Steps to Become a Music Teacher in California

Find out how to become a music teacher in California with this step-by-step guide to earning the necessary credentials. Discover all the educational and experiential requirements involved, and the two-step credentialing process for teachers in the state. Schools offering Teaching & Learning degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

Information for Music Teachers in California

Music teachers in California educate elementary and secondary school students on the historical and cultural foundations of the practice along with hands-on training in instrumental or aural performance. Those pursuing this role will discover a two-tier credentialing process in becoming a practicing music teacher, each involving unique training and educational requirements.

Education/Experience Required Bachelor's degree or higher
Verification of subject-matter competence
Completion of approved educator preparation program in music education
Exam Requirements Basic skills exam (CBEST or CSET)
Exam or course on the provisions/principles of the U.S. constitution
Certification Renewal Period 5 years
Credits Required for Renewal Not applicable
Average Annual Salary (2018)* $69,690 (all kindergarten except special education, California)
$80,100 (all elementary except special education, California)
$80,510 (all secondary except special education, California)
Estimated Job Growth (2016-2026)* 7% (kindergarten and elementary, all subjects, nationwide)
8% (high school, all subjects, nationwide)

Source: *U.S. Bureau Labor of Statistics

Step 1: Earn a Bachelor's Degree

Those looking to pursue a music teacher role in California must first hold a bachelor's degree or higher as an educational requirement. While no particular degree field is specified, applicants must also verify their competence in music education by obtaining a passing score on the appropriate subject-matter examination or completing a subject-matter program in music (approved by the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing).

Subject-matter preparation programs in music come in the form of undergraduate programs offered by a Commission-approved college or university. These programs aim to provide students with a well-rounded knowledge and practical skillset in musical theory and performance. To successfully prepare for a teaching credential in music, students complete a minimum of 30 semester units of core coursework in music subjects (commonly taught in public school music classes) and a minimum of 15 semester units of extended study in the field.

Step 2: Complete Educator Preparation

Additionally, successful applicants will have completed a Commission-approved educator preparation program in music education. These are either undergraduate or graduate programs that help individuals develop the necessary skills to teach music on an elementary or secondary level. Courses will touch on areas of musical history, literature, methods, performance and instrumental techniques, equipping students with the necessary knowledge to develop effective music lesson plans, strategies, and assessments in the classroom. Once completed, you will need a formal recommendation for your credential by the program sponsor.

Step 3: Fulfill Your Exam Requirements

All prospects must take an exam or course on the U.S. constitution. Students also need to fulfill a basic skills requirement. This can be completed through one of a selection of exams (including the California Basic Educational Skills Test (CBEST) or the California Subject Examinations for Teachers (CSET): Multiple Subjects examination) that test the individual on areas of literacy and mathematics.

Those who do not complete a Commission-approved subject matter program must verify competence in music education by taking a subject-matter examination in music. The Commission-approved subject-matter examination (CSET) will measure your knowledge of music theory, history, and musical application.

Step 3: Apply for Your Preliminary Credential

Once you have fulfilled all the necessary educational and exam requirements, you will then be eligible for a preliminary credential. This is considered the initial teaching credential and is valid for a maximum of five years.

During this term, individuals must work towards their clear credential. This is an 'upgraded' credential that signifies all educational program requirements have been met for your music teaching credential. Requirements for the clear credential must be fulfilled so the individual can continue teaching in California's public schools as a music teacher.

Step 4: Apply for Your Clear Credential

To 'upgrade' to a clear credential, holders of a preliminary credential must complete a Commission-approved Teacher Induction Program. These are designed to guide and mentor new music teachers, helping them improve in lesson strategies and performance. These programs take a maximum of two years to complete. A list of institutions sponsoring teacher induction programs can be found on the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing's website.

Alternatively, those who are certified by the National Board of Professional Teaching Standards (NBPTS) after acquiring their preliminary credential apply directly to the Commission for a clear credential in music education. Those opting for this pathway will need a photocopy of their National Board Certification and completed application with the appropriate processing fees.

Renewing Your Credential

A preliminary credential in music teaching (and all other subjects) cannot be renewed. Those who hold a preliminary credential must advance to a clear credential. Renewing clear credentials requires no additional coursework or professional development and can simply be renewed by submitting the appropriate application on the Commission's website.

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