Requirements for Early Childhood Education Jobs in California

According to the California Employer Development Department, there were 65,600 pre-K teachers, administrators, and special educators employed in California as of 2016. It takes a special combination of energy, education, and dedication to effectively teach and manage a classroom full of four-year-olds. It’s nothing short of amazing that the state has found so many people that have what it takes… but even more are needed every year, and you can be one of them with the right education and credentials.

Many of those dedicated teachers work in state or federally-funded programs, such as the California State Preschool Program, which is the largest state-funded preschool program in the nation.

The state also offers significant block grants and other funding for qualified early learning centers, and provides guidance and oversight through the 58 Local Child Care and Development Planning Councils that coordinate childcare services in each county in the state.

The framework for a preschool curriculum builds on the California Preschool Learning Foundations, which describes the knowledge and skills that preschoolers usually demonstrate with appropriate support in the following domains:

  • English-language development
  • Language and literacy
  • Mathematics
  • Social-emotional development

The California Board of Education recognizes two distinct pathways to becoming a preschool teacher in California. It is up to each hiring district and employer to establish a policy for the acceptable pathway to employment. As an aspiring preschool teacher in California, you are advised to contact the district, private employer, Head Start Program, not-for-profit or subsidized school you intend to seek employment with to determine which of these two pathways they accept:

  • PATHWAY 1 – A child development permit issued by the CTC authorizing service in the instruction, care, and development of children in a child development program – OR
  • PATHWAY 2 – A current credential issued by the CTC authorizing teaching service in elementary school along with specific credits and/or experience in early childhood education as detailed below

A third, and far less common path to becoming a preschool teacher in California involves earning a single-subject credential in home economics. Though this path is recognized by the Board of Education and the CTC, it is only seldom used. More information on obtaining a single-subject teaching credential in home economics can be found here.

Pathway 1: Becoming a Preschool Teacher in California by Earning a CTC Child Development Permit

Child Development Permit requirements are the same, regardless of whether you are a California resident, or resident of another state. The Child Development Permit has traditionally been used to qualify early educators in subsidized public and private preschools, but many non-subsidized programs now either accept or require the permit.

All permits may include a School-Age Emphasis Authorization that will enable you to provide before and after-school programs. You must meet additional coursework requirements to qualify for the School-Age Emphasis Authorization.

To earn a CTC Child Development Permit in California, you must complete the following steps:

Complete the Required Education and/or Experience
Apply for a CTC Child Development Permit
Maintain Your CTC Child Development Permit

 


 

Step 1. Complete the Required Education and/or Experience

The Commission on Teacher Credentialing issues child development permits for preschool teachers at six levels:

  • Child Development Assistant Permit
  • Child Development Associate Teacher Permit
  • Child Development Teacher Permit
  • Child Development Master Teacher Permit
  • Child Development Site Supervisor Permit
  • Child Development Program Director Permit

To earn one of the CTC’s child development credentials, you must complete the following (Each permit level has 2 or more options for achieving eligibility.):

Child Development Assistant Permit

A Child Development Assistant Permit allows you to care for children in a childcare and development program under the supervision of an associate teacher or higher.

Option 1:

  • The completion of at least 6 semester units in early childhood education or child development

Note: A school-age emphasis requires at least 3 of the 6 semester units in early childhood education/child development to be completed in school-age coursework.

Option 2:

  • The completion of an approved Home Economics and Related Occupations (HERO) or Regional Occupation Program (ROP) in Child Development Related Occupations

Child Development Associate Teacher Permit

A Child Development Associate Teacher Permit allows you to provide care for children in a childcare program and to supervise a CDP assistant and aide.

Option 1:

  • Complete at least 12 semester units of coursework in early childhood education or child development; at least one course must be in each of the following:
    • Child, family, community, or child/family relations
    • Programs/curriculum
    • Child/human growth and development; AND
  • Complete at least 50 days of work experience in a childcare program

Note: A school-age emphasis requires that at least 6 of the 12 semester units be in early childhood/childhood development.

Option 2

Child Development Teacher Permit

A Child Development Teacher Permit allows you to provide services in a childcare and development program and supervise a CDP associate teacher, assistant, and aide.

Option 1

  • The completion of at least 24 semester units of coursework in child development or early childhood education, including at least one course in each of the following core areas:
    • Child/human growth and development
    • Child, family, and community, or child and family relations; AND
  • The completion of 16 semester units in general education, including at least one course in each of the following areas:
    • Humanities and/or fine arts
    • Social sciences
    • Math and/or science
    • English or language arts; AND
  • The completion of at least 175 days of experience in a childcare and development program

Option 2

  • The completion of an associate’s degree or higher in early childhood education or child development or a related field; AND
  • The completion of at least three units of supervised field experience in an early childhood education setting

Child Development Master Teacher Permit

A Child Development Master Teacher Permit in California allows you to supervise aides, teachers, and associate teachers. It also allows you to serve as a coordinator of curriculum in a child development or early childhood setting.

Option 1

  • The completion of at least 24 semester units of coursework in child development or early childhood education, including at least one course in each of the following core areas:
    • Child/human growth and development
    • Child, family, and community, or child and family relations; AND
  • The completion of 16 semester units in general education, including at least one course in each of the following areas:
    • Humanities and/or fine arts
    • Math and/or science
    • Social sciences
    • English or language arts; AND
  • The completion of 6 additional units in one area of specialization, which may include (but is not limited to):
    • Bilingual and bicultural development
    • Child health
    • Children with exceptional needs
    • Infant and toddler care
    • Parent/teacher relations
    • Preschool programming
    • Specific areas of developmentally appropriate curriculum; AND
  • The completion of at least 350 days in a childcare and development program within the last 4 years

Option 2

  • The completion of a bachelor’s degree or higher; AND
  • The completion of at least 12 semester units; AND
  • The completion of at least 3 semester units of supervised field experience in an early childhood education setting

Child Development Site Supervisor Permit

The Child Development Site Supervisor Permit allows you to supervise a childcare and developmental program and serve as a coordinator of staff development and curriculum in a childcare and development program.

Option 1

  • The completion of at least 24 semester units of coursework in child development or early childhood, including at least one course in each of the following core areas:
    • Child/human growth and development
    • Child, family, and community, or child and family relations; AND
  • The completion of an associate degree or 60 semester units; AND
  • The completion of an additional 6 semester units of coursework in administration and supervision of childcare and development programs; AND
  • The completion of at least 350 days in a childcare and development program within the past 4 years (must include at least 100 days of supervising adults in a childcare and development program)

Option 2

  • The completion of a bachelor’s degree or higher; AND
  • The completion of at least 12 semester units of early childhood education or child development coursework; AND
  • The completion of at least 3 semester units of supervised field experience in an early childhood education setting

Option 3

  • Possess a valid California credential in administrative services from the Commission; AND
  • The completion of at least 12 or more semester units of child development or early childhood education coursework; AND
  • The completion of at least 3 semester units of supervised field experience in an early childhood education setting

Child Development Program Director Permit

A Child Development Program Director Permit allows you to supervise a program that operates out of a single site or multiple sites. It also allows you to provide services in the instruction, development, and care of children in a childcare and development program and to serve as a staff development and curriculum coordinator.

Option 1:

  • Complete a bachelor degree or higher; AND
  • Complete at least 6 semester units of coursework in administration and supervision of childcare and development programs; must include two courses, one of which is introductory and once of which is advanced; AND
  • Complete at least 2 additional semester units in adult supervision coursework; AND
  • Verify one year of experience as a site supervisor

A school-age emphasis requires that 12 of the 24 semester units of early childhood education be in school-age coursework.

Option 2:

  • Obtain an Administrative Services Credential in California public schools; AND
  • Complete at least 12 semester units in early childhood education or child development; AND
  • Complete at least 3 semester units in a supervised early childhood education field experience

 

A school-age emphasis requires that 6 of the 12 semester units of early childhood education be in school-age coursework.

Option 3:

  • Obtain a valid multiple-subjects teaching credential or a single-subject teaching credential home economics; AND
  • Complete at least 12 semester units of early childhood education or child development; AND
  • Complete at least 3 semester units of supervised early childhood education field experience; AND
  • Complete at least 6 semester units of coursework in administration and supervision of childcare and development programs; must be comprised of two courses, one of which must be an introductory course and other of which must be an advanced course

A school-age emphasis requires that 6 of the 12 semester units of early childhood education be in school-age coursework.

Option 4:

  • Complete a master’s degree or higher in early childhood education or child/human development (or another closely related field)

 


 

Step 2. Apply for a CTC Child Development Permit

Once you have determined your eligibility for a CTC Child Development Permit, you must complete the application packet, which includes:

 


 

Step 3. Maintain Your CTC Child Development Permit

Renewal requirements vary depending on the CTC Child Development Permit you possess:

  • The Child Development Assistant Permit is issued for 5 years and is renewable upon the completion of at least 105 hours of professional growth.
  • The Child Development Associate Teacher Permit is issued for 5 years and is renewable only once. To renew, you must complete at least 15 semester units toward the Child Development Teacher Permit (see below).
  • The Child Development Teacher Permit, the Child Development Site Supervisor Permit, and the Child Development Program Director Permit are issued for a period of 5 years and are renewable upon the completion of at least 105 hours of professional growth.

 


 

Pathway 2: Becoming a Preschool Teacher in California by Earning a K-12 Teacher Credential

If you want to become a preschool teacher in California by achieving a CTC teaching credential, there are a number of steps you must complete:

Complete an Approved Teacher Preparation Program
Verify your Subject Matter Competence
Take all Necessary Courses Required for an Initial Teaching Credential
Apply for an Initial/Clear Elementary Multiple-Subject Teaching Credential in California

 


 

Step 1. Complete an Approved Teacher Preparation Program

The first step to becoming a preschool teacher in California by earning a teacher credential involves the completion of an approved teacher preparation program, which combines an undergraduate or graduate degree program and pedagogy and student teaching components.

To become a preschool teacher in California, you can complete an Elementary Multiple-Subject Teacher preparation program and obtain a formal recommendation for the credential through the California institution of higher education where you completed your program.

The elementary multiple-subject credential allows you to teach all subjects in a self-contained classroom, such as those found in most elementary schools, preschools, K-12, or in classes organized primarily for adults.

Note: To work as a preschool teacher in public school district funded preschool programs, private programs, not-for-profit or Head Start Programs in California, your multiple-subject teaching credential must include 12 units in early childhood education and/or child development.

The Commission on Teacher Credentialing (CTC) retains a comprehensive record of all approved multi-subject teacher preparation programs in California, including:

  • Alternative certification/intern programs, which allow candidates who have met all subject matter requirements within an undergraduate or graduate degree to begin teaching while completing their pedagogy requirements.
  • Post-baccalaureate degree programs for candidates who already possess a bachelor’s degree from a regionally accredited college or university
  • Undergraduate programs for individuals who do not currently possess a post-secondary degree


 

Step 2. Verify your Subject Matter Competence

The next step to earning a teaching credential in California to teach preschool is verifying your subject matter competence, which is accomplished by taking and passing the subject matter examination for California Subjects Examination for Teachers (CSET) Multiple-Subject, which consists of three subtests:

  • Physical Education, Human Development, and Visual and Performing Arts
  • Reading, Language, and Literature and History and Social Science
  • Science and Mathematics

You can obtain information about this examination by contacting the examination administrator, Evaluation Systems, at 916-928-4003 or the Commission at 916-322-4974.


 

Step 3. Take all Necessary Courses Required for an Initial Teaching Credential

Before you can apply for your initial teaching credential in California, you must complete the following:

  • A comprehensive reading instruction course that includes the following:
    • Decoding
    • Diagnostic and early intervention techniques
    • Literature, language and comprehension
    • Phonemic awareness
    • Phonics
  • A course (two semester units) in the provisions and principles of the U.S. Constitution (or pass an examination given by a regionally accredited college or university)
  • Foundational computer technology course that includes general and specialized skills in the use of computers in educational settings

If you have completed an approved teacher preparation program, you will likely have satisfied the above requirements while in the program.


 

Step 4. Apply for an Initial/Clear Elementary Multiple-Subject Teaching Credential in California

Upon the successful completion of an approved teacher preparation program and content examination, you may register for your initial teaching credential through the Commission’s online system. Instructions on applying through this system can be found here.

You must also submit a fingerprint card, pay the $70 application fee, and request that your institution send your college transcripts to the CTC. Your initial teaching credential in California is valid for a period of 5 years.

Upon expiration of your initial teaching credential, you must apply for a clear teaching credential in California by completing a Commission-approved General Education Induction Program and submitting an application for a clear credential through the Induction program sponsor. You can find more information on the induction program can be found here.

Clear teaching credentials must be renewed every 5 years.


California Preschool Teacher Salaries

California employs more childcare administrators and preschool teachers than any other state, and has the third highest employment level for preschool special educators in the nation.

Those numbers will continue to grow over the decade leading up to 2026, with the state Employer Development Department forecasting growth rates of around 9.5 percent for both preschool teachers and administrators, and nearly 12 percent for preschool special educators. It also follows a general trend identified by the state Commission on Teacher Credentialing, which has identified steady increases in the number of teaching credentials issued in the state over the past decade.

Those teachers can expect salaries higher than the national average at every level of the profession, according to 2018 numbers from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Below are the expected salary rates listed for preschool teachers, special education specialists and administrators statewide (median, top 25%, top 10%):

Preschool Administrators: $50,250 – $62,840 – $82,390

Preschool Teacher: $34,600 – $42,800 – $52,610

Preschool Special Educator: $43,270 – $55,870 – $75,980

Below are specific salary ranges from BLS for some of the major metropolitan areas of the state, along with some of the largest employers for preschool teachers and administrators.

Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim

The LA area has the third highest employment level for preschool teachers in the country, with more than 17,000, and the second highest for administrators, with 2,350, working in some of these preschools:

  • Early Care Education Center
  • Discovery Children’s Institute
  • Cassidy Preschool
  • Los Angeles Unified School District
  • Stratford School
  • Long Beach Unified School District
  • International School of Los Angeles/Orange County
  • Beverly Hills Children’s Academy
  • Bayshore Co-Op Preschool
  • La Playa Cooperative Nursery School

Teachers, special education specialists and administrators working at preschools, co-ops and other programs throughout the greater Los Angeles area can expect to earn:

Preschool Administrators

  • Median – $47,910
  • 75th Percentile – $57,020
  • 90th Percentile – $82,520

Preschool Teachers

  • Median – $31,750
  • 75th Percentile – $41,740
  • 90th Percentile – $58,000

Special Education Preschool Teachers

  • Median – $36,890
  • 75th Percentile – $44,620
  • 90th Percentile – $69,570

San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward

The City and County of San Francisco has funded a Preschool for All program since 2004 to reduce parental preschool costs and helps drive hiring for many of the following preschools:

  • San Francisco Unified School District
  • San Francisco Public Montessori
  • Bright Horizons
  • Cross Cultural Family Center
  • YMCA of San Francisco
  • Oakland Unified School District
  • First Covenant Treehouse Preschool
  • Lakeview Preschool
  • Rockridge Little School
  • Educare

Teachers and administrators working at preschools and Head Start programs throughout the greater Bay Area of San Francisco and Oakland can expect to earn:

Preschool Administrators

  • Median – $57,510
  • 75th Percentile – $68,170
  • 90th Percentile – $81,990

Preschool Teachers

  • Median – $41,410
  • 75th Percentile – $48,550
  • 90th Percentile – $58,860

Riverside-San Bernardino-Ontario

The Riverside County Office of Education not only offers funding and sponsorship for a number of area preschools, but it also operates its own, alongside other area employers such as:

  • Riverside Unified School District
  • Mill Child Development Center Head Start
  • San Bernardino City Unified School District
  • Ontario-Montclair School District
  • Live Oak State Preschool
  • Westminster Head Start
  • Easter Seals Child Development Center
  • Casa Blanca
  • Jurupa Unified School District
  • Riverside County Office of Education

Teachers and administrators working at preschools and Head Start programs Riverside and San Bernadino can expect to earn:

Preschool Administrators

  • Median – $39,820
  • 75th Percentile – $67,810
  • 90th Percentile – $79,440

Preschool Teachers

  • Median – $29,910
  • 75th Percentile – $36,460
  • 90th Percentile – $44,480

San Diego-Carlsbad

Among other preschool employers in the San Diego area, the Neighborhood House Association runs a number of federally-funded Head Start centers across the region.

  • San Diego Unified School District
  • Montgomery Center Head Start
  • Warren-Walker School Early Learning Center
  • Neighborhood House Association Head Start
  • Mercado Early Learning Academy
  • Carlsbad Unified School District

Teachers and administrators working at preschools and Head Start programs throughout the greater San Diego and Carlsbad areas can expect to earn:

Preschool Administrators

  • Median – $48,770
  • 75th Percentile – $60,380
  • 90th Percentile – $81,090

Preschool Teachers

  • Median – $31,540
  • 75th Percentile – $39,390
  • 90th Percentile – $49,400

Special Education Preschool Teachers

  • Median – $44,900
  • 75th Percentile – $55,650
  • 90th Percentile – $64,840

 

Salary and employment data compiled by the United States Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics in May of 2018 for preschool teachers, preschool special education teachers and preschool administrators – https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes_ca.htm#11-9111. The BLS salary data shown here represents median – 90th percentile salary ranges for the state and its MSAs (Metropolitan Statistical Areas) and includes workers at all levels of education and experience. This data does not represent starting salaries.

 Job growth projections sourced from the California Employer Development Department and published in the U.S. Department of Labor-funded Long Term Occupational Projections (2016-2026) database – https://projectionscentral.com/Projections/LongTerm. Employment conditions in your area may vary.

All salary and job growth data accessed in September 2019.

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