The Washington Teaching and Certification Resource

There are many pathways towards becoming a certified teacher in Washington State. Anyone wanting to work as an educator must first obtain a Washington teacher certification. The Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction within the state’s Department of Education oversees the process, which is outlined in detailed below.

How to Become a Teacher in Washington

Like most states, the route to teacher certification in Washington is full of specific requirements. Although there are different pathways for different certifications, all Washington teachers are required to hold a bachelor’s degree, complete a Washington teacher certification program and pass the required content exams.

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There are three different types of Washington educator certification options for individuals interested in becoming a certified teacher in Washington state. The first is a Residency Certificate, which is typically issued as the initial license for new teachers or teachers from out-of-state who relocate to Washington. A Residency Certificate is valid while the teacher successfully completes two years of teaching in Washington, and it may then be reissued for a time period of five years.

The second level of Washington teaching certification is the Professional Certificate. This license is issued to those who hold a Residency Certificate and complete a ProTeach Portfolio. Teachers must also complete two successful years of teaching and take coursework relating to identifying and assisting victims of abuse. A Professional Certificate is also sometimes granted to teachers who have been certified in other states if the Professional Educator Standards Board determines that the certificate level is comparable. Teachers may also earn a certificate from the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards in order to receive a Professional Certificate.

The third type of certification in Washington is the Limited Teaching Certificate. This license is only granted when schools cannot find enough teachers with the above certificates. When this occurs, schools may temporarily hire someone who has not completed the requirements for a regular teaching certificate.

For experienced teachers with an out-of-state teacher certificate, reciprocity in Washington is possible if applicants fulfill the additional requirements. For more information on reciprocity or Washington teacher certification renewal, please contact the state’s Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction.

Finding Approved Teacher Education Programs in Washington

One of the most important steps towards Washington teacher certification is completed a state-approved educator certification program in an accredited school. When evaluating potential programs, it is advisable that applicants confirm that the school is accredited by its regional accreditation agency.

The Northwest Accreditation Commission is responsible for accrediting all Washington schools. Additionally, anyone considering an online teaching certification program, should confirm that the school, even when headquartered out of state, is accredited by its corresponding regional agency. Without this accreditation, it is doubtful that the Washington State DOE will issue a teacher certification.

In addition to regional accreditation, Washington also looks for an accreditation from the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparedness (CAEP). This is a newly-formed organization which is the result of a recent merger between TEAC and NCATE, two highly-regarded accreditation agencies. Through CAEP, both organizations will work together to ensure that CAEP accredits schools using the same rigorous standards formerly used by the two organizations. Although a CAEP accreditation may not be mandatory for state school approval, it is considered to be a very distinguished marker of high quality in terms of curriculum and process in the teacher education sector.

See our list of CAEP accredited schools in Washington.

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Washington Teacher Education Requirements

Teachers in Washington are required to earn a bachelor’s degree from a regionally accredited college or university. In addition, a Washington teachers certification program that has been approved by the Professional Educator Standards Board must be completed. There are twenty-one schools in Washington that have state-approved programs for teacher education. There are also alternative paths to certification available to those who have not completed a traditional educator preparation program in Washington.

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Washington Teacher Outlook as of 2014
The Occupational Supply & Demand System projects 1,200 average new annual job opportunities for elementary school teachers, 460 average new annual job opportunities for middle school teachers, and 590 average new annual job opportunities for secondary school teachers in Washington from 2012 to 2022. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, excluding special education teachers there are about 48,490 elementary, middle, and secondary school teachers in Washington State (2013). The average annual salary for Washington elementary school teachers is $59,680, while middle school teachers earn an annual average of $60,390 and secondary school teachers earn an annual average of $61,210 (BLS 2013). The Washington Education Association, an affiliate of the National Education Association, shares current information on education policy, budget allocation, and local employment and is a good resource for new or experienced teachers interested in working in Washington State.

Washington Teacher Testing Requirements

Washington State SealIn addition to earning a bachelor’s degree and completing a teacher preparation program, those who wish to become a teacher in Washington must pass two types of tests: a basic skills test and a content area test. The basic skills test is called the Washington Educator Skills Test – Basic (WEST-B) and assesses the areas of reading, writing, and mathematics. Out-of-state teacher candidates may substitute scores from the Praxis I test or CBEST (in California and Oregon) for this requirement.

The content area test that is required in Washington is called the WEST-E. Teacher candidates must take this test in their chosen endorsement areas. However, those with a National Board for Professional Teaching Standards (NBPTS) certificate that is similar to the Washington endorsement area are exempt from taking this assessment.

Additional Washington Teacher Certification Requirements

Similar to most US states, Washington state requires every teacher applicant to submit to a state and federal background check before being eligible for a Washington teaching certificate. To begin the process, applicants should contact the local Education Service District for information regarding the submission of fingerprints through the live scan process.

Washington Teachers Licensing Application Process

Once all of the required steps towards a Washington educator certificate are completed, applicants should send in their application packet to the state’s teacher licensure department. Approval times may vary, but the average process time can be up to 90 days, so it is recommended to submit the applications as early as possible before the start of the school semester/year. Application documents should include the following:

  1. Clearance of background check
  2. Official transcripts showing proof of bachelor’s degree
  3. Proof of teacher program completion at an accredited teacher preparation school
  4. Passing score on the required examinations
  5. Completed application for teacher certification in Washington
  6. Payment of non-refundable certification processing fee

Mail stop: 47200
Old Capitol Building
P.O. Box 47200
Olympia, WA 98504-7200

Visit the state’s Department of Education for further details on Washington teacher certification.

Washington Teacher Salary and Jobs

Type Number Employed Average Annual Salary
Preschool Teachers 6,660 $28,960
Kindergarten Teachers 3,450 $53,190
Elementary School Teachers 26,160 $59,390
Middle School Teachers 9,750 $59,880
Secondary School Teachers 14,210 $60,600

Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics as of May 2012.

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Washington Teacher Interview

Interview with Rebecca Ross, Kindergarten Teacher in the State of Washington

Teaching and Education Programs

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1. Washington State Department of Education: http://www.k12.wa.us/certification/teachermain.aspx
2. US Department of Education: http://www2.ed.gov/admins/finaid/accred/accreditation_pg6.html
3. Bureau of Labor Statistics: http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes_ak.htm#25-0000

Page edited by Charles Sipe.