How to Become a Physical Education Teacher in Washington State

Washington’s PE teachers ensure the future of the Evergreen State grows up with healthy habits that will last a lifetime.

To earn the certification necessary to become a PE teacher in Washington State, follow these five steps:

Earn a Bachelor’s Degree in a Subject Related to Physical Education
Complete a Washington State-Approved PE Teacher Preparation Program
Apply for a Residency Certificate with a Health and Fitness Endorsement
Manage Your Physical Education Residency Certificate
Acquire Your Professional Certificate in Physical Education

To become a PE teacher in Washington State, you will need to obtain a Residency Certificate with an endorsement in Health and Fitness from the state’s Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction. The Residency Certificate will be valid for the first three years of your career, at which point you will need to upgrade to a more permanent certification known as a Professional Certificate.

Based in Olympia, the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction licenses the state’s teachers, maintaining a high level of professional standards to ensure only the best applicants are selected to become PE teachers in Washington’s public schools.



Step 1: Earn a Bachelor’s Degree in a Subject Related to Physical Education

Washington State approved colleges and universities often offer bachelor’s programs in relevant majors that are often coupled with the PE teacher preparation programs required for certification.

Some examples of the bachelor’s-level programs approved for health and fitness teaching certification in Washington include:

    • Physical Education and Health – courses can include:
      • Elementary Physical Education Methods
      • Motor control and learning
      • Education, culture and equity
      • Kinesiology
      • Nutrition


    • Physical Education – courses can include:
      • Motor development
      • Adapted physical education
      • Psychological and social aspects of PE
      • Fitness, health, and physical education


  • Sport Science – Health and Fitness Teaching, with courses including:
    • Human anatomy
    • Human psychology
    • Weight training and conditioning swimming
    • Diversity and classroom management
    • Dance

Depending on the university programs, you can also major in a subject that is related to health and fitness and complete the PE preparation program during post-baccalaureate study.

If you do not major in a field closely related to PE, you can still theoretically enroll in a PE teacher preparation program. However it is important to research the entry requirements for these teacher preparation programs because they may be only open to those with degrees in relevant majors since the courses in these programs often have prerequisites.

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Step 2: Complete a Washington State-Approved PE Teacher Preparation Program

Completing an approved PE teacher preparation program is the most common route to becoming a certified teacher. There are 12 state-approved PE teacher preparation programs, specifically referred to as a Health and Fitness endorsement programs. These are offered at locations across the state in both public and private institutions of higher learning.

Whether in a bachelor’s level program that covers PE teacher competency areas in addition to pedagogy, or a post-bachelor’s program dedicated to pedagogy and student teaching, these PE teacher preparation programs fulfill the requirements to obtain a Residency Certificate set forth by the Washington Superintendent of Public Education. These programs are within your academic major and focuses on tying together your academic work in the field of physical education with teaching and pedagogy.


Before being admitted to a PE prep program, you will need to complete a basic-skills assessment test known as the Washington Educator Skills Test Basic, or WEST-B for short. Successfully completing the PE prep program will entitle you to an endorsement on your Residency Certificate of Health and Fitness, provided you accomplish one final step: take and pass the WEST-E exam.

Officially known as the Washington Educator Skills Test Endorsement, the WEST-E will evaluate you on your specific knowledge in the field of physical education, and must be passed within your first year of becoming a certified teacher.

Student Teaching

Also referred to as a practicum or internship, the student teaching segment of the PE prep program is the point of fusion where theory comes together with practice, usually in the final quarters or semesters of the academic program. Everything you have learned about physical education and health will come together with your pedagogical training. Depending on the degree program, you may have several practicums. These can include:

  • Observation of a PE teacher while working
  • Working in tandem or assisting a PE teacher in the classroom
  • Working directly with a PE class under supervision by an experienced PE teacher

Out-of-State Candidates

In terms of fulfilling the PE prep course requirement, out-of-state teachers can obtain a Residency Certificate by having either of the following equivalents:

  • An alternate route pathway, indicating the applicant has already completed an out-of-state equivalency of a PE preparation program
  • Out-of-state certification and at least three years of PE teaching experience

Out-of-state candidates will need to pass the WEST-B and WEST-E tests within one year of becoming a certified teacher in Washington State.



Step 3: Apply for a Residency Certificate with a Health and Fitness Endorsement

By the time you have reached this step, you should have the following documents ready to submit along with an application for a Residency Certificate to the Washington Office of Superintendent of Public Education:

  • Transcripts that show completion of at least a bachelor’s degree
  • Proof of completion of a Health and Fitness endorsement program or its equivalent
  • Proof of good moral character and personal health

Complete applications can be sent to the office of one of the seven regional Educational Service Districts (ESD) in the state, as specified on page four of the Residency Certificate application:

  • ESD 101 in Spokane
  • ESD 105 in Yakima
  • ESD 112 in Vancouver
  • ESD 113 in Tumwater
  • ESD 114 in Bremerton
  • ESD 123 in Pasco
  • ESD 171 in Wenatchee

Although the Residency Certificate is the teaching certification applicable to most candidates, there are some other teaching certification options:

  • Substitute Certificate – this has the same requirements as the Residency Certificate, minus the endorsement training
  • Professional Certificate – this is usually obtained by experienced holders of a Washington State Residency Certificate
  • Limited Teaching Certificates – these are mostly used when there is a shortage of personnel. A particular school must request an individual to be granted a limited teaching certificate



Step 4: Manage Your Physical Education Residency Certificate

After applying for a Residency Certificate, successful applicants will first receive an Initial Certificate. This can be thought of a signifying you are qualified to be a PE teacher but have not yet been officially employed full-time as such. Once you have your Initial Certificate you can apply for PE jobs at area schools. After being employed full time for at least a year and a half you can apply to have the Initial Certificate converted to a Residency Certificate, which will be valid for three years.

Physical education teachers will be notified before their Residency Certificate expires and provided with instructions on how to renew it. The Residency Certificate may only be renewed once, for up to a period of three additional three years. As a condition of renewal, PE teachers must attest that they intend to fulfill the requirements to gain a Professional Certificate. This being said, PE teachers are encouraged to move to a Professional Certificate once their Residency Certificate expires the first time.



Step 5: Acquire Your Professional Certificate in Physical Education

The Professional Certificate is the next level up in certification and more permanent. It is valid for five years and is available to teachers who have completed one of the following programs:

Both these programs are designed to ensure PE teachers adhere to high teaching standards and ensure the development of their students. Instruction on important or timely topics, such as abuse and bullying, can also be included in the certification process of either program. By the time your Residency Certificate will expire for a second time, you must obtain a Professional Certificate under most circumstances.

ProTeach Portfolio

The ProTeach Portfolio program evaluates a PE teacher on three key standards:

  • Capabilities of effective teaching
  • Capabilities of professional development
  • Amount of professional contributions

These standards each have sub-sets of specific qualities that are scored to give a PE teacher a report card of his or her own performance. Teachers are evaluated on 12 key areas and given an overall score. The Professional Educators Standards Board will determine if this score is passing. If so, PE teachers will also need to complete a class regarding the issue of abuse and they will then be eligible to obtain a Professional Certificate.

National Board Certification

Becoming certified by the National Board takes hundreds of hours. This involves PE teachers:

  • Developing a portfolio of their work
  • Submitting videos of their classes
  • Exhibiting students who have improved because of the PE teacher’s intervention

A submitted portfolio will be scored by trained National Board Assessors on a PE teacher’s demonstrated skills and strengths.

What Evaluators are Looking For

Both the National Board Certification and ProTeach Portfolio involve taking a look at a PE teacher’s methods and effectiveness of teaching. Any outside courses of instruction or continuing professional education can also be important factors that would be considered. In the field of physical education, an obvious strength of a PE teacher would be the improvement in stamina and physical health of his or her students. Demonstrating that students have acquired knowledge about any of the following subjects can also be advantageous:

  • Healthy eating and diet
  • Musculo-skeletal system
  • Ability to conduct group sports as a team; teamwork
  • Development of healthy lifestyle and exercise routine
  • Learning and skills which have progressed over time

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Phys Ed Teacher Salary in Washington

The average annual Washington PE teacher salary is reported by the Washington State Employment Security Department as $50,723.14. Of course, one factor which causes salary to change is location. Here is a look at the averages among PE teachers by city/county in Washington:

King County

(Including Seattle and Bellevue)

Average: $51,743.89
Spokane County

(Including Spokane)

Average: $47,725.77
Pierce County

(Including Tacoma)

Average: $53,017.03
Whatcom County

Average: $50,796.12
Skagit County

Average: $50,796.12
Island, San Juan Counties

Average: $50,796.12
This data indicates that the highest-paying area in Washington for PE teachers is Pierce County, which includes Tacoma, while the lowest-paying area is Spokane County. The difference in salary between these two counties is about 10%, on average.

The table below has been published by the Bureau of Labor Statistics and includes PE teacher salaries across Washington:

Area name
Annual median wage
Bellingham WA
Estimate Not Released
Portland-Vancouver-Hillsboro OR-WA
Seattle-Bellevue-Everett WA Metropolitan Division
Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue WA
Tacoma WA Metropolitan Division

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