With the shortage of teachers in California, especially in special education, mathematics, and science, there’s never been a better time to consider a career in education. As a teacher, you can give back to your community and make a difference in the lives of children.

Whether you’re exploring a possible career in teaching or are positive teaching is the job for you, figuring out the steps and requirements to becoming a qualified teacher can be overwhelming. This article contains all the information you need to pursue a career as a teacher in California.

Elementary and Secondary Teaching Credentials

First and foremost, you must earn a teaching credential to become eligible to teach in California. Each type of credential has different requirements, depending on the age and types of students you wish to teach. Most often, people earn one type of credential, although they can earn more than one.

There are three main types of credentials:

  • Multiple Subject Teaching Credential (elementary school),
  • Single Subject Credential (secondary/middle school), and
  • Education Specialist Credential (K-22 special education).

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 University) and then will clear their credential through an induction program once they are hired by a school or school district.

The Multiple Subject Teaching Credential is for teachers who wish to teach all subjects in a self-contained classroom. Teachers with this credential are qualified to teach in an elementary (K-6) classroom or specialized multiple subject programs at the secondary level.

If you wish to teach high school or middle school students, then you will want to obtain the Single Subject Credential. Those who earn this credential are authorized to teach one subject and are typically employed at the high school or middle school (secondary) levels. The credential subjects offered at Chapman University are English, Mathematics, Science, Social Science, and Music.

READ MORE: 6 Steps to Becoming a High School Teacher

Special Education Credentials

Special educators work in a variety of settings and classrooms. In inclusive education settings, special educators will consult, collaborate, and co-teach with general education teachers and other service providers. Specialized instruction may also be provided individually or groups at resource and learning centers as well as in hospitals, homes, and youth authority facilities.

To teach students with disabilities in California, a teacher must possess an Education Specialist Mild/Moderate Credential or an Education Specialist Moderate/ Severe Credential. These credentials prepare candidates to serve as special education teachers in K-12 and special day class settings and in classes for adults through age 22.

The severity of disabilities range from mild/moderate to moderate/severe, and teachers must earn a credential to teach students with disabilities in those categories:

  • Teachers who have earned the Education Specialist Mild/Moderate Credential are authorized to teach students with specific learning disabilities, mild/ moderate intellectual disabilities, other health impairments, and serious emotional disturbance.
  • The Education Specialist Moderate/Severe Credential authorizes teachers to teach students with moderate-to-severe learning and intellectual disabilities, deaf-blindness, autism, and serious emotional disturbance. Candidates are also eligible to teach students with multiple kinds of disabilities.

To teach students with all types of disabilities, candidates must earn both the Education Specialist Mild/Moderate and Moderate/Severe Credentials.

Joint Credentials

Chapman also has pathways for concurrently earning joint credentials, which qualifies you to teach in multiple settings:

  • Education Specialist Mild/Moderate and Moderate/Severe Credentials
  • Joint Education Specialist Mild/ Moderate Credential and Multiple Subject Credential

The Joint Education Specialist Mild/ Moderate Credential and Multiple Subject Credential authorizes candidates earning both the Mild/Moderate and Multiple Subject credentials to teach all subjects in a classroom for students with mild-to-moderate disabilities. The classroom can be either self-contained or a general education classroom at the elementary (K-6) levels.

Additional Resources

In fall 2020, the California Student Aid Commission (CSAC) opened the Golden State Teacher Grant, an education grant that can help prospective special education teachers cover the costs of earning a California teaching credential. The grant supports soon-to-be teachers by providing one-time grant of up to $20,000 in financial aid to help to pay for their teacher preparation program. Visit our Golden State Teacher Grant information page for grant requirements and steps to apply.

For more information about the teacher education and other graduate programs at Chapman, visit the Attallah College of Educational Studies or our Teaching Credential Programs websites.

Additional resources for prospective teachers are also available on the TEACH California website.