California Teaching Certification

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by Staff Writers

Published on August 12, 2021 · Updated on January 21, 2022

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Distance learning makes undergraduate and graduate study easier for working professionals and parents who want to become licensed teachers. Since many online programs deliver coursework asynchronously with no scheduled class meetings, students are able to work full-time while maintaining their other obligations.

Online programs also allow students to earn degrees from some of the best schools in the nation without ever having to relocate. Most programs also allow students to complete student-teaching requirements at schools in their local communities. Earning an online degree is a good option for disciplined and organized aspiring teachers who need flexibility.

Requirements for teaching licensure differ slightly in each state. Students who want to earn their California teaching certification must meet certain standards set by the California Department of Education. While it is easier to become licensed through one of California's commission-approved programs, licensure is still possible for students who complete programs in other states. These students must apply for certification in California as out-of-state teachers.

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How to Become a Teacher in California

Requirements for teaching licensure are different in each state, and licenses do not transfer from state to state. In California, the requirements are more strict than in most states. Every state requires applicants to have a bachelor's degree. In addition, prospective teachers in California must have completed Commission on Teacher Credentialing-certified teacher preparation and subject matter programs. All prospective teachers in California must also complete a reading instruction course and complete the basic skills requirement, potentially by passing the California Basic Educational Skills Test. In California, the subject matter program replaces qualifying scores on the Praxis tests.

Earning a California teaching certificate is more complicated for out-of-state teachers who move there. These teachers must go through a separate application process to earn their teaching certification. Out-of-state teachers must complete a credential application and submit a processing fee, transcripts, a copy of their teaching license, and evidence that they have completed the fingerprinting process. CTC also suggests that teachers provide proof of at least two years of full-time classroom teaching experience. Teachers should provide proof of qualifying scores on an equivalent out-of-state test that fulfills the California Basic Skills Examination requirement.

How to Get Teaching Certificate in California

Earning a teaching license is the most critical and time-consuming part of becoming a teacher in California. Aspiring educators must follow a series of steps, starting with earning a bachelor's degree. The state's Department of Education is an excellent resource for information about the certification process. When students complete the process, they earn a preliminary teaching credential, which lasts five years. Below, we provide an in-depth look at how to earn California teaching certification.

All students must have a bachelor's degree to apply for teaching certification in California. However, that degree does not need to be in education. Students can have any undergraduate major as long as they complete a CTC-approved teacher preparation program.

Students must have earned a GPA of at least 3.0 throughout their undergraduate study.

Each CTC-approved educator preparation program consists of some student-teaching experience. All students must perform certain classroom activities under the supervision of a licensed teacher and a faculty mentor. The number of hours that students complete varies by program, but student teaching generally requires significant labor. We will discuss student teaching in the next section.

The Praxis is a standardized test that consists of two components: a general knowledge test and a subject matter test. In most states, students must earn qualifying scores on both sections to become licensed. In California, students must instead complete a CTC-approved educator preparation program and a CTC-approved subject matter program in lieu of the two Praxis tests. These two programs provide a comprehensive substitute for the Praxis, as they indicate both general aptitude and content area knowledge. ETS, the company that created the Praxis, does not list qualifying scores for many of its tests in California.

Live Scan is an electronic fingerprinting method used by many organizations, including private firms and the federal government. The California Department of Education requires Live Scan fingerprinting from all prospective teachers so that the state can check each applicant's background for prior offenses. Applicants can fill out a Live Scan request here.

Prospective teachers should submit an application that includes their transcripts, education preparation, subject matter programs, and proof of satisfaction of the basic skills requirement.

Candidates must pay a $100 application fee when they submit their application. Students pay Live Scan fees directly to their Live Scan operators. Out-of-state students may request fingerprint cards, although they must pay an additional $49 to do so. Online applications may include a $2.50 service fee.

Student Teaching in California

Student teaching is a key step in gaining a California teaching license. Student teaching is essentially an internship in which students lead lessons while under the supervision of a licensed educator. Student teachers are not responsible for entire classrooms, but rather for individual lessons that supervisors later critique and evaluate. Those supervisors are generally a licensed teacher and a faculty member from the Student Teacher Educator Preparation program.

Student teaching is generally the final requirement of an educator preparation program and may be part of your school's capstone requirement. Most educator preparation programs will assist students in finding student-teaching placement sites, especially since many colleges have connections with local schools. The placement process is slightly different for online programs. Distance learners can often make arrangements to complete their student-teaching hours at schools in their local community. Online programs may also have connections with schools around the country for placement sites. Student teaching most often takes place just before students graduate.

Since student teaching is an integral aspect of California's certification process, all of CTC's approved educator preparation programs include a student-teaching experience. Though online students may have to be more proactive in finding a placement site for student teaching, all students pursuing teaching degrees in California must meet these requirements over the course of their studies. Once they have completed student teaching, students meet most of the criteria for teaching certification in California.

Career Outlook for Teachers in California

Teachers in California earn a higher salary than educators in other parts of the country. Even when adjusting for cost of living, teachers in California still earn a better salary than professionals in most other states.

Among K-12 educators, elementary school and secondary school teachers earn the highest salaries, followed closely by middle school teachers. There is a significant gap between this group and kindergarten teachers. Preschool teachers make less than half of what secondary and elementary school teachers make, as preschool jobs often require fewer hours and less education.

Employment and Annual Wage for Teachers in California by Teaching Level
Occupation Employment Annual Mean Wage
Preschool Teachers 48,570 $35,740
Kindergarten Teachers 16,280 $63,590
Elementary School Teachers 149,340 $74,270
Middle School Teachers 47,440 $70,100
Secondary Teachers 104,530 $74,940

Excludes Special Education Teachers, May 2016

Scholarships for California Teaching Students

Throughout the nation, there is a demand for good teachers. As such, there are many scholarships available, both national and state-specific, to students pursuing their teaching certificate in California. Below, we've highlighted six of the best grants and scholarships for students in the state.

California Teachers Association Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Scholarship

Who Can Apply: Applicants for the CTA MLK Jr. Memorial Scholarship must be pursuing a degree in teaching, must commit to teaching in public education, and must be a member of an ethnic minority group. Applicants for this scholarship must also be active CTA members.

Amount: Up to $6,000

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Future Educator SCTA Scholarship

Who Can Apply: Applicants for the Future Educator SCTA Scholarship must be active members of the SCTA and must be currently enrolled in a community college in California.

Amount: $200

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Assumption Program of Loans for Education

Who Can Apply: Students can apply for APLE if they are currently pursuing a teaching credential. All candidates are nominated by their schools. Recipients of loan assumption must commit to teaching high-need subject areas in a California school.

Amount: Varies

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California Student Aid Commission Child Development Grant Program

Who Can Apply: Applicants must be enrolled in, or plan to enroll in, some sort of child development academic program. Applicants must sign a letter of intent to work in a children's center for at least as many years as they receive the award.

Amount: Varies

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L. Gordon Bittle Memorial Scholarship for Student CTA (SCTA)

Who Can Apply: The L. Gordon Bittle Memorial Scholarship provides up to three awards to active SCTA members who are enrolled in an undergraduate, graduate, or credential teaching program. Applicants should be committed to working in public education. The principal criterion for the scholarship is academic achievement.

Amount: $5,000

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TEACH Grants

Who Can Apply: TEACH, a federal aid program, incentivizes talented college students to serve as teachers in low-income areas. In addition, TEACH grant recipients must teach in high-need subject areas. Recipients must also meet federal aid basic eligibility criteria.

Amount: Up to $4,000 per year

View Scholarship

Resources for Teachers in California

  • California Department of Education: The California Department of Education oversees all public education in the state. The department's goal is to create innovative programs and collaborate with educators, schools, parents, and community partners. As such, the department releases data, provides curriculum resources, and administers grants.
  • TEACH California: TEACH California was founded as a solution to California's shortage of mathematics, science, and special education teachers. The organization assists teachers in earning a license and preparing for the classroom. TEACH California helps aspiring teachers create personalized career plans. Their website is the California Department of Education's primary online recruiting tool and includes resources for new and established educators.
  • California Teachers Association: CTA has advocated for teachers in California for more than 150 years. The association represents all school personnel, including community college professors and California State University faculty. CTA provides professional development opportunities and hosts annual conferences. The organization also promotes legislation that benefits the state's teachers. CTA is particularly involved in the labor movement.
  • California Mathematics Council: CMC represents at least 6,000 members from California and other parts of the country. The organization's mission is to improve math education and learning in classrooms through California, North America, and the world. The organization splits into north, south, and central California regions and runs annual conferences for each region. CMC also provides teaching resources for educators and guides for families.

Networking Opportunities in California

Job fairs, annual conferences, and professional organizations all provide opportunities for educators to discover job openings and learn best practices from other teachers. Job fairs and conferences are especially important for education majors and graduates, since a surprising amount of teacher hiring happens through these events. Below are two of California's best networking opportunities for teachers.

California Teachers Association New Educator Weekend

Hosted by the California Teachers Association, New Educator Weekend is an annual conference open to professionals in their first three years of teaching. Teachers attend sessions and electives that cover foundational topics such as classroom management, IEPs, the common core, and teaching as a profession.

California Teachers Summit

The California Teachers Summit puts on a themed conference every year for teachers throughout the state. The conference takes place in over 30 locations and includes plenary sessions, breakout sessions, and plenty of networking opportunities. Each year, the organization records different lectures, including the keynote speeches, and uploads them to their website for educators throughout the state to watch at their convenience.

Stay Informed

Chris Pombonyo is something of a celebrity teacher. He uses videos and live streaming to give his followers teaching tips and strategies. Pombonyo is an elementary school teacher who has won multiple teacher of the year awards.
Travis Crowder is an English teacher who focuses on literacy and inspiring his students to read. His Twitter account offers quick tips on how to engage students in reading. He also maintains a website with book recommendations, research data, and professional development resources.
Jordan Potrzeba is a new teacher, currently in his second year at Caldwell Elementary in Florida. Potrzeba tweets images from his classroom, advice, support, and professional development for new teachers.
Ciji Thurman is a fourth grade teacher who is particularly interested in science. She often tweets about science lessons that she executes in her classroom. She advocates for exploratory methods of education, rejecting textbooks in favor of more hands-on lessons. Her WordPress site features teaching maxims and support for other teachers.
Michele Knott is a former classroom teacher turned literacy specialist. As such, her Twitter account combines general advice on how to get students interested in reading with lists of books for specific types of students. She also operates a blog that provides resources and lesson plan ideas.
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