Washington, DC Art Teacher Certification and Job Requirements

The District of Columbia has made a commitment to helping students experience the arts as an educational and personal enrichment experience. District standards for visual arts education, adopted in 2008, focus on nurturing artistic perception, production, and creative expression, as well as learning how to understand the historical and cultural context of art. The Office of the State Superintendent of Education Educator Licensure Services handles teacher licensing in the district.

To become an art teacher in DC, follow these steps:

Complete a Bachelor Degree and Teacher Prep Program
Complete Testing
Apply for Your License
Maintain and Upgrade Your License
Pursue Graduate Work



Step 1. Complete a Bachelor Degree and Teacher Prep Program

The first step to becoming an art teacher in the District of Columbia is usually to successfully complete a bachelor’s degree and state-approved educator preparation program at a regionally accredited college or university. As of 2013, the district had 14 state-approved teacher prep programs, including three specifically authorized to prepare students to become art teachers. A list of state-approved teacher prep programs can be found here.

Students in arts-focused educator programs may complete classes in traditional and contemporary art-making processes, art history in the Western world and beyond, critical engagement with art, and aesthetic appreciation. They may also complete art-oriented coursework in literature, math, science, sociology, child development, classroom management, and more.

State law requires minimum of forty-eight semester hours in a program of general or liberal education, including each of the following fields:

(a) Humanities: 12 semester hours, including at least one course in each area:

  1. English grammar and composition (including vocabulary development
  2. and reading comprehension)
  3. Literature, art, music, philosophy
  4. Foreign language

(b) Social Sciences: 12 semester hours, including at least one course in each area

  1. American history
  2. History, anthropology, sociology, economics, political science,
  3. geography, psychology, world studies, or contemporary world cultures

(c) Natural Sciences and Mathematics: 12 semester hours: (at least one course in each area)

  1. Laboratory science
  2. Mathematics

(d) Health and Physical Education 4 semester hours; including coursework in substance abuse education

(e) Eight semester hours from areas 1, 2, or 3 of this subsection

Art teachers instructing prekindergarten through Grade 12 are also required by state law to have completed the following:

(a) Twenty-one semester hours of art in courses from among the following areas with a maximum of three semester hours from any one area:

  1. Design
  2. Drawing
  3. Painting
  4. Printmaking
  5. Commercial art (lettering, poster design, layout, etc.)
  6. Ceramics
  7. Art technology (computer graphic design, photography, etc.)
  8. Sculpture

(b) Six semester hours from among one or more of the following areas:

  1. Jewelry
  2. Fiber art (weaving, textiles, etc.)
  3. Stained glass
  4. Other craft areas

(c) Six semester hours in a specialized art area

(d) Nine semester hours of art history/art appreciation

(e) A portfolio review by a D.C. Public School Art Department specialist

Your portfolio must consist of between 12 and 15 pieces of original artwork that you created during the above coursework.



Step 2. Complete Testing

To become an art teacher in DC you must also successfully pass the following tests:

  • All portions of the Praxis Core Academic Skills for Educators
  • The Praxis II Art: Content Knowledge exam and Principles of Learning & Teaching for the grade level you want to teach

The Praxis Core tests measures basic skills in reading, writing, and math, through multiple choice questions and two thirty-minute essay questions. In DC, passing scores are as follows:

  • Reading: 156
  • Writing: 162
  • Mathematics: 150

The Praxis II: Art: Content Knowledge test is a two-hour exam that measures basic knowledge of art-making and the historical and theoretical foundations of art in the Western tradition and worldwide. A core of 158 or higher is required to teach in DC.

The Principles of Learning and Teaching tests measures general pedagogical knowledge through multiple-choice questions and constructed-response prompts based case studies. These tests are administered at four grade level ranges: Early Childhood, K–6, 5–9, and 7–12. Passing scores for the various grade levels are as follows:

  • Principles of Learning & Teaching: Early Childhood: 169
  • Principles of Learning & Teaching: Grades K-6: 168
  • Principles of Learning & Teaching: Grades 5-9: 165
  • Principles of Learning & Teaching: Grades 7-12: 162

More information can be found here. In DC, all ETS tests are computer-based unless an exception is made under the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Prospective art teachers can also apply to become licensed as Performing Arts—Visual Arts through experiential qualifications, in which case no Praxis exams are required. In that case, the following qualifications must apply:

(a) Professional experience for five (5) years in the following:

  1. Artists-in-resident grant recipient
  2. Award winning or nationally recognized design or publication
  3. Invitationals
  4. Juried art show
  5. Museum experience
  6. One person shows in a recognized professional gallery
  7. Outstanding awards citations, honoraria or commissions
  8. Study abroad

(b) Evidence of five years of experience in the visual arts

(c) Evidence of current production of creative work(s)

(d) An audition that includes a performance or portfolio review before a professional panel directed by the performing arts department/school.



Step 3. Apply for Your License

You are required to hold valid teaching license before teaching in a DC public, private, or public charter school. (Public charter and private school teachers are not mandated by DC law to hold a state license; although local education agencies may require them.)

The first license to apply for is the Regular I, which is valid for 2 years and non-renewable and is applied for while in a teacher prep program. You must meet the following requirements:

  • Hold a Bachelor’s Degree
  • Provide verification of current enrollment in a state approved teacher preparation program
  • Provide verification of current employment as a teacher in a DC local education agency
  • Passing scores or equivalents for all portions of the Praxis I
  • Passing score for the Praxis II Content Knowledge exam above

An application for a Regular I license may be found here. A processing fee of $50 applies, and a criminal history is required.

The next license to apply for is the Regular II, which is valid for 4 years and renewable. This is applied for after completing the state-approved teacher prep program (certain exceptions apply). You must meet the following requirements to apply for this license:

  • Verification of successful completion of a state-approved teacher preparation program; or
  • Completion of all content and teacher education coursework required under the DC Municipal Regulations, as determined by an OSSE transcript review; and
  • Passing scores for all portions of the Praxis I
  • Passing scores for the Praxis II Content Knowledge and Pedagogy exams

Note that an Approved Program Recommendation form from your teacher prep program must be on file with the OSSE office. An application for a Regular II license may be found here. You must state the subject area of the license you are seeking. A processing fee of $50 applies, and a criminal history is required.

Most states have reciprocity with DC, which may waive some of these requirements.



Step 4. Maintain and Upgrade Your License

To renew a Regular II District of Columbia license, you must submit evidence of six semester hours or 90 contact hours (or a combination of the two) of professional development activities completed within the four years prior to the date of the licensure application submission. Additional conditions apply:

  1. A minimum of three semester hours/45 clock hours of the professional development activities must be directly related to arts education.
  2. The remaining required three semester hours/45 clock hours may include any professional development activity relevant to Pre-K–12 education and/or serving Pre-K–12 students. These general education classes/workshops may be used to renew more than one license.

Examples of acceptable renewal activities include coursework at accredited colleges or universities; workshops, seminars, or conferences sponsored by a local education agency or school district and/ or other education/professional organizations.

Renewal applications may be submitted up to 90 days prior to the license’s expiration date. More renewal information and applications may be found here.



Step 5. Pursue Graduate Work

Art teachers often choose to pursue graduate work in education, which deepens their experience and may provide a raise. Nine schools in the district currently offer graduate programs in educator preparation of various types. These include:

  • Master of Arts in Teaching
  • Educating for Change (M.Ed.)
  • Master of Arts in Education: Teacher Preparation Program
  • Graduate Certificate in Curriculum and Instruction
  • Graduate Certificate in Teaching


District of Columbia Art Teacher Salaries

According to the National Education Association, the average starting salary for teachers in Washington DC as of 2011 was $51,539, which is significantly higher than the national average of $36,141.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics does not provide data on art teacher salaries as a separate unit, but tracks salaries for elementary, middle, and secondary school teachers as larger categories. The department reports the following annual mean wages and employment numbers as of May 2013:

Occupation title EmploymentAnnual mean wage
Elementary School Teachers3,910$63,310
Middle School Teachers1,130$61,930
Secondary School Teachers2,550$56,630


However, teacher salaries can vary significantly by location. A sample of the median salaries and employment figures as reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics for some major cities appears below (note that not all locations track all categories):

Washington-Arlington-Alexandria, DC-VA-MD-WV Metropolitan Division
Elementary School Teachers21,820$67,790
Middle School Teachers9,250$65,820
Secondary School Teachers12,700$69,860
Washington-Arlington-Alexandria, DC-VA-MD-WV
Elementary School Teachers26,850$68,230
Middle School Teachers12,930$67,570
Secondary School Teachers16,600$69,940


The District of Columbia Public Schools has established the following salary schedule for public school teachers:

Area Name
Annual Median Salary
Washington-Arlington-Alexandria DC-VA-MD-WV Metropolitan Division
Washington-Arlington-Alexandria DC-VA-MD-WV

Back to Top