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Eligibility in California

45 minutes
45 minutes

Eligibility in California

This guide describes the application requirements to apply for a teacher preparation program, from academic history to exams and field experience.

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If you have any questions about this process, reach out to teacher preparation program staff for support. They can guide you in the right direction.

For a list of all state-approved educator preparation programs, head over to the Commission on Teacher Credentialing database.


To apply to most teacher preparation programs (TPPs) in California, you will need a bachelor’s degree or proof that you will graduate before you begin the program. For math and science majors, you may qualify for an accelerated program that allows you to earn your bachelor’s degree and your teaching credential at the same time. 

Are you an undergraduate math or science major? Check out the accelerated Math and Science Teacher Initiative program and CalTeach.

Already have your bachelor’s degree? Nice job! To apply to most TPPs, you will also need to prove that you have mastered basic skills, have knowledge of the subject(s) you want to teach, and meet additional requirements depending on the grade level and the preparation program you choose. It may seem intimidating, but don’t worry—we’ll walk you through it!

Academic History

When applying for your program, be prepared to provide your:

  • Undergraduate degree(s).
  • Transcript and GPA.
  • Proof of basic skills mastery. (We’ll explain this below).
  • Proof of content mastery in the subject you want to teach. (We’ll explain this too.)
  • In most cases, proof of previous field experience or classroom observation. (Think substitute teaching, tutoring or volunteer work in a K-12 school).

Most programs require at least a 2.67 overall GPA or 2.75 in your last 60 semester/90 quarter units. Check with your TPP if you have questions.

International Applicant Requirements

If you received your bachelor’s degree from a college or university outside of the U.S., you will need to have your transcripts reviewed by the TPP or another state-approved agency. You may also need to take the TOEFL or another language exam. Check with your program for details.

Basic Skills & Content Mastery

For most programs, you will need to prove you have mastered basic skills and content in the subject(s) you want to teach.

Basic Skills Requirement

You may have a degree, but you will still need to prove you know basic reading, writing and math. You have several options to satisfy this requirement. Many candidates will sign up for the California Basic Educational Skills Test (CBEST). In some cases, your SAT, ACT, Advanced Placement (AP) or other test scores may satisfy the requirement.

You can read more about this requirement on the Commission on Teacher Credentialing website.

Ask your program staff about the basic skills requirement—you may have already met it. If you do need to take the CBEST, some programs only require you show that you’re registered for the test before you can apply.

Subject Area Content Mastery

To apply to a TPP, you will also need to prove you know your content area well enough to teach it. To do this, you have two options:

  • Take the California Subject Examination for Teachers (CSET) for the subject(s) you want to teach.
  • Document that you earned an undergraduate degree from a state-approved subject matter preparation program.

Some programs may waive the CSET requirement based on undergraduate coursework that proves subject matter knowledge. This waiver is not available for all programs, so check with TPP staff about your options.

Field Experience Requirement or Internship Option

Most university-based TPPs require you to certify that you’ve spent at least 45 hours working or volunteering in a classroom at the grade level you want to teach, and where at least one third of the students are English Language Learners (ELLs). 

Have you have worked as a substitute teacher, volunteered in a classroom or worked/volunteered in an afterschool program?  

  • Yes: Great! If you have this or other classroom experience, you may have already met the “early field experience” requirement. 
  • No: Your program staff can point you in the right direction to begin your field experience. Just ask!

Some TPPs also offer internship programs with a school district or other local education agency. These programs offer specialized support and on-the-job training, allowing you to work as a paid teacher while earning your credential. 

You need an early field experience in a classroom before you apply to most programs, unless you choose an approved internship program through a school district or local education agency. Reach out to program staff to see if your experience qualifies or to get started with an appropriate field placement or internship.

Additional Requirements to Keep in Mind

California has a few other requirements, depending on grade level and program type. 

For example, you may need:

  • A course in the U.S. Constitution.
  • Coursework in a second language. 
  • Additional testing in English writing proficiency or in reading instruction.
  • A negative TB test.
  • Clearance from the California Teaching Commission.

Depending on where you earned your undergraduate degree and the TPP you choose, you may have already completed these requirements (or they may be included as part of the program’s curriculum itself). Check with your program to get answers.