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Becoming a Teacher in Washington

Washington may be one of the better states in terms of teaching job pay and outlook. As of February 2019, Washington boasted one of the lowest rates of teachers leaving the profession in the country. This may be partly due to recent increases in school funding, including an additional $2 billion for teacher pay in the 2018-2019 school year.


Pathways to Becoming a Teacher in Washington State

If you are looking to become a teacher in Washington state, there are four pathways to achieving this:

Traditional Path

Those who want to pursue a bachelor’s or master’s degree in education can take this path. Bachelor’s candidates will take general education and teaching-specific courses, while master’s students will engage in more focused teacher training.

Alternative Path

Also called “residency programs,” future teachers with associate degrees or higher can work in schools while earning their certifications. This route is especially popular with career-changers or those who currently work in schools, such as paraprofessionals, who want to become full-time teachers. For those who are eligible, this pathway provides a faster, more cost-effective way to get certified.

High School Teacher Academies

This program is designed for high school students who already know they want to be educators. The Recruiting Washington Teachers (RWT) pathway exists in specific districts and helps those who want to work in areas with teacher shortages. RWT even offers special programming for bilingual young people, which will assist them in becoming teachers and counselors for students who speak English as an additional language or study in immersion schools.

Career and Technical Education (CTE)

CTE includes two sub-routes, one for those pursuing a teaching degree and another for people coming from business and industry backgrounds. Ultimately, both groups can teach vocational

With limited exceptions, all applicants must take the Washington Educator Skills Tests—Basic and Endorsement (WEST-B and WEST-E) and edTPA exams to gain certification. They must also complete a background check, fingerprinting, and a character and fitness supplement.

Career Outlook and Salary for Educators in Washington

Teachers in Washington state can expect to earn more than the national average for teacher pay and should experience a growing job market. Washington boasts a growing educational system that provides teachers with faster-than-average job growth opportunities. The state is expecting to experience an upswing of 18% more job openings for elementary and middle school teachers and 19% more roles for high school teachers between 2016 and 2026. Hiring at all levels is growing at a significantly higher rate than the national averages.

Washington teachers are also well-paid overall. CNBC reports that Seattle, WA, actually ranks as the nation’s best city for teacher pay—and that’s when adjusted for the high cost of living!

Washington Mean Teaching Salaries (2018)
Elementary:$65,180 per year
Secondary:$67,550 per year
Post-Secondary:$79,934 per year (averaged from all mean salaries)

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

Teacher Training Programs in Washington

There are teacher-training programs throughout the state, with a full list available through the State of Washington Professional Educator Standards Board. Though we often hear about colleges only in large cities, there are options in all corners of Washington.

Central Washington University

As the name suggests, this school is located in the middle of the state and has campuses in four cities. The School of Education’s departments include Education, Development, Teaching, and Learning, Curriculum, Supervision, and Educational Leadership, and a career and technical education certification They offer coursework that prepares teachers from the preschool to high school level. Depending on your area of study, you can also choose between on-campus or hybrid learning methods. The university emphasizes small class sizes and field experiences to ensure the best results for their students.

Evergreen State College

With the second-lowest tuition and fees of any Washington college, this institution in the southwestern part of the state has a student to teacher ratio of only 21:1. Rather than giving grades, students are given narrative assessments, allowing them to understand their strengths and challenges and continue to grow. Don’t let the lack of standard grading practices scare you—90% of their graduates are either working or continuing their schooling within a year of finishing at Evergreen. Their education field of study offers coursework covering everything from kindergarten teaching to adult education, with a focus on learning and development and multicultural issues. The school has both bachelor’s and graduate programs and actively encourages students to pursue studies of their choice rather than mandating coursework that does not interest them.

Washington State University

WSU has campuses in the northwestern and southeastern corners of the state. Their undergraduate programs offer majors in athletics education as well as teacher education, and their graduate school offers masters and doctorates in a variety of subjects, including educational psychology, math and science education, and educational leadership. The College of Education also offers graduate certificates in four subject areas: English language learners, education technology across the curriculum, applied educational research methods, and applied measurement and quantitative methods.

Whitworth University

A private Christian college located in Spokane, the Whitworth University School of Education boasts one of the highest undergraduate teacher placement rates in the state. In addition to traditional bachelor’s and master’s degree options, the school offers an evening certification program that takes two and a half to five years to complete, depending on your academic background. You can also get training in gifted and special education, as well as add-on endorsements in everything from science to theater arts. The university was ranked third best regional university in the West and one of the 100 best online graduate education programs by US News and World Report for 2020.

Washington Teacher Resources

Both new and experienced teachers may benefit from additional resources from these Washington-based organizations:

  • Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI): In many states, this would be called the Department of Education. This agency creates and enforces statewide policies, decides on funding, and informs teachers of their licensure requirements.
  • Washington Education Association (WEA): The teachers’ union for the state, WEA offers opportunities for professional development, support for teachers throughout their careers, and resources to assist both future and current teachers.
  • Washington State Archives: The Secretary of State’s website provides a wealth of educational resources for teachers and students, including videos, oral histories, books, and original documents covering the state’s history.


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