Preparing to Teach Special Education

There are several types of credentials offered by the state of California that students can receive. Students interested in teaching children with special needs will earn an Educational Specialist Credential. The person holding this credential may work with elementary, middle school, or high school students. An Educational Specialist Credential offers the following specializations:

  • Mild to Moderate Disabilities
  • Deaf & Hard-of-Hearing
  • Moderate to Severe Disabilities
  • Physical & Health Impairments
  • Visual Impairments
  • Early Childhood Special Education

Time to Completion: A bachelor’s degree is between 120-124 units (typically 4-5 years to complete). In addition, a Teaching Credential Program takes approximately 1-2 years to complete.

Education Specialist Credential Requirements


A bachelor’s degree or equivalent from a regionally accredited college or university.


Pass the California Basic Education Skills Test (CBEST).  This can be taken at any time, preferable as an undergraduate. To obtain more information about the CBEST, visit the CBEST website.

Professional Teacher Preparation

Complete a multiple subject teacher preparation program, including student teaching. The California college or university where the program was completed must recommend the teacher candidate for the credential.

Provision and Principles of the U.S. Constitution

Completion of a course in the provisions and principles of our Constitution (Political Science 100 at Cypress College), or passage of an examination in the subject.

Subject-Matter Competence

This can be met by passing the California Subject Examination for Teachers (CSET). For more information on the CSET, visit the CSET website.

Completion of the Developing English Language Skills

This includes reading requirements by successful completion of a comprehensive reading instruction course.

Pass the Reading Instruction Competency Assessment (RICA)

The cost is $130. For more information on RICA, visit the RICA wesite.

Character and Identification Clearance

You must submit the appropriate paperwork along with fingerprints to the California Commissions on Teaching Credentialing. Students with a criminal record are strongly recommended to see the Teacher Preparation Director to find out more about this clearance.

College Major for Teaching Special Education

The major you select will depend on the subject matter competence route you choose. For either route, select a major that that provides the best preparation in the subject area.