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The California educator's guide to choosing the right teaching credential

January 29, 2019 by Brandman University


In the time you’ve spent planning for your future as a teacher, you’ve likely been told a number of times that it’s important to look ahead. Like doctors and lawyers, teachers are required to obtain professional licensure before they can practice—at least in public schools. That clearly takes some time.

Another reason it’s essential to look ahead as you begin to lay the foundation for your career is that the teaching credentials you should pursue vary depending on which type of educator you hope to become. As you research requirements, you may find yourself facing some questions:

  • Why do licensure requirements vary by state?
  • Can teaching credentials transfer between states?
  • Do teaching credentials expire?

Join us as we explore the broad answers to these questions and also take a deeper dive into the teaching requirements in the state of California.

The basics of teaching credentials

Caring for, guiding and educating our communities’ children is a huge responsibility. This is why teaching credentials are so important. They signify to school administrators and community members that you—as a teacher—are supremely qualified to help mold the minds of our young learners.

Each state has its own agency that oversees its public school teachers’ qualifications to ensure they’re properly educated. The licensure process confirms not only that instructors are sufficiently qualified to teach the subject matter, but also that they’ve passed any background checks and assessments required for the age they want to teach.

As you map out your education plan, be sure to analyze the teaching requirements for each state in which you might want to someday work. The state-specific teaching permits may be referred to as credentials, licenses or certifications depending on the location.

You’ll also want to note if any of your desired states have specific coursework requirements. For example, the state of California requires coursework and a passing score on a test about the U.S. Constitution. Meanwhile, Alaska requires its public educators to take courses on Alaska history and multicultural studies.

There are also specific guidelines you can review about teaching credentials transferring between states. Even if a teacher meets a different state’s requirements, they will still need to apply for a new license to teach there. And, even if you stay in your home state, most teaching credentials must be renewed after five years.

Take a closer look: Teaching requirements in California

As we discuss the regional differences in requirements for teachers, it can be helpful to examine an individual state’s credential model to gain a better understanding of what to expect. California, for example, boasts a three-pronged credential format: the Multiple Subject Teaching Credential, the Single Subject Teaching Credential and the Education Specialist Instruction Credential.

All California teaching credentials are acquired through a two-level process, starting with the preliminary credential and ending with the clear credential.

What is the Multiple Subject Teaching Credential?

If you hope to teach elementary school in California, you’ll need to obtain the Multiple Subject Teaching Credential. This credential authorizes educators to teach all subjects in a self-contained classroom to students ranging in age from preschool through high school. (They may also teach classes organized primarily for adults.)

In California, Multiple Subject teacher preparation programs include content for teaching English learners. This authorizes educators to provide instruction for English language development and specially designed academic instruction in English.

What is the Single Subject Teaching Credential?

If you have your sights set on teaching a particular subject, you should pursue the Single Subject Teaching Credential. Educators holding this credential are authorized to teach a specific subject to students ranging in age from preschool to twelfth grade, as well as teaching their subject in classes organized for adults.

The subjects you can pursue within the California Single Subject Teaching Credential are as follows:

  • Agriculture
  • Art
  • Biological sciences
  • Business
  • Chemistry
  • English
  • Geosciences
  • Health science
  • Home economics
  • Industrial and technology education
  • Mathematics
  • Music
  • Physical education
  • Physics
  • Social science
  • World language: English language Development
  • World language: languages other than English

What is the Education Specialist Instruction Credential?

The Education Specialist Instruction Credential authorizes educators to teach and provide special education support for students in a particular area of focus. They can also conduct educational assessments to identify how to best help students progress toward achieving their academic goals.

Programs that align with this credential will include content related to Autism Spectrum Disorders and teaching English learners. There are several potential specialty areas:

  • Deaf and hard of hearing
  • Early childhood special education
  • Language and academic development
  • Mild/moderate disabilities
  • Moderate/severe disabilities
  • Physical and health impairments
  • Visual impairments

Again, the three credentials listed above are specific to California. But hopefully this information provides you with a clearer picture of what the credentialing landscape looks like.

Choose a teaching credential that will drive your career forward

If you’re hoping to dedicate your career to teaching, you now know how important it is to consider your long-term teaching credential goals sooner rather than later. Getting these details sorted out early on can help ensure you’re setting yourself on the right path to achieve your teaching goals.

Now that you’re aware of some of the teaching credential options available, you might want to dive into the details of some preparatory programs. To learn more about the admission requirements, program outcomes and internship opportunities that could await, visit Brandman University’s Teaching Credentials & Authorizations page.



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