Becoming a Teacher in Los Angeles

Becoming a Teacher in Los Angeles
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Noodle Staff March 31, 2018

Los Angeles County has over 10 million residents with 1.5 million students enrolled in K-12 schools, and they need teachers.

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There are many factors to consider when deciding whether to become a Los Angeles teacher. While the the minimum qualifications are pretty straightforward, you may want to examine other unique circumstances, which we will discuss below.

Following New York, Los Angeles is the second highest populated city in the nation. Los Angeles County’s 80 school districts employ 72,650 teachers, and oversee 2,314 schools and 367 charters. Of the 1.5 million Los Angeles County students, 72,000 are homeless, 22,000 are in foster care, 172,000 require special education, and 329,000 are English language learners. In addition, 67 percent of all students in Los Angeles County receive either free or reduced price meals through the National School Lunch Program.

However, Los Angeles is truly a place of hopes and dreams. This is displayed in the school system’s optimism, in spite of the many diverse educational challenges it faces. The Los Angeles Unified School District, which includes 700,000 students within 710 square miles along the pacific coast, is the nation’s second largest school district, with an annual budget of $7.5 billion. The district strives for 100 percent graduation, 100 percent attendance, school safety, and proficiency for all. In 2017, more than 26,000 Los Angeles Unified School District seniors graduated from high school, which is an improvement from previous years.

Given the size of Los Angeles Unified, a lot of the discussion here will focus specifically on that school district.

Teaching credential Los Angeles requirements

To teach in Los Angeles, you must follow California’s credential requirements. Setting the foundation for becoming a credentialed teacher requires that you first obtain a bachelor’s degree. Then you can begin the process of obtaining a preliminary credential, which includes satisfying the basic skills and subject-matter competence exams, and completing other exams and courses.

There are other options available to those wishing to become a teacher in Los Angeles. If you have at least three years of experience teaching at a private school, you may be eligible for a preliminary credential. California also offers the opportunity to begin a paid teaching internship while you are completing your credential coursework. Also, don’t forget that Peace Corps teaching experience can count toward satisfying your teacher preparation program requirement.

Already live in Los Angeles? Check out the teacher credential programs Los Angeles has to offer. If you’re interested in obtaining an online credential, other schools like Alliant International University and the University of Southern California offer credential programs that make you eligible to teach in California.



University and Program Name Learn More

Teacher salary in Los Angeles

Los Angeles K-12 teacher salaries are regulated by a payscale that is designed by a system of points and levels. The payscale ranges from $50,368 to $80,116 per year and is awarded based on your number of semester or quarter units and years of service. In addition to this base pay, you can earn additional income through pay differentials:

Career increments are awarded to those with extended years of service and can max out at $88,253 per year.

The bilingual differential can have you earning up to $3,000 more per year, depending on your qualifications and what services you are providing.

National board certification will increase your annual salary by 15 percent.

Completing your master’s degree or doctorate degree will provide an additional $584 or $1,168 per year, respectively.

Under the Teacher Loan Forgiveness Program, you may also be eligible for forgiveness of up to $17,500 on your student loans if you teach full-time for five complete and consecutive academic years in a low-income school, and meet other qualifications. According to Federal Student Aid, there are 945 schools in the Los Angeles Unified School District that qualify as a low-income school.

Who is hiring teachers in Los Angeles

The Los Angeles Daily News recently reported that California’s teaching shortages continue to grow and it doesn’t look like there will be relief anytime soon, despite the state’s financial investments and initiatives to address the problem. Many schools are hiring teachers via temporary permits and are obtaining waivers for credentialing requirements. Los Angeles Unified reported that they have significant vacancies and 40 percent of the new hires were not fully certified.

EdJoin’s database currently lists 17,500 education vacancies within the state of California, and 14 percent of those are in Los Angeles County. Here are the top 25 schools/districts with the highest vacancies in Los Angeles County:

  • Total Education Solutions – LA
  • Alliance College-Ready Public School
  • Los Angeles Unified
  • Convina-Valley Unified
  • Norwalk-La Mirada Unified
  • Redondo Beach Unified
  • Environmental Charter Schools
  • Assurance Learning Academy
  • Green Dot Public Schools
  • Palmdale School District
  • Bright Star Schools
  • Options for Youth – Los Angeles County
  • West Covina Unified
  • Aspire Public Schools – Los Angeles County
  • El Monte City Elementary
  • Antelope Valley Learning Academy
  • Baldwin Park Unified
  • STAR Academy – Haynes Family of Programs
  • Los Angeles Leadership Academy
  • ABC Unified School District
  • Ingenium Schools
  • Sulphur Springs Union Elementary
  • ICEF Public Charter Schools
  • Pasadena Unified
  • Los Angeles International Charter High School

Los Angeles Unified is by far the largest district in the county, but that doesn’t stifle their ambition to make a difference in young lives. According to the district’s website, they believe teachers can shape the future, which is why they offer competitive salaries and benefits, opportunities for professional growth, teacher resources and support services, innovative instructional programs, and technology-enriched classrooms. Los Angeles Unified also provides resources for teachers new to the Los Angeles area, including housing information, visitor guides, and social life information.

Have we mentioned Los Angeles Unified is hiring?

Although they are accepting all application types, Los Angeles Unified has the highest need in the following areas:

  • Art & Music
  • Elementary
  • Elementary (Bilingual)
  • English
  • Foreign Language
  • K-12 Substitute Teachers
  • Mathematics
  • Physical Education
  • Psychiatric Social Workers
  • Counselors
  • Science (Chemistry & Physics)
  • Social Studies
  • Special Education

There is no doubt teaching opportunities exist in the Los Angeles area. This provides a great advantage to educators interested in relocating to the area–the possibilities are endless! Since Los Angeles is such a large and enormously populated area, before planting your roots, you may want to consider substitute teaching at several schools and/or districts so you can get an idea of where you eventually want to stay long-term.

Other Los Angeles teaching opportunities

There is a great debate going on about whether teachers in the Los Angeles area should pursue a career at a traditional public school or explore options at a charter school. We provide more information below, but something worth noting up front is that Los Angeles public schools are uniquely extraordinary. Often, teachers in other areas of California seek employment at charter schools because the surrounding public schools are lacking in arts and innovation. However, in Los Angeles, this is the norm for most traditional public schools. Therefore, if you are leaning toward teaching at a charter school for this reason, we recommend taking a little more time to research some of the incredible public arts schools in Los Angeles, so you can make the most informed decision.

Teaching at charter schools in LA: Charter schools have more flexibility than traditional public schools, but more regulations than private schools. Therefore, you must have a credential to teach at a charter school. The benefit for teachers, however, in working at a charter school, is that many charter schools are established by front-line educators. This means the day-to-day operations have the potential to be teacher-centered. According to Indeed, charter and traditional public school teachers make about the same salary in Los Angeles (charter schools average just slightly higher). In 2011, the Los Angeles Times reported on a study UC Berkeley had just released, indicating that about 50 percent of teachers in charter middle and high schools left their jobs each year over a six-year period. Although the study did not reveal why teachers were leaving, Los Angeles Unified professionals speculate that it may have to do with teachers wearing many different hats and working longer hours at charter schools, which typically do not have as much administrative support as public schools.

Teaching at visual and performing arts schools in LA: I’ll never forget the first time I attended a Los Angeles high school music performance. When my friend said she wanted me to attend her choir concert, I imagined risers formed in an arch, a grand piano center-stage, tuxedos, matching hair bows, and pearls. What I actually got was a fully staffed production equipped with stage lighting, costume changes, dancing, and a live orchestra. If you have your bachelor’s degree in some type of visual or performing arts and are interested in becoming a teacher, Los Angeles is the place to go. Given the Hollywood influence, many schools focus heavily on the arts, like the Los Angeles County High School for the Arts, which is a tuition-free school with audition-based admissions. The school is also able to hire master professional artists that are exempt from holding a teaching credential to teach arts classes.

Teaching in private schools in LA: Los Angeles County has over 1,000 private schools serving nearly 200,000 students. According to Glassdoor, private school teacher salaries in Los Angeles are 9 percent below the national average, while public school teacher salaries are 18 percent above the national average. However, the tradeoff in salary means that teaching at a private school in Los Angeles will give you a teacher ratio of 12:1, as opposed to the public school ratio of 24:1, giving you half the class size. Additionally, while the private schools in Los Angeles are dedicated to providing a wholesome educational environment to their students, private school teachers are not technically required to possess a state-issued teaching license. If you want to teach Los Angeles students, but have not finished your credential program, private schools may be a good place to start. In addition, private school teachers often have a lot more flexibility to be innovative with teaching styles and are able to fit in more extra curricular activities, which enhances teacher-student relationships.

Substitute teaching in LA: If you are exploring your southern California teaching options, it may be important to find out how to become a substitute teacher in Los Angeles. Teachers wishing to become a substitute teaching in Los Angeles Unified must have a bachelor’s degree with a 2.7 GPA or higher and successful completion of the California Basic Educational Skills Test (CBEST). Candidates will be interviewed and must be able to present strong work references for the last three years of work experience. You must be authorized to work within the U.S. and a live scan and health clearance will be completed. Finally, if you don’t have a credential, you will have to complete a mandatory pre-service training requirement. Substitute teachers at Los Angeles Unified can choose to service in a long-term capacity, but must meet the requirements for full-time certified/licensed employment.

Teaching in LA’s criminal justice system: Although it’s not the most glamorous teaching job you will find in Los Angeles, teaching in a jail or prison provides the chance to make a difference in the lives of incarcerated adults and youth. With 3,500 adult inmates in los angeles prison, 17,000 adult inmates in los angeles jails, and 1,200 incarcerated youth in los angeles detention facilities, there are teaching opportunities at the state and local level.

Moving to Los Angeles to teach

Are you currently teaching somewhere else in California and thinking about moving to Los Angeles? If your focus is to make the biggest difference and go where they need you the most, you really can’t go wrong with that decision. Although there are other California regions that are in need of teachers, such as San Diego, Santa Clara, Alameda, and Orange, compared to Los Angeles, they still only have about half the number of vacancies.

Los Angeles is a beautiful place to live. The cost of living is much higher than other areas in the state of California, so it’s important to thoroughly research Los Angeles real estate prior to making plans to make sure the move is something you could afford. However, what you will sacrifice in home square footage provides sunny beaches, amazing food, incredible art, and wonderful people. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Los Angeles has a minority population, which provides a culture rich in a diversity. Teaching Los Angeles students can change the lives of so many, including your own.

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About the Editor

Tom Meltzer spent over 20 years writing and teaching for The Princeton Review, where he was lead author of the company's popular guide to colleges, before joining Noodle.

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