Becoming a Teacher: What is Involved in 4 Easy Steps

Easy Totally doable but not really easy.

I recently was put in contact with a coworker of my mom’s what wants to become a teacher. I thought the information I shared with her would be useful for others who are looking to become a teacher, particularly a single subject math teacher in California.

*Note I began my journey towards a teaching credential as an Education minor (which I later dropped in favor of focusing more on math) at Biola University in 2002. I completed many of the prerequisites before 2006, but did not complete my credential journey until 2014. Some of the requirements have recently changed. For example when I took the CSET (California Subject Examinations for Teachers) the Math tests were paper based. You got 5 hours and could decide to take all 3 in 5 hours or only take 1 at a time. Now the Math test are computer based with a much shorter time allowed. (I want to say 2-3 hours)

Now back to the 4 Easy Totally doable but not really easy steps

1. Prerequisites – this includes things like your certificate of clearance fingerprinting, constitution exam, CBEST and CSET, and 2-3 courses you must take before you really begin. The university you choose should give you a comprehensive list of what to do before you begin the program in earnest.

2. Observations + Coursework – in this phase you spend many hours in the classroom, but only on a part time basis. You can still hold a regular job at this time, but will need to have a job that is willing to give you 60-100 hours off during school hours over the course of one school term. (possibly as few as 6-9 weeks). My job was extremely flexible. My observations were spread over two 9-week terms. The first term it took me a while to get set up at a school and I ended up needing to pretty much take an entire week off work to observe full time to complete the required hours on time. During the second 9 weeks I paced myself taking a half day one day a week. I definitely recommend the pacing yourself approach.

3. Student teaching – this is one of the most difficult parts. It is trial by fire. You will slowly transition over the course of a minimum of 16 weeks from observer to full time teacher, under the guidance of a master teacher. You will need to be at the school you are assignment pretty much all day, every day. I planned on student teaching with Tustin Unified as this was the first choice district I has submitted to my school. For one reason or another I was placed at the Corona-Norco Unified School district at Auburndale Intermediate. I had an absolutely amazing master teacher. He was actually voted teacher of the year the year I student taught. Because of the differences in the school calendars between the two districts I had to give my job a very short notice (about a week) that I would be leaving to pursue by teaching career full time. Many schools will have you do two student teaching assignment: one at the middle school level, and one at the high school level. *If you are getting a multiple subject credential you will definitely have  two assignments, one primary grades (K-2 or 3) and one upper grades (3/4-6)

*TPA – Teacher performance Assessment. There are 4 TPAs that will be done. Azusa Pacific has us do one per 9 week school term, two per semester. Two were done while observing, two in student teaching. These are A LOT of work, but totally manageable if you pace yourself. The 4th TPA involves creating a 20 minute video of a lesson you teach. You will need to pay your school around $500 for access to Task Stream, a program/site through which the TPAs are submitted. Beware, your $500ish pays for only 2 years of access, if you stretch out your program too much you will need to pay again.


4. After you complete student teaching your school will review everything and submit their recommendation to the state. Once this is done you go to the CTC (California Commission on Teacher Credentialing) website, pay your fee and you have your preliminary credential. You can be a fully credentialed teacher now for up to 5 years. During the 5 year period you will need to work at least 2 years as a full time teacher and complete additional requirements. I know that these requirements are in flux at this time. When I cleared my credential just this past school year the program was called BTSA (beginning teacher support assessment) and the work we did was organized into FACT modules, sorry I do not know what the FACT acronym stands for, or even where it is an acronym. My district let those of us know that FACT was being phased out and those who had only complete one year would be working under a new system the following year. 

5. That’s it. Clear your credential within 5 years and you will only have to pay a renewal fee once every 5 years. No additional coursework or continuing education required by the state. However, your district may require ongoing professional development hours. As a teacher you should be a life long learner. As for me, I find keeping up on the latest research, attending conferences, and participating in an online professional learning network (PLN) an essential part of stay sane as a teacher.

You can do it


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