Complete these steps to become an ESL teacher in California with TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) certification:
According to the California Department of Education (CDE), there were about 1.4 million English learners in California public schools during the 2013-14 school year.
The California Language Census, as of spring 2014, reported that:
- English learners comprised 22.7 percent of the total enrollment in California public schools
- A total of 2.68 million California students speak a language other than English in their homes
- The majority of English learners—73 percent—are enrolled in the elementary grades, kindergarten through sixth
- The majority of English learners in California—84 percent—are native Spanish speakers
English Learners (ELs) in California schools are provided with English Language Development (ELD) instruction specific to their proficiency level in a Structured English Immersion (SEI) classroom setting. ELs are often referred to as Limited English Proficiency (LEP) learners.
English learners who have not acquired fluency in English (as defined by the school district) receive SEI instruction through an English language acquisition process in which the majority of instruction is in English, but with curriculum and presentation designed specifically for children still learning the language.
The California Commission on Teacher (CTC) is the authorizing agency for teachers in California, while the Department of Education administers and oversees state and federal programs and regulations that support schools, including programs for English learners.
Step 1. Determine the Appropriate Pathway
If you want to become an ESL teacher in California, you must complete the necessary English Learner (EL) authorization coursework, which may be completed through one of two pathways:
- Teaching Credential with English Learner or Bilingual Authorization: All teacher candidates within an approved teacher credential program (2002 to recent) complete EL coursework within their program. As such, all candidates completing an approved teacher preparation program earn an EL authorization directly on their teaching credential.
If you plan to complete an approved teacher preparation program leading to an initial California educator credential, move to Step 2.
- English Learner Authorization/CLAD Certificates: If you graduated from a program that did not include embedded EL coursework (if you graduated from a California teacher preparation program before 2002), you must complete specific coursework through a Commission-approved California Teachers of English Learners (CTEL) program and pass the appropriate Commission-approved examinations to achieve an EL authorization or Cross-Cultural, Language, and Academic Development (CLAD) certificate.
If you already hold a valid California teaching credential and plan to seek English Learner (EL) authorization or a CLAD certificate through a CTEL program, move to Step 5.
Step 2. Complete an Approved Teacher Preparation Program (Pathway 1 candidates only)
The most direct route for individuals without a current teacher credential is through the completion of a Commission on Teacher Credentialing (CTC) approved teacher preparation program.
If you have no previous education or experience, a blended program provides the ideal pathway. This results in a minimum of a bachelor’s degree and includes all components necessary to attain a California teaching credential at the elementary level or in a single-subject area at the secondary level.
If you possess a bachelor’s degree but not a teaching credential, you may choose one of California’s post-baccalaureate programs, which combine a fifth year of study (two to three semesters) and a student teaching experience. Many of these programs also culminate in a master’s degree.
If you have met the subject matter requirements through previous education (bachelor’s or graduate degree), you may qualify for an Approved Alternative Certification program, which allows you to begin teaching under supervision while earning the pedagogy coursework required to become a certified ESL teacher in California.
Step 3. Apply for an Initial Teaching Credential
Upon completion of an approved preparation program, you may apply for your initial teaching credential, which is completed through the Commission’s online system. The cost of applying for an initial teaching credential in California is $70.
All initial teaching credentials in California are valid for a period of 5 years and are not renewable.
Step 4. Achieve and Maintain a Clear Teaching Credential
To achieve a clear teaching credential, you must complete an approved induction program. A list of approved induction programs can be found here. A clear teaching credential, which is valid for a period of 5 years, can be renewed through the Commission’s online system.
There are no professional education/development requirements to maintain a clear teaching credential in California. However, California educators commonly seek master’s degrees. A list of Commission-approved master’s degree programs available to those with a clear credential can be found here.
Step 5. Complete a California Teachers of English Learners (CTEL) Program (Pathway 2 candidates only)
The CTEL program is designed for current educators in California who are seeking English Learner authorization or a Cross-Cultural, Language, and Academic Development (CLAD) certificate. There are currently 14 approved CTEL programs in California, all of which are completed at the graduate level, and many courses meet the requirements toward a master’s degree.
A list of Commission-approved master’s degree programs available to those with a clear credential can be found here.
Step 6. Take the California Subject Examination for Teachers (CSET)
Upon the successful completion of a CTEL program, you will need to take and pass the California Subject Examinations for Teachers (CSET), a three-part examination that is administered by Evaluation Systems (Pearson).
To work as an ESL teacher in California, you may be required (if you cannot show subject matter competency in ESL as part of your teacher preparation program) to successfully pass the World Languages: English Language Development exam, which includes the following components:
- Knowledge of English Learners in California and the U.S.; Applied Linguistics (subtest I)
- Cultural Foundations; Foundations of English Learner Education in California and the U.S. (subtest II)
- Principles of ELD Instruction and Assessment to Promote Receptive and Productive Language Proficiency (subtest III)
You can contact the examination administer at 916-928-4003 to receive more information about registering to take the CSET.
Step 7. Apply for the English Learner (EL) Credential
Once you have successfully completed the California Teachers of English Learners (CTEL) Program and have successfully passed the California Subject Examination for Teachers (CSET), you may apply for the EL credential by completing the Application for Credential Authorizing Public School Service.