PK-3 Early Childhood Education Specialist Instruction Credential

As California begins implementing universal pre-kindergarten for all four-year old children, there is a great need to expand the early teaching-learning workforce. The state anticipates requiring between 12,000 and 15,000 new teachers by 2025-26 to serve our youngest learners. To address this need, the Commission on Teacher Credentialing (CTC) has approved a new teaching credential to teach children in pre-kindergarten through 3rd grade.

Authorization by Commission on Teacher Credentialing (CTC)

This credential authorizes the holder to teach all subjects in a self-contained general education classroom setting and to team teach or to regroup students across classrooms, in preschool 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 or Education Specialist teaching credential program.

Summary of Credential Requirements

This credential will require the applicant to have completed all of the following requirements.

Multiple options are available for meeting these requirements:

  • Possession of a bachelor's degree or higher from a regionally accredited institution of higher education. (Note: if the bachelor's degree is in child development or early childhood education, it will meet the subject matter requirement below). 
  • Completion of the subject matter requirement in child development or early childhood education.
  • Completion of a Commission approved PK-3 ECE Specialist Instruction Credential preparation program.
  • Passage of a Commission approved Teaching Performance Assessment.
  • Passage of the Reading Instruction Competence Assessment (RICA) examination or a commission approved literacy assessment aligned with the requirements of Education Code section 44320.3.​​

​For additional information, including preconditions for the credential, please consult the PK-3 ECE Specialist Instruction Handbook. PK-3 ECE Specialist Instruction Handbook.​

Program Design Principles

The PK–3rd ECE Instruction Specialist Credential workgroup offers program design principles to serve as guidelines for each university developing the new credential. The workgroup consists of seven intersegmental teams across California, comprising 51 individuals representing more than 25 different departments and organizations. It was created to support faculty members and teacher preparation partners in developing a space to fully understand the new credential and develop cross-segment relationships.

Download Program Design Principles​

The approvals of the new California PK-3 ECE Credential represent a significant advancement in the state's approach to early childhood education. This credential acknowledges the critical importance of the early years in a child's development. It aims to provide educators with specialized preparation training and expertise to support children from preschool through third grade. By focusing on this crucial developmental period, the PK-3 credential recognizes the interconnectedness of early learning experiences and their long-term impact on academic success, social-emotional development, and overall well-being.

By August 1, 2025, all CA TK teachers (with the exceptions of those who were assigned to TK before July 1, 2015) will be required to hold at least 24 units in ECE/CD and/or the PK-3 ECE Special Instruction Credential. The CSU campuses play a crucial role in developing credential programs for PK-3 teachers to help address the growing demand for qualified educators who specialize in serving children from preschool through third grade. Educators holding this credential will develop, implement, and promote learning activities using developmentally, culturally, and linguistically appropriate practices to provide a strong learning foundation for our early learners' future academic success and well-being.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q. If a teacher has their Multiple Subject (MS) credential, what do they need to earn their PK-3 credential?
A Multiple Subject teacher would need to meet the PK-3 subject matter requirement (24 units ECE/CD) to earn a PK-3 credential.

Q. Is a MS credential holder without PK experience required to get a PK-3 credential to teach in PK and TK?
MS credential holders are already authorized by their credential to teach PK and TK.

Q. Are the CBEST and CSET required for the PK-3 credential?​
The CBEST and CSET are not required for this credential​