Washington DC Teacher Certification and Career Guide

Teachers in Washington DC’s K-12 public schools must be licensed through the Office of the State Superintendent of Education (OSSE).

The main steps for the traditional path to teacher certification in Washington DC are:

  1. Complete a state-approved bachelor’s degree with a teacher preparation component.
  2. Complete a student teaching placement.
  3. Pass the required teacher certification exams.
  4. Apply for a teaching certificate or license.

Continue reading to learn more about the traditional certification pathway in Washington DC.

Table of Contents

Steps to Become a Teacher in Washington DC
Teacher Certification Renewal
Adding Subjects or Grades to a Certificate
Teaching License Reciprocity
Related Licenses
Teacher Outlook, Salary, and Jobs
Additional Resources
Frequently Asked Questions

How to Become a Teacher in Washington DC

This section details the teacher certification process for applicants seeking a teaching license in Washington DC through the traditional route. If you are a bachelor’s degree holder who has yet to complete a teacher preparation program, check out our guide to alternative teacher certification in Washington DC.

1. Earn a bachelor’s degree that includes an approved teacher preparation program.

Candidates for a Washington DC teaching license must earn a nationally accredited bachelor’s degree. The bachelor’s degree major will depend on the grade level and subject they wish to teach. They must also attend an OSSE-approved educator preparation program (EPP), usually as part of the bachelor’s degree.

Compare key metrics for state-approved teacher preparation programs on our Washington DC schools page. You can also read about two important accreditations to consider, institutional accreditation and programmatic accreditation, on our teaching schools guide.

2. Complete a student teaching placement.

All candidates for a Washington DC standard teaching credential must complete a student teaching placement, which must be verified via official transcripts submitted at the time of application. If you are enrolled in an approved teacher preparation program and can provide proof of registration for the Praxis Core tests, you are eligible to teach with the District of Columbia Public Schools (DCPS). The student teaching placement typically takes place over a semester, during which you will be paired with an experienced teacher and be able to lead a classroom. The placement should be at the grade level and in the subject you wish to teach to meet state certification requirements.

3. Pass the required Washington DC teacher exams.

After completing an approved educator preparation program, prospective teachers in Washington DC must pass an approved basic skills test in reading, writing, and mathematics, along with the Praxis Subject Area/Specialty Area tests relating to their area of licensure. Prospective DC teachers can demonstrate basic skills competency through one of the following:

  • Praxis Core Academic Skills for Educators tests, which include reading, writing, and mathematics
  • A 3.0 or higher GPA for their bachelor’s degree
  • A composite score of 20 or higher on the ACT
  • A combined SAT score of 960 or higher for reading and mathematics
  • A GRE score of 288 or higher in reading and mathematics and 3.5 or higher in writing

ETS administers the Praxis Core (basic skills) exams and the Praxis Subject Area/Specialty Area tests. Prospective DC teachers will need to register for and pass the tests required for their specific licensure area in addition to fulfilling the basic skills requirement.

4. Apply for Washington DC teacher certification.

Once all steps have been completed, applicants can apply for their standard teacher credential through the Educator Credentialing Information System (ECIS V2.0) online portal. Applicants must first create an ECIS account to access the online application. The following documents should be submitted with the online application:

  • In-state Program Completer Form
  • FBI-issued Identity History Summary Check (IHSC)
  • Passing scores on the qualifying exams
  • Proof of 3.0 or higher GPA (for applicants demonstrating basic skills knowledge in place of a basic skills exam)
  • Official transcripts

Visit the OSSE website for additional information on receiving an educator license in Washington DC.

Guide to Other Teaching Pathways

Washington DC Teacher Certification Renewal

The standard teaching credential in Washington DC must be renewed every four years. There are three options to renew a standard license in Washington DC:

  • Performance Ratings (for educators employed by DCPS): Submit satisfactory performance reviews performed using the DCPS Impact Rating system while employed at an approved DC local education agency (LEA). You must submit all pages of the DC Impact Report for each applicable school year.
  • Professional Learning Units: Submit official documentation of completion of the equivalent of 120 clock hours (eight semester hours). 60 clock hours must be directly related to the credential being renewed.
  • Test Scores: Submit passing scores for the Praxis Subject exam corresponding to the endorsement being renewed. Praxis Subject exams must be taken within 12 months of renewal. The Praxis Core and Praxis Pedagogy exams are not required for renewal.

Educators only need to complete one of these routes to renew each credential. They will also need to submit an updated IHSC for any renewal pathway. For more details on each of the paths to renewal, visit OSSE’s credential renewal requirements webpage.

Adding Subjects or Grades to a Certificate

Once you receive your teaching license, you will only be eligible to work as a teacher in the grade levels and certification areas listed on your certificate, though occasional, temporary exceptions are made. Teachers who already hold a standard teaching license can apply to add an endorsement certification by passing the applicable Praxis Subject and Pedagogy exam(s) and submitting their scores on the ECIS online portal. If the initial background check has expired, an updated FBI-issued IHSC must be submitted with the Praxis test scores.

Washington DC Teaching License Reciprocity

Washington DC offers out-of-state reciprocity, so long as the requirements of the out-of-state license standards are equivalent to Washington DC’s teaching license requirements. Those with an active teaching credential in another state can apply for either a non-renewable initial license or a standard teaching license. Potential Washington DC educators must submit the following documents on the ECIS portal to obtain their standard educator credential:

  • Copy of active out-of-state teaching credential
  • FBI-approved IHSC
  • Official transcripts
  • Applicable test scores
  • Final end-of-year performance rating reports for two years of teaching

More details about the reciprocity process are available on OSSE’s website. You can learn more about transferring a teaching certificate or license between states on our guide to certification reciprocity.

In addition to classroom teacher credentials, Washington DC offers a variety of licenses and endorsements in support and administrative areas through the Office of the State Superintendent of Education. Support staff in Washington DC must have a School Service Provider (SSP) credential or Administrative Services Credentials (ASC). Administrative credentials include:

  • Assistant Principal: Assistant principals must hold an ASC certification and can work in elementary, middle, or secondary education. Applicants must hold a master’s degree or higher.
  • Reading Specialist: Reading specialists must obtain an SSP credential, which allows them to work with elementary, middle, and secondary students. They must hold a master’s degree from an approved reading/literacy education program or a master’s degree with an advanced certificate or graduate program in reading.
  • School Counselor: School counselors in Washington DC must earn an SSP by completing a master’s degree in school counseling education or an equivalent degree or add-on certification. As part of their degree program, prospective school counselors must complete 300 supervised internship hours.

Each of these support positions requires candidates to hold a master’s degree in their related field. School librarian, school audiologist, and school psychologist certifications also require an SSP credential. Those with an ASC certification can work as a lead or assistant principal in elementary, middle, or secondary education settings throughout Washington DC. Further details on related education licenses can be found on OSSE’s Educator Credentialing and Certification page.

Washington DC Teacher Outlook, Salary, and Jobs

Projected Job Growth


Growth in Teaching Jobs in DC through 20302*

There were an estimated 87,315 students enrolled in Washington DC’s 224 K-12 public schools during the 2017-2018 school year.3 Based on an estimated 6,659 teachers during the same time period, Washington DC had a student-to-teacher ratio of nearly 13:1.3

Overall, job growth prospects for educators in Washington DC are consistently higher than they are nationally. Job growth for Washington DC elementary teachers is projected at 17.5% compared to 7.4% nationally; for Washington DC middle school teachers, 16% compared to 13.1% nationally; and for Washington DC secondary school teachers, 15.5% compared to 13.7% nationally.2

The table below provides a detailed comparison of job growth prospects and salary levels for Washington DC teachers.

TypeNumber Employed in DC4Average Annual Openings in DC2DC Proj. Job Growth 2020-20302Average Annual Salary in DC425th Percentile Wages in DC575th Percentile Wages in DC5
Preschool Teachers1,92012017%$59,110$37,160$76,410
Preschool Teachers, Special Education4000%$79,240$67,180$80,110
Kindergarten Teachers2703016%$66,290$60,140$76,060
Elementary School Teachers3,22038017.5%$82,340$64,370$103,750
Kindergarten and Elementary School Teachers, Special Education1,1508017.2%$78,700$61,520$98,820
Middle School Teachers9708016%$77,320$63,660$80,670
Middle School Teachers, Special Education2402015.4%$86,250$71,170$103,010
Middle School Teachers, Career/Technical Education
Secondary School Teachers3,42033015.5%$76,540$61,210$99,860
Secondary School Teachers, Special Education4303020%$83,360$63,500$103,690
Secondary School Teachers, Career/Technical Education100$91,470$80,800$103,480

*The estimated job growth average is based on projections for mainstream kindergarten, elementary, middle, and high school teachers. Projections for other categories, such as special education and career and technical education, may be higher or lower than the average.

Teacher Shortages in Washington DC

Like most of the United States, Washington DC has teaching shortages in several areas. According to the US Department of Education Teacher Shortage Area report for 2023-2024, Washington DC has designated the following deficits:

According to recent research, there were approximately 160 unfilled teaching positions in Washington DC during the 2021-2022 school year.7 A further 430 teachers in the state were considered underqualified for their position, which includes teachers assigned to classrooms outside their certification field on a temporary or emergency basis.7

Additional Resources

Related Articles

Frequently Asked Questions

Question: How do I become a substitute teacher in DC?

Answer: Washington DC offers certification for substitute teachers, requiring a bachelor’s degree and one to two years of experience for non-teachers.

Question: How much do DC teachers make?

Answer: Teachers in Washington DC from the elementary to high school levels (excluding special education and career/technical education) earn average annual salaries of around $88,000 per year.4 Factors affecting teacher salaries in DC include school location, grade level taught, and teacher qualifications.

Question: How many private schools are there in Washington DC?

Answer: According to recent data from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), Washington DC had 72 private schools with 14,752 students during the 2019-2020 school year.8 There were almost 2,000 educators teaching at those schools during that school year.8

1. Office of the State Superintendent of Education: https://osse.dc.gov/
2. Projections Central, Long Term Occupational Projections: https://projectionscentral.org/Projections/LongTerm
3. National Center for Education Statistics, State Nonfiscal Public Elementary/Secondary Education Survey Data, 2017-2018: https://nces.ed.gov/ccd/stnfis.asp
4. Bureau of Labor Statistics, May 2022 Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates, Washington DC: https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes_dc.htm
5. Bureau of Labor Statistics, May 2022 National Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates: https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes_nat.htm
6. US Department of Education, Teacher Shortage Areas: https://tsa.ed.gov/#/reports
7. Teacher Shortages in the United States, Tuan D. Nguyen et al.: https://teachershortages.com/
8. National Center for Education Statistics, Private School Universe Survey, 2019-20: https://nces.ed.gov/surveys/pss/tables/TABLE15fl1920.asp