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How to Become an Elementary School Teacher in California

Elementary school teachers are an integral part of shaping the leaders of tomorrow. In California, individuals must obtain a bachelor's degree and successfully pass examinations in order to earn a multiple subject teaching credential.

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In 2014, the United States Census Bureau reported California as the most populous state in the nation, with 38.8 million residents. Of those residents, the California Department of Education cited 3,083,643 elementary-age enrolled students for the 2016-2017 school year. With such a large student population, California is in need of new elementary school teachers.

California Elementary School Teacher Requirements

Average Salary for Teachers in California (2016)* $74,270 (Elementary School Teachers, Except Special Education)
Required Degree Bachelor's degree
Degree Field Elementary education
Testing Requirements CBEST, CSET: Multiple Subjects, and RICA

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

Step 1: Complete Education Requirements

Individuals interested in teaching at the elementary school level in California will need to obtain at least a bachelor's degree in elementary education from an approved college or university. Their approved training program must include a student teaching assignment. The duration of these assignments is typically one semester, depending on the elementary school's schedule.

The state of California has a few coursework requirements in addition to the bachelor's degree. Students must complete a required English language skills/reading instruction class that includes topics like phonemic awareness, early intervention techniques, and language and comprehension. Other required coursework includes a course on tenets of the United States Constitution (or, alternately, a passing score on an exam on the Constitution), as well as a computer course that covers the necessary skills for teachers.

Find schools that offer these popular programs

  • Teacher Education, Multiple Levels
  • Teaching, Adults
  • Teaching, Elementary
  • Teaching, High School
  • Teaching, Junior High
  • Teaching, Kindergarten and Preschool
  • Teaching, Waldorf and Steiner Education
  • Teaching, Young Children

Step 2: Fulfill Certification Requirements

After completing the educational requirements, individuals must become certified to teach in the state of California. Elementary school teachers must earn a multiple subject teaching credential. The state has several examinations that individuals must successfully pass:

  • California Basic Assessment Educational Skills Test (CBEST): California teachers must fulfill a basic skills requirement, which is often done through passing the CBEST. This exam tests proficiency in reading, mathematics, and writing. Sections can be taken individually or all at once. Individuals must earn a scaled score of 41 on each section, with a total combined score of 123 to pass. It should be noted that an individual can earn 37 on one or two of the sections, as long as the total combined score is 123.
  • California Subject Examination for Teachers (CSET): Multiple Subjects: These exams are used to demonstrate a teacher's subject area competency. There are three subtests on the Multiple Subjects test: the first covers history/social science and reading/literature/language; the second covers science and math; and the third covers visual/performing arts, physical education and human development. Individuals must earn a passing score of 220 on each subtest. If a teacher passes the CSET: Writing Skills exam in addition to CSET: Multiple Subjects, this fulfills the California basic skills requirement.
  • Reading Instruction Competence Assessment (RICA): This exam tests individuals' knowledge of reading instruction and application and offers the choice of a written exam or a video performance assessment. A passing score for this exam is 220.

In addition to testing, individuals must also undergo a fingerprint clearance from the California Department of Justice, as well as the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Successful candidates can earn preliminary certification, which is good for five years. Individuals must then complete a fifth year of education (or complete a credential program), including courses in special education and health education, in order to obtain the professional clear credential. This credential must be renewed every five years.

Certification Resources for California Elementary School Teachers

The below courses will help individuals prepare for the certifications needed to become a teacher in California.

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