How to Become an Early Childhood Education Teacher in Washington

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What is Early Childhood Education?


Early Childhood Education in the United States has been woefully neglected. Where most other wealthy nations send 80% of their students to preschool, the US only sends around 54%, trailing behind Chile and Mexico. However, the national legislature has now chosen to address this issue by allocating $5.2 billion to block grants.

States like Washington are sure to see an uptick in childcare and developmental programs. As an example from another west coast state, California is planning to assist youngsters with paid leave for new parents. When parents are able to spend extended periods with their children, the kids start life with stronger bonds that set the stage for more learning and success later in life.

Washington's Early Childhood Educators are sure to benefit from these block grants over time. If your town could use additional services for its youngest learners, see if your local government can seek out a grant to subsidize additional preschools or other development services.


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Steps to Become an Early Childhood Education Teacher in Washington


Washington's pathway to becoming a certified teacher is a bit different than that of other states. Teachers do not receive state certification. However, the programs that will employ you do receive certification, and they can only do so if they employ teachers with specific qualifications. So, as with most states, the first step along the way is to attain a degree in education. However, you won’t need to spend four years getting your degree, as you can become an Early Childhood Educator if you have an associate’s degree. You should look for a program that specializes in Elementary Education. This will cement a sound foundation for your future as an educator and will also put you on a path for certification.

There are as many reasons to teach as there are teachers, or students. For most educators, teaching is a calling. They are driven to work with youngsters so as to help them grow up to become successful, happy adults. As your career progresses, you will find that the job is indeed quite difficult. After all, a teacher wears many hats throughout the day: teacher, social worker, disciplinarian, administrator, and manager, to name a few. However, if you have excellent training and are well-organized, your classrooms will hum like well-oiled machines. Not every student will stand out, but those that do will be a source of inspiration for a lifetime. What job can boast that?

Compare Online Early Childhood Education Schools

If you feel the calling to teach, there is probably no question in your mind but that this is the career for you. If that's the case, then it's time to get started. Find the best program for you and apply today!

Step 1. Earn Your Degree


Though you are technically not required to obtain a bachelor’s degree in Washington, the state is full of colleges and universities that bestow online degrees in early childhood education. You may find that the job market is too competitive for someone with only an associate degree. Additionally, private schools and the Head Start program in the state often require their employees to have a bachelor’s degree at a minimum, so you’ll really want to consider whether or not you think it’s worth it.

Once you have worked through your degree curriculum, including a student teacher experience, you can move forward to attain a teaching credential and put your knowledge into action for the benefit of your students. Some courses you might take along your way to graduation include, but are not limited to:

  • Human Development
  • Classroom Management
  • Exceptional Child
  • Educational Technology
  • Music in Elementary Education

If you need to work while in pursuing your undergraduate degree, try to find work in an educational setting such as a preschool, or even as a paraprofessional. If you can pass the ETS Parapro examination, you can qualify to work in public schools alongside a fully-certified teacher. Such experience can be invaluable for your later classroom work and will look great on a resume when you graduate.

Step 2. Complete any Required Exams


As a capstone to your education, the state requires that you pass a standardized examination as part of your licensure application. Many states rely on the PRAXIS series, but in Washington you'll take Washington Educator Skills Tests (WEST-E). For Early Childhood Education, you must take the NES Early Childhood Education examination.

This is a 150-item, multiple-choice test that takes up to three hours. The exam measures your knowledge of the field. You can take the computer-based test (CBT) at any Pearson/Vue testing center in Washington state or nationwide. Thus, if you are studying in an out-of-state university but know you'll return, or move to, Washington, you can take the specific, required test. The test is broken down into four parts:

  • 21% - Child Development and Learning
  • 29% - Language and Literacy Development
  • 36% - Learning Across the Curriculum
  • 14% - Professional Relationships and Responsibilities

Step 3. Standards and Qualifications


The final step in qualifying for your Washington State teaching credential involves a background check and fingerprinting. The state patrol and the FBI will take your fingerprints for cross-reference against their databases. You will also fill out a character and fitness supplement which asks about your legal history and other character-specific matters pertinent to your career in the classroom.

If you have any infractions greater than speeding tickets or other minor items, you should report them and provide an accounting. That is, you should provide a description of the matter and detail how you paid your debt to society. That includes all relevant fines, community service, or even incarceration.

Popular Career Choices

  • Preschool Teacher
  • Kindergarten Teacher
  • Elementary School Teacher
  • Special Education Teacher

Top Early Childhood Teacher Preparation Programs in Washington


  • Initial Credentials:
    This will be your first official teaching license. This license is awarded once you have completed the educational, examination, and background portions of your application.
  • Continuing Teacher:

    This is the next level after our initial license. To qualify, you must have a master's degree or 45 quarter hours (30 semester hours) of upper level and/or graduate coursework. You should also have 180 days of experience in the classroom. Washington State will accept substitute teaching, out-of-state teaching, and multi-district work.

    Washington also requires that you complete a course titled Issues of Abuse. This will help you identify students who are suffering with emotional, physical, sexual, or substance abuse issues. You will also learn how these issues impact student learning and outcomes, your responsibilities as a mandatory reporter, how to teach about these issues, and how to prevent them.

Accreditation is vital when you're training to be an educator. Your school must be accredited and approved by the state as a teacher preparation program. Thankfully, it's hard to find an education department that is not state-approved, but it's always worthwhile to ensure that your education is accredited. After all, you may decide halfway through that you desire a different focus or a different major altogether. When your courses are through an accredited program, you can likely transfer most of your credits toward a different degree.

Find Your Early Childhood Educator Program

  • Antioch University
    Degrees Offered:
    • Elementary Education: Master of Arts
    • English Language Learner: Endorsement
    • K-12 Library Media: Endorsement
    • Special Education: Endorsement

    Accreditation By:

    • Washington Professional Educator Standards Board
    • Higher Learning Commission
  • Central Washington University
    Degrees Offered:
    • Early Childhood Education: Bachelor of Arts
    • Elementary Education: Bachelor of Arts

    Accreditation By:

    • Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities
  • City University of Seattle
    Degrees Offered:
    • Elementary Education: Bachelor's Degree/endorsement, Master's
    • Special Education: Bachelor's Degree/endorsement, Master's
    • Reading: Bachelor's Degree/endorsement, Master's (Reading and Literacy)
    • School Counseling: Master's Degree

    Accreditation By:

    • Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities
  • Gonzaga University
    Degrees Offered:
    • Elementary Education: Bachelor's Degree, Master's
    • Special Education: Bachelor's Degree
    • English Language Arts: Bachelor's Degree
    • School Counseling: Master's Degree
    • English as a Second Language: Master's Degree

    Accreditation By:

    • National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education
    • Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities
  • University of Washington – Seattle
    Degrees Offered:
    • Elementary Education: Bachelor's Degree, Master's
    • Special Education: Bachelor's Degree, Master's, Endorsement
    • ESL: Endorsement
    • Reading: Endorsement

    Accreditation By:

    • Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities

Potential Careers and Salaries for Graduates


Where You Can Work as an Early Childhood Educator

  • Public schools:
    This is perhaps the most popular career route for future educators. Public Schools are ubiquitous in Washington and the rest of the nation. Once you have your teaching credentials, you can seek employment statewide, and likely even transfer your credentials if you happen to move to another state.
  • Private childcare:
    Families sometimes employ independent childcare workers and trained educators to work with their children. These positions frequently involve a mix of pedagogy and childcare duties such as driving children to activities, meal preparation, and other supports.
  • Private schools:
    Private schools offer much the same work environment as public institutions, but the classes are often smaller, and the pay somewhat lower on average. However, private school teachers often have more autonomy over their curriculum and classroom management. You don't need a license to work in private schools, but a background in education will be helpful when you are applying for work.
  • Head Start Programs:
    These federally funded programs offer low-income students access to prekindergarten education that they might not be able to access otherwise. Given the recent budgetary allowances for Early Childhood Education, Head Start is likely to need more teachers.
  • Community-based Programs:
    These programs offer children a way to interact with their wider community under the rubric of specific activities. These programs don't often require special licensure, but you will probably need to pass a background check prior to employment.
  • Find Your Online College for ECE Teachers

  • Faith-based Programs:
    If your faith is something you wish to practice in your profession, you can seek out an appropriate faith-based program in which to teach. This could involve working in a church daycare/preschool or a stand-alone faith-based school.
  • Military Programs:
    Certified teachers from any state are welcome to apply to travel the globe teaching the children of military personnel. Considering that the United States has bases on nearly every continent, you can broaden your own horizons while simultaneously expanding young minds.

Early Childhood Education Teaching Salaries in Washington

  • Preschool Teacher:
    Your students are likely to be toddlers up to age four, or so. There are a wide range of prekindergarten programs that span from simple play, naps, and snacks to schools driven by strong educational philosophies that seek to instill lasting lessons. Montessori and Reggio-Emilia are two examples of creative preschool curricula.
  • Elementary School Teacher:
    As an Elementary School Teacher, you will help students build a foundation of knowledge that will serve them for the rest of their lives. You will also nurture them as people, easing them through their development.
  • Professor of Education:
    If your interest in education and pedagogy is more academic than practical, you can pursue a doctoral degree in Education and help prepare college students for the classroom. If you plan on teaching early education course, then it may be beneficial to spend a few years in an Elementary or Secondary classroom, but not necessarily required.
  • School Principal:
    Teachers who wish to serve at a higher level than the classroom can return for master's degrees and then achieve an administration-level license. You will help groom teachers towards excellence while also crafting effective curricula for the students in your care.
  • Special Education Teacher:
    Whether you are teaching ivy-league bound students with dyslexia or those with more profound barriers to learning, this can be one of the most rewarding careers. You must be able to put together Individual Education Plans (IEPs) for each student, and then review these documents with parents and other professionals.
  • ESL Teacher:
    Washington State is home to many students for whom English is not their first language. You can help these students master their new language and otherwise navigate our English-dominated culture.
  • School Psychologist:
    Every student faces struggles as they grow up in this society. As a School Psychologist, you can help your students manage their difficulties. You might also administer personality or intelligence tests to help diagnose problems, or to help teachers better understand a unique child.
Occupation Entry-Level Mid-Career Late-Career
Preschool Teacher $27,000 $35,200 $45,000
Elementary School Teacher $41,450 $50,100 $73,920
Professor of Education $52,000 $96,000 $180,000
Elementary School Principal $76,000 $92,400 $118,000
Special Education Teacher $36,000 $56,000 $86,000
ESL Teacher $21,000 $40,000 $51,000
School Psychologist $31,000 $60,000 $103,000

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