Washington Alternative Teacher Certification

In addition to traditional teacher certification, Washington state also offers options for alternative teacher certification. Alternative teacher preparation programs, also known as non-traditional programs, are designed for those who have a bachelor’s degree outside of education and typically lead to the award of a certificate or master’s degree. These programs particularly seek to recruit teaching candidates in high-need, difficult-to-fill subject areas. If you don’t yet have your bachelor’s degree, see our guide to traditional certification in Washington. If you do have your bachelor’s degree, continue reading to learn more about becoming a teacher in Washington through alternative routes.

Requirements for Alternative Certification

The minimum requirement to pursue alternative certification for teachers in Washington is an associate’s degree, although most routes require at least a bachelor’s. Candidates may then follow one of several paths, which typically require candidates to complete a post-graduate teacher preparation program. These programs can usually be completed in one to two years and lead to a certificate. Candidates may also earn a master’s degree in education, or in a core subject that includes an approved teacher preparation program.

Types of Alternative Teaching Licenses in Washington

To attract qualified teachers to the classroom, Washington offers multiple pathways to alternative teacher certification that are designed for diverse education and experience backgrounds. You must have at least an associate’s degree to begin an alternative route certification program in the state.

Route 1

Route 1 is a pathway to teacher certification for those who are currently licensed as paraeducators in Washington state who have a transferable associate’s degree. This pathway is open to candidates who wish to become endorsed in a teacher shortage area such as bilingual education, early childhood education, English language learners, special education, mathematics, or elementary education. In addition to holding an associate’s degree, candidates for certification through this route must have at least one year of experience as an instructional employee, attempt the state’s basic skills exam, and have validation of their paraeducator credentials and experience from a Washington school district. Qualified candidates must complete an approved teacher preparation program to earn their bachelor’s degree; those following this route typically meet the requirements for certification in two years or less.

Route 2

Similar to the Limited Teaching Certificate, the Route 2 pathway is used primarily when schools have difficulty finding licensed teachers in subject shortage areas. Route 2 alternative teacher certification requires candidates to have a bachelor’s degree from a regionally accredited school and take the state basic skills exam as well as the subject matter assessment for the endorsement sought. Candidates must also have at least one year of teaching (or student interaction) experience. You can find out more about this type of certificate through the Washington Professional Educator Standards Board.

Route 3

Route 3 typically involves partnerships between local school districts and institutions of higher education designed to attract experienced career professionals to the classroom in high-need areas such as chemistry, mathematics, and bilingual education. Candidates must have a bachelor’s degree from a regionally accredited school. Candidates must also pass the Washington Educator Skills Test – Basic (WEST-B) and Deep Content Expertise (WEST-E) exams. Next, candidates must apply to an approved alternate route program to complete a summer teaching academy, which is followed by a year-long mentored teaching internship. You can see a list of programs and specialties offered through the Professional Educator Standards Board. After completing the entire preparation program, the candidate will be eligible for a standard teaching license.

Route 4

Another option for alternative teacher certification in Washington is Route 4. This type of license is available to individuals who hold an appropriate bachelor’s degree who are currently employed in a school district on a conditional or emergency certificate. Route 4 candidates who meet this qualification must attend an approved intensive summer teaching academy and complete a year-long mentored teaching internship to convert their certificate to a standard teaching certificate.

Limited Teaching Certificates: Conditional and Emergency

In addition to the pathways to teacher licensure outlined above, school districts may request conditional or emergency teaching certificates on behalf of candidates who they would like to hire for teaching positions. These certificates are used when a district cannot find fully-licensed educators in specific subjects or areas of need. Candidates for these certificates must be conditionally hired by a school district, and the certificates must be requested by the district on the candidate’s behalf. Additionally, these certificates are not typically considered pathways to professional certification. For more information on these licenses and their requirements, see the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction website.

Career Tech Educator

The Career Tech Educator certificate is a provisional, one-year certificate that is available for those who wish to teach career and technical education subjects but who do not have a full teaching certificate. The candidate must be highly qualified and experienced in the career area to be taught. The certificate must be applied for by the hiring school district and is only valid for one year, though it may be reapplied for in subsequent school years. This type of certificate is usually issued if a school district can not fill a position with a certified educator. Candidates must complete a written training plan while working under this type of license while completing teacher preparation education and working towards an Initial CTE certificate.

Transferring Teaching Licenses from Another State

Out-of-state teachers may be eligible for reciprocity in Washington. Washington does not often recognize reciprocity through the National Association of State Directors of Teacher Education and Certification (NASDTEC). However, the state will evaluate a candidate’s state-approved teacher education program and degree from an accredited school to fulfill Washington’s requirements. Candidates whose education and experience are deemed to meet requirements must typically then pass the Washington state exams for educators, the WEST-B and WEST-E assessments. For further details, visit our guide to teaching license reciprocity.

Schools with Alternative and Master’s Programs in Washington

Prospective teachers in Washington must graduate from an approved teacher certification program. The following school-based preparation programs lead to a certificate or master’s degree and have been approved by the Washington State Professional Educator Standards Board (PESB):

  • Antioch University* (Alternative, Master’s)
  • Bates Technical College* (Alternative CTE only)
  • Cascadia Technical College* (Alternative CTE only)
  • Central Washington University* (Alternative, Master’s)
  • City University of Seattle* (Alternative, Master’s)
  • Eastern Washington University* (Alternative, Master’s)
  • Evergreen State College (Master’s)
  • Gonzaga University (Master’s)
  • Grays Harbor College* (Alternative)
  • Heritage University* (Alternative, Master’s)
  • Northwest University* (Alternative, Master’s)
  • Pacific Lutheran University* (Alternative, Master’s)
  • Pierce College* (Alternative)
  • Saint Martin’s University* (Alternative, Master’s)
  • Seattle Pacific University* (Alternative, Master’s)
  • Seattle University (Master’s)
  • South Seattle College* (Alternative CTE only)
  • University of Puget Sound (Master’s)
  • University of Washington-Bothell* (Alternative), Seattle* (Alternative, Master’s), Tacoma* (Alternative, Master’s)
  • Walla Walla University (Master’s)
  • Washington State University-Pullman* (Alternative, Master’s), Tri-Cities (Master’s)
  • Western Governors University (Master’s)
  • Western Washington University* (Alternative, Master’s)
  • Whitworth University (Certificate, Master’s)
  • Yakima Valley College* (Alternative)

*Schools with an asterisk offer programs that can include paid classroom placements, subject to qualifications and experience. The student may be responsible for securing their own placement. Contact program(s) of interest for further information.

Additional Resources

1. Washington State Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction: https://ospi.k12.wa.us/