Teaching in California

California is the center of the technological universe, home of Hollywood, and privy to some of the best weather anywhere in the world. To live and work in this state is a dream to many. And yes, recently California has endured some deep budget cuts. However, there are still great opportunities for aspiring young teachers throughout The Golden State.

California sets the pace for diversity in education. Lawmakers and educators consistently look to ensure that all students are given equal access to the best educational opportunities, catering to the preferences of each individual student and his or her family. California schools are on a mission to make every student proficient in each subject area at each grade level, and have put many of their resources toward that goal. For educators who are looking to make a significant difference in their students’ lives, it’s a great place to start a career.

What’s the education climate in California?

California stands on the precipice of fundamental change to its statewide curriculum. Since the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act of 2001 was signed into law, California educators have been working vigorously to implement its provisions. However, within the last two years California has run up against the limits of NCLB, and recently petitioned for a waiver for several facets of the law. If approved, this will free up some financial resources currently tied to the documentation. Instead of solutions coming from the top tier of the education system, more local, cost-effective solutions are being proposed.

California Teacher Salaries
  • Average CA Starting Salary:
    $35,760
  • Average CA Teacher Salary:
    $59,825
  • Average Starting Salary Nationwide:
    $30,377

Source: Teacher Portal & NEA website

California is poised for some major changes to their curricula across all subjects at all grade levels. As a finalist in the Federal Race to the Top program instituted by President Obama, in August of 2010 the state formally adopted a whole new set of standards known as Common Core State Standards (CCSS). The implementation of these standards will foster sweeping reform not only to curriculum, but also to the mandated state tests that measure school performance. These changes will move the focus away from rote memorization to more critical thinking and literacy skills for every subject—skills that are in increasing demand in just about every career, even those currently considered “blue collar.”

In short, the state is looking to significantly reform its system. Therefore, now is a good time for young teachers to join up with California’s mission to improve its schools.

How’s the job outlook for California teachers?

Among the top 10 states in starting teacher salaries, California is an attractive place for young teachers to pursue employment and build a career. Presently, California’s educational job-search site edjoin.org claims to feature nearly 16,000 job offerings statewide. The greatest areas of need right now are in math and science. The state is trying to draw the attention of prospective teachers through providing up-to-date facilities and technology that make the teaching of math and science more engaging for both teachers and students.

Another area of great need is in English Language Development. Since approximately 1.4 million of its students have limited English proficiency, California allocates a considerable portion of its resources to English as a second language (ESL) programs. These programs tend to have smaller class sizes, and receive additional funding for resources to assist in instruction—whether it’s a class devoted entirely to develop student competency in the English language, or using approved strategies to assist learning in another core class such as science.

What benefits do California teachers have?

In addition to teachers earning 37 percent above the average California worker’s wage, there are plenty of other benefits that come with a job in the field of education. These include health coverage, disability, term life insurance, and the option of a diverse retirement package.

For public school teachers, retirement is handled through the California State Teachers’ Retirement System (CALSTRS). The program is a hybrid between defined benefit, cash balance, and defined contribution, which gives each individual a measure of control over his or her level of comfort in retirement. Eligibility for this benefit begins at age 55.

An attractive benefit for young teachers who are fresh out of a credentialing program would be the Assumption Program of Loans for Education (APLE) grant. APLE is available to prospective teachers who teach at schools that fit the criteria—such as schools that perform in the bottom 20 percent of the Annual Performance Index (API). Normally, teachers will make a four-year commitment to teach at one of these schools in order to become eligible for the program, and the amount of loan forgiveness ranges between $11,000 and $19,000 (with an extra $2,000 for math and science teachers). There are other federal loan cancellation programs California teachers can sign up for, such as the Federal Perkins Loan Teacher Cancellation program or The Teacher Loan Forgiveness Program, although these programs are open to teachers across the nation.

There are also many smaller benefits available to teachers in California. Many financial institutions, such as credit unions, offer plenty of incentives for teachers, like a summer-savers program, a lower percentage on auto and home loans, and better return for savings accounts. Every insurance company offers a discount to those with a valid teaching credential within the state. Even some of the major wireless providers (like Verizon) offer up to 17-percent discounts to teachers within certain counties. When adding up all of these offers, incentives, and discounts, it’s clear that there are quite a few benefits to teaching in California.

What are California’s credentialing requirements?

Anyone teaching in California public schools is required to hold a bachelor’s degree. Teachers must also have completed the credentialing program at an approved college, and have passed the California Basic Essential Skills Test (CBEST). Depending on whether you’re teaching at the primary or secondary level, you may need to show subject mastery through passing certain tests. Although other states allow teachers to earn their credential concurrently with their bachelor’s degree, California only awards their teaching credential after completion of a bachelor’s degree.

Teacher preparation programs are offered by various institutions throughout the state of California. Find more information on the process of teacher certification in California.