In an effort to attract new teachers to the education field, the state of California has made changes to special education teaching credentials and eased testing requirements, opening up more ways to satisfy program admission requirements. Paid internships (in lieu of unpaid student teaching) and new sources of state and federal grants are also making it possible for teacher candidates and career changers to complete program requirements without sacrificing income.

With a statewide shortage of teachers and hundreds of open public school positions, there’s never been a better time to consider a career in special education.

Changes to Education Specialist Credentials

Future teachers seeking to become qualified special education teachers may have noticed a change to the available special education, or Education Specialist, teaching credentials. The two most common Education Specialist credentials, Mild/Moderate and Moderate/Severe, are now called Mild Moderate Support Needs (MMSN) and Extensive Support Needs (ESN), respectively. What has changed?

According to the California Teachers Association, the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing (CTC) made changes the Education Specialist credential structure in order to consolidate “seven credential areas into five by integrating the Language and Academic Development and the Physical and Health Impairments credentials into each of the other credential areas.” This means teachers who earn the new MMSN and ESN credentials will be authorized to serve a broader range of students with disabilities. See the Chapman Teaching Credentials webpage for more details and the CTC webpage for the complete list of MMSN and ESN authorization areas.

As before, holders of the new MMSN and ESN credentials will be authorized to support students in grades K-12 and adults up to age 22. They are now also authorized to teach in transitional kindergarten.

REAM MORE: All You Need to Know About California Teaching Credentials

New Admission Requirements

Up until 2020, those applying to a graduate-level teaching credential program in the state of California were required to pass one or more basic skills and subject matter competency exams.

Specifically, the California Basic Educational Skills Test (CBEST), which consists of reading, writing, and mathematics subtests, requires you to demonstrate you have the basic skills required for a teaching credential. To demonstrate mastery of specific subject matter, you needed to pass the California Subject Examinations for Teachers (CSET). If your goal is to teach in elementary or special education, you were required to pass the CSET Multiple Subjects exam, which consists of three subtests. To teach a specialized subject in most public middle schools and high schools, you needed pass single subject CSET exams in that subject area, such as mathematics, English, or science.

Beginning with the 2022-2023 academic year application cycle, the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing (CTC) is allowing applicants to teacher education programs to submit (1) a variety of exam scores, (2) evidence of sufficient coursework, or (3) a mixture of coursework and exam scores to fulfill these requirements. For example, someone who has earned a bachelor’s degree in physics or English literature from an accredited university may no longer be required to pass a CSET to teach those subjects. In addition, the CTC is allowing applicants to use other exams, such as the SAT and ACT, to fulfill some or all of the basic skills requirements.

“California is facing a significant teacher shortage,” said Dr. Trisha Sugita, Director of Teacher Education at Chapman University. “Expanding the options available will help reduce barriers to admission and clear the path for qualified adults of all backgrounds to enter the teaching field.”

For more details about the basic skills and subject matter competency requirements, visit Chapman University’s Teacher Education Admission Testing Requirements webpage.

Paid Teaching Internships

The ongoing nationwide shortage of teachers means qualified educators are in high demand. The global pandemic compounded an already serious statewide teacher shortage in California, particularly in the special education, bilingual, science, and mathematics areas.

To support future educators and help fill vacancies in public schools and school districts, teacher candidates now have the opportunity to be paid while they complete their student teaching requirements. Once teacher candidates complete the prerequisite courses, they may secure an intern position in a public school district or school site in which their teacher preparation program has an approved Internship Agreement on file. Thus, a teacher candidate can work as a full-time teacher of record, authorized under a University Intern Credential, while completing their credential program.

For example, through partnerships with local school districts/employers, Chapman University’s CTC-approved teacher preparation program enables interns to earn their teaching credential while maintaining employment as a beginning teacher. Chapman teacher candidates with an approved University Intern Credential receive support from Chapman’s university supervisors as well as a district support provider designated by their district or school site.

Dr. Sugita explained that paid internships are an especially important option for adults who are already working in the education field as instructional aides or tutors and hope to advance their careers by earning a teaching credential. Such individuals have valuable experience but may be hesitant to give up their income to complete student teaching.

“Paid internships are key to ensuring our communities have access to and retain the most qualified teachers, while reducing the burden of student debt,” said Dr. Sugita.

State and Federal Grants

In addition to paid internships and fewer exam fees, the state of California is also offering the Golden State Teacher Grant, an education grant designed help prospective 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.

The goal of the Golden State Teacher Grant (GSTG) is to place educators in “high-need fields” at “priority schools,” as defined by the CTC. Eligible applicants must be enrolled in a teacher preparation program at a CTC-approved institution, such as Chapman University. They must then commit to teach in a high-need field at a priority school for four years after completing their teaching credential program. Visit our Golden State Teacher Grant information page for grant requirements and steps to apply.

Other forms of state and federal grants also available for future teachers, including TEACH Grants and Cal Grants. Download State and Federal Financial Aid for Future Teachers guide for more details and links to additional resources.


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.