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Teaching K-12

Meeting the Subject Matter Competency Requirements for the Single Subject Credential in Biological Sciences

IMPORTANT INFORMATION ABOUT THE SUBJECT MATTER COMPETENCY WAIVER FROM THE SFSU DEPARTMENT OF BIOLOGY:  THE DEPARTMENT OF BIOLOGY CAN NOW APPROVE THE SUBJECT MATTER COMPETENCY WAIVERS.  Please monitor this web page for an announcement of the approval process and an update of the course requirements (minimal differences from the requirement listed below).

Students applying for TEACHING CREDENTIAL programs for the single subject credential in Science (Concentration in Biological Sciences) may meet the subject matter competency requirements via one of two pathways:

  1. demonstrate subject matter competency by completing an approved program that shows depth in  biology requirements and obtaining a subject matter waiver from the APPROVED program
  2. take TWO California Subject Examinations for Teachers (CSET):
  • Subtest I = test code 215 General Science
  • Subtest II = test code 217 Life Sciences

A credential in this subject matter area authorizes teaching general and integrated science and the area of concentration –Science: Biological Sciences.

Before requesting evaluation for Subject Matter Competency, please review these FOUR QUESTIONS:

  1. Have you taken an upper division/specialized Evolution course?
  2. Have you taken an upper division Ecology course with a lab/field component?
  3. Have you completed a Biology degree (or related Life Science degree) with courses overlapping the SFSU General Biology B.A. degree content?
  4. Have you completed courses that cover the geosciences breadth requirement:  Astronomy, Geology, Meteorology, and Oceanography?

If you have responded NO to any of the 4 questions above, you should take the CSET Exams.  The Department of Biology will not evaluate your transcripts.

If you have responded YES to all of the 4 questions above, you may submit your Subject Matter Competency Evaluation Request form with your TRANSCRIPTS to the Department of Biology Credential Advisor. 

IMPORTANT:  The candidate may have the Subject Matter Competency Waiver approved by an alternate program that has a current approved program.  The California Commission on Teacher Credentialing provides this link to identify CSU campuses with current APPROVED programs for Biological Sciences:

Candidates for teaching credential programs who wish to meet the SFSU requirements for Subject Matter Competency for the Single Subject Credential in Science: (Concentration in Biological Sciences) must meet both depth in biology requirements and breadth requirements in chemistry, geosciences, and physics. Candidates for the teaching credential program who wish to have their transcripts evaluated for subject matter competency must contact a Department of Biology Credential Advisor to arrange a meeting.

The candidate must supply transcripts and additional supporting documentation to confirm completion of the required course work. This documentation may include course catalogs and course syllabi if the courses were not taken at SFSU. Prior to meeting with the General Biology Advisor, the candidate should download and fill out the Biology Single Subject Credential Worksheet (page 2 of the Evaluation Request Form) to assist the Advisor in determining subject matter competency.

For the student matriculating at SFSU, the course work for the BA in General Biology, with minor modifications, and additional course work in the geosciences combined meet both the depth and breadth requirements. The course work (modified SFSU Bachelor of Arts Requirements in General Biology with additional classes):

BIOL 230/240, General Biology I and II
CHEM 115 and CHEM 215/216* General Chemistry I and II (with lab)
CHEM 130, Organic Chemistry
PHYS 111/112 and PHYS 121/122, General Physics I/II
MATH/STAT 124, Statistics OR MATH 226, Calculus I
BIOL 355, Genetics
BIOL 525, 612, OR 630, a Physiology course
BIOL 350, 401, 435, 450, or 524, or CHEM 349, a Cell Biology course
BIOL 351, 402, 436, 526, 613, or  631, a Physiology or Cell Biology lab
BIOL 482, 529, or 585/586, an Ecology course with lab/field component
BIOL 337, Evolution*
Additional upper division biology electives to total 57 units for the major (at SFSU)

Electives selected when combined with other upper division biology courses should clearly demonstrate coverage of human, plant, animal, and microbial biology. For example, the student may take the human physiology lecture, general microbiology, plant ecology, and marine invertebrate zoology. It would be inappropriate for the student to take courses that focus on only plant biology or only organismal biology

Geosciences, 3 courses**
The Geosciences breadth requirement covers astronomy, geology, meteorology, and oceanography, but the material need not be covered in four separate courses. These are the SFSU course options:

Current Requirements (as approved by CTC):
1. ASTR 115/116: Introduction to Astronomy, 3 units, and Lab, 1 unit
2. ERTH 210: Physical Geology, 4 units (formerly GEOL 110)
3. ERTH 535: Planetary Climate Change, 4 units (includes lab), covers geology, meteorology, and oceanography (formerly Geol 310, formerly GEOL/METR/OCN 405)

*Required for single subject science competence, though Chem 216 does not count toward the Biology B.A. degree
**Needed to meet the breadth requirements

Students with degrees from other institutions: If the course work was done at a different institution, the biology course work must include a year of general biology, and classes in genetics, physiology, ecology, evolution, and organismal biology. For breadth requirements, the course work in chemistry, physics, astronomy, geology, meteorology, and oceanography must total at least 24 semester (or 36 quarter) units.

The California Commission on Teacher Credentialing  has a specialized, and limited credential in science: Biological Sciences (Specialized). To be eligible for the subject matter competency in this Biological Sciences (Specialized) credential, a candidate needs either a post baccalaureate degree or 30 semester units of postgraduate course work in the subject (or a closely related) subject. Teaching certification would be only for Biological Sciences. A teacher with this limited credential would not be able to teach general science, integrated science, or introductory science

Additional links of interest:
SF State Graduate College of Education | Department of Secondary Education
Single Subject Credential information
  1. single subject credential program information/application packet (pdf)

  2. single subject credential program information meetings

Center for Science & Mathematics Education

SFSU bulletin for the specific courses for the BA in General Biology
Biology course descriptions
Course descriptions for courses in other departments