The Washington DC Teaching and Certification Resource

Teachers in the District of Columbia’s K-12 public schools must be properly licensed. Teacher licensure in Washington DC is managed by the Office of the State Superintendent of Education. The teacher certification process is outlined below to help you learn how to become a teacher in Washington DC.

How to Become a Teacher in the District of Columbia

In order to earn certification to teach in public schools in Washington DC, prospective teachers must satisfy the requirements for initial licensure, which include completing a bachelor’s degree and teacher preparation program, passing the required educator testing, and completing a criminal background check. Those interested in teaching who have earned a bachelor’s degree but did not complete an approved teacher preparation program may be eligible for alternative teacher certification in Washington DC.

The District of Columbia uses a tiered system of teacher licensing. The Regular I license is the initial certification for traditional route educators, is valid for two years, and can not be renewed. Candidates must complete two years of effective-rated teaching experience and pass the Praxis Principles of Learning & Teaching (PLT) for the appropriate grade level(s) to earn the Regular II license, which is valid for four years and can be renewed.

Quick Guide

Finding Approved Teacher Education Programs in Washington DC

Projected Job Growth


Growth in Teaching Jobs in DC through 20262

One of the most important steps towards becoming a licensed teacher in Washington DC is graduating from a district-approved teacher preparation program. The Office of the State Superintendent of Education provides a list of approved programs. You can compare key metrics for these state-approved teacher preparation programs by using the sortable table on our Washington DC schools page.

Programs headquartered out-of-state or that provide online teacher preparation must be approved by the board of education or teacher licensing agency for the state in which the program is headquartered. In addition, both the teacher preparation program and bachelor’s degree program completed must be accredited by one of the six regional accreditation agencies overseen by the US Department of Education.

Additionally, schools may hold accreditation from the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP). Although CAEP accreditation is not mandatory, it is a highly-regarded symbol of excellence in terms of teacher preparation curriculum and process.

Washington DC Teacher Education Requirements

The traditional route to acquiring a teaching license in Washington DC requires completion of a bachelor’s degree and an approved teacher education program from a regionally accredited college or university. The Regular I license, which is valid for two years and is not renewable, requires a bachelor’s degree and verification of current enrollment in an approved education program. To qualify for a Regular II license to teach after the two-year period that the Regular I license is valid candidates must successfully complete an approved educator preparation program. If you do not qualify for the traditional pathway, you may be eligible for an alternative route to licensure.

Washington DC Teacher Testing Requirements

To qualify for a Regular I license, prospective teachers must earn passing scores on the Praxis Core Academic Skills for Educators exam and the Praxis subject assessments in the area(s) to be taught. To upgrade to a renewable Regular II license, an educator must pass the Praxis Principles of Learning and Teaching (PLT) exam for the subject(s) and grade level(s) for which he or she is seeking endorsement.

Additional Washington DC Teacher Certification Requirements

Like most states, Washington DC requires prospective educators to complete a criminal history background check. Candidates must submit fingerprints through an approved agency. For current requirements and instructions, refer to the Office of the State Superintendent of Education. Additionally, candidates pursuing the Regular I license must have a current employment offer from a District of Columbia public school, unless they meet the requirements for a Regular II license.

Washington DC Teachers Licensing Application Process

Once all requirements for licensure have been met, candidates must submit an application for a Regular I license with the following documentation:

  • Official transcripts demonstrating proof of completion of bachelor’s degree.
  • Verification of current enrollment in or graduation from an approved teacher preparation program.
  • Verification of an employment offer in a local DC school district.
  • Sealed results of the fingerprint background check, unless a local DC school district is providing results to the licensing office on the candidate’s behalf.
  • Passing scores on the Praxis Core Academic Skills for Educators and Praxis subject assessments.

Candidates for the Regular II license must also submit verification of completion of a teacher preparation program as well as passing scores on the appropriate Praxis Principles of Learning and Teaching exam. For additional information on these requirements, consult the Office of the State Superintendent of Education.

Washington DC Teacher Outlook, Salary, and Jobs

There were an estimated 223 K-12 public schools in Washington DC during the 2016-2017 school year, which serviced an estimated student population of 90,781.3 Based on an estimate of 6,726 public school teachers, this gave Washington DC a student-to-teacher ratio of 13:1.3

Estimates show that there should be 260 average annual job openings for elementary school teachers, 140 average annual job openings for middle school teachers, and 280 average annual job openings for secondary school teachers in the District of Columbia through 2026.3 Excluding teachers in special education, Washington DC elementary school teachers make an average annual salary of $79,480, middle school teachers make an average annual salary of $74,410, and secondary school teachers make an average annual salary of $65,180.4 District of Columbia Public Schools (DCPS) provides information on employment opportunities and hiring outlooks for the DC area in addition to information on pay incentives designed to attract new as well as experienced, highly effective teachers.

TypeNumber EmployedAverage Annual Salary
Preschool Teachers1,380$42,060
Preschool Teachers, Special EducationNot availableNot available
Kindergarten Teachers80$54,940
Elementary School Teachers3,260$79,480
Special Education Teachers, Kindergarten and Elementary School630$78,830
Middle School Teachers710$74,410
Middle School Teachers, Special Education190$63,520*
Secondary School Teachers3,850$65,180
Secondary School Teachers, Special Education490$73,240
Secondary School Teachers, Career/Technical EducationNot availableNot available

Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics as of May 2018.4
*Data from 2015.4

Teacher Shortages in Washington DC

According to the US Department of Education Teacher Shortage Area report for 2021-2022, the District of Columbia broadly has the following shortages5:

  • Art and Music Education (General), Pre-K-12
  • Career and Technical Education (General), 6-12
  • Core Subjects (Elementary Education), K-6
  • Early Childhood (General), Pre-K
  • English as a Second Language (General), Pre-K-12
  • Health and Physical Fitness (General), Pre-K-12
  • Language Arts (General), 6-12
  • Mathematics (General), 6-12
  • Science (General), 6-12
  • Special Education (General), Pre-K-12
  • World Languages (General), Pre-K-12

Frequently Asked Questions

Question: What tests do I need to take to become certified as a teacher in Washington DC?

Answer: Since Washington uses a two-tier system for teacher licensing, prospective teachers need to complete two rounds of testing. For the initial license, after completing a bachelor’s degree and teacher preparation program candidates must take the Praxis Core Academic Skills for Educators exam as well as the Praxis Subject Assessment(s) that align with the grade level(s) and subject(s) to be taught. To upgrade to a Regular II license, teachers must also pass the appropriate Praxis Principles of Learning and Teaching (PLT) exam.

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 and career/technical education) earn average annual salaries of over $73,000 per year.4 Factors that may affect teacher salaries in DC are school location, grade level taught, and teacher qualifications.

1. Washington DC 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, 2016-2017: https://nces.ed.gov/ccd/stnfis.asp
4. US Bureau of Labor Statistics, May 2018 State Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates, District of Columbia: https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes_dc.htm
5. US Department of Education, Teacher Shortage Areas: https://tsa.ed.gov/