How to Become a Vocational Teacher
Who should and should not become a vocational teacher?
Teaching is not easy. While it is not as hard as some teachers make it out to be, and it pays better than a lot of teachers make it out, it is a whole discipline in and of itself. Many people who really think they want to teach find out in the first few years that teaching is really not for them. There are a few attributes that I think a potential teacher would be good to possess if they hope to be successful, and happy as a teacher.
1. Patience – This is most important. You will be teaching beginners, and many of the assumptions you make about knowing something, they won’t know. You need to have a fair bit of patience with them.
2. Problem Solving – Teaching someone is often like solving a problem, what works to help one student often does not work for another student. Explanations often need to be done several different ways, with different types of analogies so everyone can understand.
3. Working in a Bureaucracy – Any public entity ends up being a bureaucracy. This is not necessarily something that is bad, but it is something that can be very frustrating for those who are used to small businesses, or who have been self employed. Things don’t move as fast as the real world, and you need to get consensus with people, and you sometimes need to play political games, or at least be wary of other people’s goals and fears.
Some people go into public service because they have a deep desire to help improve the world. Other people go into public service because it is a “safe” job that pays well. While there is nothing inherently wrong with the second reason, it is a reason that is generally based off of fear while the first reason is based off of love. If people who are in the job because they want safety, feel threatened by you, then you need to be careful. Bureaucracies don’t work by many of the same rules that you may be used to in the real world and I would suspect that the bureaucracy kills more wonderful teachers than the students!
Institutions that can be Taught in
1. Public High Schools – High schools are offering more vocational classes than they have ever done in the past. Many people think of woodshop or auto shop when they think of vocational classes in high school, but many schools are now offering computer courses, radio courses, multimedia courses, and more. Also most school districts have an ROP (Regional Occupational Program) than is associated with them. These programs help high school students and some adults learn a variety of vocational skills. A Vocational Teaching Credential or a Designated Special Subjects Teaching Credential can be used to teach many of these classes, neither of these requires a degree.
2. Private High Schools – While these are rarer than public high schools, and they tend to be religiously based, they too may have vocational programs. Also their requirements for teaching may be much less, as a teaching credential is often not required.
3. Adult Education – Every high school district in California also has an accompanying Adult Education program. While these programs were originally designed primarily to help students who dropped out of high school to get a diploma after they turned 18, or pass the GED, many of the Adult Education programs are also offering vocational classes. To teach these classes you generally need either a Vocational Teaching Credential or an Adult Education Teach Credential, neither of these requires a degree.
4. Community Colleges – Our college system has three major levels: UCs, CSUs, and Community Colleges. The UCs (University of Califoirnia) were supposed to be the most prestigious schools, CSUSs were supposed to be the next prestigious and Community Colleges were supposed to be for Vocational Education, and for those who could not get into one of the other colleges. I say “supposed” on all of these, because from my personal experience, I have found Community Colleges to often have excellent education, being taught by people who have real world experience, and who are not just lost in academia. So I personally think that many degrees from a Community college are better than ones from a four year university. But because they are a college, they do require having some formal education. Most classes require having a Master’s degree to teach, but many of the vocational classes only require an associates degree and verified experience in the field in order to teach them.
5. Private Vocational Schools – There are many private vocational schools, colleges, and training centers. The requirements to teach at these vary. My experience has not generally been very good with these organizations. Because they are private, and not government subsidized they charge much higher fees to their students, and often the administration is only interested in churning out graduates, and not truly interested in the education of the students. (Although my experience with Public School Administrators has not always been that much different!)
Requirements for Teaching in High Schools and Adult Education Programs
Becoming a Vocational Instructor at a High School or Adult Education Program requires the least amount of formal education. But there are plenty of hoops to jump through. Here are the basic steps:
1. Decide upon which subject you would like to teach, the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing has a webpage specifically about vocational teaching, which lists the subject areas for both a Vocational Credential and an Adult Education Credential.
2. Decide what type of Credential you want, either a Vocational or an Adult Education Credential, and whether you want a Part-Time or Full-Time credential. The biggest difference, as far as I’ve been able to ascertain, is that a Vocational Credential allows you to teach High School, ROP and Adult Education. An Adult Education Credential only allows you to teach Adults. But there are some non-vocational subjects you can get an Adult Education Credential in that you can not get with a Vocational Credential. Also, there are different requirements for the two, I believe the vocational credential requires more continuing education.
3. Determine if you have enough work experience and/or college credit to get your credential. Both credentials can be gained with only work experience. But if you have some college, this can ease the amount of experience required. You will also be asked to prove your work experience, so you will need to talk with your current or former employers to have a letter written.
4. Make sure you have a High School Diploma or equivalent. One of the funny/annoying things that happened while I was working on getting hired is that when I finished all the stuff I needed to get my credential, and I went to get hired, they required my Diploma. I had my associates degree with me, but the school district would not accept that!
5. Contact your Local Education Agency (LEA). This is who you will be doing most of your correspondence with. They are the ones who ultimately let you get your credential or don’t. I had some real problems with my LEA. I could not get good answers on many of my questions, and some of the information I wanted I was not given, although someone else I knew was given it later on. I was also forgotten about once when I had an appointment, and waited an hour before I had the front desk person remind my LEA contact that I was there. One of the reasons I’m creating this website is because I had such problems with my LEA.
But, my problems aside, the only way to get your credential is through the LEA, and there were several helpful things that they did for me. First, they sent me out a packet of information about what I needed to do to get my credential, and then I started to work on fulfilling those requirements. They also did answer many of my questions.
6. You will be required to pass a “U.S. Constitution” test, or have an equivalent college course. I highly recommend taking the test. While the call it a Constitution test, it is much more a citizenship test about many aspects of our government, and not what is strictly written in the constitution. If you get the book 25 Lessons for Citizenship, this will pretty much give you all the information you need to pass the test.
7. You will need to get your fingerprints taken. If you have any kind of past criminal record, your chances of getting a credential are much slimmer. You should get a listing of where you can get your fingerprints taken. I originally did mine with the Department of Justice, and later did another set with the Sacramento Sheriff’s Department to get hired. (Yes you probably will need to have them taken twice). If I was to do it over again, I would just do all of them with the Sheriffs. They were cheaper, and quicker.
8. After getting your initial credential, you may be required to take classes to keep your credential. You have 2 years to take your first set of classes, and 5 years total to take your second set of classes. Your LEA should give you information on these. I took all of mine through Sac State. By the way, Sac State has a Bachelors of Vocational Education program which is great because it allows you get credit towards a Bachelor’s degree by taking classes that are already required for you to keep your Credential! Several other colleges offer these classes, and others are now also offering similar degrees.
9. Once you get your credential, you will need to find a school that will hire you! Having the credential does not guarantee a job, but without it, or a full credential, you won’t get hired! If you can find people you know who work at a school, talk with them. It is always easier to get a job when you know someone there! Even if this isn’t supposed to happen, it does.
Requirements for Teaching in a Community College
I have never taught at a community college, so I don’t have any first hand experience about what is required to teach at one. But I did find some information on the Internet, and this is what I found:
1. There is no longer any California Community College Teaching Credentials being issued. (If you were fortunate and received one of these before 1990, you probably won’t have to worry about all the other requirements.)
2. Unless you have the coveted CCCTC (Community College Teaching Credential), then you will need to have the minimum requirements to teach at a Community College, which is generally an Associates Degree to teach most vocational subjects and for most Academic subjects, you need a Masters degree.
3. Under the specific documentation, on page 23, you will note that they say “The list of “areas also included in the discipline” is not exhaustive. Only those areas are included for which it might not be clear otherwise whether they were intended to be included.” This means that even if your vocation isn’t listed, you might be able to get hired to teach it.
4. As you will find out from the above document, you need either a Bachelor’s Degree and 2 years experience or an Associate’s Degree and 6 years experience.
5. Since there is no longer any official credentialing happening, you should talk with the School that you wish to be hired with to see if there are any other requirements that they have.
All community college vocational instructors must have at least an associates degree, and tenured vocational instructors must have a bachelor's degree 
Requirements for Teaching in a Private School
Private Schools usually have far less rules on them then do public entities. But if they are accredited, then they probably need to follow certain rules to keep their accreditation. So you should check with the schools individually to determine what their requirements are for hiring.
- Kline, Charles (October 1993). "The Bachelor's for Tenure: Analysis and Options". Human Resources Division, California Community Colleges. Retrieved June 26, 2007.