Washington School Counselor Certification

Any persons interested in applying for school counseling certification in the state of Washington will need to meet several requirements before they are allowed to work in the Washington public school system. It is through the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) that these school certifications are granted, and you might be interested to know that they offer more than one type of certification.

Skip down to find information relevant to your situation:

Initial Washington School Counselor Certification

There are two kinds of certificates issued to applicants for initial certification in Washington: Professional Certification and Provisional Certification. Requirements for both types of certification follow.

Step 1: Education Requirements

Acquire a Master’s degree in school counseling. Some accredited, state-approved options are:

It’s interesting to note that Washington state does not require a minimum number of experience hours or practicum hours for school counseling certification.

*Your official transcripts must show proof of your Master’s degree for approval during the application process.

Step 2: Examination Requirements

Complete an approved, comprehensive exam relevant to the school counseling role.

  • If you’ve already completed a comprehensive examination such as the Praxis exam, you can opt to include a completed FORM 4098E for verification of the completed examination.
  • If you were not tested by a comprehensive examination during your selected program coursework, you may choose to be tested by one of the following alternatives:

    The National Counselor Examination (provided by the National Board of Certified Counselors)


    The Praxis exam in guidance and counseling, (code 5421), administered by the Educational Testing Service (ETS)

Step 3: Submit to a Background Check

Submit your fingerprints for a thorough background check.

  • Fingerprint submission is required, unless you already have an educator certificate that has been validated and on record.
  • The process for a Washington state background check goes through both the Washington State Patrol (WSP) and Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).
  • The Washington Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) uses scanning technology to take high-quality prints and create digital images of your fingerprints. This technique is accomplished through a machine called Live Scan. Once your fingerprints are scanned, the system submits the high-quality images automatically.
  • Once cleared through the Washington State Patrol, the results are forwarded to the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction and are entered into an online database.

Please note: If, for some reason, you cannot access a LiveScan machine at one of Washington’s educational facilities, or, if you need an alternative to completing your fingerprint check, please review alternatives HERE.

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Step 4: Organize Your Application Materials

Download the Certification Application and complete this form.

Gather all items needed including your residency form, program completion form, comprehensive exam results, and official transcripts.

* Please note: There is an additional fee of $39 per certificate that is required by the OSPI.

Step 5: Submit Your Application

Send your completed application packet and fee(s) to this address:

OSPI, Fiscal Office
P.O. Box 47200
Olympia, WA 98504-7200

Washington School Counselor Certification Renewal

The initial first-tier school counseling license in Washington expires after five years. To renew (or reissue) your license, you must have two completed years of service in the role of school guidance counselor. These hours must be completed within the five-year, first-tier certification.

Another option for renewal is having a Residency ESA Certificate that was issued to you with a five-year expiration date, even if you didn’t fulfill the two consecutive years in the role of school counselor. However, by the time you reach your third year, you must apply for renewal of your certification as soon as possible.

* Please note: You must submit fingerprints again for a second background check, especially if an approved certificate is not already on record with the OSPI.

Once you have counseled within the Washington state public school system for the initial two years, and have been reissued a certification, you may opt to apply for a 5-Year Residency Renewal Certificate. This would take place before your renewal certificate expires.

If the 5-Year Renewal Certificate sounds like the best option to you, you must complete an Issues of Abuse Course, plus 100 continuing education courses that pertain to school guidance counseling.

Here are a few facts about the Issues of Abuse Course that is required for the 5-year renewal certificate: This course includes information related to identifying abusive and social/emotional behavior, as well as sexual abuse and substance use. Instruction is also offered on the impact that certain abusive behaviors have and the responsibilities that counselors and school officials have to report such behaviors. This course also addresses methods of prevention and assistance to children who are victims of abuse.

* If you are looking for information on how to upgrade to a second-tier certificate, please see the Upgrade to the Professional webpage.

Washington School Counselor Certification Through Reciprocity

If you live outside the state of Washington, you can still receive certification through reciprocity by submitting your own state school guidance counselor license. The OSPI will look at your qualifications, experience, and the last 3 years of your school counseling services.

Along with your application, you must include scores from a comprehensive, approved exam, and submit your fingerprints for a background check through the Washington state system.

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