Hailing from Mexico, the Philippines, China, India, and more, California’s immigrant population is the largest in the nation and accounts for more than a quarter of the state’s population and about a third of the state’s entire workforce, according to the American Immigration Council. This huge population adds to the state’s exceptional diversity and is vital to the success of the state’s economy.
Naturally, that makes California home to a huge English Language Learner (ELL) population. In fact, since 2000, the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) reported that the number of ELLs has hovered between 1.2 and 1.6 million, which is about 20 – 25 percent of the total PreK-12 student population in the state.
When you’ve got ELL numbers like California, you can bet there’s a steady need for educators with ESL certification.
These steps will show you exactly how to earn TESOL certification (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) and become an ESL teacher in California:
Step 1. Get Familiar with California’s EL/Cross-Cultural Language and Academic Development (CLAD) Program
California is serious about accommodating the needs of the large population of English language learners within the state’s school system. So much so that teachers at all grade levels and in all content areas working in California complete English Learner (EL) coursework as part of the standard teacher preparation process.
Choose an approved teacher preparation program as your pathway to becoming a licensed educator in California and this coursework will be part of your bachelor’s or master’s program.
This means new educators in California will automatically earn an EL/Cross-Cultural Language and Academic Development (CLAD) Authorization on their teaching credential upon earning their teaching license.
Move to Step 2 if you need to complete an approved teacher preparation program.
Did you complete an out-of-state teacher preparation program and want to add an EL authorization to become licensed in California?
While all teacher preparation programs in California have included EL coursework for more than 20 years, if you completed your teacher education through an out-of-state program, you’ll need to either take and pass the California Teachers of English Learners (CTEL) exam, complete specific EL coursework, or complete a combination of the two.
You’ll have three options for achieving EL authorization:
- Option 1: Take and pass the California Teachers of English Learners (CTEL) exam, which is offered four times a year. You can study for the CTEL by attending district or county training. Learn more about registering for and taking the CTEL here.
- Option 2: Complete at least 12 units of college coursework. Check out the list of Commission-approved CTEL programs here.
- Option 3: Complete a combination of university coursework and the CTEL exam. If you’ve passed one or more CTEL exams, you may qualify for EL authorization by completing fewer courses through select colleges/universities.
Move to Step 4 once you’ve met the requirements for EL/Cross-Cultural Language and Academic Development (CLAD) Authorization.
Step 2. Complete an Approved Teacher Preparation Program
Learning how to become an ESL teacher in California involves completing a bachelor’s degree or higher through a Commission on Teacher Credentialing (CTC)-approved educator preparation program in either elementary education or in a single-subject at the secondary level.
Do you already have a bachelor’s in another field?
If you have 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 in ESL.
If you have met the subject matter requirements through previous education (bachelor’s or graduate degree), you may qualify for an alternative certification or intern program, both of which will allow you to begin teaching under supervision while completing your teacher prep courses.
Step 3. Take the Appropriate California Subject Examination for Teachers (CSET)
You’ll need to pass the appropriate Commission on Teacher Credentialing exam after completing your teacher preparation exam.
- If you want to teach at the elementary level, you’ll need to take the CSET Multiple Subjects exam to be eligible for the Multiple Subject Teaching Credential.
- If you want to teach at the middle or high school level, you’ll need to take the CSET exam specific to your content area (which includes everything from Agriculture to World Languages, along with all the standard content areas like Math and English) in order to earn the Single Subject Teaching Credential.
Step 4. Apply For Your Initial Teaching Credential
Once you pass the required exam(s), you may apply for your Initial Teacher Credential by completing the Application for Credential Authorizing Public School Service or by applying through the Commission’s online system.
All initial teaching credentials in California are valid for a period of 5 years and are not renewable. Within this five-year period you’ll need to meet the requirements for a Clear Teaching Credential.
Step 5. Achieve and Maintain a Clear Teaching Credential
California’s two-tiered credentialing system for teachers involves the completion of an induction program (a two-year, job-imbedded program) that provides close support to teachers during this first and second year of teaching.
After completing one of the state’s approved induction programs, you would then be eligible for a clear teaching credential.
Step 6. Learn More About ESL Teacher Salary Expectations for Jobs in California
As of May 2020, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported the following salaries for educators in California:
Early Career (25th percentile): $65,030
Experienced (90th percentile): $122,210
Early Career (25th percentile): $64,160
Experienced (90th percentile): $111,180
Early Career (25th percentile): $70,650
Experienced (90th percentile): $119,990
BLS stats also reveal what ESL teachers are earning in California in some of its largest metro areas, as of May 2020:
Los Angeles (Elementary School)
Early Career (25th percentile): $74,230
Experienced (90th percentile): $125,810
San Francisco (Middle School)
Early Career (25th percentile): $57,620
Experienced (90th percentile): $135,200
San Jose (High School)
Early Career (25th percentile): $75,540
Experienced (90th percentile): $126,600
Although your salary as an ESL teacher in California will reflect just your experience and education level, in most cases, you may qualify for grants or scholarships if you’re working toward a TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) certification or endorsement, or qualify for bonuses or annual stipends if you teach in a school district or region that identifies ESL as a teacher shortage area.
For example, the California Association for Bilingual Education offers a $2,000 scholarship to college and university students interested in pursuing their bilingual teaching credential.
May 2020 Bureau of Labor Statistics salary and job market trends for elementary school teachers, middle school teachers, and secondary school teachers represent state data, not school-specific information. Conditions in your area may vary. Data accessed June 2021.
Student population data from the National Center for Education Statistics represents English language learners (ELL) enrolled in public elementary and secondary schools in the fall of 2018.