Massachusetts Teacher Certification: How to Become a Licensed Teacher in Massachusetts

Teaching License Updated July 28, 2015

Choosing to be an educator is a wise career decision. Your next step should be to understand how to qualify and obtain your teaching license in whatever state you desire to work. It is important to gather thorough information on the requirements for becoming a certified teacher in Massachusetts, as there are various teaching license options in the state.

Requirements for certified teachers in Massachusetts

The Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (MDESE) determines the general requirements for a Massachusetts teaching license. First, you need a bachelor’s degree from a regionally accredited university and to submit an official transcript verifying that degree.

Additionally, all teachers in Massachusetts must pass the Communication and Literacy Skills portions plus relevant subject matter areas of the Massachusetts Tests for Educator Licensure (MTEL). These are necessary to help you demonstrate your mastery of your subject matter knowledge and your teaching skills. All licenses except the initial license (see below) also require a candidate to complete an approved educator preparation program. You must also submit your fingerprints, pass a criminal background check, and pass a drug screening.

Other eligibility requirements are slightly different depending on what specific licensure you are applying for.

A Preliminary License is suitable for those educators just starting their teaching careers. You must pass the Massachusetts Tests for Educator Licensure (MTEL) and meet additional qualifications, depending on the grade level and subject matter you teach. The preliminary license is valid for five years.

An Initial License is suitable for those educators who have received a passing MTEL score and have completed an approved educator preparation program. You must also meet additional qualifications specific to the grade level and subject matter you teach. The initial license is valid for five years.

A Professional License is suitable for those educators who have at least three years of teaching experience under an Initial License, have completed a teacher induction program, and meet additional qualifications specific to the grade level and subject matter taught. The professional license is valid for five years and renewable in five-year increments.

You may also apply for additional licenses for other subjects you are qualified to teach, such as math, science, or history, and in more than one grade level, providing you follow the designated path and meet the stated requirements.

Massachusetts jobs for licensed teachers

Other paths exist to help you earn and find employment with your Massachusetts teaching certification. The MDESE lists three primary educator license categories, and variations within each, for teachers in Massachusetts. These are the categories, variations, and the relevant qualifications:

  1. Academic (Pre-K to 12): Includes licenses for teachers, administrators, specialist teachers, and professional support personnel. This category includes preliminary licenses for those who have not completed an approved educator preparation program, temporary licenses for those with current licenses from another state, initial licenses for those who have completed an approved educator preparation program, professional licenses for those with at least three years of teaching experience, and relicensure as necessary. Educators must pass relevant subject matter areas of the MTEL in order to qualify for their respective licenses.
  2. Vocational Technical Education: Includes licenses for teachers, administrators, and cooperative education coordinators in state-approved vocational technical education programs. Vocational educational teachers may obtain preliminary licenses if they hold at least a high school diploma or GED and meet other eligibility requirements; or professional licenses if they have at least three years of experience and pass a one-year induction program. Vocational educational administrators may obtain initial licenses if they hold current educator licenses and pass required tests; and professional licenses if they complete a one-year induction program and have at least three years of administrative experience.
  3. Adult Basic Education: Voluntary license, but some employers include it as part of their hiring policies. This category includes provisional licenses for those eligible to teach adult basic education, and professional licenses for those who pass one of four routes for eligibility. Those pursuing preliminary licenses must hold bachelor’s or master’s degrees, pass the MTEL, and meet other eligibility requirements. Those pursuing professional licenses must pass a performance assessment known as the Adult Basic Education Subject Matter Test.

If you plan to teach a subject designated as a Teacher Shortage Area (TSA) by the U.S. Department of Education, you might be eligible for student loan deferment or cancellation. The following TSAs have been approved for Massachusetts for the 2015-2016 school year:

  • English as a Second Language
  • English Language Arts/Reading
  • Mathematics
  • Modern Foreign Languages
    • Chinese
    • French
    • German
    • Italian
    • Latin and/or Classical Humanities
    • Portuguese
    • Spanish
  • Sciences
    • Biology
    • Chemistry
    • Earth Science
    • General Science
    • Physics
  • Special Education
    • Early Childhood (Pre-Kindergarten – Grade 2)
    • Moderate Disabilities
    • Severe Disabilties

A full and current list of TSAs for each state is available via the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Postsecondary Education.

Teaching license reciprocity in Massachusetts

Massachusetts participates in a teaching license reciprocity agreement with the National Association of State Directors of Teacher Education and Certification (NASDTEC). When you apply for a teaching certificate in one state using an existing license from another, the “destination state” is actually recognizing your credentials as verification that you are qualified to teach. You must still meet all requirements before you can teach there.

Fortunately, the NASDTEC Interstate Agreement for Educator Licensure streamlines this application process and expedites the goal of teaching in your new state. For more information, see Teaching License Reciprocity Explained.

Disclaimer: Licensing requirements are subject to change. Please visit your state board of education to check for recent revisions to teaching license requirements.

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