Frequently Asked Questions

Can I major in elementary education at Westmont?

The California Commission on Teacher Credentialing does not currently allow prospective teachers in California to major in education. Candidates for the elementary classroom generally choose a multi-disciplinary major that meets the state’s requirements for Elementary Subject Matter preparation. Here at Westmont, as at most other California institutions, the multi-disciplinary major is called Liberal Studies. After you complete the Liberal Studies major, then you may enter a state-approved program for a teaching credential. If you choose the fast-track option at Westmont, you can complete both the Liberal Studies major and requirements for a preliminary teaching credential in four years.

What is Liberal Studies?

In California, unlike most other states, those who wish to pursue a career in elementary education generally choose a multi-disciplinary major called Liberal Studies. The Liberal Studies major is a degree primarily in academic content, allowing you to develop expertise in all of the subjects that are normally taught in the elementary classroom.

I want to teach high school. Can I major in secondary education at Westmont?

Those who want to teach high school generally major in the subject area they want to teach. They not only major in the field, but they generally choose within that field a particular track designed for teachers.

Then, having taken the CSET examination in their subject area, they take a fifth year to complete a teaching credential. It is often possible, with careful planning and extra classes over the summer, to complete both the major and the requirements for a preliminary credential in four years.

What’s a credential?

A credential is a license from the state that establishes your professional expertise and eligibility to teach in that state’s public schools. California uses the term credentialing much as other states refer to certification.

I’m not from California, and after attending Westmont, I want to teach back home. Will the teaching credential I earn at Westmont allow me to teach in states other than California?

The short answer - generally speaking - is yes.

Many states have what are called reciprocity agreements that establish mutual recognition of the licenses and teacher training acquired outside the teaching candidate’s home state. Traditionally, California has been among the states with the highest number of reciprocity agreements. In other words, a teaching credential from California is widely recognized elsewhere. Whether or not your state has a specific reciprocity agreement with California, you will in all likelihood be allowed to teach back home for a fixed length of time under some sort of provisional license. Then once you have a job, you work with the teacher certification office in your home state toward a full credential.

If you know now that you want to teach in a particular state, it may be helpful to contact the specific office of teacher certification for current requirements—see Useful Links. Remember, however, that state requirements are often in a state of re-negotiation, and it may not be possible to know exactly where you stand in another state until you have your credential from California in hand.

Can I participate in Westmont’s off-campus programs and still finish my teaching credential in four years?

In some cases, yes. Students who enter college with an unusually strong academic background, who plan carefully from the start, and who are willing to take summer classes may be able to participate in a wide variety of programs—potentially including the Europe semester.

It depends partly, of course, on what specific off-campus program you are considering. A program at a sister liberal arts college where you are able to take classes parallel to those required at Westmont will be more feasible for a broader range of students than a less traditional off-campus program.

Bear in mind that Westmont offers a number of exciting off-campus and international programs during the summer months—programs that are less apt to complicate your schedule than those offered during the academic year. Students who are unable to participate in the Europe semester often enroll in Westmont’s Europe Mayterm.

You might consider, also, the Department of Education’s International Student Teaching Experience in Costa Rica.

I want to be a middle school teacher. Should I enroll in the elementary or secondary program?

It’s up to you. Teachers at the middle school or junior high level sometimes have elementary (Multiple Subject) credentials, and sometimes secondary (Single Subject) credentials. Given the complexity of the requirements in this area, our best advice would be to schedule a personal appointment with one of us in the Department of Education.

But here’s the answer in a nutshell. If you’re interested in a particular subject, you should go the secondary (Single Subject) route, which means majoring in your chosen subject and then completing a secondary teacher preparation program. Obtaining a secondary teaching credential automatically allows you to teach in your field of subject matter preparation at either the high school or middle school level.

If you’re not committed to a particular subject, you probably should go the elementary (Multiple Subject) route, which at Westmont would mean majoring in Liberal Studies and then going into an elementary credential program.

What is the 5th year program?

Graduates of Westmont or other colleges who choose not to earn their credential as part of their four-year program have the option of completing a fifth-year, post-baccalaureate program at Westmont.

For details and application forms pertinent to the fifth year program, contact the Education Department, as well as the Offices of Admissions and Financial Aid.

Teacher candidates planning to enroll in the fifth year program should complete as many of the following requirements as possible, at Westmont or elsewhere, prior to beginning the fifth year.  Normally, one to three of these courses (up to 6 credits) may be taken as part of the fifth year.

  • ED 105 Perspectives on Cultural Diversity and Education (4)
  • ED 130 Special Education for the Classroom Teacher (2)
  • ED 160 or ED 161 Computers for the Classroom Teacher (2)
  • ENG 106 Language Acquisition (4)
  • KNS 156 Health Education for the Classroom Teacher (2)
  • Course or test demonstrating knowledge of the U.S. Constitution

Fifth-year candidates who hold a B.A. degree, live off campus, and are not enrolled in classes on campus, will receive a scholarship equal to a 55% reduction in tuition during the semester they do student teaching (generally the spring semester).

How do I afford a 5th year at Westmont?

A fifth year at Westmont may be more affordable than you think. Westmont offers a 55% tuition scholarship to students who live off campus during the student teaching semester.

If you are considering a 5th year, we recommend scheduling an appointment with Westmont’s Office of Financial Aid as early in your program as possible to review financial resources and rules pertaining to the 5th year.

Can I do the Westmont credential program even if I didn’t attend Westmont?

Yes, graduates of a regionally accredited, four-year college may apply separately for the fifth year only. The program runs from September to May. Normally some additional summer coursework off campus is required. Please call the education secretary 805.565.6165 for information or see the pertinent section of the college catalog.