Best Early Childhood Education Online Degree Programs in California (2024)

Step 1. Teacher Preparation Program/Degree

Applicants must have a bachelor’s degree from a regionally accredited institution and complete an approved California Teacher Preparation Program. The California Commission sets standards for educational institutions that prepare teachers. The approved institutions integrate the California course standards into the curriculum. Students that attend and complete programs at approved schools will have completed the Educator preparation requirements for the State of California. There are 250 approved educator preparation programs in the State of California. They include 23 California State University institutions, nine University of California institutions, and 54 private or independent schools, colleges, or universities.

In addition to the Teacher Preparation program, Elementary Teaching credential- Multisubject requires the below-listed special course requirements.

  • Constitution: Complete a two-semester-hour course on the US Constitution
  • Technology Awareness: Take a course on the foundations of technology foundations of technology, general computer skills, and specialized computer skills for educators.
  • Comprehensive reading instruction coursework that includes:
  • Phonemic awareness, basic phonics, and decoding skills
  • English language, literature, and reading comprehension
  • Early diagnostic techniques and intervention protocols

Required paths for an aspiring preschool teacher will include:

Path 1:

  • 24 semester units of coursework in early childhood education or childhood development including Child/Human Growth and Development; Child Family, and Community or Child and Family Relations; and Programs/Curriculum and 16 General Education courses
  • 12 units in chosen School-Age and core courses, which include
  • Supervised Field Experience
  • Possession of a CDA credential may be used as 9 semester unit credits

Path 2:

  • Earn an online associate degree or higher in Early Childhood Education or a related field
  • Complete 3 semester units of supervised experience

Teachers that are aspiring to be certified teachers in California need to choose what grade level they want to teach and if they want to focus on general studies or special education. There are different paths outlined by the CTC that would need to be followed.

Step 2. Supervised Teaching Experience

Commission-approved California schools provide a teacher preparation program. Student-teaching is a key part of teacher training. The field placement lasts for a period determined by each program. The student-teaching practicum has an experienced teacher as mentor and observer. The mentor will observe and offer guidance as the student-teacher prepares lesson plans and carries out the classroom instruction, preparation, and administrative tasks.

The Commission provides an exemption from the student teaching requirement for applicants that have a significant amount of documented private teaching experience. For example, students with prior experience in the Peace Corps, Head Start, or Tribal Nation programs may apply for relief from the requirements and acceptance of prior experience. The Commission can consider these requests on a case-by-case basis.

For those wishing to teach preschoolers, this will be the 3 required semester units of supervised experience previously mentioned in Path 1 & 2 above. The experience requirement to earn your Child Development Teacher Permit is 175 days of 3+ hours, within four years.

Step 3. Apply for Your Permit & Testing

The next step is to apply for licensure. However, there are a few more things you’ll have to do first.


The California Commission on Teacher Credentialing examination rules requires that each candidate must pass the basic skills tests. For Early Childhood specialized teachers, the applicants must pass the below-listed tests.

  • The California Subject Examinations for Teachers Multiple Subjects Plus Writing Skills Examination (CSET) with a scaled score of 220 or better.
  • Content area testing Subtest I, covering subjects in Reading, Language, Literature, History, and Social Science with a score of 220.
  • Subtest II content area in Science and Mathematics with a score of 220
  • Subtest III with a score of 220 consisting of Physical Education, Human Development, Visual Media, and Performing Arts.
  • The Reading Instruction Competence Assessment (RICA).

Find Additional Testing information for the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing here.

“Testing guides and registration information can be found from Evaluation Systems Pearson using the links below regarding the following examinations:

* The CSET: Writing Skills Test must be passed in conjunction with all three subtests of the CSET: Multiple Subjects Examination to satisfy the basic skills requirement

Speech-Language Pathology: Test registration information and more can be found from Educational Testing Service using the link below:

  • Preschool Teachers:
    For Preschool teachers who are applying for their Child Development Permit, there are six levels to which they can apply: Assistant, Associate Teacher, Teacher, Master Teacher, Site Supervisor, and Program Director. If you want to lead your own classroom, you’ll want to apply for the Child Development Teacher Permit. All previously mentioned requirements will support your application for this permit.
  • Personal Fitness
    Teaching at the early childhood level requires entrustment of tender and vulnerable children to the control and care of a teacher. The State of California performs certain investigations as a safeguard. Applicants for teaching credentials must submit to a criminal background check and some investigation of their fitness for teaching.
  • Paths to Certification

    The commission provides several paths to certified teacher status. Elementary teachers must qualify by education and then apply for a Multiple Subject teaching credential. The initial level of approval is the Preliminary Teaching Credential.

    Preliminary Teaching Credential is a five-year license that requires completion of continuing education prior to renewal as a Clear Credential. During the five-year preliminary license, teachers must qualify for a permanent or Clear Credential.

  • Traditional Paths to Teacher Status
    The traditional track students must complete university coursework, and the CTC required coursework, a period of clinical practice, and student-teaching assignment in a public school.
  • Alternative Paths to Teacher Status
    Bachelor degree holders with degrees in non-education fields can qualify to work as teachers in California through alternative paths to teacher status. Teachers with experience can use the intern option in which they can substitute student-teaching with a student-developed internship that provides for teaching in the birth through age five age range at least 60% of the time.
  • City Variations
    There are specific requirements for school districts and major localities in California and students and graduates should review requirements for the regions, districts, and cities in which they may seek work. The major California school districts have some steps that students and potential teachers should consider for jobs in or near Los Angeles, San Diego, San Francisco, and San Jose.
  • State of California CTC Apply for Child Development Permits

Step 4. Maintain Permit and Upgrade

The California Commission on Teacher Credentialing (CTC) sets requirements for teachers in California. Early Childhood Education requires an Elementary Teaching Credential with a Multiple Subject endorsement. The Preliminary Credential is the first step for new applicants. This first stage credential is valid for a five-year period.

Permanent License- Getting a Clear California Teaching Credential

During the five-year period of the Initial Preliminary teaching Credential, Teachers must obtain a Clear Credential. Teachers can qualify by completing an approved General Education and Induction Program at an approved institution. This coursework covers technology, teaching English learners, special populations, and health. An alternative is to gain certification in an Early Childhood Education specialization from the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards (NBPTS). Applicants must meet their specific experience and education requirements.

Preschool Permits

Preschool Educators with the Teacher Permit will have five years before they need to renew. During those five years, you will need to complete 105 hours of professional growth courses. This will allow you to renew the permit at the same level.

If you wish to upgrade to the Master Teacher permit, you may do so at the end of five years as long as you have completed all requirements. If you complete the requirements for a higher-level permit within 3 years of the issuance of your Teacher Permit, then you may submit verification, the higher-level permit application, and half of the normal application fee. This will allow you to upgrade to your new permit level right away. This is true for each successively higher permit; Master Teacher, Site Supervisor, and Program Director.

Popular Career Choices

  • Preschool Teacher
  • Kindergarten Teacher
  • Elementary School Teacher
  • Special Education Teacher
Best Early Childhood Education Online Degree Programs in California (2024)


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