Becoming a Substitute Teacher in California: Requirements & Qualifications

Find out how to become a certified substitute teacher in California. Learn the different substitute permits offered, what each entails, and renewal procedures. Schools offering Teaching & Learning degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

Information for Substitute Teachers in California

Substitute teachers in California will find various pathways to certification. There are four different types of substitute teaching permits available in this state, each with its own application process, educational requirements, and set of renewal procedures. Below we will detail the requirements for the most traditional type of substitute certification, known as the 30-Day Substitute Teaching Permit.

Education/Experience Required Bachelor's degree from a regionally-accredited college or university
Exam Requirements Basic skills test
Certification Renewal Period 1 year
Credits Required for Renewal No additional coursework or professional development credits required
Average Annual Salary (2018) $42,010*
Estimated Job Growth (2016-2026) 8% (under 'teacher assistants', nationwide)*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Types of Substitute Teaching Permits

The Emergency 30-Day Substitute Teaching Permit is for day-to-day substitutes in California. It allows substitutes to teach in any classroom from preschool to grade 12. Individuals under this permit may serve for no more than 30 days in one role within the school year - except in special education classrooms, where they may serve for no more than 20 days.

Three types of alternative permits in California include the Emergency Substitute Teaching Permit For Prospective Teachers, the Emergency Career Substitute Permit, and the Emergency Designated Subjects Career Technical Education Permit. The permit for prospective teachers is designed for substitute teachers who wish to practice, though have yet to complete their higher education degree. Those opting for the career substitute permit have prior experience as a subsitute and have the opportunity to serve for no more than 60 days in one role during the school year. Those after the Emergency Designated Subjects Career Technical Education permit will be qualified to substitute teach in technical, trade, or vocational education.

Basic Skills Requirement Tests

All of the substitute certificates require candidates to pass a basic skills test, except the Designated Subjects Career Technical Education Permit. Meeting the basic skills requirement is achieved by one of the following:

  • The California Basic Educational Skills Test (CBEST) - applicants must obtain a score of 41 or higher in each section, or a total scaled score of at least 123.
  • The California Subject Examinations for Teachers (CSET) - designed to test one's knowledge and skills their chosen subject area.
  • Submit passing scores in the English or Mathematics sections of California State University's (CSU) Early Assessment Program, or CSU's English or Entry-Level Mathematics Placement Tests.
  • Passing scores in SAT or ACT exams (500 or higher in reading and writing combined with 550 or higher in mathematics for SAT exams; or a score of 22 or higher in English and 23 or higher in mathematics for ACT).
  • College Board Advanced Placement (AP) Examinations - ascore of 3 or higher in specified.

Application Requirements for Alternative Substitute Permits

Those looking to acquire the Emergency Substitute Teaching Permit for Prospective Teachers will need to provide transcripts demonstrating the completion of 90 semester units of coursework from an accredited college or university. Applicants must also provide evidence of current enrolment in an accredited four-year state college or university.

Applicants of the Emergency Career Substitute Teaching Permit must hold a completed bachelor's degree or higher from an accredited institution, three consecutive years of substitute teaching at a California school district (of at least 90 days of day-to-day substitute work per year), and a statement of endorsement from the superintendent of the employing school district.

Those applying for an Emergency Designated Subjects Career Technical Education Permit must possess a high school diploma and three years of work experience in an industry sector.

Renewing Your Permit

All substitute permits are valid for one year. Only those who hold a career substitute permit need to provide evidence of ongoing staff development activities; others do not require proof of continued professional development for renewal.

Those holding an emergency 30-Day Substitute Permit can apply for renewal online. Holders of alternative substitute permits must submit their renewal applications manually. To renew a career substitute permit, file with the holder's employing agency.

Out-Of-State Substitute Teacher Applicants

Individuals who are not based in California, though are looking to acquire a substitute teaching permit in the state, can still obtain certification.

Eligibility for out-of-state applicants must provide transcripts verifying their bachelor's degree, satisfy the California Basic Skills Requirement, and undergo fingerprint processing. The appropriate application form and fees must also be submitted.

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