California Reciprocity: Transferring Your Teaching Credential

The basic requirements for transferring your teaching credential to California. The article outlines steps for obtaining your preliminary credential, which can last for a maximum of five years as you complete all other credentialing requirements in order to obtain your clear credential.

California Reciprocity: Transferring Your Teaching Credential

Ah, yes. The Golden State. You’ve considered it. But as someone whose teaching certification was acquired outside of the state of California, pin-pointing next steps can feel overwhelming. We get it. In fact, understanding reciprocity is something most, if not all of us, find confusing. Requirements often look different state to state, and the application forms can feel daunting.

We wanted to help simplify the process. So to start, keep in mind that the only way to get reciprocity is if you already hold a valid, professional-level credential from another state or U.S. territory.

  • In most cases, if your current teaching documents include terms like: intern, apprentice, temporary, non-renewable - or if they require you to still complete a subject matter examination - you have not yet met the requirements of a professional-level credential.
  • If you aren’t yet a certified teacher, we encourage you to check out the state certification requirements and online degree options at for more guidance.And, for a quick glance at what it takes, state by state, check out Bloomsburg University’s Education Licensure Analysis Summary.

If you do, however, currently hold a valid, professional-level credential, and thereby meet the basic credentialing requirements of California - as outlined below - the state will issue you a preliminary credential. This credential can last for a maximum of five years as you complete all other credentialing requirements in order to obtain your clear credential. Note that preliminary credentials are not renewable, and must be updated to a clear credential in order to stay valid.

As you’ll see once you start the process, California has three different routes that represent a teacher’s level of experience:

  • Route 1 - Less Than Two Years of Out-of-State Teaching Experience
  • Route 2 - Two or More Years of Out-of-State Teaching Experience
  • Route 3 - National Board for Professional Teaching Standards Certification

But regardless of the route, every applicant will need to supply the same basic requirements.

The Basic Credentialing Requirements

When we say basic, we mean the absolute minimum in order to be eligible to teach in California. You won’t want to miss any of these components. And to ensure all forms are properly filled out, be sure to read through the form instructions as you tackle each part of the process:

  1. Application Form 41-4
  2. Processing Fee
  3. Official - original, not photocopied - transcripts verifying your Bachelor's degree (and any additional higher degrees).
  4. A front (and back, if applicable) copy of your professional-level out-of-state teaching license. You’ll want to ensure that the subject area listed corresponds to a California subject area.
  5. If your subject area doesn’t correspond, you can meet this requirement by submitting completion of 32 semester units of coursework in the California subject area.
  6. If you have not completed the 32 hours of coursework, you will need to meet this requirement before the California clear credential will be issued.
  7. Evidence of fingerprint processing


Then, while this second list is not technically required for your initial application, you’ll want to include any of the information you do have so that the Commission can clear you of future renewal requirements. Trust us, it will just make things easier and save you time in the long run.

A copy of an out-of-state examination that meets the requirements for the California Basic Skills Examination. If you don’t already have this information when you initially apply, you will have one year to complete the Basic Skills Requirement (using one of the options bulleted below). After one year, if you have not met this requirement, you will unfortunately be ineligible for California public school employment. Please note that the examination information provided below is subject to change and it is always best practice to see the testing agency’s website for the most current information.

  • CBEST: The California Basic Educational Skills Test - The good news with this test is that once you pass it, it is valid indefinitely. Yay! You can also repeat any and all sections as many times as necessary to obtain a passing score. The bad news is that the full registration fee is charged each time you take the test. So set aside some time to study before your designated test day. Also, note that you must earn a total scaled score of at least 123 (41 in each of the three sections - reading, writing, and mathematics - is preferred. However, a score as low as 37 in one of the three is acceptable so long as your overall total score is still at least 123).
  • Other states that take the CBEST: Alaska, Delaware, Nebraska, Nevada, Oregon, and Washington.
  • For great study tips, check out: CliffsNotes CBEST test prep guide.
  • CSET: The California Subject Examinations for Teachers - Scores for this test also remain valid indefinitely.
  • CSU Early Assessment Program - or - CSU Placement Examinations - For the purpose of meeting the basic skills requirement, passing scores on either of these two options will also remain valid indefinitely. You must provide an original passing score report (not a photocopy or a high school transcript) with your application.
  • Qualifying SAT or ACT Scores - If you scored a 550 (Math) and 500 (English) on your SAT, or 23 (Math) and 22 (English) on your ACT, then you have met the basic skills requirement. Note: The “English” scores above are for the Evidence-Based Reading and Writing Section of the ACT Exam. You must provide an original passing score report (not a photocopy or a high school transcript) with your application. You can request archived SAT scores from the College Board, and ThoughtCo provides guidance on how to locate archived ACT scores.
  • College Board Advanced Placement (AP) Exams - If you scored a 3 or higher on the College Board AP English, AP Calculus, or AP Statistics exam, you have met the basic skills requirement. You must provide an original passing score report (not a photocopy or a high school transcript) with your application. Like SAT scores, archived AP exams can be requested through the College Board.
  • A Basic Skills Examination from Another State - Submit a photocopy of the score report or a letter from the testing agency that verifies passage of the examination with your application. To see which exams qualify, take a look at the chart (pgs. 6-15) of the Basic Skills Requirement packet.

If applicable, verification of two or more years of successful full-time, out-of-state teaching experience. To verify your experience, you’ll need an original letter from your out-of-state employer(s) as well as two years of satisfactory performance evaluations.

  • To verify your teaching experience, you must submit an original letter on official letterhead of the district(s) where you were employed, signed by either the superintendent, assistant superintendent, or director of personnel or human resources. The letter must explicitly state that the service was for full-time teaching and indicate both beginning and end dates as well as proof that they are a regionally-accredited school outside of California.
  • Satisfactory (or better) performance evaluations must be verified through original or photocopied summative teacher evaluations for a minimum of two years. These must be from the period of full-time teaching service verified by the out-of-state employer - and signed and dated by the appropriate school or school district administrator.

Once you’ve met the basic requirements of the preliminary credential (again, good for up to five years), you’ll want to begin the process necessary to obtain the California Clear Credential. Don’t forget that this must be done within five years or else you will be ineligible for public school employment in the state of California. Once hired, your school should have more information on the next steps for clearing your credential - but we also suggest taking a closer look at the credentialing guides from the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing.

As you work to transfer your certification over to California, know that our team is here to help you navigate the process. Don’t be afraid to drop us a line at And for more help and guidance, reach out to the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing’s Certification Unit at

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