Best Colleges in California for Teaching Degrees

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Are you looking for the best colleges for teaching degrees in California for teaching degrees? Teaching is one of the most rewarding and demanding careers out there. Teachers are rightly respected as members of one of the most important professions. In California, they also are well compensated for their efforts. Getting a degree from one of the best teacher colleges in California will set you on a great career path as a teacher. 

Getting educated yourself is the first step in building a career in education. If you’re based in California or bound for the West Coast, learn what it takes to teach in California and check out ten of the top education programs in the Sunshine State.

10 Best Colleges for Teaching Degrees in California

The swiftest path to becoming a teacher in California is to enroll in an education program. Luckily, California is home to some of the best schools for education majors. Here are ten of the finest, in alphabetical order:

1. California Baptist University

First on our list of the best colleges in California for teaching degrees is California Baptist University (CBU). Located in Riverside, California Baptist University offers undergraduate and graduate degrees in education. US News and World Reports ranked CBU #6 in the nation for undergraduate teaching degrees. They have an acceptance rate of 80%. Tuition runs at around $23,000 per year.

2. California Polytechnic State University (Cal Poly)

Another one of the best colleges for teaching degrees in California is Cal Poly. It’s ranked #3 by US News and World Reports for best undergraduate teaching programs. Admissions at CalPoly are highly competitive, with less than 40% of applicants accepted each year. The student-to-faculty ratio is 19:1, and yearly tuition is about $9,000 for California residents.

3. Chapman University

California’s Chapman University is another one of the excellent colleges in California for teaching. They offer both undergraduate and graduate programs, including a five-year integrated bachelor’s in education and master’s in Curriculum and Instruction. US News and World Reports put it at #37 on the list of best undergraduate teaching programs. The acceptance rate at Chapman University is 58%. They boast a 12:1 student-to-faculty ratio, though the yearly tuition is somewhat steep, around $57,000 per year.

4. Loyola Marymount University

Those looking for the best schools for education majors in California should also consider Loyola Marymount University. US News and World Report recognized Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles for having a top grad program in education and one of the best online programs for receiving a graduate degree in the field. LMU’s School of Education was recently admitted into the University Council for Educational Administration, a leading professional organization that works with institutions to forward educational leadership.

Loyola ranks on US News and World Reports’ list of best undergraduate education programs at #22. They accept about half of the applicants, and tuition costs around $50,000 per year.

5. Pepperdine University

Ranked as the thirteenth best undergraduate program for teaching, Pepperdine University is another one of the best schools for education majors in California. Pepperdine’s education program allows undergrads to pursue a bachelor’s degree as they complete the required teacher preparation courses. Pepperdine accepts about 42% of applicants and has a 13:1 student-to-faculty ratio.   Tuition and fees at Pepperdine are around $60,000 per year.

6. Point Loma Nazarene University

US News and World Reports ranks Point Loma Nazarene University as the ninth-best college for teaching degrees in the nation at the undergraduate level. Point Loma is located in beautiful San Diego and accepts 84% of applicants. Almost half of Point Loma’s classes have fewer than 20 students for more teacher attention, and they have a 15:1 student-to-teacher ratio. Yearly tuition at Point Loma Nazarene University is $40,000, which doesn’t include room or board.

7. Stanford University

Stanford University was named the 13th best undergraduate school for education in the country by US News and World Report, which also recognized the school for excellence in the area of educational administration and supervision. Stanford’s Graduate School of Education offers a variety of outstanding master’s, doctoral, and even undergraduate programs in the field.

Stanford University has around 6,000 enrolled undergraduate students. It’s highly selective — only 5% of applicants are admitted. The student-to-faculty ratio is extremely low at only 5:1, and 70% of its classes have fewer than 20 students. Tuition costs around $56,000 yearly.

8. University of California, Los Angeles

Another one of the best colleges for teaching degrees in California is the Graduate School of Education at the University of California, Los Angeles. It was ranked 11th in the nation by US News and World Report. UCLA’s undergraduate program for teaching was ranked #48 in the country. The program is especially well regarded as a leader in urban education, preparing students to thrive as teachers in classrooms where ethnic, linguistic, and social diversity is the norm.

UCLA is only slightly less competitive than Stanford, accepting only 14% of applicants. About half of its classes have fewer than 20 students, and their student-to-faculty ratio is 18:1. Annual tuition for a California resident at UCLA costs around $18,000.

9. University of California, Berkeley

Another one of the best colleges in California for teaching degrees is the University of California at Berkeley. Even before the Graduate School of Education was founded in 1913, UC Berkeley granted the UC system’s first doctoral degree to a woman and first master’s degree to an Asian American, both in education. UC Berkeley offers a wide range of programs, from an undergraduate minor in education to a master’s in human development or a Ph.D. in quantitative methods and evaluation. 

The School of Education at UC Berkeley is ranked as the 62nd best college for an undergraduate teaching degree in the nation, according to US News and World Report. UC Berkeley only accepts 18% of applicants. The student-to-faculty ratio is 19:1, with about half of its classes containing 20 or fewer students. Tuition for California residents costs about $14,000 per year.

10. University of Southern California

According to US News and World Report, the University of Southern California’s Rossier School of Education is the eighteenth-best in the country, making it one of the nation’s best colleges for teaching degrees. The school offers various programs for current and aspiring teachers, counselors, educational program designers, educational leaders, higher education professionals, and educational policy scholars.  

USC’s acceptance rate is 18%, and yearly tuition for in-state students is around $60,000. USC is a huge university, with about 46,000 students enrolled at a time. However, their student-to-faculty ratio is about 9:1, and over 60% of their classes have 20 or fewer students.

California pays teachers better than almost any other state in the nation. To become a teacher in California, everyone has to start at the same place: a University, getting a bachelor’s degree. Luckily, California has some of the best schools for education majors nationwide. Now that you know which schools to pursue, you can begin working towards your goal of studying education in sunny California.

8 Benefits of Teacher Colleges in California 

There are many advantages to attending any one of the best colleges for teaching degrees in California. Following are eight benefits to keep in mind:

  1. Access to numerous grants and financial assistance programs within the state
  2. Financial aid programs for undocumented students entering education programs
  3. Housing discounts through the Good Neighbor Next Door program
  4. Competitive salaries post-graduation
  5. Good work-life balance post-graduation
  6. Good job security protections in the state of California
  7. Access to affordable health insurance plans
  8. Flexible health insurance options, including PPOs, HMOs, and EPOs

Teacher Salaries in California

California is a great place to be a teacher after attending one of the best colleges for teaching degrees in California. While some states underpay their teachers, elementary school teachers make more in California (on average) than in any other state in the nation. Middle school teachers are compensated handsomely as well, making more in California than in any state other than Massachusetts and New York. And the average High School Teacher salary in California is only outmatched by that of New York.

Average Teacher Salary in California

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, as of February 2022, average teacher salaries in California were as follows:

Starting Teacher Salary in California

The average starting teacher salary in California is $47,643 as of September 25, 2023, based on HR-reported data published on Statewide, the range of starting teacher salaries is between $39,784 and $58,109. The California Department of Education gives slightly higher starting averages for 2021-2022: 

  • Elementary School Districts – $48,481 to $54,215
  • High School Districts – $49,934 to $57,234
  • Unified School Districts – $47,616 to $54,906

How to Become a Teacher in California: Requirements

There are several certification paths for teachers in California, and the appropriate method is based on the age of the students they’ll be working with. According to the Commission on Teacher Credentialing, an aspiring teacher must earn either a Multiple or Single Subject Teaching Credential.  

Elementary school teachers must earn the Multiple Subject Teaching Credential. This multi-step process can be achieved through several routes, all beginning with a bachelor’s degree. Elementary school teachers in California don’t necessarily have to have a degree in teaching. However, they must complete a Teacher Preparation Program. Many teaching programs incorporate Teacher Preparation Programs into their degree plans, which is the quickest path to becoming a teacher.

Middle and High School teachers in California must earn the Single Subject Teaching Credential. Like elementary school teachers, secondary teachers must have at least a bachelor’s degree and complete Teacher Preparation Programs.  

Aspiring teachers should note that California has two tiers of teachers’ certifications: the preliminary credential and the clear credential. The preliminary credential is what new teachers apply for, and it’s only valid for five years. Teachers must become National Board Certified or complete an approved teacher induction program in those five years. Once they do so, they’re eligible for long-term clear certification.

Typical Careers for Those Who Graduate From Teacher Colleges in California

The majority of graduates from teacher colleges in California go on to work in schools, including as elementary school teachers and special education teachers. However, there are alternative career paths for teacher college graduates. Many become administrators, sometimes reaching high-ranking positions within schools, such as Vice-Principals or Principals. Others choose careers in standardized test development, helping to devise and update state educational tests. Experienced teachers also often become textbook authors. 

Teacher college graduates who prefer a freelance career frequently pursue jobs in educational consulting. An educational consultant helps existing teachers and superintendents improve their technique and performance. Teaching graduates are also in high demand as career advisors and counselors in schools. 

Finally, a teacher’s education may lead to a career that has nothing to do with education at all. Teacher graduates can become writers, life coaches, and summer camp counselors or directors.  

3 Tips for New Graduates of Teacher Colleges in California

If you want to succeed as a graduate of one of the best colleges for teaching degrees in California, focus on the following steps to maximize your potential:

1. Gain as much practical experience as you can.

Many teacher college graduates leave the profession soon after entering because the reality of teaching doesn’t align with the theoretical knowledge gained while studying. So, if your teacher program offers practical opportunities to gain classroom experience, take advantage of them. Many colleges provide internships and school placements as part of their teacher training. If yours doesn’t, see if you can volunteer at a local school, a summer camp, or a Boy Scouts or Girl Scouts program. 

2. Enhance your resume with additional skills.

With so many great job applicants, the best California schools must make tough hiring choices. If you haven’t already, try adding skills to your resume that make you stand out as a candidate. Language skills are especially valued in California schools. Learning Spanish or ASL can make you highly desirable as a future teacher. Also, consider highlighting volunteer opportunities in your resume. The volunteering doesn’t have to be school-related but will demonstrate you have a helpful and can-do attitude. 

3. Consider getting a second certification.

Adding a specialization to your teaching degree can greatly enhance your application as a teaching graduate. For instance, a second certification in special education can set you apart from other candidates. Do some research to find what types of teachers are in high demand (and short supply) in the area you want to work in, and go from there. Some California teaching colleges may offer specializations as part of your degree, so explore your options before applying. 

How To Choose One of the Best Colleges for Teaching Degrees in California?

Choosing the best teacher college in California isn’t all about school rankings, although these provide valuable general guidance on what quality to expect from a program. The best way to choose a teaching degree is to focus on three things: your life and career goals, the real student experience at the school, and the balance of practical and theoretical components within the teaching degree.

Why do these things matter the most? Firstly, you must base your choice on where you want to be. California is a big state, and moving between cities and areas can be a big life change. Remember that earning a degree takes years: you want to spend them where you genuinely enjoy being. 

Secondly, school rankings don’t always give you the full picture of the student experience at a particular school. Seek out real student testaments about the quality of the program, especially the student-teacher ratios and availability of lecturers at the school.

Finally, pick a school offering practical teaching experience as part of the degree. No amount of theoretical coursework will adequately prepare you for the classroom. The more experience you gain early on, the better and more resilient you will be as a teacher. 

Boost Your Career by Choosing One of the Best Colleges for Teaching Degrees in California

Teaching is a rewarding and exciting career where you can make a real difference. Choosing one of the best colleges for teaching degrees in California will be the most significant to your career prospects as a new teaching graduate. The best teaching degrees will give you a solid theoretical grounding in teaching methods and prepare you for the practicalities of teaching in a school setting. Some will also allow you to enhance your skills further and specialize in a particular type of teaching, such as special needs or language teaching. 

Graduates from the best California teacher programs can hope for better remuneration and placements in the best schools. It’s worth the time and effort to research the best college for teaching degrees in California to make the most of this excellent career path. 

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