Washington educators share a love of student empowerment, creating aha moments for their students, engaging with their community, exploring their surrounding world, and most importantly a passion for contributing to student achievement and academic success.
An educator role can take the form of many different positions within the education system. An educator can be a teacher, paraeducator, counselor, nurse, principal, or one of many other positions available.
Every educator makes a difference.
We hope this page helps you discover the pathway to certification. Whether you’re just starting out, certified from out-of-state, returning to the classroom or somewhere in between, there is a route for you.
How do I become a teacher?
What pathways are available?
All educators must receive a residency teacher certificate to teach in Washington State. There are several paths to receiving certification, depending on your personal experience. Certification is the first step to teaching in Washington. Discover which pathway on the road to teaching is right for you.
- A traditional route to teaching is generally for individuals who would like to complete their teacher preparation program as part of a bachelor’s or master’s degree in education. Find an approved teacher preparation program to begin your journey.
- Washington State offers alternative routes to teacher certification, residency programs where candidates work in schools while earning their certification. Alternative routes are designed for individuals who hold an associate’s degree or higher. Candidates are often career changers or individuals who already work in education and are ready to transition into a full time teacher position. Programs recognize your established career by offering efficient, convenient, affordable, and pragmatic alternate routes to earning a teaching certificate. Learn more about alternative routes to teaching.
High school teacher academies
- Many of Washington’s finest teachers felt their vocational calling years before they actually enrolled in a teacher certification program. Washington recognizes this calling with the Recruiting Washington Teachers (RWT) program aimed to “grow our own” diverse group of future teachers who more closely reflect the population of today’s children and youth. RWT grant funding supports the recruitment and preparation of a diverse group of high school students for future careers as educators in teacher shortage areas. Learn more about RWT.
Career and Technical Education (CTE)
- A CTE certificate is ideal for specialization or for educators who come from business and industry backgrounds. There are two routes available to earn a CTE certifcate:
- CTE college and university route – This route includes a full teacher preparation program, and leads to both an initial CTE certificate and a residency teacher certificate. This route requires one year of industry experience (2,000 hours) in the occupational area. Learn more about this route.
- CTE business and industry route – This route is for people coming from a business and industry background who are interested in using their skills to teach in their area of business and industry expertise. This route requires three years of industry experience (6,000 hours) in the occupational area. Learn more about this route.
What tests can I expect to take?
All individuals hoping to become certified teachers in Washington must meet the testing requirements.
- WEST-B and WEST-E/NES – These are content knowledge assessments required prior to being certified to teach in a particular subject area. Learn more.
- edTPA – This is a national subject-specific performance assessment and support system used by teacher preparation programs. Learn more.
Fingerprinting, background check, and character and fitness supplement
Washington will not issue a teaching certificate until completion of a background check and fingerprinting.
In addition, at the time you apply for a certificate, you will be asked to fill out the character and fitness supplement, which asks about your legal history and other factors which may impact your ability to be an effective teacher. You will also be asked to submit fingerprints for a background check by the state patrol and FBI.
See OSPI’s page on fingerprinting and background checks for more information.
How do I become an Educational Staff Associate (ESA)?
There are a variety of diverse roles within the school system that don’t necessarily involve teaching in front of a classroom, but still play a part in fostering achievement in a student’s education. You can become certified to be an education staff associate.
Educational Staff Associate (ESA) certificates in Washington include:
- School Counselor
- School Psychologist
- School Occupational Therapist
- School Physical Therapist
- School Nurse
- School Speech Language Pathologist or Audiologist
- School Social Worker
Learn more on becoming certified in one of these career opportunities.
How do I become a certified administrator?
Administrators in the Washington education system include principal, program administrator, and superintendent.
- Learn more on becoming certified in one of these career opportunities.
How do I become a paraeducator?
Paraeducators provide the majority of instruction in programs designed by the legislature to reduce the opportunity gap. A newly formed paraeducator program ensures statewide professional standards and training for paraeducators so they are equipped to support diverse student learning.
Are you an out-of-state teacher?
Washington’s geographical and cultural diversity often surprises newcomers and residents alike. Known as the Evergreen State, our landscape encompasses deserts, grasslands as well as forests and mountains. Our students are equally diverse, a dynamic population who is ready to grow intellectually and emotionally. Want to teach in Washington? It’s likely your certificate will qualify for our residency teacher or professional teacher certificate. You can easily evaluate whether your grade level and subject endorsements align with Washington State.