Become a Teacher in Washington

Washington Highlights

Avg. Elementary School Teacher Salary $60,140
Avg. Secondary School Teacher Salary $61,920
Vacation Weeks per Year 15
Pupil/Teacher Ratio 19.3
Expenditure per Pupil $10,202

Teacher salaries were provided by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: May 2015 Occupational Employment Statistics report.

Old Capitol Building
PO Box 47200
Olympia, WA
600 Washington St. S.E.
(360) 725-6000
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Washington Teacher Shortage Areas

The United States Department of Education defines a Teacher Shortage Area (TSA) as a subject matter or grade level within a state in which there is an inadequate supply of elementary or secondary teachers.  The shortage may be caused by teaching positions that are unfilled or are filled by teachers who have temporary certification or teach in in academic subject other than their area of preparation.  According to a report by the USDE Office of Postsecondary Education, Washington has the following Teacher Shortage Areas:

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

Steps to Becoming a Teacher in Washington

Important Note: Education licensure requirements, statistics and other information are subject to change. makes its best effort to keep content accurate; however, the official sources are the state education departments. Please confirm licensing requirements with your state before applying for licensure or renewal. Last updated: 11/3/2016

To earn an initial teaching certification in the state of Washington, teaching candidates must meet the following requirements:

  • Step One: Complete a bachelor’s degree and other prerequisite coursework required.
  • Step Two: Complete a state-approved teacher preparation program.
  • Step Three: Pass required exams.
  • Step Four: Submit a Washington teaching credential application.

Continue below for more information.

Earn Your Washington Teaching Credential

New teachers in Washington State start out with a Residency Certificate and move to a Professional Certificate by completing a Professional Certification Program at a Washington college or university and submitting a ProTeach Portfolio of professional development activities. In order to earn your Washington state teaching credential, you must complete required coursework, fieldwork and standardized testing requirements. If you already have a teaching credential from another state, you may qualify for interstate credential reciprocity. Visit the State of Washington's Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction website for more on earning your Washington teaching credential.

Learn more about getting your teaching credential on

Step One: Prerequisite Coursework in Washington

Washington requires that certified teachers have, at a minimum, a Bachelor’s degree. Although some states have undergraduate credit hour requirements for certification in specialty areas, Washington does not list specific course or credit hour requirements. However, every college or university teacher preparation program will have requirements of its own. Contact your teacher preparation program or the Department of Education for more information.

Step Two: Washington Teacher Certification Programs

In the State of Washington, prospective teachers must complete a state-approved teacher preparation program at an accredited college or university, or they must complete a state-approved alternative certification program. A list of state-approve teacher preparation programs can be found on the Washington Student Achievement Council website. 

Typically teacher education programs consist of a combination of courses on foundational knowledge and skills, pedagogy (the art and science of teaching), research, design, and implementation of learning experiences in their field of study, along with hands-on fieldwork. The fieldwork component can include observations, student teaching, and an internship.

Step Three: Required Tests in Washington State

To become a certified teacher in Washington, you must satisfactorily complete the Basic Skill Test and any Subject Area Competence assessments needed for your desired area of instruction. Learn more about Washington’s exam requirement on Washington State’s Professional Educator Standards Board page. The Basic Skills Test can be fulfilled with the

The Subject Area Competence is measured by the

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Featured Online Programs

Explore your career options in education:

Boost your credentials: in this 8-week online course, you'll engage deeply with the most relevant research on effective and engaging teaching methods in the higher education context. Refine your own practices, portfolio, and teaching philosophy and set yourself apart as effective educator.

BehaviorAnalysis@Simmons is the highly respected Master of Science in Behavior Analysis program delivered online from Simmons College. The program prepares students for leadership roles in the rapidly growing field of applied behavior analysis.

Counseling@NYU offers an online master of arts in Counseling and Guidance program, with concentrations in school and bilingual school counseling to prepare students to become collaborative leaders elementary, middle, and high schools across the country. Part-time and full-time options are available to fit student schedules.

Vanderbilt University's Peabody College offers an online Master of Education in human development counseling with a specialization in school counseling for students interested in becoming school counselors and making a meaningful difference in K–12 settings.

The Master of Arts in Teaching degree (MAT) is for aspiring teachers who want to gain the skills and knowledge they need to become great educators.

The online Master of Science in Teaching program prepares aspiring teachers (grades 1-6) for initial teaching certification or dual certification in teaching and special education.

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Alternative Certification in Washington

Graduates of accredited colleges or universities who do not have a Bachelor’s in education and who have not yet received a teaching certificate can still obtain an alternative teaching certificate by satisfying certain requirements. Washington State offers four alternative certification routes, two of which are for people already employed as paraprofessionals in the school system.

Visit Washington State’s Professional Educator Standards Board to learn more about these options and which one might be the best fit for you. Washington also participates in the Troops to Teachers program. There are also a number of different Limited Certificates that a school district may be able to request if they need you to teach in shortage areas or areas where you have expertise.

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Benefits of Earning a Master's Degree in Washington

Teachers with a Master of Education will enjoy a higher salary in a state which is already above the national average in terms of teaching salaries. According to the Washington Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction website, teachers starting out with a Master’s degree in 2014 can expect to earn over $6,500 more than those starting out with a Bachelor’s degree, and a similar differential applies to teachers with some years of experience.

Learn more about the benefits of a Master of Arts in Teaching vs. Master of Education on  

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Certification Reciprocity in Washington

Washington will accept some teaching credentials from other states if the accrediting program meets or exceeds Washington’s requirements. Washington’s rules allow it to recognize any state-approved educator preparation program and degree from an accredited institution to meet basic requirements. Contact the Washington Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction to inquire about your specific situation.

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Financial Aid in Washington

Washington residents are eligible for the Applegate/Jackson/Parks Future Teacher Scholarship, as well as the TEACH Grant, which gives financial aid to students in return for an agreement to teach in a high-need school.

Learn more about how to finance your Master's degree on

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Washington Teacher Salary and Incentives

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Washington teachers earn on the average earn $60,702. This is above the national average, making teaching in Washington particularly rewarding. Salaries and benefits for Washington teaching jobs hinge both on experience and on qualifications.

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Washington Teacher Benefits & Retirement

Retirement benefits for education jobs in Washington are handled by the Teachers’ Retirement System (TRS). TRS provides benefits for teachers depending on when they established membership. There are three different plans, one for employees who were TRS members before October 1, 1977, and two for employees who became members after this date.

The Washington TRS website includes a series of helpful resources, including a benefits calculator, important forms, and additional information. Learn more about benefits for teachers on

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Professional Development for Teachers in Washington

The Washington Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction provides a number of professional development opportunities, as do universities and other organizations around the state. Teachers must complete a ProTeach Portfolio of professional development activities to advance to the Professional Certificate.

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Washington Teaching Jobs

The Washington Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) website has a page of links to help teaching hopefuls find jobs in the state. The site includes information on state credentials, as well as resources that can help employers and prospective teachers find each other. The Washington School Personnel Association (WSPA) also posts its own job listings and resources for school administrative employees.

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