Education Requirements for Becoming an English Teacher in Washington

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English Language Arts teachers in Washington State are responsible for teaching students about reading, writing, speaking, listening, and language. A variety of research has shown that the demands on reading and other forms of communication in college, worker training programs, and life in general have held steady or increased over the last half century, and that students must communicate effectively to succeed. Washington State has adopted the Common Core State Standards for English Language Arts & Literacy to help students achieve these goals.

The Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) is the agency charged with overseeing K-12 public education in the state. Within the superintendent’s office, the Professional Certification Office is responsible for licensing all the teachers in the state. To become an English teacher in Washington State, complete the following steps:

Complete a Bachelor Degree and Teacher Prep Program
Complete Testing
Apply for Your Certificate
Maintain and Upgrade Your Certificate
Pursue Graduate Work



Step 1. Complete a Bachelor Degree and Teacher Prep Program

To start the process of becoming an English teacher in Washington State, the first step is to earn a bachelor’s degree from a regionally accredited college or university and complete any state’s approved educator preparation program. The educator preparation program may part of a regionally accredited college or university, or it may be an approved alternative-route program.

A listing of Professional Educator Standards Board-approved teacher preparation programs within Washington State is located here. Twenty-one schools currently offer programs approved to prepare teachers for an endorsement to teach English Language Arts.

The majority of educator preparation programs are two years long, and all involve a supervised student-teaching component. The admissions office at your prospective school can tell you more about the admission requirements and degree program, since these will vary by school. In general, teacher prep classes cover the principles of effective teaching, learning how to create dialogue in the classroom, and, depending on the program, learning to teach the basics of reading, writing, and math. Many programs also teach future educators to understand diverse learners, processes, and styles, and to develop lessons that are developmentally appropriate for the age group. Educators also learn how to integrate technology, develop effective learning communities, communicate with parents and teachers, and encourage an atmosphere of respect.

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Step 2. Complete Testing

Before beginning an approved teacher preparation program, you must receive a passing score on the WEST-B (Basic Skills Test). The Standards Board does provide for some exceptions and extensions, which are detailed here.

The WEST-B test measures basic skills in reading, writing, and mathematics, which are essential for success in teacher prep programs. The West-B involves three multiple-choice subtests (on each for reading, writing, and math) as well as two writing prompts meant to test your compositional abilities.

Tests can be taken at a computer or on paper and are available at hundreds of locations around the US. Fees vary based on whether the tests are taken by computer or with a paper and pencil; a listing of the fees is provided here. You can check for NES test seat availability here.

You must also pass subject area tests for becoming an English teacher. Beginning September 2014, the National Evaluation Series (NES) test for English Language Arts (301) replaced the WEST–E English Language Arts test as the official content knowledge test. This is a computer-based test, three-hour test with 150 multiple-choice questions; a passing score in Washington State is 220. You can register for the test here.



Step 3: Apply for Your Certificate

In general, teachers in Washington State are licensed in the following age categories:

  • Early childhood: Birth to third grade (age eight)
  • Elementary: Kindergarten (age five) to grade eight (age fourteen)
  • Middle level: Grade four (age nine) to grade nine (age fifteen)
  • Secondary: Grade five (age ten) to grade twelve (age eighteen)
  • All levels: Preschool (birth) to grade twelve (age eighteen)

After earning a bachelors’ degree and successfully finishing a teachers’ prep program, the first license to apply for is a Residency Certificate (First Issue) to become an English Language Arts teacher at one of the age ranges above. The requirements for obtaining a Residency Certificate are listed below:

  • A bachelor’s or higher degree from a regionally accredited college or university
  • Completion of an approved teacher prep program, an approved alternate-route program, or certification outside Washington and having taught for three years
  • Completion of the preparation for teaching in an English Language Arts endorsement, which includes coursework and a supervised student teaching component

You are also required to send the official score report for your WEST-B and NES tests to the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction Certification.

You can submit an application for the Residency Certificate (First Issue) online, or download, print, and the necessary forms, which are available here. All teachers in Washington State must also be fingerprinted and undergo a background check.

The Residency Certificate valid until a Washington state school district reports that you have taught full-time for 1 and a half years or more. This certificate may then be reissued, this time with a three-year expiration date. For more information on re-issuing the certificate, see the detailed notes here.



Step 4: Maintain and Upgrade Your Certificate

The next level of licensing to apply for, after the Residency Certificate, is the Professional Certificate. You must apply for and obtain this certificate before your residency certificate expires.

The Professional certificate is generally awarded to teachers who complete the ProTeach Portfolio. The professional certificate requires successful demonstration of the three standards (effective teaching, professional development, and professional contributions) and twelve criteria. You can submit a ProTeach portfolio at two times during the year. You must meet or exceed the ProTeach Portfolio passing score as set by the Standards Board. More information on the ProTeach program is available here. A calendar of dates and deadlines that helps you choose when to register for the ProTeach portfolio program is available here.

There are other ways to earn a Professional Certificate beyond the ProTeach program, however. You may apply after becoming certified by the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards, or undergoing an advanced certificate program in a state that has a program comparable to Washington’s.

Note that all candidates for the Professional Certificate are required to complete a course on issues of abuse. Courses on abuse issues are regularly offered by the Educational Service Districts (ESDs) in local regions.

You can submit an application for the Professional Certificate online, or download and print the forms.

To renew a continuing certificate for an additional five years, you need to complete 150 clock hours (or credit equivalent) and submit the clock hour form. You may download the form here or apply through eCert. A list of continuing education Clock Hour Providers is available.



Step 5: Pursue Graduate Work

Graduate education can enrich your teaching practice and often provide a salary increase.

In Washington State, teachers looking to earn higher degrees often choose from among four types of master’s degrees:

  • Masters of Arts in Education (MA)
  • Masters of Education (M.Ed)
  • Masters in Teaching (MIT)—often designed for those who want to earn a certificate at the same time as their Masters
  • Masters of Arts in Teaching (MAT), which also often offers a path to certification at the same time as earning a degree

A list of specific options for post-baccalaureate degrees that are appropriate for English teachers and available at Washington state schools appears below:

  • Master of Teaching, Elementary Teacher Education
  • Master of Teaching, Secondary Teacher Education
  • A. in Educational Leadership
  • A. in Education: Educational Psychology
  • A. in Education: Literacy
  • A. in Education: Foundations of Education/Interdisciplinary
  • M. in Educational Leadership
  • D. in Educational Leadership
  • D. in Educational Leadership
  • D. in Philosophy of Education
  • D. in Language, Literacy and Technology
  • Doctor of Education, Curriculum and Instruction: Excellence in Content Instruction
  • Doctor of Education, Leadership
  • Doctor of Philosophy, Multicultural Education



Washington English Teacher Salaries

The median teacher salary in Washington State was recorded at $55,000 in 2015. This figure combines all the teachers who have longevity’s well as teachers who are just starting out. The typical salary for new teachers in Washington schools may be much different and will depend on factors such as how much experience a teacher has, and how much education they invested in.

Seattle for instance will offer many steps based on what degree a teacher earned. For example, a new English teacher who is hired by a high school in the Seattle school district and who holds a bachelor’s degree earns $34,034 in year one. Below is a chart that shows the steps the English teacher can obtain if he seeks additional education:

  • BA + 22.5: $34,188
  • BA +45: $34,188
  • BA +45 +MA: $40,821
  • BA + 90: $40,987Ph.D: $41,037

This English teacher could also earn additional salary increases through stipends. Seattle schools pay fees for activities such as coaching girls soccer for $3,133. They also pay $1,283 for acting as the head of the debate team and $2,304 for helping create the school newspaper.

In Kent schools teachers will start at $36,109 with a Provisional License. This is a little different division than in Seattle. They will give a salary increase for the Standard Professional License of $41,862 and go on from there. Here are the remaining increases:

  • APC w/o MA: $42129
  • APC w/MA: $42,741
  • APC w/MA+30: $44,173
  • APC w/MA+60: $44,629
  • APC w/Ph.D: $45.090

Each school district in Washington will have its own way of increasing salaries to teachers. To see how other schools pay teachers in other districts across Washington State see the table below:

Area Name
Annual Median Salary
Bellingham WA
Olympia WA
Seattle-Bellevue-Everett WA Metropolitan Division
Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue WA
Spokane WA
Tacoma WA Metropolitan Division
Northwestern Washington nonmetropolitan area
Eastern Washington nonmetropolitan area
Estimate Not Released

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