Undergraduates - Getting a Head Start

Although completion of an approved teacher education program is one requirement to becoming a teacher in California, there are other requirements that can be fulfilled while completing an undergraduate degree.  Fulfilling these requirements and getting a head start will ensure that you can focus your attention on course work requirements and experiences in the classroom once you begin a teacher education program.  Deciding what you want to teach will also be important.

There are three main categories of teaching credentials issued in California: elementary, secondary, and special education.  Teachers who teach mainly in grades K-6 hold Multiple Subject credentials.  Teachers at the middle and high school level hold Single Subject credentials in one of 16 subjects.  Special education teachers may teach at different grade levels, but teach students with varying degrees of disability, and hold Education Specialist credentials. These credentials are issued by theCalifornia Commission on Teacher Credentialing (CTC). 

The CTC is an independent agency created in 1970 as part of the state's renewed focus on educator standards.  It establishes, maintains, and enforces standards for teacher preparation, licensing, and discipline, and is responsible for the accreditation of more than 900 teacher preparation programs.

By clicking on the links to the three types of credentials listed above, you can view the CTC requirements for each.  If you compare credential requirements, you'll see that there are several requirements common to all three credentials.  Of these, four can be fulfilled while you are still an undergraduate:


For Multiple Subject candidates, this requirement is fulfilled by one of two exams - passage of the CBEST, or passage of the CSET, Multiple Subjects + Writing Skills.  The second option allows the candidate to fulfill both the Basic Skills and Subject Matter Competence requirements. Education Specialist candidates also have the same two options if they take the CSET, Multiple Subjects to fulfill their Subject Matter Competence requirement.  Single Subject candidates must take the CBEST to fulfill this requirement. One may also use their SAT scores, ACT scores or AP scores to meet the requirement by receiving a specific score mandated by the CTC. For more information, please refer to the CTC's Basic Skills leaflet.

Candidates should know that although CBEST scores do not expire, CSET scores expire after 10 years if taken after 4/1/2017. If any one of the CSET subtests is over 10 years old at the time you apply for your credential, you will be required to take it again.


Multiple Subject candidates must take the CSET Multiple Subjects Subtests I - III to fulfill this requirement. Education Specialist candidates must be subject matter competent in the subject(s) they will be teaching. It is recommended that they take the CSET Multiple Subjects.

Single Subject candidates have two options for fulfilling this requirement.  They may either take the CSET in the subject they wish to teach, or complete an approved subject matter program at an accredited university.  This second option allows a candidate to fulfill both the Subject Matter Competence and Bachelor's Degree requirements.  The CTC publishes a list of universities and the approved subject matter programs they offer.


Many colleges and universities offer courses or exams to fulfill this requirement.  You should check with a counselor at the college or university to find out which course, or courses, are approved.   In addition to several approved courses in political science and history, Cal Lutheran offers a one-day prep and exam through the Continuing and Professional Education Department which also fulfills this requirement.  CSU graduates fulfill the requirement in their undergraduate requirements.


This requirement is listed last because it is the one requirement you may want to wait to fulfill until approximately two months before graduation.  The Certificate of Clearance is fingerprint clearance required by the CCTC before any student teaching can be performed, and for credential issuance.  This is a one-time clearance for all certification issued to you by the CCTC.  But since the clearance is only valid for five years, you must apply for your first (substitute) permit or credential within that five year period.  At one time, an actual certificate was mailed to candidates when clearance was issued, thus the name.  However, verification can now be obtained online at the CCTC web site, and certificates are no longer issued. 

Once the fingerprinting process has been completed and the applicant has completed the online application, it usually takes only a few weeks to receive clearance.  The applicant's fingerprints are compared to the records maintained by the United States Federal Bureau of Investigation and the California Department of Justice.  However, applicants with a criminal conviction can expect clearance to take anywhere from two months up to a year or longer. 

If the conviction is not on the list (CA Ed Code 44346.1 and 44424) requiring the CCTC to deny the application, the Commission will consider how long ago the misconduct occurred, any prior record of misconduct, references, rehabilitation, and other factors.

If you have been convicted of a misdemeanor (with the exception of minor traffic/parking violations) or felony, you should consider the additional processing/review time and apply for clearance accordingly.  Advancement in a teacher preparation program can be affected by a delay in receiving the Certificate of Clearance.

For complete information on applying for clearance, look for the Certificate of Clearance link on the Cal Lutheran Credential Information web site.  

 For more information regarding the application process into one of our teacher education programs at Cal Lutheran, go to the Graduate Admission web site, or call 805-493-3325 to schedule an appointment with a Graduate Admission Counselor.