Which program pathway will you choose?

To teach in California, you will need to earn a credential by completing a Commission-approved teacher preparation program. There are several pathways to choose from. While each has benefits, certain pathways provide particularly strong clinical practice (field experience) to prospective teachers. Research indicates that with such practice, new teachers can feel more prepared and supported,1 and they stay in the profession longer.2 Depending on the program you choose, the format may be in-person, virtual, or hybrid, and you may have the option to earn your bachelor's or master's degree along with your Preliminary credential, a professional-level license valid for five years. Programs may offer distinct opportunities to access financial resources, including the ability to start earning income and serving as the teacher sooner in some cases. Explore the program pathways below to find the one that's right for you. 

Image is of a big block letter R in yellow-gold and underneath, the word residency in dark blue capital font.
Image is of a big block letter T in yellow-gold and underneath, the word traditional in dark blue capital font.
Image is of big block letters IU in yellow-gold and underneath, the words integrated undergraduate in dark blue capital font.
Image is of a big block letter I in yellow-gold and underneath, the word intern in dark blue capital font.

The Pathways at a Glance

There are four different pathways to earning a Preliminary teaching credential. Each combines coursework and student teaching, but the timing and nature of these elements vary by pathway.

Residency

During a 2 year residency program, you will complete post-baccalaureate level teacher preparation coursework and student teaching, for which you will be paid a stipend. After the program, you will earn a preliminary and serve as teacher of record.

Residency programs are for college graduates and are inspired by the medical school approach to training doctors. They offer post-baccalaureate coursework alongside extended mentoring and student teaching through almost the entire length of the program— and financial support to cover tuition expenses during the program. Candidates in this pathway tend to feel well prepared and supported and stay in the teaching profession. Residencies also tend to attract a diverse pool of teacher candidates.


Traditional

During a 2 year traditional program, you will complete post-baccalaureate level teacher preparation coursework and student teaching. After the program, you will earn a preliminary and serve as teacher of record.

Traditional programs are the most common, well-established pathway. They offer an academic and theoretical focus through post-baccalaureate coursework and integrate student teaching experiences. Candidates in this pathway tend to complete their credentials in a timely way and stay in the profession. This pathway also may offer more choices regarding program location and format.


Integrated Undergraduate

During a 4 year integrated undergraduate program, you will complete undergraduate level teacher preparation coursework and student teaching. After the program, you will earn a preliminary and serve as teacher of record.

Integrated undergraduate programs offer an accelerated pathway for those who know they want to be teachers prior to graduating college. They allow candidates to complete teacher preparation coursework—focused on the specific subject the candidate wishes to teach—during their undergraduate education. As with a traditional program, student teaching begins close to completion of the program. This pathway requires careful coordination and planning, but it may be more cost-effective than completing an undergraduate degree separately. Candidates in integrated undergraduate programs tend to complete their teacher preparation in a timely way and stay in the teaching profession.


Intern

During a 2 year intern program, you will complete post-baccalaureate level teacher preparation coursework, pre-service, and serve as teacher of record. After the program, you will earn a preliminary and continue serving as teacher of record.

Intern programs offer the fastest path to a teaching career. Candidates can serve as a teacher of record and earn a salary after completing 120 hours of pre-service requirements—far less than other pathway types require. Candidates in this pathway must balance postgraduate-level coursework and being employed as a first-year teacher at the same time, and also have the opportunity to “try on” a teaching career prior to earning a Preliminary credential. Intern programs also tend to attract a diverse pool of teacher candidates.


Side-by-side Pathways Comparison

PathwayReasons to ChooseExperience in BriefClinical PreparationCompletion Time
ResidencyHolistic preparation that includes early income and immediate employment after completion.Teach alongside an expert while completing coursework. Inspired by medical school approach, emphasizes clinical experiences and mentorship. Extensive clinical practice (at least 600 hours, half time for a full academic year) under the guidance of a mentor teacher.Typically, 1 to 2 years after completion of bachelor's degree.
TraditionalPost-baccalaureate pathway with an academic foundation.Enter after completion of bachelor's degree. Offers an academic and theoretical focus, with clinical practice through student teaching. Many such programs and choices throughout California.Classroom-based field and student teaching experience (at least 600 hours). Typically, 1 to 2 years after completion of bachelor's degree. Can be completed over a longer period on a part-time basis.
Integrated UndergraduateCost- and time-effective path to earn a bachelor’s degree and Preliminary credential in less than 5 years.Accelerated program blends bachelor's degree, teacher preparation courses, and clinical practice.Some clinical practice experience (at least 600 hours). Coaching by mentor teacher offered at varying stages in the program.Leads to bachelor's degree and Preliminary credential within 4 to 5 years. 
InternFastest path to becoming a teacher of record and earning a salary.Serve as full-time teacher of record while also completing credentialing coursework.Limited clinical preparation or coursework prior to becoming teacher of record. Interns are teachers of record in their first year of preparation after meeting 120-hour pre-service requirement. Typically, 2 years after completion of bachelor's degree.
An additional note about permits and waivers:
It is possible to serve as a full-time teacher with an emergency permit or waiver. This approach allows candidates who have completed some or most of their credential requirements to gain early employment, though permit and waiver holders may only work in the LEA that employed them. Provisional Intern Permits (PIPs) are issued for one year; Short-Term Staff Permits (STSP) expire at the end of the academic year and cannot be renewed. Individuals who begin teaching with a permit or waiver are far less likely to stay in the profession, and often report feeling less prepared and supported.

 

 


Do I need to complete a teacher credentialing program?

I think I qualify for a California teaching credential through some other way.

Currently the only routes to obtain a credential in California are by transferring a teaching credential from another state or country, completing a Commission-approved credentialing program, or by having qualifying experience teaching in private schools. These pathways were created through statute and regulation, and until there are changes in legislation to allow easier or additional options, the Commission does not have the authority to issue credentials through other avenues apart from what currently exists. Even those who have already earned master's or doctorate degrees or completed graduate-level coursework will still need to complete a teacher credentialing program. If you do not have a teaching credential from another state or country or did not teach in private schools, then you will need to complete a California credentialing program in order to earn your California teaching credential. Only California Commission on Teacher Credentialing approved programs lead to a California teaching credential. Once you have chosen a pathway, you can use the dashboard at the bottom of the specific pathway page to find a list of approved programs, or you can visit the Programs Pathways Dashboard or the Approved Institutions and Programs Dashboard.

I’m currently in or I completed a California bachelor’s or graduate degree program in education.

You will need to complete a teacher credentialing program even if you are currently enrolled in or have completed a bachelor’s or graduate degree program in education. Programs culminating in only a degree do not authorize teaching in California public K-12 schools. A teaching credential issued by the Commission is needed, and you can obtain this by completing a Commission-approved California teacher credentialing program. There are many schools in California (and in other states) that offer master’s degree programs in education or teaching, but that does not necessarily mean that it comes with a teaching credential once you complete the program. Some will have two tracks, one for just the credential, and one for the credential and the master’s degree. The credential is what is needed to teach, but some educators want to earn a master’s degree as well for professional development and for salary purposes. Many employers determine pay scale through a combination of credential level, years of relevant experience, and number of post-baccalaureate degree coursework units, so having a master’s degree may be helpful to receive higher pay. The Commission has no purview over employing agency salaries as they are negotiated by local teachers’ unions.

I’m currently in or I completed an out-of-state bachelor’s or graduate degree program in education.

Please note that with the exception of two out-of-state programs, all Commission-approved credentialing programs are located in California. If your goal is to teach in California, your degree in education earned through an out-of-state program will not lead to a California teaching credential. Western Governors University and the University of Phoenix are currently the only two Commission-approved out-of-state programs. Those who are enrolled in any other out-of-state programs will need to earn their out-of-state teaching credentials and then apply to transfer them to California. The process to transfer an out-of-state teaching credential to California is described on this page.

Do you need financial support to complete your program?

PathwayWorking full time as a teacher during program?Paid during program?Eligible for grants?
ResidencyPossibly, depending on residency programSalary or stipend
TraditionalNoNo
Integrated UndergraduateNoNo
InternYesSalary


References

  1. Silva et al (2014). Teaching residency programs: A multisite look at a new model to prepare teachers for high-need schools (NCEE 2015-4002). Washington, DC: Institute of Education Sciences, U.S. Department of Education.; Sloan et al (2018). A Different, More Durable Model: Hunter College Urban Teacher Residency Project. New Visions for Public Schools.

  2. Ong et al (2021). CTERIN Policy Brief: Diversifying California's Teaching Force: How Teachers Enter the Classroom, Who They Serve, & If They Stay. California Teacher Education Research & Improvement Network.; Goldhaber et al (2022). Room for improvement? Mentor teachers and the evolution of teacher preservice clinical evaluations, American Educational Research Journal 59(5), pp. 1011-1048.; Papay et al (2012). Does an urban teacher residency increase student achievement? Early evidence from Boston, Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis 34(4), pp. 413–434.; Sloan et al (2018). A Different, More Durable Model: Hunter College Urban Teacher Residency Project. New Visions for Public Schools.; Valente et al (2023). Establishing partnerships in the Central Valley to expand the teacher residency model, Issues in Teacher Education 32(1), pp. 8-23.

Back to text

Updated February 29, 2024