Children playing with their teacher in their pre-kindergarten classroom
Story Teacher Preparation

CSU Set to Offer Early Childhood Teaching Credential

Janessa Thropay

New PK-3 Early Childhood Education Specialist Instruction Credential aims to equip teachers with the necessary knowledge and tools to educate California’s youngest learners.

Children playing with their teacher in their pre-kindergarten classroom

The California State University (CSU) is a national leader in developing well-prepared, diverse educators for California's school system. It is home to the largest teacher preparation program in the state and among one of the largest in the nation, and awards approximately 7,000 California teaching credentials annually.

In light of California legislation​ passed in 2021 requiring any school district operating a kindergarten to also provide a transitional kindergarten (TK) program for all four-year-olds, the CSU is excited to offer aspiring and current teachers the opportunity to earn the PK-3 Early Childhood Education Specialist Instruction Credential at participating CSU campuses starting in the 2023-2024 academic year.

As California begins implementing TK programs throughout the state, there is a great demand to expand the early learning teacher workforce. The state anticipates the need for 12,000 to 15,000 new teachers by 2025-26.

“I am excited about the potential of this new PK-3 early childhood specialist instruction credential to provide a strong and equitable early learning foundation for our youngest and most diverse learners in the state," says Shireen Pavri, Ph.D., assistant vice chancellor of Educator & Leadership Programs at the CSU Chancellor's Office. “These students will be taught by teachers who have specialized knowledge, skills and dispositions to teach our multilingual and multicultural young children in inclusive settings using age and developmentally appropriate practices."

The credential will authorize graduates to teach all subjects in a general education classroom setting and to team teach or to regroup students across classrooms, in pre-kindergarten (PK) through 3rd grade. The English learner (EL) authorization provided through this credential aligns with the EL authorization that is earned upon completion of a single-, multiple-subject, or education specialist, credential program.

Understanding the critical importance of establishing a strong educational foundation for young children, the CSU values this opportunity to prepare teachers with the necessary knowledge and tools to educate California's youngest learners. In alignment with the CSU's goals for equity and diversity in education, the PK-3 Credential will elevate the early learning education workforce and effectively prepare them to serve students and their families who hail from unique backgrounds and have experienced diverse circumstances.

California Governor Gavin Newsom's multi-year compact with the CSU includes funding to increase the number of early education degree pathways available to college students by 2025. Once the PK-3 Credential program is approved at participating CSU campuses, financial aid and grants will be available for teacher candidates seeking this credential. These resources will help establish an accessible and affordable avenue for those interested in pursuing a career teaching in PK through third grade settings.

The PK-3 Credential is meant not only to improve the quality of education for all students, especially those from lower socioeconomic backgrounds, but also to explore an untapped resource of early childhood professionals to help address the state's teacher shortage. Whether candidates are new to early childhood education or have been a teacher for 10 years, this credential has the potential to positively impact graduates' careers.


CSU programs for educators are designed to promote career-long growth, offering credentials that help graduates excel in their profession, as well as master's and doctoral programs that provide the necessary skills to be transformational leaders.

To learn more about the CSU's efforts in preparing California's future educators, visit the Educator and Leadership Programs website. ​