Washington Teacher Certification: How to Become a Licensed Teacher in Washington State

Teaching License Updated July 23, 2015

The requirements for becoming a certified teacher vary slightly between states. Accordingly, it’s important to learn about the requirements for applying for a teaching certification in Washington.

Requirements for certified teachers in Washington

In the state of Washington, the teacher certification process is overseen by the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI). OSPI stipulates that anyone who applies for a teaching certification in Washington must hold at least a bachelor’s degree or higher. In addition, you must also successfully complete a teacher preparation program that has been approved by the state. It is also possible to achieve certification through an alternative path preparation program for teachers.

If you are not a Washington resident, then you must verify that you have no fewer than three years of experience teaching. Additionally, you must hold a certificate from another state.

Out-of-state applicants may be issued a temporary permit. Within one year, you are required to pass the basic Washington Educator Skills Test, the WEST-B. The WEST-B is also administered to all students entering a teacher preparation program in Washington. The WEST-B test is an assessment of your basic reading, writing, and math skills.

An additional test, the WEST-E, may also be required for teachers seeking endorsements in specific subjects. Both out-of-state applicants and Washington residents are eligible to take the WEST-E if they would like to demonstrate their expertise in certain course content.

A fingerprinting background check is also required for all candidates.

Washington jobs for licensed teachers

If you want to become a Washington certified teacher, then it’s important to understand that several different teaching certificates are available. Your education, goals and experience will help to determine which certificate is the right one for you.

  1. Residency Certificate: This is the basic level certificate that is almost always issued to new teachers. The certificate remains valid until a school district within Washington state reports to OSPI that you have been employed as a teacher and have acquired 1.5 FTE or longer in that role.
  2. Professional Certificate: This is an advanced certificate that is available to candidates who have at least two consecutive years of teaching experience. The state also requires candidates to complete an Issues of Abuse training course about their responsibilities if they suspect a child is being abused. Most importantly, the candidate must undergo the ProTeach Portfolio program, which assesses teachers based on the effectiveness of their teaching skills, their professional development and their contributions to the profession.
  3. Substitute Certificate: This certificate is valid for life and is given to individuals who wish to be a substitute teacher in the state. The requirements for this certification are the same as those for a regular certificate.
  4. Limited Teaching Certificate: These are available on rare occasions at the request of an employer on a conditional or emergency basis. Limited certificates are valid only for a prescribed time.
  5. Student Teaching: This certificate is only available if you are enrolled in a teacher preparation program and will be student teaching in Washington.

If you plan to teach a subject designated as a Teacher Shortage Area (TSA) by the U.S. Department of Education, you might be eligible for student loan deferment or cancellation. The following TSAs have been approved for Washington for the 2015-2016 school year:

  • Bilingual Education
  • Biology
  • Chemistry
  • Early Childhood Special Education
  • Earth and Space Science
  • English Language Learner
  • Mathematics
  • Middle Level Education
    • Mathematics
    • Science
  • Occupational Therapist
  • Physical Therapist
  • Physics
  • School Nurse
  • School Psychologist
  • Science
  • Special Education
  • Speech Language Pathologist

A full and current list of TSAs for each state is available via the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Postsecondary Education.

Teaching license reciprocity in Washington

Washington participates in a teaching license reciprocity agreement with the National Association of State Directors of Teacher Education and Certification (NASDTEC). When you apply for a teaching certificate in one state using an existing license from another, the “destination state” is actually recognizing your credentials as verification that you are qualified to teach. You must still meet all requirements before you can teach there.

Fortunately, the NASDTEC Interstate Agreement for Educator Licensure streamlines this application process and expedites the goal of teaching in your new state. For more information, see Teaching License Reciprocity Explained.

Disclaimer: Licensing requirements are subject to change. Please visit your state board of education to check for recent revisions to teaching license requirements.

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