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California Special Education Credential Requirements

Special education teachers are a vital part of the country's school system, assisting students who experience a variety of emotional and learning difficulties. In California, these teachers will need to complete a bachelor's degree, an approved training program, and pass several certification examinations.

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The California Department of Education reported that 734,422 individuals received special education services in 2015-2016. This total includes infants to individuals up to twenty-two years old. Of that total, 43,913 had intellectual disabilities and 24,316 had emotional issues. This large number illustrates how crucial it is for California to train effective special education teachers. We'll explore the steps to becoming a special education teacher in California.

California Special Education Teacher Requirements

Average Salary for Special Education Teachers in California (2016)* $72,260 (Kindergarten and Elementary School)
$70,430 (Middle School)
$76,310 (Secondary)
Required Degree Bachelor's degree
Degree Field Special Education
Testing Requirements CBEST, CSET, RICA

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)

Step 1: Complete Educational Requirements

Candidates interested in teaching special education will need to obtain a bachelor's degree from an approved college or university.

Students can choose to pursue an integrated program that offers a bachelor's degree and a preliminary teaching credential. With such a degree, students will take courses like the foundations of inclusive education in a diverse society and instructional methods and strategies for individuals with mild/moderate disabilities.

Step 2: Complete an Education Specialist Credential Program

Special education teachers will need to complete an education specialist credential program. This credential offers specialization in the following areas: deaf and hard of hearing, early childhood special education, mild/moderate, and moderate/severe. Students can achieve this credential either through an integrated program or enroll in a credential program after completing their bachelor's degree.

Find schools that offer these popular programs

  • Teaching Gifted and Talented Students
  • Teaching Special Education - Autism
  • Teaching Special Education - Developmentally Delayed
  • Teaching Special Education - Emotional Disturbances
  • Teaching Special Education - Hearing Impairments
  • Teaching Special Education - Learning Disabilities
  • Teaching Special Education - Mental Retardation
  • Teaching Special Education - Multiple Disabilities
  • Teaching Special Education - Orthopedic Impairments
  • Teaching Special Education - Speech Impairments
  • Teaching Special Education - Traumatic Brain Injuries
  • Teaching Special Education - Vision Impairments
  • Teaching Special Education, Children and Young Children

Step 3: Pass Certification Exams

The next step for candidates is to pass their state certification exams. Special education teachers will need to take several competency examinations.

California teachers must fulfill the basic skills requirement, which can be done in a number of ways including a qualifying score on the SAT, ACT, or AP exams. Many teachers fulfill this requirement by passing the general competency exam called the California Basic Educational Skills Test (CBEST). Candidates will be tested on their reading, writing, and math skills. They can take one section at a time or all together. Candidates will need to earn a combined score of 123 on all sections in order to pass.

Candidates will also need to take the RICA examination, which tests reading knowledge and application. It is administered via computer and consists of 70 multiple-choice questions, 4 focused educational problems and instructional tasks, and one case study. Candidates will need a score of 220 to pass.

Finally, candidates will need to display subject matter competence on one of the CSET examinations. Special education teachers can choose either the Multiple Subject test or any of the Single Subject examinations.

Step 4: Complete Credential Requirements

All teaching candidates in California will need to complete the following coursework requirements:

  • A United States Constitution course or an equivalent examination
  • A computer technology course
  • A reading instruction course

They will also need to complete a fingerprint check from the California Department of Justice and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).

Once these requirements are met, candidates will receive their Preliminary Education Specialist Instruction Credential, which is good for five years.Teachers will then need to complete a clear credential program through an approved Induction Program. They will then qualify for the Clear Credential. It should be noted that teachers who earn an Exceptional Needs/Early Childhood through Young Adulthood certification through the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards will qualify for the Clear Credential.

Certification Resources for Special Education Teachers in California

Special education teaching candidates can prepare for the CBEST, CSET and RICA examinations by utilizing these study guides.

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