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Requirements to Become a Substitute Teacher in California

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Substitute teachers in California have a variety of requirements that they must meet in order to be employed by a county. For example, to get consideration for a LAUSD substitute application (Los Angeles County), you must have a minimum of a bachelor's degree, a 2.75 minimum grade point average and three strong references from recent employment. Each county may have its own additional requirements, but no matter which county you wish to become employed in, you must also meet the state’s licensing requirements.

Leadership Skills

In order to be a successful substitute teacher, you must display excellent leadership skills. This includes being friendly but firm, being organized and being patient. Your presence in a classroom automatically means that the students’ normal schedules have been disrupted, so you must be able to control the classroom, especially if you are substituting at a high school. Verbal and written communication skills are very important in this position, not only for communicating with the students, but also for communicating with their usual teachers, so you can follow their lesson plans when possible and let them know what you did in their absence.

Educational Requirements

Substitute teacher requirements in California include a baccalaureate or higher degree from an accredited college or university. However, this requirement can be worked around if you are in the process of obtaining your bachelor’s degree from a regionally accredited California college. You must have a verified transcript showing at least 90 semester units of coursework in order to qualify for the necessary permits to become a substitute teacher.

Basic Skills Requirement

Before you start working on obtaining the permits you need to become a substitute teacher in California, first complete one of the tests approved by the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing (CTC) that proves your basic skills. These tests include the California Basic Educational Skills Test, California Subject Examinations for Teachers or a California State University Early Assessment Program or Placement Examination. If you are coming in from another state, a skills assessment test from that state may be accepted.

Obtain State Permits

To get your substitute teaching permit, obtain a California Fingerprint Clearance Card, which is done through the California Office of the Attorney General. If you are applying from out of state, the fee for this is $51 as of 2015. After you have this clearance card, complete a permit application through the California Department of Education.

There are three permits to choose from: the Emergency 30-Day Substitute Teaching Permit requires a minimum of a bachelor’s degree and is good for a year, allowing you to substitute for one teacher for up to 30 days over the course of a school year; the Emergency Substitute Teaching Permit for Prospective Teachers does not require a bachelor’s degree, but does require proof that you have 90 semester units in working toward it -- this permit is good for a year, and allows you to teach for as many as 90 days in a school year, but no more than 30 days for each teacher; the Emergency Career Substitute Teaching Permit is intended for substitute teachers who have had one of these other degrees previously -- it requires a bachelor’s degree and is good for one year, and allows you to substitute for up to 60 days for one teacher during a school year.

Once you have obtained these permits, you are legally allowed by the state to teach. Some counties may require further steps, such as mandatory orientation sessions; to find out about these additional requirements, contact the specific county’s human resources department.


Harlow Keith has been involved in the human resources sector since 1998. He founded a human resources training company and has written several published articles. Harlow became interested in his field at the tender age of 15 while editing his father's resume.

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