How to Become a Special Education Teacher in Washington State

If you feel that special education students deserve a great education, then you may want to consider a career as a special ed teacher. Along with schooling, you'll need to pass certain exams to earn certification.

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According to the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction, Washington had 143,498 special education students between the ages of 3 and 21, in 2017. If you'd like to learn more about helping out special education students in need, then read on to find out how to become a special education teacher.

Requirements for Special Education Teachers in Washington

Average Salary for Special Education Teachers in Washington (2017)* $60,850 (Preschool)
$63,620 (Elementary School)
$61,740 (Middle School)
$63,590 (Secondary School)
Required Degree Bachelor's Degree
Required Field Special Education
Testing Requirements *WEST-B: Reading, Writing, Mathematics (095/096/097) or sufficient test scores on SAT/ACT
*WEST-E Special Education (070)

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Step 1: Start Your Education

A special education degree program will prepare you for working as a special education teacher. These programs will look at child development, as well as educational theories. You'll learn about assessment and evaluation techniques, about individualized education programs (IEPs) for special education students, and about special education law. Along with some disability-specific courses, such as mild intervention, hearing impairments, or working with physically disabled students, you'll also learn all about collaborating with other teachers and families to give students a life-changing education. Along with the program, you'll have to complete a teacher education program (TEP). These TEPs are often combined with a bachelor's program, and include specific education requirements and a student teaching experience.

Step 2: Get Fingerprinted

All teachers need to be fingerprinted and have a background check completed before certification. Fingerprinting must also be completed prior to beginning a student teacher residency. For this reason, you may want to get the fingerprinting taken care of before you get too far along in your degree program. To be fingerprinted, you can either have digital fingerprints taken by an Educational Services District (ESD) location or have manual fingerprints taken at a law enforcement office or at the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI). The cost for the digital scan is $43, while the manual scan varies by location.

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Step 3: Complete Required Exams

All teachers in Washington must demonstrate basic skills, often before entering a teacher education program. This can be done with high SAT/ACT scores or by passing the WEST-B: Reading, Writing, and Mathematics test. This is an exam that is made up of three subtests, each with their own structure, grading, and costs. Each exam costs $40, but if taking all three together, you'll only be charged the registration fee of $35 once. If you take all three exams together, you'll have five hours to complete all parts. The reading and math exam are both made up of 60 multiple-choice questions. The writing subtest includes two constructed-response questions and 50 multiple choice questions. Since each subtest is individually scored, you'll need to score at least 240 on each subtest.

The other test aspiring special education teachers must take is called the WEST-E Special Education exam. This exam costs $155, with $35 of that being for the registration. You'll have 135 minutes to work on the 110 multiple-choice questions. These will include questions equally on how to encourage development and learning, foundations and professional practice, understanding students with disabilities, and assessment and program development. To pass, simply score over 240.

Step 4: Apply for Certification

Once all of the above steps are fulfilled, those looking to apply for their certificate must set up an online account with the state. The website will walk you through each step in the application process and allow you to select your certificate choice.

Certification Resources for Washington Special Education Teachers

Special education teachers can benefit from studying for their tests ahead of time. Everyone can use a little help, and that's why we've included some resource links for the WEST exams, which are part of the National Evaluation Series (NES).

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