide a certification from the Peace Corps director stating you completed 18 months or more of your Peace Corps assignment, during which you spent at least half of your time teaching resident children in a classroom.
- Early completion internship: Candidates with previous teaching experience are eligible for the early completion intern option (ECO). This program allows applicants to demonstrate their skills through a performance assessment in place of the coursework portion of the general education credential. The Commission requires all university and district intern programs to offer early completion options to qualified applicants. You must pass the TPA on your first attempt to be eligible for ECO.
How Long Does It Take to Get a Teaching Credential?
The amount of time it takes to earn a teaching credential depends on your chosen program and pathway. A traditional, non-accelerated college or university program takes four to five years, assuming you complete each course successfully the first time. Internships may take longer depending on the institution you choose. If you start as a private school teacher, it could take over six years to earn your credential. The timeline depends on your pace and preferences.
How Do You Apply for a Teaching Credential in California?
Once you’ve completed the requirements to earn a teaching credential, the application process is relatively straightforward.
You must submit the following items by mail to the Commission on Teacher Credentialing:
- The application form
- The Live Scan receipt of your fingerprint clearance
- Required supporting documents
- Application fee
Once your preliminary credential is issued, you have five years to complete the application requirements for the clear credential.
There are two ways to earn your clear credential. The application process depends on which method you choose. The first option is to complete a Commission-approved teacher induction program and submit your application through the program sponsor. The second option is to become certified by the National Board of Professional Teaching Standards. If you choose this option, you must submit a photocopy of your certification, completed application, and processing fee by mail.
Do You Have to Renew a Teaching Credential?
Yes, you have to renew a California teaching credential. However, the preliminary certification is nonrenewable. You must upgrade to the clear credential within five years to continue teaching in California public schools.
If your preliminary credential expires for a reasonable cause while you’re employed, you can work with your employer to submit an extension request through the appeal process. They may grant an extension to cover your service until you complete the clear credential application. Otherwise, you’re unauthorized to continue teaching until you upgrade your credentials.
Once you earn your clear credential, you must renew it every five years. You can simply complete your renewal application online through the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing.
How Much Is a Teaching Credential in California?
It costs $100 to apply for your initial teaching credential and an additional $100 to renew your clear credential every five years. You must also pay for your bachelor’s degree, fingerprinting, payment processing, and other related fees.
These charges can add up, making it challenging for future educators to meet program requirements. Fortunately, there are resources available to help you achieve your career aspirations. Consider the following waivers and grants to help you earn your teaching credential:
- Cal Grant Teaching Credential Program: Teacher candidates who received a Cal Grant A or B during their undergraduate education and demonstrate financial need are eligible for funding to pursue a post-baccalaureate credential program.
- Teacher Residency Grant Program: The California state budget has allocated $350 million to fund competitive grants for teacher residency programs. Eligible applicants may receive up to $250,000.
- Classified School Employee Teacher Credentialing Program: The state created this program to address a shortage in special education, transitional kindergarten, bilingual education, and STEM teachers. They granted $125 million to local education agencies to recruit classified school employees and provide support. Program participants receive financial assistance to cover degree and credentialing-related expenses.
- The Logan Scholarship: Holy Names University (HNU) offers a 50% tuition reduction for qualifying students who plan to teach in public schools. Eligible programs include Master of Education, Master of Music in Music Education, credential and certificate programs. They also offer a 25% tuition reduction for undergraduate students who plan to teach in public schools.
- The Catholic Educators Scholarship: HNU also offers a 50% tuition reduction for teachers who work full time at Catholic schools.
- Military fee waiver: Out-of-state applicants who moved to California because a branch of the United States Armed Forces ordered their spouse to relocate are eligible for the military fee waiver. It applies to your first California teaching credential only.
Many other grants and scholarship opportunities are available to aspiring teachers in California. Search online and ask your program provider for more information.
Does a California Teaching Credential Transfer to Other States?
The NASDTEC Interstate Agreement is a collection of individual agreements between states and Canadian provinces that outline where your certification is accepted. It is a collection of information that explains what teachers must do to transfer their credentials to another state.
California participates in the NASDTEC Interstate Agreement and has reciprocity agreements with 45 states. This allows California credential holders to transfer their certification to the receiving state and vice versa. However, an agreement doesn’t always guarantee an even exchange. Since each state chooses its certification standards, a credential in one state may not transfer directly to another. Some states will accept a direct transfer, while others require additional coursework, classroom experience, or assessments to earn their credential.
Where Can I Get a Teaching Credential in California?
Earn your bachelor’s degree and teaching credential in one location at Holy Names University. Our Pathways to Teaching Program in Liberal Studies is approved by the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing. Students develop subject matter competence in 10 core subjects and complete a concentration in their preferred area.
After completing their undergraduate degree, students are eligible for our Single Subject or Multiple Subjects Teaching Credential programs. We also offer bilingual authorization and an education specialist credential for teaching children and young adults with mild to moderate disabilities.
Apply for Teaching Credential Programs at HNU
Teaching is a challenging field with even greater rewards. You have the opportunity to support and inspire your students, making a significant impact on their lives. The teaching credential programs at Holy Names University provide the knowledge, skills, and perspectives to help you become a successful classroom teacher.
You’ll learn strategies to teach and connect with students from faculty with extensive experience in local public schools. They’ll serve as your academic advisors, field supervisors, and mentors to help you reach your full potential.
The HNU community celebrates diversity and prides itself on providing an inclusive environment for students from all walks of life. Submit your application for our liberal studies or teaching credential programs today!