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 detail below.

How to Become a Teacher in Washington

All Washington public school 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 who completed the traditional route to licensure in 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, obtain National Board for Professional Teaching Standards (NBPTS) certification, or have a comparable combination of education and experience. Professional Certificate teachers must complete two successful years of teaching and take coursework relating to identifying and assisting victims of abuse.

Quick Guide

Finding Approved Teacher Education Programs in Washington

Projected Job Growth


Growth in Teaching Jobs in WA through 20262

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. You can compare key metrics for these state-approved teacher preparation programs by using the sortable table on our Washington schools page.

Those considering an online or out-of-state teacher preparation program should confirm that the school is accredited by its corresponding regional agency and state board of education. 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.

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 30 schools in Washington that have state-approved traditional 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, or an acceptable equivalent, in their chosen subject area(s) 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 Washington Professional Educator Standards Board for further details on Washington teacher certification.

Washington Teacher Outlook, Salary, and Jobs

During the 2016-2017 school year, there were 2,436 K-12 public schools in Washington, with an estimated student enrollment of just over 1.1 million.3 With approximately 58,815 teachers, this gave Washington a student-to-teacher ratio of 19:1.3

According to projections, there should be 2,920 average annual job opportunities for elementary school teachers, 1,000 average annual job opportunities for middle school teachers, and 1,510 average annual job opportunities for secondary school teachers in Washington through 2026.2 The average annual salary for Washington elementary school teachers is $65,180, while middle school teachers earn an annual average of $65,630 and secondary school teachers earn an annual average of $67,550.4 The Washington Education Association, an affiliate of the National Education Association, is a good resource for new and experienced teachers interested in working in Washington State.

TypeNumber EmployedAverage Annual Salary
Preschool Teachers11,050$32,960
Preschool Teachers, Special Education660$63,400
Kindergarten Teachers7,870$62,330
Elementary School Teachers26,900$65,180
Special Education Teachers, Kindergarten and Elementary School4,570$65,400
Middle School Teachers9,070$65,630
Middle School Teachers, Special Education1,210$64,220
Secondary School Teachers14,560$67,550
Secondary School Teachers, Special Education2,120$66,400
Secondary School Teachers, Career/Technical Education2,840$68,170

Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics as of May 2018.4

Teacher Shortages in Washington

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

  • Art and Music Education (Art, Music), Pre-K-12
  • Career and Technical Education (Agro-Science and Natural Resources, Business, Marketing and Information Technology (BMIT), Family and Consumer Science, Vocational Technology), Pre-K-12
  • Computer Science (Computer Science), Pre-K-12
  • Core Subjects (Elementary Education), Pre-K-12
  • English as a Second Language (Bilingual Education), Pre-K-12
  • Health and Physical Fitness (General), Pre-K-12
  • Language Arts (General, Reading), Pre-K-12
  • Mathematics (General), Pre-K-12
  • Science (General), Pre-K-12
  • Social Studies (General), Pre-K-12
  • Special Education (All Exceptionalities), Pre-K-12
  • Support Staff (Counseling, Nurse, Psychologist, Speech Language Pathologist/Audiologist), Pre-K-12
  • World Languages (Spanish), Pre-K-12

Washington Teacher Interview

Frequently Asked Questions

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. Washington also offers an emergency substitute license which must be requested by the school.

Question: How much do teachers in Washington State make?

Answer: Washington teachers from elementary to high school (excluding special and career/technical education) earn average annual salaries of over $66,000.4 Teacher salaries may be impacted by factors like school district, teacher qualifications, and grade level taught.

Question: Is there a teacher shortage in Washington State?

Answer: According to a teacher shortage report by the US Department of Education, Washington reports teacher shortages in areas like English as a second language (ESL), language arts, science, social studies, special education, art and music education, health/physical fitness, Spanish, career/technical education, and mathematics.5 Teachers specializing in one of these areas may find more job opportunities in the state.

1. Washington State Department of Education: https://ospi.k12.wa.us/certification/teacher-certificate
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. Bureau of Labor Statistics, May 2018 State Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates, Washington: https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes_wa.htm
5. US Department of Education, Teacher Shortage Areas: https://tsa.ed.gov/