Careers in K-12 School Teaching


Students considering a career in K-12 school teaching should start planning by their junior year. Throughout the U.S., public school teaching, including teaching at some charter schools, requires a teaching credential, typically achieved through a combination of academic coursework and student teaching and earned prior to being hired (however, “teacher interns” may be hired by a school district while they are simultaneously completing a teacher credential program). Teachers are credentialed according to specific rules set in each state, but usually is overseen by a university. In California, most teaching credentials are earned after completion of a bachelor’s degree, and may be in “multiple subjects,” for a teacher in elementary grades (grades K-8) or “single subject” for a secondary teacher in a middle or high school (grades 6-12) or a specialized teacher (in science or art, for instance) at the elementary level.


UCSC offers a combined one-year MA/Credential program in multiple subjects, English, social studies, math, and science. Students preparing for a career in K-12 Education should consult with Cal Teach (, if interested in math or science teaching, or the Education Department Advisor (Amy Raedeke,, if interested in teaching other subjects. Teaching at the community-college level requires completely different preparation, typically a master’s degree or Ph.D. in the field to be taught.


The admission requirements for the UCSC program and any other teaching credential program in California are based on the State of California Commission on Teacher Credentialing (CTC) requirements. It is best to consult directly with programs of interest to determine specific requirements. Admission Requirements for any California Teaching Credential Program include but are not limited to:


  1. Certificate of Clearance

Fingerprint Clearance through the California Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) is required from every applicant prior to the CTC’s issuance of any credential. A certificate of Clearance is valid for five years and should be requested prior to applying to credential programs.


  1. Tuberculosis (TB) Testing

All K-12 schools require anyone working with children to be tested for TB. UCSC students can get tested through the UCSC Student Health Center (831-459-2500 to make an appointment). If you have been tested for TB within the past two years you may use those results when applying to credential programs.


  1. California Basic Skills Requirement

There are multiple options for meeting the Basic Skills Requirement:

  1. Pass the California Basic Educational Skills Test (CBEST) in reading, writing, and mathematics;
  2. Pass the California Subject Examinations for Teachers: Multiple Subjects Plus Writing Skills Examination;
  3. Pass the CSU Early Assessment Program (“college ready” or “exempt” in both Math and English) or CSU Placement Exams in English (151) and Mathematics (50);
  4. Achieve qualifying scores on the SAT (at least 550 in Math and 500 in Evidence-based reading and writing) or ACT (at least 23 in Math and 22 in English); or
  5. Achieve qualifying scores on the College Board Advanced Placement Exams (at least 3 in Calculus AB or Calculus BC or Statistics and at least 3 in English Language and Composition or English Literature and Composition).

Parts of different options may not be combined to meet the Basic Skills Requirement. Passing scores remain valid indefinitely for credential purposes. Ideally, assemble documentation for the Basic Skills Requirement before applying to credential programs, although some programs admit candidate prior to completion of this requirement.


  1. Subject Matter Competence

Prospective teachers must demonstrate by exam or coursework that they know the material they are proposing to teach. Prospective elementary teachers will take the multiple subjects exam, which covers topics in reading, language, and literature, history and social science, science, mathematics, physical education, human development, and visual and performing arts. Single-subject teachers must show they know their subject as defined by the state-mandated standards for each subject. The full range of subjects in which a teacher may be credentialed is available online (, and links to the content specification for each subject can be found there. The educator credentialing website also includes study guides for each subject matter exam, practice test questions, and more. The primary options for documenting subject matter competence are to:

  1. Pass the California Subject Examination for Teachers (CSET) in the relevant subject(s); in this case a prospective teacher may prepare for the exam by choosing relevant coursework (such as the Science Education major at UCSC for future science teachers) and/or by individual study; or
  2. Complete an approved “subject matter program” in the relevant subject (at present, UCSC has an approved subject matter program only in mathematics).

It is best to pass the relevant CSET exam before applying to credential programs, although some programs admit candidates prior to completion of this requirement. Prospective teachers completing coursework in an approved subject matter program should plan to have completed this coursework prior to starting a teaching credential program.


  1. Field Experience

Most teacher credentialing programs require teacher candidates to have prior classroom “field experience” working with students, ideally at the age which the applicant wants to teach. Requirements may vary from 30 hours to 50 hours of documented experience. UCSC offers a number of field-based courses in which undergraduates gain classroom experience, including: Introduction to Teaching (EDUC 180), Merrill Classroom Connection (MERR 85B/C), and for science, math or engineering majors, Cal Teach (,, which includes a sequence of three courses (EDUC 50B/C, EDUC 100A/B/C; and EDUC 185L).


  1. Cultural and Linguistic Diversity

It is also common to require that candidates have academic and/or personal experience with some of the cultural and linguistic diversity found in California schools. This requirement may be fulfilled through coursework or life experience. Here at UCSC many students major in their subject matter (for example; math, biology, history, psychology) and minor in education or STEM education. Taking an Education minor helps a student meet a Field Experience or the Cultural/Linguistic Diversity Experience that is often required to apply to a teaching credential program.


  1. GPA

The University of California has a minimum GPA of 3.0 for admission to graduate programs, and this typically includes teaching credential programs. However, in some hard-to-staff fields of teaching (mathematics, physical sciences) and in some circumstances, students with lower GPAs will be admitted. The California State University system does not have a consistent GPA requirement for credential program applicants; it is typically at least 2.67.