California Occupational Guides

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Detailed Guide for

Elementary School Teachers, Except Special Education in California

May also be called: Teachers; Elementary Teachers; Classroom Teachers; Educators; Elementary Education Teachers; Primary Teachers; Title One Reading Teachers; Reading Recovery Teachers

What Would I Do?

Elementary School Teachers educate California’s children. Elementary School Teachers instruct students in various subjects, including basic academic, social, and other formative skills. What children learn and experience during their early years can shape their views of themselves and the world, and affect later success or failure in school, work, and their personal lives. Most instruct a group of 20 to 34 children at a single grade level ranging from kindergarten through eighth grade. They introduce children to subjects such as mathematics, reading, language arts, science, and social studies. They use games, music, artwork, films, books, computers, and other tools to teach basic skills. Teachers act as facilitators or coaches, using interactive discussions and “hands-on” approaches to help students learn. They use props to help children understand abstract concepts, solve problems, and develop critical thought processes. For example, they teach the concepts of addition and subtraction by playing board games.

Most Elementary School Teachers instruct one class in several subjects. In some schools, two or more Teachers work as a team and are jointly responsible for a group of students in at least one subject. In other schools, they may teach one special subject like art, music, reading, or science to a number of classes. A small but growing number of Teachers instruct multi-level classrooms, with students at several different learning levels. They also work with students individually.

Teachers design classroom presentations to meet students’ needs and abilities. They plan, evaluate, and assign lessons; prepare, administer, and grade tests and papers; and maintain classroom discipline. They observe and evaluate a student’s performance and potential and are often asked to use new assessment methods. Teachers also prepare report cards and meet with parents and school staff to discuss a student’s academic progress or personal problems. They may have instructional aides and/or parent volunteers to assist them in their daily activities.

Important Tasks and Related Skills

Each task below is matched to a sample skill required to carry out the task.

View the skill definitions
TaskSkill Used in this Task
Establish and enforce rules for behavior and procedures for maintaining order among the students for whom they are responsible.Instructing
Establish clear objectives for all lessons, units, and projects, and communicate those objectives to students.English Language
Confer with parents or guardians, teachers, counselors, and administrators in order to resolve students' behavioral and academic problems.Speaking
Adapt teaching methods and instructional materials to meet students' varying needs and interests.Learning Strategies
Read books to entire classes or small groups.Reading Comprehension
Instruct students individually and in groups, using various teaching methods such as lectures, discussions, and demonstrations.Education and Training
Meet with parents and guardians to discuss their children's progress, and to determine their priorities for their children and their resource needs.Active Listening
Observe and evaluate students' performance, behavior, social development, and physical health.Social Perceptiveness
Prepare, administer, and grade tests and assignments in order to evaluate students' progress.Monitoring
Source: U.S. Department of Labor Occupational Information Network (O*NET)

Working Conditions

Elementary School Teachers work in private, public, and publicly funded schools such as charter schools, and can work more than 40 hours a week both in and outside the classroom. Most work the traditional 10-month school year with a 2-month vacation during the summer. Those in districts with a year-round schedule may work for several weeks or months with a vacation in between. Year-round education can be single-track or multi-track. Traditional and most year-round school calendars have approximately 180 days of instruction, or the same number of instructional minutes, but year-round calendars spread instructional and vacation periods throughout the year.

Being a Teacher can be very rewarding, especially when students develop new skills and gain an appreciation of knowledge and learning. Teaching can also be frustrating, particularly when dealing with unruly, unmotivated, or disrespectful students. Teachers may experience stress in dealing with large classes, heavy workloads, or old schools that are run down and lack many modern amenities. Accountability standards may also increase stress levels, as Teachers are often held responsible for the success or failure of their students. Many Teachers are also frustrated by the lack of control they have over what they are required to teach.

Teachers in private schools generally have more control over establishing the curriculum and setting standards for performance and discipline. Their students also tend to be more motivated, since private schools can be selective in their admissions processes.

Teachers may belong to the California Teachers Association.

Will This Job Fit Me?

The job of Elementary School Teacher will appeal to you if you enjoy activities that involve assisting others and promoting learning and personal development. This occupation satisfies those with social interests. Social occupations involve teaching, offering advice, helping, and being of service to people.

Elementary School Teachers need enthusiasm, creativity, and patience. They must be knowledgeable in multiple subjects and should be organized and dependable. Teaching strategies place particular emphasis on such qualities as respect for individual differences, ability to work closely with others, and classroom management skills. They must be able to communicate, inspire trust and confidence, and motivate students. They also need to have a good understanding of students’ educational and emotional needs, and employ different teaching methods that will result in higher achievement.

What Wages and Benefits Can I Expect?

Salaries vary between school districts and generally are based on experience, size of district, and college units completed. Teachers with a master’s degree or national certification often results in higher pay. In addition, some districts pay bonuses for advanced degrees or extra duty. Private schools pay somewhat less, but Teachers may be compensated with free tuition for their own children and greater independence in the classroom. Substitute Teachers are generally paid at a daily rate.


The median wage in 2022 for Elementary School Teachers, Except Special Educ in California is N/A annually. The median is the point at which half of the workers earn more and half earn less.

Annual Wages for 2022Low
(25th percentile)
(50th percentile)
(75th percentile)
Source: EDD/LMID Occupational Employment Statistics Survey, 2022 Wages do not reflect self-employment.
View Wages for All Areas


Both public and private schools usually provide medical, dental, vision, life, vacation, sick leave, retirement, and insurance benefits.

What is the Job Outlook?

Due to large enrollment increases, job opportunities for Teachers will vary from good to excellent, depending on the locality, grade level, and subject taught. Job openings will result from new jobs as well as the need to replace the large number of Teachers who are expected to retire or leave teaching for other reasons.

Projections of Employment

In California, the number of Elementary School Teachers, Except Special Educ is expected to grow slower than average growth rate for all occupations. Jobs for Elementary School Teachers, Except Special Educ are expected to increase by 4.9 percent, or 9,200 jobs between 2018 and 2028.

Estimated Employment and Projected Growth
Elementary School Teachers, Except Special Educ
Geographic Area
(Estimated Year-Projected Year)
Total Job
Source: EDD/LMID Projections of Employment by Occupation
View Projected Growth for All Areas

How Do I Qualify?

Education, Training, and Other Requirements

Elementary School Teachers must get a Multiple Subject Teaching Credential in order to teach in California. The California Commission on Teacher Credentialing (CTC) establishes requirements for the Preliminary and Professional Clear Credential.

The Preliminary Credential is valid for five years. Applicants must:

  • Complete a bachelor’s degree or higher from an accredited college or university.
  • Pass the California Basic Educational Skills Test (CBEST).
  • Verify subject matter competence by taking and passing the California Subject Examinations for Teachers (CSET).
  • Pass the Reading Instruction Competence Assessment (RICA).
  • Complete a multiple subject teacher preparation program, including successful student teaching, and be recommended for the credential.

The Professional Clear Credential is renewable on-line after five years. Applicants must complete one of the following:

  • A Commission-approved Professional Teacher Induction Program.
  • A National Board Certification after their California Preliminary Multiple Subject Teaching Credential was issued.

Teachers can earn a Multiple Subject Teaching Credential through university, district, or Early Completion internship programs; from teaching experience obtained in the Peace Corps; or from at least three years of teaching at a private school. All Teachers who work in charter schools are required to hold either a teaching credential or other document equivalent to that which a teacher in other public schools would be required to hold issued by the CTC. Troops to Teachers is a Department of Defense program that provides tuition reimbursement, career counseling, and monetary bonuses for current and prior members of the Armed Services who agree to teach in economically disadvantaged urban and rural schools.

Emergency Permits are only available at the request of an employer. Those used for substitute teaching are valid for one year and the holder may serve as a substitute for no more than 30 days, for any one teacher, during the school year.

All Teachers are required to obtain an electronic fingerprint (LiveScan) and criminal background clearance prior to employment.


Teachers are required to have teaching experience prior to employment. Most candidates take a year of graduate courses at an accredited teacher training institution, usually with practice teaching. An alternative path is a one or two-year university internship in which the candidate teaches while still taking classes. Some districts have established their own internships that include a two-year professional development plan for the Teacher. Many new Teachers start as Substitute Teachers to gain classroom experience and district recognition.

Early Career Planning

Students who are interested in a teaching career should take the necessary courses required for admission into college. In addition, students can gain valuable experience by tutoring and/or mentoring other students. This, in turn, should help them decide whether teaching is a desired career choice.

Work Study Programs

California offers Regional Occupational Programs (ROP) for Careers in Education. To find an ROP program near you, go to the California Association of Regional Occupational Centers and Programs Web site.

Continuing Education

Continuing education courses may be required depending on the employing school district. If required, Teachers need to complete the continuing education requirements for the Professional Clear Credential before the expiration date of their Preliminary Credential and submit the appropriate renewal application, documentation, and processing fees. On-line renewal is required for all Professional Clear Credentials. Once renewed, the credential will be issued as a Clear Credential. Teachers are encouraged to update their skills to keep up with the latest technologies.

Licensing and Certification

Contact the agency that issues the license for additional information. Click on the license title below for details.

Teachers may hold one or several certificates such as an Early Childhood/Generalist or Middle Childhood/Generalist certificate. Most Teachers are also required to have a certificate in first aid, cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), and Automated External Defibrillator (AED) for Schools and the Community. For more information, go to the U.S. Department of Labor's Career InfoNet Web site and scroll down to "Career Tools." Click on "Certification Finder" and follow the instructions to locate certification programs.

Where Can I Find Training?

There are two ways to search for training information:

  • Search by Field of Study to find what programs are available and what schools offer those programs. You may use keywords such as: Elementary Education Teaching; and Teacher Education, Multiple Levels.
  • Search by Training Provider to find schools by name, type of school, or location.

Contact the schools you are interested in to learn about the classes available, tuition and fees, and any prerequisite course work.

Where Would I Work?

The largest industries employing Elementary School Teachers, Except Special Educ are as follows:

Industry TitlePercent of Total Employment for Occupation in California
Elementary and Secondary Schools98.4%
Religious Organizations1.1%
Source: EDD/LMID Staffing Patterns

Finding a Job

Direct application to school districts remains one of the most effective job search methods. The California Department of Education publishes both a public and private school directory, which together contain a listing of all schools and school districts in the State of California. They also have a list of the county offices of education with their contact information and can be used to find job opportunities. In addition, college placement offices on campus are valuable resources for finding a job and are recommended to all teaching students. Job openings can also be found in newspaper ads, public libraries, and career centers across California.  Online job opening systems include JobCentral at and CalJOBSSM at

To find your nearest One-Stop Career Center, go to Service Locator. View the helpful job search tips for more resources. (requires Adobe Reader).

Yellow Page Headings

You can focus your local job search by checking employers listed online or in your local telephone directory. Below are some suggested headings where you might find employers of Elementary School Teachers, Except Special Educ.

  • Public Schools
  • Private Schools (K-12)
  • Elementary Schools
  • Elementary and Secondary Education
  • Religious General Interest Schools
  • Schools

Find Possible Employers

To locate a list of employers in your area, go to "Find Employers" on the Labor Market Information Web site:

  • Select one of the top industries that employ the occupation. This will give you a list of employers in that industry in your area.
  • Click on "View Filter Selections" to limit your list to specific cities or employer size.
  • Click on an employer for the street address, telephone number, size of business, Web site, etc.
  • Contact the employer for possible employment.

Where Could This Job Lead?

Promotion for most Teachers consists of regular salary increases. Administrative positions require teaching experience, advanced study, and additional credentials.

Related Occupations

Below is a list of occupations related to Elementary School Teachers, Except Special Educ with links to more information.

Instructional CoordinatorsProfile
Kindergarten Teachers, Except Special EducationProfile
Preschool Teachers, Except Special EducationGuide
Recreation WorkersGuide
Teacher AssistantsGuide

Other Sources

These links are provided for your convenience and do not constitute an endorsement by EDD.

For the Career Professional

The following codes are provided to assist counselors, job placement workers, or other career professionals.

SOC - Standard Occupational Classification25-2021
O*NET - Occupational Information Network
   Elementary School Teachers, Except Special Education25-2021.00
   Interest Codes (RIASEC)SAC