How to Become a Paraeducator in Washington State

by Michelle Hornaday ; Updated September 26, 2017
Paraeducators work with students and teachers.

In Washington, a paraeducator is defined as someone who provides instructional services to students while working under the direct supervision of a teacher. Officially designated as paraprofessionals by the U.S. Department of Education, paraeducators may spend their days translating for students, assisting in a library, organizing instructional materials for a teacher or providing one-on-one tutoring for students, according to the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI). To qualify as a paraeducator, requirements differ for federally funded Title 1 positions and those positions requiring the paraeducator to meet the Washington state set of competencies. Title 1 positions have stricter requirements, with three pathways available to satisfy federal mandates.

Become a Paraeducator in Washington

Obtain a copy of your high school transcript to show that you completed high school and earned a diploma or its equivalent through an approved program. Submit the transcript wiith your application to the school district where you intend to work. If you are applying for a specific position, find out whether the job is a federally funded Title 1 position or a district-funded position not subject to federal requirements.

Consider your current qualifications as a paraeducator if your intended position is funded through Title 1. Option 1 is to complete two years of coursework at an institute of higher learning, which is defined as 72 credit hours at universities on a quarter term system, or 48 semester hours of classes, at the 100 level or higher. If you have this qualification, submit a transcript to the school district where you intend to work as a paraeducator.

In option 2 for Title 1 positions, submit a transcript indicating that you have earned an associate's degree or higher from a college or university. If instead of two years of college coursework, you hold an associate's degree, this fulfills the federal requirements for paraeducators.

Learn about the pathways to qualifying as a Title 1 paraeducator through formal assessment if you do not have an associate's degree or two years of college coursework. One pathway is to pass a 2.5-hour national exam, known as the ETS ParaPro Assessment. A second pathway is a portfolio assessment used for experienced paraeducators and requires school district permission. A school district paraeducator assessment is the third pathway, which measures the candidate's knowledge and skills. The fourth pathway is an apprenticeship program provided through a community college, which combines instructional and work-based training hours.

Know the 14 core competencies expected of a paraeducator if the position for which you are applying is not funded through Title 1. Special education paraeducators are expected to demonstrate effectiveness in each of the 14 areas. A local Educational Service District (ESD) office or school district may provide training.


  • Consider substituting as a paraeducator before applying for a permanent position. This experience may solidify your intent to pursue a position, while allowing you to gain experience and possible employment references. For answers to questions, contact a paraeducator liaison at one of the nine ESD offices across the state.

About the Author

Michelle Hornaday lives in Edmonds, Washington and holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in English from Washington State University and a Master of Education from Northern Arizona University. She is currently a freelance writer for various websites.

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