Washington Administration/Principal Certification


School administrators and principals are leaders in their communities, seeking to strengthen the educational foundations of their schools. Given the vast responsibilities and demanding standards of school administrators, potential administrators must show they have the ability to lead by seeking certification in Washington.

Education Requirements

While regular teachers in Washington need only hold bachelor’s degrees, school administrators must earn master’s degrees at regionally accredited colleges or universities in the state.

Learn more about the graduate school process. Contact schools offering educational administration degree programs in Washington.

While earning master’s degrees, administration candidates attend state-approved administration preparation programs that help teach them the skills they’ll need to become successful school leaders. First time administrative applicants must first apply for their Residency Administrator Certificate.

The Washington Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) also offers administrative certification to those who have completed three years of administrative experience while holding an out-of-state certificate.

After two years of employment as an administrator, candidates must apply for their Professional Certificate. At the start of your third year of administrative work, your residency certification’s expiration date is set at five years. To earn a Professional Certificate, candidates must complete a Professional Certification program which will help ensure they’ve gained enough experience to move up to the advanced level.

The OSPI also offers a Superintendent Initial Certification for candidates who have completed an approved preparation program and received their master’s degree with a superintendent focus. The initial certification lasts for seven years, after which is may be renewed for five-year periods.


Administration candidates must have already attained a regular teaching certificate. In Washington, candidates for administrative certification should have already passed the WEST-B Skills Test proving their knowledge of basic reading, writing, and math skills, in addition to the WEST-E Endorsement Test.

Experience Requirements

During their administrator preparation programs, candidates for certification complete supervised administrative work to prepare them for their careers. After a Residency Administrative Certification expires, candidates must apply for Professional Administrative Certification.

The Professional Administrative Certification requires applicants to verify three years of experience in an administrative position, in addition to the completion of a Washington Professional Certificate Program. More information on the Professional Certification Program may be found here.

Document and Application Requirements

After meeting requirements for certification as a school administrator, candidates can begin the application process.

The first step to applying for certification is to print and complete the Administrative Certification application form.

Principal certification requires:

  • The Application
  • Fees
  • Fingerprint Check
  • Background Questionnaire
  • Regular Teaching Certificates
  • All official transcripts
  • School-based experience
  • Institution verification of Program Completion

Candidates should complete all required forms and documentation and submit their applications to their local Educational Service District (ESD). A full list of ESDs may be found here.

Criminal History Background Check

New employees of school districts are required to submit fingerprints for a background record check. The check includes both an FBI check in addition to a Washington State Patrol background check.

Fingerprint cards may be requested from one of Washington’s ESDs, where applicants will be processed. Applicants should go to the office in person, where they will pay the fee of $46.25 and be entered into the fingerprint system.

Contact Information

For more information on becoming an administrator in Washington, see the OSPI website for administrators.

Additionally, the OSPI may be contacted via e-mail at [email protected] or by phone at 360-725-6400.
Candidates who wish to learn more about the OSPI in person may visit their office at:

Old Capital Building, PO BOX 47200
600 Washington St. S.E.,
Olympia, WA 98504-7200