Whether you’ve known you wanted to be a teacher since kindergarten or you’re simply looking for a rewarding and meaningful career, as a high school teacher you can make a difference every day. But where to start?

This step-by-step guide will walk you through the steps to becoming a high school teacher in California.

Step 1: Decide What You Want to Teach

What are you passionate about? Step 1 is deciding what subject or subjects interest you and what you’d like to teach.

Unlike elementary school teachers who cover multiple subjects throughout the school day, high school and middle school (or secondary education) teachers focus on specific subjects. This means they must be knowledgeable in that subject area and be able to educate students in different grades and at different levels (for example, Life Sciences versus Honors Biology).

As of 2020, the highest demand for high school and middle school teachers is in the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) subject areas.

Step 2: Earn a Bachelor’s Degree

To teach in California, you must first earn a bachelor’s degree (a BA or BS) from a college or university. Those hoping to teach at the high school or middle school level are encouraged to major in their content subject area(s), such as mathematics, science, English or another language, and history/social science, although this is not mandatory.

Step 3a: Pass the CBEST and CSET Tests

In the state of California, two tests are often required for admission into teaching credential graduate programs: the CBEST (California Basic Educational Skills Test) and CSET (California Subject Examinations for Teachers).

The CBEST is the exam you take to demonstrate you have the basic skills required for a teaching credential, whereas the CSET exams you need to take depend on the subject matter(s) you wish to teach. Visit this Helpful Guide to learn more about these tests and what they cover.

Note when applying to Chapman’s Teaching Credential programs, you must (1) submit a passing CBEST score with your application and (2) submit either passing CSET score(s) or provide proof of registration. Other program requirements may vary. All students must pass their CSETs before beginning student teaching.

Step 3b: Enroll in a Single Subject Teaching Credential Program

In California, teachers need a Single Subject Credential to teach a specific subject to middle school and high school students. To obtain a Single Subject Credential, you must enroll in a California Commission on Teacher Credentialing (CTC) approved graduate teacher preparation program, such as Chapman. Such programs include at least one year of full-time study and student teaching.

The credential subjects offered at Chapman are English, mathematics, science, social science, and music.

Step 4: Consider a Master’s Degree

You may want to consider earning a master’s degree. In many cases, a teaching credential and master’s degree in teaching or education can be combined into one program, with just a few additional courses. Although you don’t need a master’s degree to teach in K-12 public schools, earning both will make you a more qualified job candidate and may increase your salary once you are hired.

With small class sizes and early fieldwork opportunities, the joint master’s and credential Teacher Education programs offered at Chapman prepare you to work in schools and communities through professional training and hands-on experience. Note that most programs require you to enroll in credential and master’s programs concurrently. Thus, it’s important to find the program that’s right for you before committing to a teaching credential program.

Step 5: Get Hired

Congrats! You are now ready to find your first teaching job.

Be sure to research different types of schools. Schools vary in size, location (urban versus rural), resources, teacher pay, class sizes, benefits, and more. In addition to schools within traditional public school districts, also consider positions in private schools, charter schools, magnet schools, and subject-specific schools (such schools for the arts).

Lastly, before applying to open teaching positions, update your resume to include your qualifications and skills:

  • Education: List degrees, institutions, and programs
  • Teaching experience: Include duties and accomplishments during student teaching assignments
  • Certifications: Include credentials and relevant licenses
  • Skills: Include languages spoken and other skills relevant to the job description

Many universities also offer career resources to assist you with your search. Chapman’s Career and Professional Development offers job placement assistance and other resources, such as resume and cover letter review, interview prep, and alumni networking.

Step 6: Clear Your Credential

All teaching credentials in California are obtained through a two-level process, beginning with the preliminary credential and resulting in the clear credential. Teacher candidates obtain a preliminary credential through a university program (such as Chapman) and then clear their credential through an induction program once they are hired by a school or school district.

For more information about California state credential requirements, visit the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing (CTC) webpage.

Good luck finding the job that’s perfect for you!