FAQs for Future Teachers

If you enjoy learning, sharing what you learn, and helping others shape their futures, you may be interested in the teaching profession.  Teaching at different levels requires different preparation, but all preparation requires (1) gaining an understanding of subject matter that you will teach and (2) gaining an understanding of effective teaching methods.

What college preparation is required?

To teach grades kindergarten through eight in California, you must obtain a Multiple Subject Teaching Credential.  The undergraduate preparation is usually a broad major such as Liberal Studies or any other major that provides a bachelor's degree and allows you to gain knowledge to pass the CSET.  Students with a bachelor's degree and passing score on the CSET are qualified to enter a Multiple Subject Credential Program, which usually encompasses 2-3 semesters of courses on teaching methods and philosophy, as well as practice teaching.  Those who feel comfortable with their ability to manage pupils in a classroom may enter an internship program, in which they start teaching right away and complete teaching methods classes during weekends, evenings, and summers.

To teach grades 7-12 in California, you must obtain a Single Subject Teaching Credential.  The undergraduate preparation is completing a major in the subject you want to teach.  For students interested in science, the Single Subject Credential is in General Science/Biology (or Chemistry, or Physics, or Geology).  So, a few extra courses beyond the major requirements must be completed. For Biology majors, these include Astronomy 4 (General Astronomy), Geology 10 and 10L (Physical Geology Lecture and Lab), and Geology 12 (Historical Geology).  Completing all required courses with grades of C- or better and a grade point average of 2.75 or better demonstrates "subject matter competence" required for admission into a Single Subject Credential Program.  In lieu of completing all the courses, subject matter competence may be demonstrated by passing the CSET examinations in general science (Science Subtests I and II) and in a specific subject (Science Subtest III for Biology).  The Single Subject Credential Program, like the Multiple Subject Credential Program comprises 2-3 semesters of courses on teaching methods and philosophy, as well as practice teaching.  There are also internship programs for those who feel ready to start teaching while completing their credential courses.

To teach at community colleges requires a master's or Ph.D. degree, while teaching at a university requires a Ph. D.  There is no formal credentialing program; the focus is on advanced mastery of subject matter.  However, graduate programs usually provide an opportunity for assisting in teaching and learning effective teaching methods.

Deciding at which level you want to teach is aided by gaining volunteer experience, finding out with what age of learner you are most comfortable, and considering in what depth you would like learn and teach particular subjects.


Do I need a B.A. or a B.S. to enter a single subject credential program in General Science/Biology?

Either bachelor's degree is fine, as long as you have at least one upper division plant biology and at least one upper division animal biology elective course.  The full set of required courses should be scheduled in consultation with a Biological Sciences Single Subject Advisor.


How do I get experience in teaching, to see if I like it?

Two ways to gain experience are:

You can get current information on other opportunities by talking with your academic advisor. 


What are the steps I need to take to obtain a Single Subject Teaching Credential in General Science/Biology?


If I obtained a degree from another institution, how can I tell if I have met the subject matter competency requirements?

You may submit your transcripts; a $50 check made out to CSU Sacramento; and a stamped, self-addressed envelope to a single-subject advisor.  Advisors are only empowered to see if courses you have taken are equivalent to those required at CSUS.  If you look at the list of required courses and know that you have deficiencies, then you can either take the required courses before seeing the advisor or prepare to demonstrate subject matter competency via the CSET.


Can I meet some of the subject matter requirements by course work and others by passing the CSET?

At present you can only demonstrate subject matter competency by completing the full set of required courses or by passing CSET Science Subtests I, II, and III; you cannot meet general science requirements with the CSET and biology requirements with course work or vice versa.


If I have a master's degree in biology or a related discipline, do I still need to demonstrate subject matter competence?

Having a master's degree (or completing 30 post-baccalaureate units) in biology or a related discipline allows you to enter a single subject credential program in Specialized Science.  Upon completing the credential program, you would be able to teach just high school biology for grades 11 and 12.  You would not be able to teach general science courses or lower grade levels.


If I already have a single subject credential in another subject, how can I add an authorization to teach science?

The California Commission on Teacher Credentialing (CCTC) can attach additional authorizations to your credential if you can present transcripts with evidence of appropriate course work.  The minimum required course work for an introductory science authorization is at least 6 semester units in each of four areas:  chemistry, biology, geosciences, physics.  Additional courses may be necessary if the school at which you wish to teach needs to meet guidelines set by the federal No Child Left Behind Act.  More information can be obtained through the CCTC website.


Where can I apply to an internship program?

Project Pipeline is an internship program in which you teach and complete single subject credential courses over a two-year period.  Similar programs are offered through the Elk Grove Unified School District, and the Sacramento City Unified School District.


What kind of financial aid is available for me?

Besides the grants, loans, and scholarships available to all students, there are some loan programs to support individuals committed to teaching science or other subjects in schools lacking qualified instructors.  One of these is the APLE program, which forgives the loan when the recipient works for a period of time in a school needing qualified teachers.  Other possibilities may be found at the American Federation of Teachers website.


What kind of salary can I expect?

Salaries are set by individual school districts; they increase with experience and number of post-graduate units completed.  Current information can be obtained at school district websites.


What is the demand for science teachers in the Sacramento area?

There has been a demand for qualified science and mathematics teachers in Sacramento and California as a whole. Over 80% of recipients of single subject credentials from CSUS report being employed within a year of obtaining their credential.