Frequently Asked Questions About Careers in Elementary & Secondary Education 

I've decided I want to be an elementary, middle or high school teacher in California. What kind of credential do I need?

In general, there are several distinct types of credentials granted in California, but the two most common are the "Multiple Subjects Credential" and the "Single Subject Credential." Credentials are issued by the Commission on Teacher Credentialing in Sacramento, after at least one year of post bachelor's degree training at an approved institution. All course requirements, testing and classroom experience requirements must be completed before students can be recommended for a credential. Special Education credentials are also available and are especially in demand in California. Additionally, some educational institutions have combined MA/Credential programs that usually take 2 or more years to complete.

What is the difference between a Multiple Subjects Credential and a Single Subject Credential?

A Multiple Subjects Credential qualifies you to teach at all California public schools and many private schools in the elementary grades (K-6). Some elementary schools go up through grade 8. With a Multiple Subjects Credential, you teach multiple subjects in a self-contained classroom, therefore you need a broad range of courses that prepare you to teach many subject areas.

A Single Subject Credential qualifies you to teach in middle and high schools where students move to different classes during the course of the day. The Single Subject Credential is available in a variety of subjects including English, Math, Science, Social Science and others. A major in your subject, as well as general undergraduate coursework, is needed to obtain this type of credential.

A Special Education Credential allows you to teach children with special needs. Special Education Credentials are available with a variety of emphasis and specialties.

There are also CTE (Career Technical Education) credentials that allow you to teach CTE or vocational subjects and Adult Education credentials.

How long will it take to get a credential?

In California, it generally takes 5 years or more to become a credentialed teacher. A bachelor's degree is required plus a fifth year consisting of coursework on the "craft of teaching" and a student teaching experience. There are accelerated programs, internship programs and blended programs that may allow you to speed up this process.

Can I get a credential here?

CCSF doesn't offer a bachelor's degree or a teaching credential. However, there are courses you can take that will allow you to transfer into a bachelor's degree program, acquire your bachelor's degree and then enroll in a credential program. If you already have a BA degree and are missing lower division courses, you can take them here before entering a credential program.

I've heard that I can teach if I have an Emergency Permit. What's that?

Because California has a teacher shortage, some teachers are teaching with emergency permits. Typically, these teachers have a Bachelor's degree, have passed the California Basic Education Skills Test (CBEST) and are working towards specific subject mastery and/or completion of credential program requirements. Because of the federal NCLB (No Child Left Behind Regulations) the Emergency Permit will soon no longer be allowed for employment nor available in California.

Many more teachers are needed to replace teachers due to retire in the next few years, accommodate growing school districts and combat the staff shortages created by reduced class size. Teachers with expertise in the areas of math, science and special education are desperately needed in California, as are teachers with a broad understanding of the developmental needs of children and mastery of a language other than English.

What other requirements are there?

Many teachers must pass the CBEST, the California Basic Education Skills Test. The purpose of the CBEST is to assess and verify acceptable proficiency in reading, writing, and mathematics skills. It's a good idea to take this test while you're still in school, so that the Math and English subject matter is still fresh. The CBEST assesses your skills at the high school level, so students still in high school can take the test. The CBEST has math, reading and writing sections. Individual sections or the entire test may be repeated. For more information visit CBEST.

If you intend to get a Multiple Subjects Credential, you can take the required list of Multiple Subjects courses AND you usually must pass the CSET the Subject Matter Test. The purpose of this test is to assess competence in the various subjects taught in a self-contained classroom. If you are just beginning your college education, it is recommended that you enroll in the Multiple Subjects courses, since the test can be cumbersome and subject matter preparation is needed. An advisor or counselor can help you plan your coursework so that you take all of the required courses. If you have already completed a college degree or have completed the majority of your college requirements, you can either enroll in the necessary courses that are needed for subject mastery or take the CSET, California Subject Examination for Teachers, test immediately. For information on the CSET visit:  A new online CSET Preparation course for Multiple Subjects candidates is available at CSET  

If you intend to get a Single Subject Credential you can either take the required courses in that subject or you must pass the appropriate subject matter test. Subject tests can be quite rigorous. For more information on subject matter tests, visit PRAXIS or CSET Both of these test companies administer single subject area tests.

Please be aware that the Commission on Teacher Credentialing changes requirements in California often. Please check with your educational institution and/or the Commission for the most recent updates on test requirements, waivers and program changes.

Can I Get a Credential Here?

CCSF doesn't offer a bachelor's degree or a teaching credential. However, there are courses you can take that will allow you to transfer into a bachelor's degree program, acquire your bachelor's degree and then enroll in a credential program. If you already have a BA degree and are missing lower division courses, you can take them here before entering a credential program.

How Can I Prepare Here?

The suggested courses for teacher preparation for elementary school teachers are closely aligned with the Child & Adolescent Development and Liberal Studies majors at SFSU, yet because they are predominantly CSU/UC transferable courses, they will enable you to transfer to a wide variety of four-year colleges and universities. The suggested lower-division courses for teacher preparation (as defined by the Commission on Teacher Preparation) are available from the Teacher Prep Center. If you already have a bachelor's degree, you can enroll in lower-division Multiple Subjects waiver courses here and prepare for the CBEST test and the CSET test.

All students are encouraged to enroll in a field experience course (CDEV 71 or CDEV 75) to obtain the required field experience hours, enroll in Child Development courses to learn more about working with children, enroll in an Orientation to Education course (CDEV 150) to learn about educational history and current issues in schools today, and take the CBEST test.

Courses developed to meet the specific needs of future teachers include: Physical Science 11 and Lab for Teachers, Engineering 108A & B, Hands-On Math and CBEST Prep, Learning Assistance, LERN 53 A & B, and CSET Prep, LERN 53C and D.
Students interested in teaching high school or middle school are encouraged to enroll in CDEV 75, Supervised Secondary Fieldwork, Incentives are available to students interested in teaching Math or Science as they are both critical shortage areas if they want to get a single subject credential. Students need to major in their interest areas. Further course information is available at the Teacher Prep Center.