Working in the Field

CATESOL has compiled the following information about ESL teaching qualifications to assist people new to the field or to California as they make employment decisions. These are general guidelines only, however, and variations and exceptions may exist from one district or school to another and from one year to another. Please be sure to check with the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing (916-445-7254) or with individual districts for more detailed and current information about the requirements.

Elementary & High School (K-12)


A complete list of qualifications can be found on the Commissions website ( in the leaflet entitled "Serving English Learners".
From the Commission on Teacher Credentialing
Subject: Implementation of Assembly Bill 1871 Concerning Bilingual and English Learner Authorizations
Date: March 20, 2009
Number: 09-05
Assembly Bill (AB) 1871 (Chap. 660, Stats. 2008) was signed by the Governor on September 30, 2008. The bill has three primary provisions:
  • Additional options will be available to earn a bilingual authorization including the completion of a Commission-approved bilingual program as well as the option of combining coursework from these programs with Commission-approved bilingual examination subtest(s).
  • Additional option is available to earn an English learner authorization by combining Commission-approved California Teacher of English Learner (CTEL) program coursework with passing scores on the CTEL examination subtest(s).
  • Individuals will earn an "authorization" as opposed to a "certificate" for both the bilingual authorizations (formerly Bilingual Crosscultural, Language and Academic Development [BCLAD] Certificate) and the English learner authorizations (formerly Crosscultural, Language, and Academic Development [CLAD] Certificate).
  • Authorizations will be added to the selected valid prerequisite document when minimum requirements have been met (Information on appropriate prerequisite documents may be found in the information leaflets noted in the References section).
Professional Growth Requirement: The Commission on Teacher Credentialing has issued its position related to the 150 hour Professional Growth Requirement for a credential renewal. This change was a part of SB 1209 (Scott) signed into law by the Governor with the effective date of January 1, 2007. Correspondence #06-0017 (PDF format) clarifies the change in requirements and provides the online renewal process teachers and others are to use when renewing their credential.
Teachers assigned to provide instruction in English language development (ELD), specially designed academic instruction delivered in English (SDAIE) or content instruction delivered in the primary language must hold appropriate authorization. There are several certificates and authorizations for teachers to work with English learners. The most common are:
For teachers currently credentialed:
  • Multiple or Single Subject Teaching Credential with English Learner Authorization or BCLAD emphasis
  • CLAD Certificate (by coursework or examination)
  • BCLAD Certificate (examination only)
  • Bilingual Cross-cultural Specialist Credential (coursework)
  • Certificate of Completion on Staff Development (such as SB 395 or SB 1969)
For beginning teachers:
(the certificates described below are available at the request of the employing agency or from Commission-approved programs)
  • University Internship
  • Credential with English Learner Authorization or BCLAD emphasis
  • District Internship with English Learner Authorization
  • Pre-Intern certificates with English learner, CLAD or BCLAD authorizations.
  • Emergency Multiple and Single Subject Permits with English learner, CLAD or BCLAD authorizations
For teachers trained out of state:
Apply directly to the Commission on Teaching Credentialing to see if the out of state program is comparable to California's. If granted, you will receive a teaching credential and a separate CLAD certificate. Refer to the CTC correspondence 03-0016 at for more information.

Adult Education


Credentialing Information 2005, from the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing Website at:
Full-Time Adult
The Preliminary, Clear, or Professional Clear Full-Time Adult Education Teaching Credential authorizes the holder to teach the subjects named on the credential in courses organized primarily for adults. In addition, the holder may serve as a substitute in courses organized primarily for adults for not more than 30 days for any one teacher during the school year. Adult Education Teaching Credentials are issued to individuals who meet the requirements listed below and who apply through and are recommended by either a Commission-accredited Local Education Agency (LEA) or by an Employing School District (ESD). A list of accredited LEAs (leaflet CL-506) may be obtained from the Commission's website.
Requirements for the Full-time Adult Credential
For the five-year* preliminary credential, all of the following requirements must be satisfied:
  1. Verify five years of experience and/or education (as specified on page 2) related to each subject to be named on the credential
  2. One of the following requirements must be satisfied:
    1. possess a high school diploma
    2. possess a diploma based on passage of the GED Test
    3. possess the foreign equivalent of a high school diploma
  3. Pass the California Basic Educational Skills Test (CBEST). (For more information, contact the CBEST Program, National Evaluation Systems, Inc., P.O. Box 340880, Sacramento, CA 94834-0880, 916-928-4001, or Applicants for the Adult Credential in non-academic subjects are exempt from this requirement.
  4. U.S. Constitution - applicants must satisfy one of the following requirements:
    1. complete a course (at least two semester units or three quarter units) in the provisions and principles of the U.S. Constitution (Submit a copy of the course description for evaluation purposes.)
    2. pass an examination in the Provisions and Principles of the U.S. Constitution given by a regionally-accredited junior college, community college, college or university
  5. Obtain verification, signed by a Commission-accredited LEA, or by an ESD authorized to do so in accordance with guidelines established by the Commission, that the applicant has been fully apprised of the requirements for both the preliminary and professional clear credentials, including Level I and Level II requirements of the program of personalized preparation
Core Requirements for the ESL Adult Education Credential (non-credit):
A bachelor's or higher degree completed at a regionally-accredited college or university and completion of 20 semester units or 10 upper division semester units in one or any combination of the following: Teaching English as a Second Language (TESL), Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL), English, Language other than English, Linguistics, Bilingual/bicultural studies, Teaching Reading, Speech

Community College


Statewide Minimum Qualifications
To teach English as a second language (ESL) in a noncredit program teachers must meet one of the following criteria:
  1. A bachelor's degree in teaching English as a second language, or teaching English to speakers of other languages.
  2. A bachelor's degree in education, English, linguistics, applied linguistics, any foreign language, composition, bilingual/bicultural studies, reading, or speech; and a certificate in teaching English as a second language, which may be completed concurrently during the first year of employment as a noncredit instructor.
  3. A bachelor's degree with any of the majors specified in subparagraph (2) above; and one year of experience teaching ESL in an accredited institution; and a certificate in teaching English as a second language, which may be completed concurrently during the first two years of employment as a noncredit instructor.
  4. Possession of a full-time, clear California Designated Subjects Adult Education Teaching Credential authorizing instruction in ESL.
Statewide Minimum Qualifications for Full-time or part-time instructor
Master's in TESL, TESOL, applied linguistics with a TESL emphasis, linguistics, with a TESL emphasis, English with a TESL emphasis, or education with a TESL emphasis ;
Bachelor's in TESL, TESOL, English with a TESL certificate, linguistics with a TESL certificate, applied linguistics with a TESL certificate, or any foreign language with a TESL certificate;
Master's in linguistics, applied linguistics, English, composition, bilingual/bicultural studies, reading, speech, or any foreign language;
The equivalent of the above. See individual districts for equivalencies.

Intensive English Programs


No statewide qualifications; requirements vary by institution but general guidelines include the following:
  • Full-time Instructors - Master's in TESOL, Applied Linguistics, or closely related field plus a minimum of two years of directly relevant teaching experience. Teaching experience in EFL programs abroad is preferred.
  • Part-time Instructors: University based IEPs require a Masters in TESOL, Applied Liinguistics or a closely related field, plus a minimum of two years of directly related teaching experience. Some proprietary language schools only require a Bachelor's of Arts; at least 6 months of teaching experience in ESL

College & University


There are no statewide qualifications for public or private colleges or universities. Interested persons should contact individual institutions. The following guidelines for UC and CSU generally apply to private colleges and universities as well.
  • Teaching ESL full-time or part-time: Instructor positions require a Masters in TESL, English, Linguistics, Applied Linguistics or a Masters degree in a closely related field with a TESL certificate.
  • Teaching TESL full-time or part-time: Lecturer positions require a Masters or Doctoral degree in Linguistics, Applied Linguistics, or Education. Professor positions require a Doctoral degree in Linguistics, Applied Linguistics, or Education.