FAQs About The Teaching Profession

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Why do people become teachers?

These are some of the top reasons people enter the teaching profession: 

  • Because they want to make a difference in the lives of children and their communities.
  • Because they believe teaching is a powerful way to advance social justice.
  • Because they love their subjects and sharing that love with students.
  • Because of teaching’s intellectual challenge and the desire to be a life-long learner. 
  • Because they enjoy collaboration and being part of a team of like-minded professionals.
  • Because of the financial security, job security, and opportunities to pursue other interests during vacations.

See the Why Teach? page to see interviews with teachers talking about why they entered the profession and what teaching is really like.

How do I know teaching is right for me?

These are some of the characteristics that researchers have found that are commonly associated with individuals who are especially well-suited for the teaching profession:

  • They are knowledgeable of their subject(s) and enjoy learning.
  • They are well-organized, persistent, and capable of multi-tasking.
  • They have had rich life and work experiences and may have followed an untraditional path to the university.
  • They have had out-of-school experiences with children of diverse backgrounds.
  • They believe all children can be successful if appropriately taught.
  • They collaborate enthusiastically and effectively with colleagues.
  • If you possess some of these characteristics and you are up to the challenge, teaching is an excellent career option.

What are the chances of being hired?

California is currently facing a significant teacher shortage, which means that almost every district in the state is hiring new teachers. According to DataQuest, a website maintained by the California Department of Education, California school districts project they expect to hire over 22,000 new teachers in the 2016-17 school year. With a strong economy and diminishing class sizes, districts will continue to hire thousands of new teachers for several years to come.

What are the chances of getting hired where I’d like to work?

Virtually all districts throughout California are hiring new teachers, which means the prospects for getting hired where you’d like to live and work are excellent.

To see projected teacher hires by county and school district, go to the DataQuest website. Then follow these steps:

  1. Select the level (state, county, school district, school).
  2. Select “Projected teacher hires” in the dropdown list titled, “Subject.”
  3. Click “Submit.

To see what positions districts are currently advertising (and the compensation offered), go to EdJoin.org and click on the Job Search button at the top of the home page.

What are the chances of teaching my preferred courses?

Teacher shortages exist in virtually all districts throughout California. Shortages are particularly severe in math, science, bilingual education, and special education. The prospects of teaching your preferred courses are very good, and they are excellent of you prefer to teach in any of the high need areas listed above.

To see projected teacher hires by subject area, go to the DataQuest website. Then follow these steps:

  1. Select the level (state, county, school district, school).
  2. Select “Projected teacher hires” in the dropdown list titled, “Subject.”
  3. Click “Submit.
  4. When prompted to select a report, select “Estimated Number of Teacher Hires by Subject.”

To see what positions districts are currently advertising (and the compensation offered), go to EdJoin.org and click on the Job Search button at the top of the home page.

What are the chances of being laid off?

After the 2008 recession, class sizes increased forcing many districts to lay off teachers. With an improved economy California has made significant new investments in its public schools. With class sizes shrinking, most districts in the state are hiring, not laying off, teachers. There are no signs that this trend will change in the foreseeable future.

How much do teachers earn and what are the fringe benefits?

  • According to TeachingDegree.org, the average salary for California teachers in 2016 was $78, 413. The average starting salary is $39,972. Some districts are offering signing bonuses.
  • Many people considering teaching as a career do not understand the extraordinary value of the fringe benefits districts offer. The Wall Street Journal reported that benefit packages for public school teachers translate to about $1 in current and future benefits for every $1 of salary earned.
  • Health benefits (usually including dental, vision, life insurance) provided to teachers and their families are especially important now that the federal lawmakers have vowed to repeal the Affordable Care Act.
  • Many teachers willing to commit to teaching for several years are eligible for debt relief. This means that student loans may be fully or partially forgiven. (For more information, see section above on financial aid.) [Add hyperlink]
  • All teachers in California become part of the State Teachers Retirement Fund that provides pensions when teachers retire or leave the profession.
  • Some districts provide signing bonuses, additional income for special assignments, housing assistance, and reimbursement for continuing education courses.
  • Other benefits typically include paid maternity and paternity leave and paid holidays.
  • Most teachers work approximately 180 days (9 months) of the year, allow them to travel, spend time with their families or earn additional income during the remaining 3 months. In year-round schools, teachers typically work for 45 days, then have 15 days off in a repeating cycle through the year.
  • For more information about compensation and benefits, visit the compensation and benefits webpage at Teach.org.

What are the greatest challenges of teaching?

Teaching is not easy and it’s not for everyone. Teaching is extraordinarily rewarding, but there are challenges, including these:

  • Learning to mutli-task—to present ideas, assess student understanding, manage the classroom—all at the same time.
  • Maintaining a deep and current understanding of one’s subjects.
  • Planning effective and engaging lessons that meet a broad spectrum of student needs and interests.
  • Creating a stimulating learning environment and managing a classroom of learners.
  • Providing instruction that enables a diverse group learners to understand and embrace their subjects.
  • Assuming the responsibilities of a professional educator (e.g., developing as a teacher, collaborating with colleagues on curriculum, assisting with school events, communicating with parents).
  • Focusing on social and emotional growth, in addition to academic growth.

The good news is that you won’t have to face these challenges alone. CSU’s credential programs provide a strong foundation in the key elements of teaching. School districts also provide a variety of “induction” supports for beginning teachers. And, you’ll be part of a team of educators who will assist you during your first few years as a teacher.

Why do teachers leave the profession, and is teacher burnout a common problem?

While teaching is a highly rewarding profession, it’s also demanding. A small percentage of teachers do experience excessive stress leading some of them to leave the profession. In most cases, studies show this occurs when teachers do not receive adequate support from the schools systems in which they work. To avoid burnout, new teachers should seek positions in schools that provide strong professional and collegial supports. To learn more about why teachers stay and leave, see the report, “A Possible Dream: Retaining California Teachers So All Students Learn.”


FAQs About Financial Aid

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What types of financial aid are available for credential students?

Both post-baccalaureate credential candidates and undergraduates preparing for teaching careers are eligible for:

Undergraduate students are also eligible for:

What are the eligibility requirements for various financial aid programs?

Each program has its own terms and conditions, and a candidate may or may not qualify for all the programs. Filing a timely financial aid application by March 2 enables candidates to be considered for almost all the programs. Candidates should visit their campus’s website and check with a Financial Aid counselor on their campus to determine their eligibility for various programs.

Are paid internships available?

Paid intern teaching credential programs are available on most CSU campuses. Completion of an intern program results in the issuance of a preliminary credential. For additional information about the Intern positions available on each campus, talk with a credential counselor after visiting your campus web site.

What financial aid is available for DACA students?

Currently, DACA students who qualify for nonresident tuition exemption (under an AB540) may apply for state and institutional funded financial aid by filing a California Dream Act application online. The application is available October 1 and is due by the March 2 deadline. Click here to complete the application online.

Can I be employed while earning a credential?

Many teacher education candidates are employed part-time. Credential candidates should avoid working so many hours that it interferes with coursework and student teaching. Campus Career Offices can help to identify employment opportunities, including those in teaching-related settings.

How much does it cost to complete a credential program?

The cost for completing a credential program depends upon the number of units a candidate takes each quarter or semester. In general, programs can be completed through full-time study during one academic year. The tuition cost in 2016-17 was $6,348.

Some candidates complete their credential programs by enrolling part-time during the summer or part-time study during a second academic year. If a candidate completes the program through part-time summer study, the added cost was $1,842 in 2016-17.

If the candidate continues during one term of a second year enrolling part-time, the additional cost was $1,842. If the candidate enrolls part-time for both semesters during a second year (but not the intervening summer), the additional cost is $3,684.


FAQs About Credential Prerequisites

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How do I select the right major?

Overall, there is no right or wrong major. Depending on a person’s skillset and passion for the subject, he or she can select from a range of majors and become a teacher. Common majors for those pursuing a career as an elementary teacher include liberal studies, child development, psychology, and multi-cultural studies. For secondary teachers, English, math, a science discipline, computer science, engineering, history, social science, and economics are common majors. Art, music, and dance may be majors for elementary or secondary teachers. Volunteering in a program working with children and youth is an excellent way of identifying areas of special interest in teaching. CSU Community Service Learning Offices assist in identifying volunteer opportunities.

What prerequisite courses should I take, and what if I just graduated?

CSU campus and feeder community college prerequisites have basic commonalities, although specific requirements sometimes differ. The prerequisites can be normally found directly on the college or university’s webpage or in its advising materials. Click here for links to all of the CSU teacher credential programs, including contract information for campus advisors.

All applicants will need to complete a certain number of hours of fieldwork prior to admission to a teacher preparation program. This fieldwork enables students to have hands-on experiences working with children and youth in classrooms, after-school programs, or out-of-school learning programs such as science centers, Saturday lab schools, or intersession camps. Applicants to credential programs who have already earned a bachelor’s degree should determine whether they need to take additional courses to fulfill prerequisite requirements. In some cases, they may apply to a CSU teacher credential program, be admitted to the campus as a post-baccalaureate student, and complete the prerequisites on a pathway to formal admission to the credential program.

Are there equivalencies to the prerequisites offered at other colleges or universities? How about online courses?

Depending on the CSU campus, various courses from other accredited institutions are accepted to fulfill prerequisites. Applicants should speak with a campus credential advisor to determine whether the courses they have taken satisfactorily address prerequisites. Some CSU campuses and other colleges/universities offer online courses that will suit an applicant’s busy schedule and meet prerequisite requirements. Credential advisors can provide information about equivalencies for fulfilling prerequisite course requirements and online options for doing so.

CalStateTEACH is CSU's online teacher preparation program.

How can I get experience working with preK-12 students?

A broad range of high quality options are available for applicants to gain experience working with preK-12 students. CSU Community Service Learning programs, Career Centers, and Credential advisors can give suggestions. Click here for links to individual campuses, whose advisors can provide detailed information about opportunities to work with students.

Most CSU campuses have partnerships with school district after-school programs, Boys and Girls Clubs and other community programs, and science centers. These often provide excellent opportunities working with students.

Candidates in CSU credential programs have a variety of experiences that feature high quality opportunities working with students. These include course field experiences, internships, student teaching, and residencies.

What tests do I have to take before I apply for a credential program? Are there application fees?

Basic Educational Skills: In order to apply for a teaching credential, an applicant must pass the basic skills test from either:

  1. The California Basic Educational Skills Test (CBEST)
  2. The CSU Early Assessment Program (EAP) or the CSU Placement Examinations (EPT and ELM)
  3. Achieve Qualifying Scores on the SAT or ACT
  4. College Board Advanced Placement (AP) Examinations
  5. Basic Skills Examination from Another State

For more information regarding the basic skills test and application fees, please visit http://www.ctc.ca.gov/credentials/leaflets/cl667.pdf and http://www.ctcexams.nesinc.com/index.asp

Subject Matter Assessment: In addition, an applicant must either pass the California Subject Examination for Teachers (CSET) or complete an approved Subject Matter Program (SMP) that fulfill the requirements for waiver of the CSET. Subject Matter Program waiver options are described in CSU campus catalogues and/or on CSU campus education program web sites. Click here to view the links to CSU’s credential programs.

CSET Testing for a Multiple Subject Credential: Information about the CSET subject matter competence tests for a multiple subject teaching credential is available in the following California Commission on Teacher Credentialing (CTC) publication: Verifying Subject-Matter Competence by Examination - For Multiple Subject Teaching Credentials.

CSET Testing for Single Subject Candidates: Information about the CSET subject matter competence tests for single subject teaching credentials is available in the following California Commission on Teacher Credentialing (CTC) publication: Verifying Subject-Matter Competence by Examination - For Single Subject Teaching Credentials.

RICA Testing: To obtain a multiple subject or education specialist credential, teaching candidates in California must pass the Reading Instruction Competence Assessment (RICA). Click here for information about the RICA, including the content covered by the test.

What assistance is available to prepare for the tests?

To help prepare for the CBEST and the CSET tests, study guides and practice test questions are available on the CTC’s California Educator Credential Examinations website. Additional resources the CTC site include: scoring scales are for written assignments, computer based testing tutorials, annotated bibliographies, and test results explanations.

Many CSU campuses offer test preparation booklets, study guides, preparation workshops and online courses for students to prepare for CSET, CBEST, and RICA. Credential advisors at each campus can tell you about the availability of these resources.

CSU campuses typically offer test preparation books for check out at their libraries and for sale at their bookstore. Also, CBEST, CSET, and RICA tutoring may be available through the campus Learning Resource Center. Consult with a credential advisor for details.

There are additional practice tests for purchase (like those available at campus book stores) on the Test Preparation Review website.

If I don’t pass a test, can I take it again? How long do I have to wait to re-take it?

Students may take a test or subtest required for a credential as many times as necessary to achieve a passing score. In order to re-take the test, you must wait 45 calendar days from the date you took the test. Click here for more information.


FAQs About Credential Programs

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Which CSU campuses offer a post-baccalaureate credential program for beginning teachers?

All CSU campuses offer a post-baccalaureate credential program preparing elementary teachers (multiple subject credential), secondary teachers (singe subject credential), and special education teachers (education specialist credential). Credential programs are described in CSU campus catalogues. Click here for links to all of CSU’s credential programs.

Many CSU campuses offer internships in which a candidate works full-time for a school district while earning a teaching credential. A credential advisor can provide information regarding a specific campus’ intern credential options and procedures. Click here for links to all of CSU’s credential programs.

How long does it take to complete a post-baccalaureate multiple or single subject credential?

  • The time to complete a credential program varies among programs and depending on whether a candidate engages in full-time or part-time study.
  • Post-baccalaureate multiple and single subject credential programs can often be completed within one year of full-time study. Fulfilling all California credential requirements frequently requires additional steps during the weeks or months after earning a credential.
  • If a candidate enrolls less than full-time, a multiple or single subject credential can normally be completed within two years.
  • To plan the most efficient pathway to completion, a credential advisor should be consulted regarding a specific campus’s requirements and timelines.

How long does it take to complete a post-baccalaureate education specialist credential?

Completion time for an education specialist program typically ranges from a year and a half to two years. The duration is affected by whether a candidate simultaneously earns a basic multiple subject credential or a single subject credential in a specific discipline.

To plan the most efficient pathway to completion, a credential advisor should be consulted regarding a specific campus’s requirements and timelines.

Do credential programs begin every semester/quarter?

Most credential programs begin in the fall semester or quarter. Several CSU campuses are admitting students in the spring and summer sessions. Credential program schedules are described in CSU catalogues and on teacher education program web sites. Click here for links to all of CSU’s credential programs.

May a candidate earn additional credentials while earning their preliminary credential?

Yes, more than one credential can be earned, although some campuses to now allow candidates to earn them at the same time. Having multiple credentials increases the number classroom placements/assignments that a new teacher is authorized to teach. A candidate may, for example, earn a multiple subject credential and a Foundational Level Math or a Foundational Level Science Credential to teach in a middle grades school.

A candidate may, as another example, earn a math or science credential and a second or third additional credential in a different science discipline meeting teacher shortage needs.

See the document, Adding a Teaching or Content Area to Multiple of Single Subject Credentials for information about adding an additional credentials.

Which CSU campuses offer a 4-year undergraduate credential programs that combine a BA degree and credential?

These programs are called Integrated Teacher Education Programs (ITEP). Many CSU campuses offer ITEP programs, which typically begin in the fall semester or quarter. To see the ITEP programs that are available in the CSU, select the Undergraduate filter on the Program Finder page.  The new programs include multiple subject programs with additional bilingual and/or education specialist authorizations and single subject programs in math and science. 

Does CSU offer online credential programs?

CSU’s CalStateTEACH Program offers students the chance to become a multiple subject teacher through an online credential program that includes a robust field experience component. For more information, please visit:

Some CSU campuses offer credential programs online, and virtually all of them offer courses in a blended format, combining face-to-face and online instruction. Visit CSU’s teacher education websites to learn about online learning programs and opportunities. (In the Program Options Filter area on the left, select "Online" or "Hybrid" under Delivery Method to see a list of programs that are offered this way.)

Can I take credential courses at night and/or on weekends?

Most CSU campuses offer credential courses in the evening to accommodate candidates’ work schedules. Some courses or course activities are offered on Saturdays. Student teaching will, however, take place during the week when K-12 schools are in session. Please visit CSU’s teacher education websites for more information.


FAQs About Applying to Credential Programs

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How do I apply for a credential program?

Applications and instructions for applying for credential programs are located on CSU campus teacher education websites.

When are credential program applications available and when are they due?

Credential applications are available year-round, although there may be minor additional information required to complete an application in an application period during the spring (sometimes in a period going through the summer) prior to admission. Teacher education applications are normally accepted through the summer months. Please visit the campus teacher education web sites for the most current information about credential applications.

How do I increase my chances of being admitted to a credential program?

Applicants should have experience working with children and youth, be able to demonstrate an interest in students’ success, have a GPA of 2.67 or above, passed any required tests, and provide strong references from individuals knowledgeable about their teaching potential.

How much coursework and student teaching is required to earn a credential?

While some variations exist among CSU credential programs, most programs consist of two semesters of coursework and student teaching in at least two school settings. The State requires at least 600 hours of supervised field experience, which can be completed through student teaching, a residency, or an internship.

Can I complete my student teaching near where I live?

Credential candidates typically complete their student teaching assignments in the region that is close to their campus. Consult a credential advisor to see what options are available for student teaching at your desired campus. CalStateTEACH, CSU’s online credential program, enables candidates to teach in a broad range of locations that are outside of the service areas of CSU campuses.

What is a bilingual authorization and how do I add one to my credential?

The bilingual authorization allows teachers to meet the needs of English learners in various instructional settings and to teach in California’s bilingual programs.

A bilingual authorization may be earned by examination or by completion of a one of CSU’s CTC-approved bilingual programs. This authorization may be earned concurrently with or after earning a preliminary teaching credential. Click here for more information about the bilingual authorization.

Also, the Program Finder page  on this website shows which bilingual authorizations are offered for each CSU credential program.

Does CSU offer programs that provide a teaching credential and a Masters degree?

Yes, the CSU offers many programs that provide both. Please visit the Program Finder page  and select "Yes" under Masters Degree Option.


FAQs About Graduate Programs in Education

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What graduate programs does the CSU offer in Education?

There is a wide range of graduate programs that the CSU offers in Education. Click here for information.

What do I need to become a school principal or district administrator?

In order to become a school principal or district administrator, you are required to have an Administrative Services Credential. Click here for more information.

What do I need to become a school counselor?

In order to become a school counselor, you are required to have a Pupil Personnel Services Credential.  Click here for more information.

What do I need to become a curriculum and instruction coordinator?

School districts post job announcements with information about the requirements for these positions. Go to EdJoin.org to view positions that districts are currently advertising.

A background of a teaching credential and a Master’s Degree (MA) in Curriculum and Instruction is normally required for this position. Most CSU campuses offer an MA degree in Curriculum and Instruction. Click here for information about the graduate programs offered by individual CSU campuses.