How to Become a Special Education Teacher in California

The state of California is in need of qualified special education teachers. Read on to find out more about being a special education teacher in California and the specific programs and requirements to obtain certification. Schools offering Emotional & Behavioral Disorders degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

California Special Education Teacher Information

In order to become licensed as a special education teacher in the state of California, there are several requirements you will need to meet. The most straightforward route is through a teacher education program, after which you will need to complete a series of assessments and requirements, as well as a special education credential program, to earn certification.

Educational Requirements Bachelor's degree;
Approved teacher education program
Exam Requirements California Basic Educational Skills Test (CBEST);
California Subject Examinations for Teachers (CSET)
License ValidityFive years
Average California Special Education Teacher Salary (2018) $76,860 (Middle School) $82,380 (High School)*
Estimated Job Growth for Special Education Teachers Nationwide (2016-26)8% (Both Middle and High Schools)*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Job Description

Special education teachers work with students who have learning, physical, mental, or emotional disabilities. Special education teachers adapt various lessons and subjects to the specific educational needs of their students and document the progress of students. Additional duties often include supervising homerooms and study halls, meeting with parents, and coordinating with school administrators.

Education Requirements

In order to become a special education teacher in the state of California, you must obtain a bachelor's degree and complete a teacher education program. These programs are offered through a selection of regionally accredited universities approved by the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing. These programs will help you meet all educational requirements, which will differ based on what grade level and subject area you wish to be qualified to teach, and they will prepare you for the next steps in the certification process. You will also need to complete a Special Education Credential preparation program based on the specific specialty area you wish to be qualified to teach.

Basic Skills Test

The next step is passing California's certification exams. After completing a state-approved teacher education program, prospective teaching candidates must pass the California Basic Educational Skills Test (CBEST). This test is composed of a 50-question multiple-choice reading section, a 50-question multiple-choice math section, and finally a writing section that consists of two essays. This test is designed to prove a basic level of general competency. The test should take no longer than 4 hours and can be taken at any of California's approved Computer-Based Testing (CBT) sites.

Subject Examinations

Once you have demonstrated a basic level of competency through the passing of a CBEST, the next step is to take a California Subject Examinations for Teachers (CSET). There are several CESTs available to prospective teachers, but you only need to complete the one relevant to the subject area you wish to be certified to teach. Those wishing to be generalist special education teachers will need to verify subject-matter competence by passing the CSET multiple subjects exam.

Licensing Application

Once candidates have completed and passed all necessary requirements and exams, it is now time to submit an application for an official license. Students must collect official transcripts, documented proof of passing all tests and exams, proof of completion of a preparation program, proof of completing a Commission-approved Education Specialist Credential program, and Live Scan fingerprints. Candidates must then send a completed application to the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing along with application fees. Candidates can then receive a Preliminary Credential, which is good for five years. After five years, teachers must then upgrade to a Clear Credential.

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