Future teachers

Every child in Washington state needs a great CS teacher. Could that be you?

How do I become a K-5 CS teacher?

In Washington state, teaching in K-5 is holistic; teachers don't just teach one particular subject, they teach all subjects. Washington state does not yet programs that specialize in K-5 CS education, and so the best ways to CS in a K-5 context is to:

  • Pursue a certification as primary school teacher (see below for a list of colleges and universities offering certifications at different levels). This requires meeting the state's CS competencies standards and passing a state exam run by NES.

  • Pursue careers at after school and summer programs that teach computing topics to primary school-aged children.

How do I become a middle or high school CS teacher?

Unlike primary school, middle and high school teachers do teach particular subjects. Therefore, there are many more pathways:

  • Do you have a background in Computer Science?

    • Yes. You have two options:

      • Pursue the CTE endorsement. Work in industry and complete 6,000 hours (3 years) of professional experience in CS, then complete a PESB-approved CTE endorsement at places like Bates Technical College, Cascadia Technical College, Central Washington University, Eastern Washington University, Olympic College, South Seattle College, or ESD101. Then, take the West-B exam in Reading, Writing, Mathematics, and the NES CS exam. After this, you'll be certified to teach Computer Science with a CTE Endorsement. The upside of this pathway is that it gives you preparation in teaching other CTE subjects, such as business, manufacturing, and information technology. The downside is that it will likely involve no preparation in CS teaching methods, which will make it harder to support your students' learning effectively.

      • Pursue a Masters in Teaching. Many universities in Washington state offer these (Evergreen State University, Seattle Pacific University, Washington State University campuses, University of Washington campuses). Of these, some campuses are offering CS teaching courses. For example, the University of Washington, Seattle campus is offering a secondary-level CS endorsement each Spring which involves a CS Teaching Methods course, a CS Assessment course, a CS Equity & Justice course, and a field placement in a middle school or high school. Other programs will prepare you to teach in other subject areas, but not CS. However, you can still teach CS: after completing a degree, take the West B exam in Reading, Writing, and Mathematics and pass the NES CS exam, then you'll be certified to teach CS under the state's CS Endorsement. The benefit of this pathway is getting a strong preparation in teaching in general, and in your preferred subject areas.

    • No. Do you already have a teaching credential?

        • No. You have two options

          • Pursue a bachelor's degree in CS Education. Central Washington University and Whitworth University have begun offering education degrees with specializations in CS education. After completing them, pass the West-B: Reading, Writing, and Mathematics exam and pass NES CS exam, and you'll be certified to teach CS under the state's CS Endorsement. This pathway is great for aspiring teachers who haven't completed their undergraduate education yet.

          • Pursue a bachelor's degree in computing or information science, then pursue a masters as above. The advantage of this pathway is that you will gain both a strong content knowledge in CS, and and strong preparation in teaching CS.

          • Pursue an undergraduate degree in teaching another subject, while also taking the CS courses necessary to complete the CS endorsement (as described below). This path provides good preparation in teaching, and some content knowledge in CS, but no preparation in teaching CS.

        • Yes. You have two options.

          • Pursue the CS Endorsement directly. Just take the NES CS exam and you'll have the endorsement. This pathway is the shortest, but requires substantial CS content knowledge to pass the exam. You can learn more about the topics you’ll have to learn to pass the exam from the exam preparation materials.

          • Pursue a CTE Endorsement. Central Washington University and Eastern Washington University offer CTE endorsements for already certified teachers. After completing it, pass the NES CS exam.

Note: under current state law, the CS endorsement does not make you eligible to teach CS courses under CTE, and most CS courses are taught under CTE in order to secure enhanced funding. However, district leaders have many creative workarounds for this.

In addition to becoming a full-time teacher, another option is to co-teach through the Microsoft's TEALS program, which connects CS content experts with expert teachers. While volunteering through TEALS does not certify you to teach independently, it will give you classroom experience, which may be helpful if you eventually decide to pursue a teaching career.

There are many more details about the exams and endorsements mentioned above:

  • The NES K-12 CS Exam

  • Washington state's Career and Technical Education endorsement. There are multiple paths to certification, depending on your work experience and your content knowledge. Most pathways require a certain amount of work experience, passing several content knowledge exams. Unfortunately, none require education in CS education; you would be expected to learn how to teach CS independently, or through professional development.

How can I prepare for the CS endorsement exam?

How do I become a higher education CS teacher?

Unlike K-12, faculty at colleges and universities do not need to be certified to teach. However, some colleges and universities require a Ph.D., a masters degree, or significant experience teaching CS. Here are some pathways to becoming a CS teacher:

  • Review job postings at the state's 2-year and 4-year colleges and universities on the CRA Jobs website. These are typically posted as early as November and as late as February, with most interviews occurring January through April.

  • Reach out to CS teachers in higher education listed in our Community page to learn more about careers.

  • Contact any teaching-track faculty at a university for an informational interview to learn about the path that they followed to obtain their job.

What colleges and universities can prepare me to teach K-12 CS?

Here are the current CS endorsement programs in Washington state:

Other colleges and universities are exploring possibilities. You can see OPSI's approved CS endorsement programs to find a complete listing of programs.

In addition to CS endorsements, some CTE Plan 2 certifications cover CS:

Why aren't there more programs that prepare CS teachers?

While higher education prepares a lot of teachers to teach Math, Science, English, Social Studies, Language Arts, and other subjects required in Washington state public schools, most of our state's universities do not yet prepare teachers to teach CS. A 2018 report by CS education experts from around the country recommended the following:

  • Schools of education in higher education need to create pre-service programs that teach the content, teaching methods, and state standards for teaching CS.

  • States need to supplement these pre-service programs with in-service professional development programs.

Washington state has only just begun these two efforts.