School Counselor Certification Requirements in California

California school counselors are issued pupil personnel services credentials that authorize service with students in pre-kindergarten through twelfth grade. Certification is based on education and practicum; candidates must also meet a basic skills examination requirement.

Educational Requirements: In-State Candidates

The prospective counselor must first earn a baccalaureate degree ( He or she will then enroll in a post-baccalaureate school counseling program that has been approved by the Commission on Teacher Credentialing. The program will be at least 48 semester hours and will include a practicum with school children. The institution will submit a certification recommendation through an online system once all requirements have been met.

The Commission has provided a list of in-state schools that are approved to offer educator preparation programs (

Educational Requirements: Out-of-State Candidates

Out-of-state candidates must complete comparable post-baccalaureate programs. Programs as short as 30 semester hours may be accepted ( The California Association of School Counselors notes, however, that this is acceptable only in cases where the program was completed before July 1, 2004 ( Recent graduates are expected to have 48 semester hours.

Out-of-state programs must also include experiences with school-aged children. The California Association of School Counselors states that the current expectation is 600 hours. The student should have experience with two different age groups (elementary school, middle school, or secondary school). Students who completed programs before July 1, 2004 may be credentialed on the basis of 450 hour practicum experiences.

The Commission on Teacher Credentialing notes that programs accredited by the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP) meet state requirements.

An out-of-state candidate will need to verify, at the time of application, that the program was license-qualifying in the state where it was located. The Commission will accept a copy of a credential or a letter from the state licensing agency. The candidate will also need to verify completion of field experience. This is to come from the school.

An individual who attended an out-of-state program that does not meet California requirements is directed to contact a California school that offers a state-approved program. The program is authorized to do an evaluation and make a recommendation.

Internationally educated candidates will need the formal recommendation of a state-approved school that offers a comparable program (

Requirements are slightly different for in-state and out-of-state candidates. National board certification is an alternative pathway to show that requirements have been met.

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Examination Requirements

Prospective school counselors must meet a basic skills requirement. California-approved programs require students to pass a qualifying examination either pre-admission or pre-internship. Out-of-state candidates may take the qualifying examination at a different stage of the process.

There are a number of options; the standard is the California Basic Educational Skills Test (CBEST). An individual must attain an overall score of at least 141 with no less than 37 in any area tested. The Commission will also accept qualifying scores on the California Subject Examinations for Teachers (CSET): Multiple Subjects.

A candidate can also demonstrate proficiency through either of two examination programs utilized by the California State University (CSU) system. One is the Early Assessment Program, which is taken in the second semester of eleventh grade; students can qualify based on earning scores of “college ready” or “exempt” in mathematics and English. Also accepted are the CSU Placement Tests; the required score is 50 in math and 151 in English. Since the CSU examinations are linked in the college placement process, the Commission will allow candidates to present math scores from one assessment and English scores from the other. This is the only case where candidates are allowed to combine scores from multiple assessments.

Out-of-state candidates may provide evidence of having passed a basic skills test required in another jurisdiction. The Commission has provided a list of qualifying examinations ( The list includes contact information for both the state agency and the testing agency.

Some jurisdictions, however, do not mandate basic skills testing for educators. Candidates who have not taken a qualifying examination can register for the CBEST examination ( The paper-delivered version is offered in 19 California locations ( The computer-delivered version is offered at Pearson VUE testing centers ( The paper-delivered test costs $41; late registration is available for an additional fee. There is an additional $61 charge for computer-delivered testing.

An out-of-state candidate who has been offered employment but has not yet passed a qualifying examination may be issued a One-Year Nonrenewable (OYNR) credential.

Background Check Requirement

Applicants must have fingerprint-based criminal background checks processed through the California Department of Justice (DOJ) and the FBI. In-state applicants will use Livescan electronic fingerprinting services. Livescan services are available throughout the state. The Commission has provided a list of operators; the document includes contact information as well as information about fee payment and scheduling ( The applicant will need to download three copies of the Livescan request form prior to fingerprinting (

Out-of-state applicants may have their fingerprints made manually. They will submit two standard FD-258 fingerprint cards. A background check fee of $49.00 will be assessed; this is separate from any fee that may be charged by the fingerprinting site.

Out-of-state candidates who do not have access to the correct fingerprint card may email ‘fingerprints at’.

The Application Process

Applications are typically submitted online. In-state graduates will complete all requirements, including fingerprinting, and then wait for notification that their school has submitted a recommendation for certification ( At this stage, they will pay fees. Currently, the application fee is $70 (

In some instances; candidates will submit paper applications. Application materials are available on the Commission website (

Alternative Certification Pathway: National Board Certification

School counselors who have achieved board certification though the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards are considered to have met all requirements (with the exception of the background check). Board-certified candidates will submit copies of their certification along with the application and the required fee. They will follow fingerprinting instructions for in-state or out-of-state candidates.

Additional Information

The Commission on Teacher Credentialing ( can be reached at (916) 322-4974 between 12:30 and 4:30 PM Pacific Time; callers will select Option 1. Email can be addressed to ‘credentials at’.

The California Association of School Counselors is an additional professional resource ( CASC has provided a summary of credentialing requirements (

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