State Profile

School Leader Certification and Preparation Programs

State Profile - Washington

April 2018


The data included in this 50-state comparison is specific to school leader preparation program and certification requirements. There may be additional requirements that are not indicated. For additional information, questions or comments, please contact Deven Scott at

Has the state adopted leadership standards? Yes. Washington has adopted state standards for principals and program administrators. Wash. Admin. Code 181-78A-264
Which state entity approves traditional school leader preparation programs? Washington Professional Educator Standards Board Wash. Admin. Code 181-78A
Does state policy require school leader preparation programs to align with adopted standards? Yes. Principal preparation programs must align with adopted standards for principals and program administrators. Wash. Admin. Code 181-78A-264
Does state policy require field experience as part of school leader preparation programs? Yes. Principal preparation programs must provide an internship of at least 540 hours. State policy provides additional requirements. Wash. Admin. Code 181-78A-264
Does state policy allow for innovative or experimental preparation programs? No state policy found. However, a program provider may waive required coursework and/or waive or reduce in length of the internship for any candidate, based on a review if previous coursework, work experiences or alternative learning experiences are determined to be sufficient. Wash. Admin. Code 181-78A-307
Certification and Licensure
What are the initial school leader certification requirements? To qualify for a Principal Certificate, a candidate must:
  • Hold or have held a full, valid teacher's certificate or a full, valid education staff associate certificate and may not have had the certificate revoked, suspended or surrendered
  • Hold an approved master's degree
  • Complete an approved principal preparation program
  • Have three years of documented successful school-based experience in an instructional role with students.
Wash. Admin. Code 181-79A-211
What are the requirements for school leaders licensed out-of-state? Out-of-state applicants are held to the same requirements as in-state candidates. If an applicant has not completed a state-approved administrator preparation program, he/she must have three years full-time out-of-state administrator experience. Source
Is there an alternative route to initial certification? No state policy found. However, an Emergency Certificate qualifies a principal candidate for employment if the school cannot find a regularly certificated principal and if the candidate has at least a master’s degree and has substantially completed a principal preparation program. Wash. Admin. Code 181-79A-231

© 2021 by the Education Commission of the States (ECS). All rights reserved. ECS is the only nationwide, nonpartisan interstate compact devoted to education. 700 Broadway #810, Denver, CO 80203-3442

To request permission to excerpt part of this publication, either in print or electronically, please contact the Education Commission of the States’ Communications Department at 303.299.3636 or

Your Education Policy Team