Education Requirements for Becoming an English Teacher in California

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California State Superintendent of Public schools recently released a message about teacher layoffs in California. The downturn in the economy saw a percentage of teachers in California receive pink slips. This may be a concern for new teachers, but it’s not the entire picture.

California is expecting the total student population to rise by 4% in the next ten years. This growth means that more teachers will be needed, especially in the critical areas such as English. As of late 2014, there is a shortage of qualified English teachers in the state. Coupled with the fact that there are scores of teacher retirements looming, the prospects for a job as an English teacher in California are very good. After considering the following steps to become an English teacher, you may find it’s the job you always wanted.

Educational Preparation
Pursue a State Issued Teaching Credential
Continue Professional Development



Step 1. Educational Preparation

The first step for the aspiring English teacher in California is to complete an approved educational program. The program will train you to become a teacher and prepare you for your major as well. Each college and university listed will have various choices for you to consider. One decision you want to make is whether or not to incorporate a master’s degree into your education, or complete the minimum bachelor’s degree with the added time for the teacher preparation portion.

Once you decide which degree level you desire, you can select from the specific programs. Here are a few examples of degree programs in California for teachers:

  • M.A in Education
  • M.A. in Teaching
  • B.A. in Secondary Education/ English
  • B.S. in Early Childhood Development

Internship Program

California also offers options for those who wish to enter teaching that may be transferring out of another industry. If you already have a degree you may find this works well for you. Many schools will offer internship programs to candidates with the following:

  • Already have a degree in English
  • Passed the basic skills exam (see “testing” below)
  • Have an assigned mentor teacher at the school you plan to work
  • Completed a course in U.S. history or pass a test given by a college to waive this requirement
  • Complete the application
  • Have a Live Scan fingerprint set completed
  • Complete a teacher preparation program or pass a test for subject competency
  • Create a Professional Development Plan
  • Take any additional courses required by the district

Whichever route you take, testing will be part of the credential requirement for everyone — the next step in the process.

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Step 2. Testing

Once you have finished with school you can register to take the necessary tests that all teacher candidates must take. There are different tests that show proficiency in different areas.

As an English teacher, you will have to prove subject proficiency as well as basic skills knowledge and an understanding of the use of technology in the classroom. California also requires teachers to have a general understanding of teaching to second language learners due to the highly diverse population in the state. The three tests that you will take are as follows:

California allows candidates to register for their test dates online. You will have the convenience of also being able to retrieve information from this site once you register including obtaining the results of your tests. After you have your passing scores, you will be eligible to apply for your Credential.



Step 3: Pursue a State Issued Teaching Credential

California requires all full-time teachers to have a teaching credential. If you are teaching younger children (K-6), you will apply for a Multiple Subject Credential. If you plan on teaching middle school and up, you will apply for the Single Subject Teaching Credential in English.

The first credential you receive- a Preliminary Credential – will be valid up to five years. In order to qualify for the credential, you need to meet the following requirements:

When you are ready to apply for a credential, you will need to have a Live Scan fingerprint set created. There is a fee for both the Live Scan set and for processing the application. You will also have to have a current TB test (current within 60 days of employment).

Once you have taught for five years, you will be eligible to clear your credential and move from probationary status to permanent. The Clear Credential is available when you have met all the requirements.



Step 4: Continue Professional Development

Professional development in California has changed over the last several years. The verification process for professional growth isn’t a requirement in order to renew the professional clear credential. You will still need to accumulate 150 hours of education and activities that will expand your teaching knowledge, however. Your individual school will likely have some form of record keeping for this.

Another new item is an addition of stipends for highly qualified teachers. These may be in the form of thousands of dollars added when you pursue an advance degree and/or pass the stringent National Board Exam.

For teachers wishing to further their career, continuing a college education can pay off in the long run. It not only satisfies the professional growth requirement to clear your credential, but it will add to your salary, plus you may have opportunities for other special programs in some California schools.

With the new focus on highly educated teachers, some schools are seeking grants to give as incentives to teachers willing to invest in becoming master teachers. They also have programs that may allow for mentoring. These types of funds are subject to outside monies so they are not always available. Salary stipends that are paid for each degree level, however, are part of standard contracts.



California English Teacher Salaries

California is the longest state in the Union. It is over 1200 miles long flanked by beautiful Pacific Coastlines to the west, Sierra Nevada Mountains in the middle and the Mojave and Great Basin Deserts to the south. As a prospective teacher living in California, you will soon discover that the teacher salaries in the state differ just as much as the vast terrain. Depending on which parts of the state you live in there can be quiet a gap in earnings.

For instance in the small forested town of Paradise, California near the foothills of the Sierra Nevada Mountains, an entry level English teacher with a bachelor’s degree will start at $35,370 a year. In the San Francisco Bay Area town of Los Gatos this same teacher will earn $51,204 their first year. Here are two other possible examples:

San Diego

  • Entry: $ 42,209.82
  • Experienced: $ 52,514.09

San Jose

  • Entry: $ 48,588
  • Experienced: $ 48,588

Salaries will change depending on where you live, how long you teach, and usually by how much you invest in your education. Of course there are always exceptions to the rule. As you can see from the example above, San Jose Unified School District is somewhat unique. It pays first- year teachers the same salary no matter what their level of education.

After the third year—the year that a teacher typically can earn permanent status in this district—the education begins to affect a salary benefit. In the third year an English teacher with a bachelor’s will still earn $48,588, but a teacher with a bachelor’s plus sixty post-graduate units will earn $53,740. Additionally, they would also earn a stipend of $2,750 if they turn those sixty units into a master’s degree.

More English teacher salary information in other major California cities is available below:

Area Name
Annual Median Salary
Bakersfield-Delano CA
Fresno CA
Estimate Not Released
Los Angeles-Long Beach-Glendale CA Metropolitan Division
Los Angeles-Long Beach-Santa Ana CA
Oakland-Fremont-Hayward CA Metropolitan Division
Riverside-San Bernardino-Ontario CA
Sacramento--Arden-Arcade--Roseville CA
San Diego-Carlsbad-San Marcos CA
San Francisco-Oakland-Fremont CA
San Francisco-San Mateo-Redwood City CA Metropolitan Division
San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara CA
Santa Ana-Anaheim-Irvine CA Metropolitan Division

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