How to Become a Teacher in Washington

A teaching certification in Washington can get you into the classroom. Find out what you need to qualify and what teaching opportunities you may find.

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by Doug Wintemute

Updated June 10, 2022

Reviewed by Dr. Samantha Fecich

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How to Become a Teacher in Washington
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Educators need a teaching certification in Washington to work in the public school system. Prospective teachers need to complete a bachelor's degree, the appropriate tests, and, if applicable, the endorsement requirements to qualify.

According to the Professional Education Standards Board (PESB), Washington faces a considerable teacher shortage, which was intensified by the COVID-19 situation. To address the shortage, the state has incentivized teacher training, increased equitable pathways, and developed community partnerships.

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Ready to start your journey?

Prospective teachers can access teacher preparation programs in most on-campus and online colleges in Washington. Students returning to college for a teaching degree have alternative routes to certification available.

Here, we examine the requirements for teaching in Washington. We also look at the certificate options and career opportunities available in this field.

How Do I Become a Teacher in Washington?

Educators working in public school classrooms need teaching certification in Washington. The terms certificate, certification, and license differ in meaning depending on the state, but Washington refers to their teacher credentials as certificates. To qualify for a certificate, prospective teachers need to complete an approved preparation program and a series of assessments.

According to the Washington State Board of Education, teaching in Washington private schools does not require a certificate. The state has two main levels of certification, a residency teaching certificate and a professional teaching certificate. Out-of-state applicants, already certified teachers, and career and technical education teachers also have their own certificates in Washington.

Meet Minimum Education Requirements

To qualify for a residency teaching certificate, prospective teachers need to complete a bachelor's degree in an approved teacher preparation program, such as an online bachelor's in education. Teachers who want to teach specific subjects can add one of the many endorsement offerings to their certificates.

Approved preparation programs must include instructional training in the following areas:

Approved preparation programs vary by discipline, but they usually include pedagogical training specific to the target grade level. Prospective teachers with an associate or bachelor's degree in another discipline may pursue alternative route programs, which feature condensed training.

Gain Student Teaching Experience

The approved teacher preparation programs in Washington all require placement plans to provide students with practical training opportunities. These student teaching models allow learners to teach in classrooms alongside and under the mentorship of an active teacher. Within an alternative route program, candidates need to complete at least 540 hours of student teaching.

Once teachers have a residency teaching certificate, they need to complete two years of classroom teaching to qualify for the professional teaching certificate. Additionally, professional teaching certificate candidates need to complete a ProTeach portfolio. This demonstrates how well they control and impact a classroom.

Pass Required Certification Tests

To begin teaching in Washington, prospective educators need to complete the

educator assessments for their residency teacher certificate. Candidates first take a basic skills test before starting their preparation program. They then need to complete a content knowledge test that varies depending on their endorsement.

Additional tests may be required depending on the certificate and subject area. For example, world language endorsements require completion of an ACTFL assessment. Aspiring school counselors and psychologists need to complete the appropriate Praxis test.

Apply for Certification

To apply for teaching certification in Washington, candidates need to apply online through the e-certification system. Applicants need to submit their personal information and link their account to their school and professional records. Students will automatically have access to the credential application forms, student teaching opportunities, and college and university recommendations.

Some of the required forms include verification of program enrollment, experience, and program completion. The residency teacher certificate processing and renewal fees are $93, while the professional teacher certificate fees are $81. Candidates can follow along the status of their applications, with most being processed within two months of submission.

How Do I Maintain Teaching Certification in Washington?

Educators with an active teaching certification in Washington need to renew their credentials prior to the expiration date. The residency teacher certificates are typically valid for two years. These credentials have several renewal options, including an initial two-year renewal, a second two-year renewal, a five year renewal, and a complete reissue.

Five-year renewals require 100 clock hours of continuing education, whereas two-year renewals are for prospective teachers who have not totally completed the ProTeach requirements. Reissues are for teachers who were not able to acquire the required teaching experience within the provided time frame.

Professional teacher certificates also require 100 clock hours to renew every five years. Two-year residency renewals cost $93, the five-year residency renewal costs $81, a reissue costs $51, and professional renewal costs $81. Teachers with expired certificates need to complete 100 clock hours of continuing education to have them reinstated.

Career Outlook for Teachers in Washington

A 2021 report from the Washington State PESB highlighted shortages among diverse teachers, STEM and special education teachers, and teachers in small towns and rural areas. This creates a strong demand for many Washington education careers and teaching careers.

According to the BLS, Washington's educational workforce consists of more than 175,000 professionals. The annual mean wage for these workers was $62,180 in May 2020. Public schools only hire candidates with residency or professional teacher certificates.

Teachers can enhance their qualifications and earning potential with experience or advanced training, such as a master's in education. When choosing whether to attend graduate school, prospective students should consider if the additional training will help them pursue their ideal career and if it justifies the extra time and cost.

In-Demand Teaching Careers in Washington

Kindergarten and Elementary School Teacher

Kindergarten and elementary school teachers typically run K-6 classrooms. They develop the lesson plans, manage student behaviors, and help students overcome learning challenges. For teaching in Washington at this level, most professionals hold an elementary education endorsement, though specialty endorsements like art are available.

Median Annual Salary: $61,350

Middle School Teacher

Middle school teachers run grade 6-8 classrooms, teaching, testing, and assessing students. They also manage student behavior, work with families when needed, and help learners prepare for high school. Middle school teachers in Washington can teach all subjects or earn specialized endorsements, such as mathematics, humanities, and science.

Median Annual Salary: $61,320

High School Teacher

High school teachers manage classrooms in grades 9-12, develop lesson plans, and oversee the appropriate standardized testing. They work with students to overcome learning challenges and prepare them for life after high school. High school teachers need endorsements for the subjects they wish to teach in Washington.

Median Annual Salary: $61,820

Special Education Teacher

Special education teachers assist in the education of students with physical and intellectual disabilities. They develop specialized educational plans and adapt lessons to better accommodate students' unique needs. These teachers need a special education endorsement to teach in this field in Washington.

Median Annual Salary: $61,820

Instructional Coordinator

Instructional coordinators develop curriculums and educational techniques for teachers, schools, and school boards. They research the needs of students and schools and implement improvements wherever they are needed. Instructional coordinators typically need a master's degree in education or educational administration for employment.

Median Annual Salary: $63,740

Frequently Asked Questions About Teaching Certification in Washington

How do I get teaching certification in Washington?

To earn a teaching certification in Washington, you typically need a bachelor's degree at minimum. If you want to teach a specific discipline or grade, you may also need an endorsement in that field. There are alternative route program paths available for graduates in other disciplines and for experienced professionals.

You then must pass the appropriate educator assessments, which will qualify you for a residency teaching certificate. After you have two years of teaching experience, you can advance to the professional teaching certificate. To qualify for this, you need to satisfy the ProTeach portfolio requirements.

Can I teach in Washington without certification?

Educators teaching in Washington private schools may not need a teaching certificate, though this depends on the employer. In the state's public schools, a certificate is required to teach.

However, conditional teacher certificates are available for experienced professionals. These limited certificates must be initiated by the school and may be reissued for up to two years. Candidates need sufficient experience in their discipline to qualify, and special education endorsements are available in this category.

How long does it take to become a teacher in Washington?

It usually takes approximately four years to become a teacher in Washington. This is the length of time needed to complete a bachelor's degree and complete the certificate requirements. The testing and application usually only takes about two months to complete and process.

Once certified, educators need a minimum of two years of teaching experience in Washington to qualify for a professional teaching certificate. In total, educators typically can acquire their full professional certificate six years after starting the process.

What can I do with teaching certification in Washington?

A teaching certification in Washington permits you to teach in all public and private school K-12 classrooms in the state. Teachers may need special certificates and endorsements depending on their respective discipline and desired grade level.

Endorsements are available for most subjects and specialty fields, including special education and gifted and talented education. Teaching certificates are also available for career and technical education classes, along with a First Peoples' language, culture and oral traditions certificate. Certificates are available to in-state and out-of-state applicants.

How do I become a substitute teacher in Washington?

Several substitute teaching certificates are available in Washington. The standard certificate requires a bachelor's degree and a completed teacher preparation program from Washington or another state. Professionals with at least three years of teaching experience may also qualify.

An intern substitute certification is available to student teachers who need to fill in for their mentor and supervising teacher. An emergency substitute certificate is available for teachers who can fill in on a temporary and emergency basis. These two limited certificates must be initiated by the school.

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