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Transitional Kindergarten and Early Learning

Universal PreKindergarten (UPK) refers to the continuum of high-quality programs, including transitional kindergarten, state preschool, Head Start, general childcare, and community-based early learning and care providers, that can be layered and wrapped to create rich early learning opportunities for all children during the year before kindergarten, regardless of income.

Transitional Kindergarten (TK) is the first of a two-year kindergarten program.  Since TK students are younger in age, these programs are designed using age-appropriate curriculum for younger children. Children who complete TK move on to kindergarten the following year. This means a child who attends TK will have two years of kindergarten experience before entering 1st grade.

Pathways road illustration

Newly passed legislation (California Assembly Bill 22) transforms TK into a universal preschool program to be available to all four-year-olds in the state by 2025 (California Legislative Information, 2021b). This will create the need for thousands of additional TK teachers. 

PK-3 Credential

A new PK-3 credential has been approved. This credential authorizes teaching in preschool through third grade. 

Transitional Kindergarten Teaching Requirements for Multiple Subject Credential Holders

Click below to learn more about the available options for those who currently hold credentials but need additional coursework to teach TK. This is also referred to above as TK Certification

Be sure to also check out the PK-3 and Transitional Kindergarten (TK) Frequently Asked Questions.


The San Diego County Office of Education (SDCOE) has partnered with community colleges across San Diego County to offer funding to cover costs associated with tuition, technology, books, advisement, and other resources necessary for early childhood education (ECE) workforce members to complete coursework leading to permit and/or degree attainment.

Eligibility to qualify for this program requires early learning and care workforce to be employed at a participating San Diego Quality Preschool Initiative site, or at an early learning and care program that receives state subsidies such as: 

  • California State Preschool Program (CSPP)
  • General Child Care (CCTR)
  • Alternative Payment Program (CAPP)
  • CA Migrant Ed (CMIG)
  • Family Child Care Home Education Networks (CFCC)
  • Migrant Alternative Payment Program (CMAP)
  • CalWORKs Stages 1, 2, and 3 (C1AP, C2AP, and C3AP)
  • Tribal Child Care Program 

Verification for eligibility will be completed by SDCOE, and information will be shared with the applicant's college of choice.

Child Development Permits

In California, there are six levels of child development permits. Click on the tabs below for an overview of each. You can find complete details on the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing (CTC)website.

You may also find the CTC Child Development and School Age Emphasis Matrix helpful.

Take a look at the Education Career Pathway Flowcharts below to learn more about pathways and options. Then check out the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing (CTC) approved teacher preparation programs website to find a program that fits you.

Education Career Pathway Flowcharts

Each type of educator has its own set of requirements. The steps outlined below give the basic overview of the steps you need to complete, whether you would like to be a classroom instructional aide (paraprofessional), an elementary teacher, secondary teacher, substitute teacher, or special education teacher (Education Specialist). You'll even see a description for those who are interested in a program where you can earn your bachelors and teaching credential through the same program (combined bachelors + credential). 

The California Commission on Teacher Credentialing (CTC) requires evidence of basic skills and subject area competencies. One option for demonstrating these competencies is by successfully passing the California Subject Examination for Teachers (CSET) and California Basic Educational Skills Test (CBEST). There are FREE tools available to prepare you for these exams. 

It is also possible you have met the requirements to meet these competencies based on other criteria such as specific coursework, qualifying scores on AP or SAT exams, etc. Click the yellow button to the right for California Commission on Teacher Credentialing specific details.

To see if you may already meet the competency requirement for one or more CSET exams, be sure to speak with the  SDCOE Credentials team.

Learn more about the requirements to becoming a teacher based on the credential you are interested in attaining by visiting the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing (CTC) website linked to the right.

How to Teach in California 

Coming to California from another state or country? Check out tips or strategies to help you navigate the requirements and processes.

Be sure to also take a look at our LevelUp! event, to help you learn more about educator preparation programs at local San Diego institutions.

Wish you had more information about how to apply for jobs, prepare for job interviews, or complete your EdJoin profile? Or perhaps you just want to learn more about recruitment events, then check our recruitment events and resources!

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