How to Earn Teacher Certification in Washington

If you want to be a teacher in Washington state, your first step is to earn certification. While there are different pathways to doing this, your options depend on your level of education, area of specialization, and experience.

This guide can help you determine the pathway that’s right for you at any point in your career. If you’re just beginning your journey and need to know about the Washington certification process, we can help. Or maybe you want to learn how to progress to advanced endorsement certification, or you’re a teacher looking to move to Washington from out of state.

You’ll find all that information and more right here. The short video below gives an overview of what to expect as a certified teacher in Washington state.

Minimum Education Requirements

Washington, like most all other states, requires teaching candidates to have earned a bachelor’s degree or higher from an accredited college or university as a minimum education requirement. There are certain instances where you can apply for an alternative certification that allows candidates who have earned an associate’s degree to apply. In any case, it may be useful to your application process to understand the different certification levels and their minimum education requirements to find the certificate right for you.

Requirements for Washington Teachers

Washington state has three levels of certification to earn licensure as a teacher. Each level has specific requirements and qualifications you will need to be versed on prior to applying. Below is a general description of the three certification levels. For more information on certification specialties and specific information on Washington’s teacher certification requirements and processes be sure to read the complete article on how to get a teaching license in Washington.

Limited Teaching Certification: Prior to applying for any of the various limited teaching certificates, please note that you can only apply if you have been requested to by a school district or private school employer. There are six different limited certificates one may pursue on their way to teacher licensing. However, there are two limited licenses that favor more candidates than not:

The Conditional Teacher Certificate serves as a tool for school districts to hire someone with expertise in an area, usually when they cannot find a certified teacher in a specific endorsement area. This certificate is valid for up to two years and is initiated by the employer through submission of a district request. Once the request has been submitted, you can log into the E-Certification portal to apply for the district request.

The Transitional Teaching Certificate would be suited for those candidates who are continuing a teaching certificate that has lapsed to teach for two years while working on reinstating of the continuing certificate. Please note that those seeking this type of certification must have the approval of the district where they seek employment. It is also worth noting that this certificate is only valid for two years and can only be issued once in a teacher’s career.

For more information on these two limited teaching certificates or for more information on all six types of limited teacher certification, please visit the State of Washington Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction website.

Residency Certificate: The first level certificate issued is the Residency Certificate. Washington issues the Residency Certificate to most first-time and out-of-state applicants for a regular teaching license. This certificate is valid until the holder is reported as employed by a Washington school district as a teacher with one and a half or more years of teaching experience. Once completed, this certificate must be reissued with a five-year expiration date.

Professional Certificate: The Professional Certificate is the advanced-level certificate. It is usually awarded to holders of the Residency Certificate who complete the ProTeach Portfolio, but may sometimes be awarded to out of state applicants in lieu of the Residency certificate. To apply for the Professional certificate, a candidate must have completed a ProTeach Portfolio, or a program in another state whose advanced-level certification program is comparable to that in Washington. If neither of these apply to your situation, Washington state allows those with a certificate issued by the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards to also apply for the Professional Certificate. Learn more about the application process and how to apply for the Professional Certificate by visiting the Professional Certificate page on the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction website.

Complete a Student Teaching Experience

If you plan to pursue a teaching certificate and have obtained the appropriate degree, you will then be required to complete some form of a student teaching program. In Washington, there are two ways you can fulfill this requirement. You can either complete any state’s approved teacher preparation program, usually done through an accredited college or university, or you can complete an alternative route program that may be done through a university or other Washington approved institution. You will also be required to provide documentation of the completion of the program. Please keep in mind that there are two different forms to complete in either of the above instances. If you completed a state-approved program, you must submit Form 4020E and if you completed an alternative route program, you must submit Form 4020E-1. Find out more about student teaching and specific requirements for each certification level through the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction.

Pass Washington Certification Exams

The Washington Professional Educator Standards Board recently redeveloped the certification exams needed for P-12 educators. The use of the Praxis tests was phased out in lieu of the Washington Educator Skills Tests-Endorsements (WEST-E).

Depending on your desired level of certification, subject area of interest and grade level determines which WEST-E exam you should take. Another important certification requirement involves completing a new professional teaching assessment known as the Washington ProTeach Portfolio. This is an evidence-based assessment designed for teachers seeking the Washington Professional Certificate. It evaluates teachers on their ability to impact student learning as stated in the three standards-effective teaching, professional development and professional contributions. Along with completing this certification portfolio, you will also need to take a course on issues of abuse.


Once you have obtained all the necessary education requirements and completed your certification exams, you are ready to apply. Washington uses an online application process through their E-Certification website. There are a few activities available through the E-Certification portal.

  • Apply for a Washington state teacher, administrator or staff associate educator certificate.
  • Renew a Washington state continuing teacher administrator or staff associate certificate.
  • Check certificate, permit and application status.
  • Apply for re-issuance of residency teacher certificates.
  • Request duplicate copies of educator certificates.

Visit the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction website under the E-Certification for Washington State Educators web page to learn more about the E-Certification portal and steps on how to register for an account.

How Much Do Teachers in Washington Make?

Washington provides its educators with healthy salaries and generous benefits packages. Many of the different teacher specialties have higher than average median salaries. Read on to compare different teacher specialty salaries in the state.

salary outlook
Position Median Salary
Early Childhood Educator $36,400
Elementary School Teacher $78,780
Secondary School Teacher $80,740
Special Education Teacher $77,400
Education Administrator $127,670


Job Growth for High School Teachers through 2031

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Employment Statistics, 2021

Subject Matter and Specialty Certifications

Besides the minimum certification requirements for Washington, you will have to complete endorsement exams specific to the grade and subject area you wish to teach. Below is a detailed breakdown of the different popular teaching specialties and certification exams specific to each area of endorsement in Washington.

Early Childhood Education


In order to teach at the early childhood level, you will need to have obtained a bachelor’s degree with an area of focus on early childhood education. You will also need to complete and pass the early childhood endorsement exam provided by the National Association for the Education of Young Children.

Elementary School Teacher


In 2014, the Professional Educator Standards Board (PESB) aligned elementary education endorsement competencies to the Common Core State Standards, which are the currently approved competencies. You must complete the elementary education endorsement provided by the Association of Childhood Education International to be certified as an elementary teacher.

Secondary School Teacher


Certifications for secondary teachers varies greatly on the subject area and grade level you wish to teach. You will have to take the minimum certification exams as well as an endorsement exam specific to the subject area you plan to teach. For example, if you wish to teach biology at the secondary level, you will have to take the minimum certification exams and a biology endorsement exam through the National Science Teachers Association.

Substitute Teacher Certification


There are two routes to certification for substitute teachers. You can either apply for an Emergency Substitute Teacher Certificate or an Intern Substitute Teacher Certificate. Both certificates require employer initiation through submission of a district request. There are a few subtle differences between the two routes. While the Emergency Substitute Teacher Certificate enables someone who is not fully qualified to serve as a substitute teacher, the Intern Substitute Teacher Certificate enables a student teacher to substitute for the classroom he or she is assigned to in the absence of the supervising teacher. To learn more about the different substitute teacher certifications and qualifications, visit the Limited Teaching Certificates web page on the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction website.

Physical Education (PE) Certification


The state of Washington requires all physical education teachers at all grade levels to be certified for licensure. There is not a specific Praxis or content area exam for physical education candidates. You are only required to meet the minimum education and residency license requirements. For more information on physical education requirements, visit the Society for Health and Physical Educatorswebsite.

Special Education Certification


For those seeking certification in special education, you will need to take the special education endorsement exam through the Council for Exceptional Children. There may be other specific requirements for those seeking certification in a specific area within the special education umbrella.

English as a Second Language Certification


You must earn a bachelor’s degree with a focus in ESL education as well as take and pass the English Language Learns (ELL) endorsement through the Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) assessment standards. These standards are outlines in the TESOL 2010 standards.

Certifications for School Administrators


Due to its high educational standards, Washington has an extensive and rigorous certification process for those seeking to work as a principal or program administrator. There are three levels of the career continuum-Residency, Professional and Career for the principal and program administrator. Within this process are six standards to which the PESB measures competency. They are visionary leadership, instructional improvement, effective management, inclusive practice, ethical leadership, and socio-political context.

Certificate vs Certification


A certificate is awarded by an educational institution, and signifies that a student has satisfactorily completed a given curriculum. Certificate programs can help students prepare for certification exams.


A certification is generally awarded by a trade group after an individual has met certain professional requirements (e.g. earned a specific degree, worked professionally in a given field for a set amount of time, etc.) and passed a certification exam.

In short, a certificate is evidence that someone has completed an educational program, while a certification denotes that someone has met a certain set of professional criteria and/or passed an exam.

Not all programs offered are designed to meet state educator licensing or advancement requirements; however, it may assist candidates in gaining these approvals in their state of residence depending on those requirements. Contact the state board of education in the applicable state(s) for requirements.

Teacher Reciprocity Agreements in Washington

If you are already a teacher in another state and considering moving to Washington, it is important to know what reciprocity guidelines the state follows. Although the state participates in some teacher reciprocity agreements, there are instances where it does not. To learn more about teacher reciprocity agreements, read through the table below for general reciprocity guidelines in the state.

NASDTEC Interstate Agreement Yes, Washington is an active participant in the NASDTEC Interstate Agreement.
State Grants Full Reciprocity No.
Coursework Requirements Yes, but only for select candidates and not immediately. Out-of-state applicants seeking a Professional Certificate must complete coursework or a service program that covers issues of abuse.
Test-out or Exemption No.
Assessment Requirements Yes, but only for select candidates and not immediately. Candidates must complete and pass basic skills and content knowledge exams within 12 months of receiving a temporary permit. Washington may also accept approved alternative exams in lieu of this requirement. Candidates can also be exempt from additional assessments if they are in the process of obtaining a Professional Certificate. You will also need to complete a performance assessment called the ProTeach Portfolio. You may be exempt from this requirement if you hold an advanced license from another state.
Different Requirements Based on Experience Yes, if you are an out-of-state candidate who has been certified to teach and has experience teaching grades P-12 for three of the last seven years, you are not required to complete an educator preparation program.
Performance Requirements No.
Special Reciprocity for Advanced Credentials There are no special reciprocity guidelines for advanced credentials since there are three levels of licensure for Washington. You will either pursue a Limited, Residency or Professional certificate for licensure. Most out-of-state candidates receive a Residency certificate. If applicants have credentials comparable to a Professional certificate, they do not need to complete the ProTeach Portfolio assessment. However, all other candidates must meet skills and content assessment requirements and complete coursework or an in-service program on issues of abuse.

Information reported by the Education Commission of the States.

Alternate Teaching Certification

Alternative routes are designed for career changers and individuals to transition into teaching full-time. Please keep in mind that enrollment for an alternative program is only provided through an approved alternate route provider. Read on to learn about some of the alternatives to teacher certification in Washington.

Teach for America

Teach for America-Washington works to ensure all children, no matter where they live, how much their parents make or the color of their skin, have access to an excellent education. Teach for America helps to prepare prospective teachers with the tools and guidance to make transitioning into teaching smooth. To apply to the Washington program, corps members must complete a few requirements including taking and passing the appropriate exams, enrolling in an alternative certification program during your two-year commitment and applying for conditional certification through the State Superintendent’s Office.