The Washington Teaching and Certification Resource

Those looking to become educators in Washington must first obtain state 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

All Washington teachers are required to hold a bachelor’s degree, complete an approved Washington teacher preparation program, and pass the required content exams. There are also alternative paths to certification available to those who have a bachelor’s degree but have not completed a traditional educator preparation program in Washington.

Washington uses a tiered system for teacher certification. Those following the traditional pathway earn the Residency Certificate, the initial teaching certificate 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. Professional Certificate teachers must also complete two successful years of teaching and take coursework relating to identifying and assisting victims of abuse. Teachers may also earn a certificate from the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards in order to receive a Professional Certificate.

Quick Guide

Finding Approved Teacher Education Programs in Washington

Projected Job Growth


Growth in Teaching Jobs in WA through 20242

One of the most important steps towards Washington teacher certification is completing a state-approved teacher preparation program from an accredited school. When evaluating potential programs, it is highly advisable to ensure that programs considered hold approval through the Washington Professional Educator Standards Board, as programs that lack approval will not qualify graduates for certification.

Those considering an online or out-of-state teacher preparation program should confirm that the school is accredited by its corresponding regional agency. The Washington Professional Educator Standards Board looks for accreditation from one of the six regional accreditation agencies recognized by the US Department of Education. Without this accreditation, graduates of such programs are unlikely to qualify for certification in Washington.

In addition to regional accreditation, schools may hold accreditation from the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP). Although CAEP accreditation is not mandatory, it is considered a marker of high quality in terms of curriculum and process in the teacher education sector.

See our list of CAEP accredited schools in Washington.

Washington Teacher Outlook
The Washington State Employment Security Department projects 540 average annual job opportunities due to growth and 721 average annual job openings due to replacements for elementary school teachers, 170 average annual job opportunities due to growth and 245 average annual job openings due to replacements for middle school teachers, and 233 average annual job opportunities due to growth and 350 average annual job openings due to replacements for secondary school teachers in Washington through 2024.3 According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, excluding special education teachers, there are about 48,380 elementary, middle, and secondary school teachers in Washington State.4 The average annual salary for Washington elementary school teachers is $60,140, while middle school teachers earn an annual average of $61,260 and secondary school teachers earn an annual average of $61,920.4 The Washington Education Association, an affiliate of the National Education Association, is a good resource for new or experienced teachers interested in working in Washington State.

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 teacher preparation program that has been approved by the Professional Educator Standards Board must be completed. There are currently 21 schools in Washington that have state-approved programs for teacher education.

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 a basic skills test and a content area test. The basic skills test is called the Washington Educator Skills Test – Basic (WEST-B), which assesses skills in reading, writing, and mathematics. Candidates with high scores on the SAT or ACT may have the WEST-B testing requirement waived. The content area test that is required in Washington is called the WEST-E. Teacher candidates must pass this test in their chosen subject areas in order to earn subject endorsements on their certificates.

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. Applicants may complete the fingerprint background check process at an Educational Service District (ESD), law enforcement agency, or private fingerprinting service. For specific instructions on completing this requirement, consult the Office of Professional Practices.

Washington Teachers Licensing Application Process

Once all of the prerequisites are completed, candidates must apply for a license through the state’s teacher licensure department. Application documents should include the following:

  • Proof of clearance of background check.
  • Official transcripts showing proof of bachelor’s degree.
  • Proof of teacher program completion at an approved teacher preparation school.
  • Passing scores on the required examinations.
  • Completed application for teacher certification in Washington.
  • Payment of non-refundable certification processing fee.

Most initial certificates can be processed through the state’s E-Certification portal. Visit the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction for further details on Washington teacher certification.

Washington Teacher Salary and Jobs

TypeNumber EmployedAverage Annual Salary
Preschool Teachers7,930$29,640
Preschool Teachers, Special Education600$59,810
Kindergarten Teachers4,380$54,950
Elementary School Teachers26,790$60,140
Special Education Teachers, Kindergarten and Elementary School2,880$58,880
Middle School Teachers9,220$61,260
Middle School Teachers, Special Education1,150$59,320
Secondary School Teachers12,370$61,920
Secondary School Teachers, Special Education1,820$60,850
Secondary School Teachers, Career/Technical Education2,400$62,310

Data from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics as of May 2015.4

Washington Teacher Interview

Frequently Asked Questions about Becoming a Teacher in Washington

Question: How do you become a substitute teacher in Washington?

Answer: Differing from many states, Washington requires its substitute teachers to meet the same licensing standards as regular classroom teachers and apply for certification. Therefore, the minimum requirements are completing a bachelor’s degree and a state-approved teacher preparation program along with earning passing scores on the state-mandated exams. Candidates who hold a regular certificate in another state with at least three years of K-12 teaching experience may also qualify.

Teaching and Education Programs

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1. Washington State Department of Education: http://www.k12.wa.us/certification/teachermain.aspx
2. Projections Central, Long Term Occupational Projections: http://www.projectionscentral.com/Projections/LongTerm
3. Washington State Employment Security Department: https://esd.wa.gov/labormarketinfo/projections
4. US Bureau of Labor Statistics, May 2015 State Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates, Washington: https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes_wa.htm