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 (image).
- 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 about the WEST-B or the WEST-E/NES.
- edTPA – This is a national subject-specific performance assessment 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. 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 behavior analyst
- School counselor
- School Psychologist
- School Occupational Therapist
- School Physical Therapist
- School Nurse
- School Speech Language Pathologist or Audiologist
- School Social Worker
Professional transitions to public schools ESA course
The Professional Transitions to Public Schools course is required for initial ESA certificates for school nurses, school occupational therapists (OTs), school physical therapists (PTs), school social workers, school speech language pathologists (SLPs) or audiologists, and school behavior analysts. An individual who meets all other certification requirements, but has not yet provided verification of this ESA course, or out-of-state program completion, or three years experience, will be issued a temporary permit valid for one year allowing them to serve in the role. See a list of approved courses by role, below.
All ESA roles
Occupational therapy theory and practice in pediatrics I & II (REHAB 576)
Assistive technology in rehabilitation (REHAB 582)
Occupational therapy domain and process I (REHAB 578)
|NorthEast Washington ESD 101*||
Tracy Poindexter-Canton, firstname.lastname@example.org
See information at www.psesd.org/specialservices and select the “ESA certification” tab
|Initial ESA Certification||Puget Sound ESD 121*||Keely Hogan, email@example.com|
*Attention course participants: Register early, as courses often fill up quickly. Attendees MUST register prior to the first day of the course.
|Introduction to school nursing||Pacific Lutheran University||
Center for Continued Nursing Learning, firstname.lastname@example.org
Louise Reulbach, 253-535-7683
|School nursing: preparation for the initial certification||Washington State University||
College of Nursing
Nancy Oberst or Wendy Williams-Gilbert
OT, PT, SLP or Audiologist
|**University of Washington Tacoma (OT)||email@example.com|
**Rehab 578, 582, and 576 (OT)
Rehab 502 and 517 (PT)
Public School Speech-Language Pathology and Audiology (SPHSC 550)
**University of Washington
(OT, PT, SLP)
|Eastern Washington University (SLP)||Dr. Kathryn Depaolis, firstname.lastname@example.org|
School social work and school law course (SOWK 559)
SLP and audiology in schools
Washington State University
Karen Simpson, email@example.com
|Communication disorders in the schools||**Western Washington University (SLP)||Dawn Burgess, firstname.lastname@example.org|
**These courses are not open to people outside of the program.
|**University of Washington Seattleemail@example.com|
Social work in schools (TSOCW 542)
|**University of Washington Tacoma|
|School social work and school law (SOWK 559)||Eastern Washington University||Dr. Kathryn Depaolis, firstname.lastname@example.org|
|Walla Walla Universityemail@example.com|
**These courses are open for this specific provider’s program enrolled students only and are not open to people outside of the program.
How do I become a certified administrator?
Administrators in the Washington education system include principal, program administrator, CTE director, and superintendent.
- Learn more about 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.
The newly formed Paraeducator Certificate Program ensures statewide professional standards and training for paraeducators so they are equipped to support diverse student learning.
Additionally, Washington paraeducators have access to Apprenticeship in Education programs, which provide a pathway to an Associate’s Degree for classified staff members who work in their normal position in their school district while taking college courses at a 50% discount to complete their degree.
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 towards our teacher certificate.