How to Become a Substitute Teacher in California

By Shannon Gurnee
In Lifestyle
May 1, 2021

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Shannon Gurnee - Substitute Teacher

When I was in high school and even throughout college, I wanted to become an elementary school teacher. While I didn’t end up graduating with a Bachelor’s Degree in Elementary Education, I did recently end up going back to school to get my Teaching Credential and Master’s Degree in Elementary Education. I haven’t completed the program yet, but I have a plan that I am actively fulfilling and hope to become a teacher by Fall 2022. While I’m going to school to earn my Teaching Credential and Master’s Degree, I made the decision to become a Substitute Teacher in California…and I have LOVED it! It gives me a taste of what it will be like to have my own classroom someday. Plus, I get the opportunity to see how other teachers in our district put together lesson plans or decorate their rooms. Becoming a Substitute Teacher wasn’t just something that was handed to me though. There were quite a few steps (and fees) I had to complete in order to become a Substitute Teacher. Becoming a substitute teacher in California is a great way to give back to your community and share your knowledge, and forming an LLC in California can provide legal and financial support for your substitute teaching service. If you want earn extra cash, you may also consider being an act tutor to high school kids.

Here are the steps I had to follow to become a Substitute Teacher in California.

College Transcripts

When you apply to become a Substitute Teacher, you’ll need to provide your official transcripts from the college you attended and with proof that you have earned your Bachelor’s Degree. It’s really great now because you can order and pay for your transcripts online, requesting to have them “officially” delivered to the HR department you are applying with to become a Substitute Teacher. Fees may range from $6.00 to $12.00, plus shipping. If you are able to request an e-transcript, there is not a shipping fee.

30-Day Emergency Substitute Teaching Permit

In order to become a Substitute Teacher in California without having your Teaching Credential, you must apply and pay for a 30-Day Emergency Substitute Teaching Permit. In order to obtain a permit, you must complete and pay for your Certificate of Clearance, as well as fingerprinting, fulfilling the Basic Skills requirement, and paying the fee. I paid $100 to obtain my 30-Day Emergency Substitute Teaching Permit, plus a $2.50 processing fee to do it online. You will need to renew this once a year.

Certificate of Clearance

According to the State of California Commission on Teacher Credentialing (CTC), “the Certificate of Clearance (COC) is a document issued by the Commission to an individual who has completed the Commission’s fingerprint character and identification process, whose moral and professional fitness has been shown to meet the standards as established by law.” The fee for obtaining a Certificate of Clearance is $50.00 (plus a $2.50 fee to process it online instead of mailing it in). You will need to renew this every five years.


The fingerprints are taken through LiveScan, which also requires a fee. In 2020, I paid $67 to complete the fingerprints requirements with LiveScan. It will take about a week to receive notification of the completion of your background check. I was able to have my fingerprints done at the HR office for our school district. I paid for them at the same time they were done.

Basic Skills Requirement

In order to become a Substitute Teacher in California, you must take AND pass the CBEST (California Basic Educational Skills Test). I paid for study materials, as well as the fee to take the test. Through the CTC, the fee to take the CBEST test in 2020 was $102.00. You can find study materials on the CTC site, as well as order different books or even take online classes to help you prepare for the CBEST. I took it and passed on the first try, but it did require quite a bit of studying and using the practice tests in the CBEST CliffsNotes book.

Letter of Interest

Depending on your school district, you may be required to submit a Letter of Interest along with your application to the Human Resources Department.


You will need to have a current and updated resume available to submit with your application to the Human Resources Department in your School District. Be sure to proofread it and ensure that it is current and includes up-to-date information. You can find many resources online that can help you put together a professional looking resume.

Letters of Recommendation

For my school district, I was required to submit three letters of recommendation. Make sure the letters are NOT from family members, but rather are from individuals you have previously worked with or for, as well as individuals who currently work or who have worked in the field of education.


When I applied to become a Substitute Teacher with our school district, I was also required to fill out an application. Even though you will have attached proof of passing the CBEST and other documents, you may be asked for some of the same information in the actual application.

TB Test

Upon hire, you may be required to show proof of a negative TB test. You can obtain these results from your doctor or local testing sites. I found a local medical center to do my TB test and the fee was $20.

Valid Identification

Upon hire, you will also need to provide a valid identification, such as a driver’s license. You will need to know your social security number as well when filling out employment forms for your school district, as for paystubs, you need to consider to learn when a paystub is not real, so you can always get the right one.

When I applied to be a Substitute Teacher, I had to do a lot of research and ask a lot of questions to find out what needed to be done and how much things cost. I hope you find this helpful if you’re looking to become a Substitute Teacher in California.

Are the requirements to become a Substitute Teacher
different in your state or school district?


About Has 2213 Posts

Shannon Gurnee is the author of Redhead Mom formerly "The Mommy-Files", a national blog with a loyal following. She has a Bachelor's Degree in Marriage, Family, and Human Development with a Minor in Business Management. Shannon and her husband, Frank, have a large family with 6 awesome kids and love living on the Central Coast near San Luis Obispo, California, as well as traveling around the world. A full-time Social Media and Professional Blogger, Shannon also serves as a National Brand Ambassador for many well-known companies. Her blog focuses on motherhood, family fun activities, traveling, fashion, beauty, technology, wedding ideas and recipes while providing professional opinions on products, performances, restaurants, and a variety of businesses.

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