The requirements for becoming a certified teacher vary from state to state.  It’s important to be knowledgeable about the requirements for achieving and maintaining a teaching certification in Washington, and the Center for Professional Education is here to support your certificate upkeep throughout your career. 

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

Requirements for certified teachers in Washington

The WA State teacher certification process is overseen by the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI). OSPI requires any individual who applies for a teaching certification to hold at a minimum of a bachelor’s degree. In addition, you must also successfully complete a teacher preparation program that is state-approved.  If you did not complete such a program through your bachelor’s degree, you may achieve certification through an alternative path preparation program for teachers. One such option is offered through SPU’s Graduate Center.

If you are not currently a Washington resident, you must verify that you have at least three years of experience teaching. Additionally, you must hold a current teaching certificate from a different state.

Out-of-state applicants may be issued a temporary permit to teach. Within one year of this permit, you are required to pass the basic Washington Educator Skills Test, the WEST-B. The WEST-B is administered to all students entering a teacher preparation program in Washington, and assesses foundational 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 establish their expertise in a field of course content.

A fingerprinting background check is required for all candidates.

Maintaining or renewing a teaching certificate

There are several ways to maintain a teaching certificate:

Clock hours
100 approved clock hours of continuing education study and/or equivalent academic credit (10 quarter hours or 6.67 semester hours) must be completed during a five-year validity period of a certificate.  Credit courses must be 100-level of above, issued from an accredited university, such as SPU.  Browse current offerings from the Center for Professional Education for opportunities to earn qualifying professional development for credit or clock hours.  

National Board for Professional Teaching Standards
In lieu of clock hours, present a copy of a valid certificate from the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards (NBPTS).

Professional Certification
Requirements for second-tier certification must be met prior to expiration of the Residency certificate. For more information, visit OSPI's website.

Professional Growth Plans
In lieu of clock hours, individuals may also choose to renew a continuing certificate via annual professional growth plans (PGPs) developed since the certificate was issued. Each completed annual PGP shall receive the equivalent of thirty continuing education credit hours. Completion of four annual PGPs during each five-year period between subsequent lapse dates meets the requirement for renewal. Individuals completing fewer than four annual PGPs must complete the necessary continuing education credit hours needed to be the equivalent of one hundred fifty hours to meet renewal requirements.  Read more about PGP requirements, as outlined by OSPI.

Types of certification

There are several different teaching certificates available in Washington.  If you do not know the type of teaching certificate you currently hold, you may use an online tool provided by OSPI to identity your certificate category.

Residency: This is a standard certificate that is nearly 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.

Professional: This is an advanced certificate available to candidates who have at least two consecutive years of teaching experience. Washington State also requires candidates to complete an Issues of Abuse course about their reporting duties regarding suspected abuse. To meet requirements for Professional Certification, a teacher must complete National Board certification (NBPTS) or pass the Washington ProTeach Portfolio Assessment

Substitute: This certificate is valid for life and is granted to individuals who wish to be a substitute teacher in Washington. The requirements for this certification are the same as those for a regular certificate.

Limited 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 limited time period.

Continuing: The endorsed continuing certificate enables the holder to teach in endorsed subject areas and is valid for 5-year periods. It is subject to a continuing education (clock hour) requirement to maintain its validity every five years. Clock hour courses are available through the Center for Professional Education.

Add an Endorsement: You may officially add an endorsement to your teaching certificate if you demonstrate you have mastered content in a new subject area.  Your pathway to adding an endorsement will depend on the endorsement area(s) currently held on your certificate.  Visit our endorsement page for more information.  You may also watch a helpful video created by our in-house expert to learn more about the various state pathways to adding an endorsement.

Standard/Continuing: Issued prior to 9/1/87.

Provisional: Issued in the 1960's, 1970's and 1980's.

Other questions

If I want to take a course through the Center for Professional Education, how do I decide what format is right for me?

SPIRAL courses are professional development courses that will meet in person and have set start and end dates. Registration will take place during the first class meeting and will be collected by the instructor. 

Distance Learning courses are professional development courses that involve either online or correspondence interaction with an instructor. Students register online before the course starts and have up to one year to complete the coursework at their own pace.

For additional information:

OSPI

PESB