How to Earn a Teaching License in Massachusetts

Interested in learning how to become a teacher in Massachusetts? Earning your teacher certification is a necessary step to beginning a teaching career in public or charter schools.

There are several different pathways available to fit a variety of situations-whether you’re just beginning to research teaching college degree programs, you’re a practicing teacher moving to Massachusetts, or you’re looking for alternative routes to gain teacher certification.

Read on to learn about the different ways to get teacher certification in Massachusetts, and find fast facts about teaching in the state.

Teaching Requirements

The state of Massachusetts has four levels of teacher certification-Temporary, Provisional, Initial and Professional licenses. Each level has its own specific requirements potential candidates will need to consider before applying. To apply for a Temporary license, you will have to hold a bachelor’s degree and have not passed all or have not failed any of the required Massachusetts Teacher Educator License (MTEL) exams. This license is valid for one year and is nonrenewable.

For those seeking a Provisional License, you must hold at minimum a bachelor’s degree. You will also need to be actively seeking license as a core academic teacher and not hold the Sheltered English Immersion (SEI) Endorsement. Additionally, you will need to have passed all required Massachusetts Teacher Educator License exams. If your area of focus does not have a subject matter MTEL exam, you must complete a competency review. This level of licensure is valid for five years of employment and cannot be renewed or extended. Keep in mind that as of 2019, an educator who holds one or more provisional licenses may be employed under said licenses for no more than five years in total.

Initial Licensure requires potential candidates hold a bachelor’s degree, have passed all required MTEL examinations, holds the SEI endorsement and have completed one of the following two options. You must have either completed an approved educator preparation program in Massachusetts or have completed a Massachusetts state approved educator preparation program in a state or school in accordance with state guidelines. This level of licensure is valid for five years of employment and can be extended one time for an additional five years.

The highest level of teacher licensure in Massachusetts is the Professional license. This level of licensure requires candidates to currently hold an initial license in the same field as the Professional license being sought. Additionally, you must have been employed under the Initial license for at least three years and have completed a one-year induction program with a mentor, completing at least 50 hours of a mentored experience beyond the induction year. You will also have to have completed one of the following requirements:

  • An approved licensure program for the professional license being pursued.
  • A program leading to eligibility for master teacher status, such as those sponsored by the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards and others accepted by the Commissioner.
  • Any master’s degree or higher or other advanced graduate program in an accredited college or university and at least 12 credits of graduate level courses in subject matter knowledge or pedagogy based on the subject matter knowledge of the Professional license being pursued.

For additional information on the various levels of licensure in Massachusetts and specific information on required assessments, be sure to visit the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education website under the teacher license types and general requirements web page.

Minimum Education Requirements for Massachusetts Teachers

Regardless of which level of licensure you pursue, at minimum you will need to obtain a bachelor’s degree from an accredited university or program. In certain instances, you will need to also have obtained your degree in education along with a focus on a specific subject matter you wish to teach. To get a comprehensive understanding on the minimum education requirements to teach in Massachusetts, visit the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education website under the licensure requirements tool page.

Student Teaching

All candidates seeking licensure as educators in Massachusetts are required to complete an approved student teaching program, also referred to as an educator preparation program. Massachusetts alone has 79 approved educator preparation programs that will lead to an Initial license. If you completed your student teaching component in another state, you will have to check to make sure Massachusetts will accept your experience from the program you took.

Pass Massachusetts Certification Exams

Depending on your area of focus and grade level, you will have to pass specific certification exams on your road to receiving your teaching license in Massachusetts. One of the required exams for candidates seeking any level of certification in the state is the Massachusetts Test for Educator Licensure (MTEL). The MTEL is designed to help ensure Massachusetts educators can communicate properly with students, parents or guardians and other educators. Regardless of whether or not you have passed licensure exams in other states, you are required to take and pass the MTEL’s Communication and Literacy Skills exam.


Specific to the state of Massachusetts, you must apply for licensure through an electronic application through the Educator Licensure and Renewal (ELAR) portal. There, you will be able to apply, renew or check the status of a teaching license. To get a step-by-step guide on how to apply for licensure in the ELAR, visit the Academic Pre-K-12 Forms, Guidelines and Licensure regulations web page under the License and Endorsements: Application/How to Apply section.

How Much Do Teachers in Massachusetts Make?

Massachusetts has long dedicated itself to providing quality education to its students. In order to maintain this tradition, the state hopes to attract and retain high quality teachers by offering a variety of employee benefits and a healthy salary compared to many other states. From retirement, health insurance and paid time off, Massachusetts prides itself on providing teachers with the desirable benefits packages. The table below gives a detailed comparison of the different Maryland teacher specialties and their respective salaries.

salary outlook
Secondary School Teachers, Except Special and Career/Technical Education
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Median Hourly WageN/A

Job growth1%

Total Employment27,180

Metro area Median Salary Bottom 10% Top 10%
Barnstable Town, MA $82,090 $49,730 $100,420
Worcester, MA-CT $79,960 $49,210 $101,620
Boston-Cambridge-Nashua, MA-NH $79,460 $49,630 $115,890
Pittsfield, MA $77,760 $48,780 $102,280
Leominster-Gardner, MA $77,570 $50,740 $107,540
New Bedford, MA $77,300 $48,210 $102,080
Springfield, MA-CT $77,000 $51,370 $100,220

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) 2022 median salary; projected job growth through 2032. Actual salaries vary depending on location, level of education, years of experience, work environment, and other factors. Salaries may differ even more for those who are self-employed or work part time.


Job Growth for High School Teachers through 2032

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Employment Statistics, 2022

Specialty Certifications

Here are some of the most common teaching and education endorsements you can earn in the state of Massachusetts.

Early Childhood Education


There are two certification exams you must take in order to teach early childhood education in Massachusetts. You must take the Praxis early childhood subject matter exam and the foundations of reading exam and receive the appropriate qualifying scores. Learn more about subject matter test requirements by visiting the Massachusetts state department of education page under the MTEL web page.

Elementary School Teacher


Candidates looking to teach at the elementary level which includes grades 1-6 will have to take two certification exams. You must take and receive the appropriate qualifying score on the General Curriculum exam and the Foundations of Reading exam.

Secondary School Teacher


Certification for secondary teachers will vary depending on the grade level and subject area you wish to teach. Along with the certification exam you must take specific to the subject you wish to teach, you will need to also pass the MTEL exam. Get a detailed breakdown of the different subject areas and the appropriate certification exams needed for licensure by visiting the subject matter test requirements page on the state department of education website.

Substitute Teacher Certification


Substitute teaching requirements vary by district in the state of Massachusetts. Regardless of district specific requirements, all candidates who wish to substitute teach must have a bachelor’s degree and must complete the MTEL exam prior to certification. For example, in the Boston public school system, you will have to have your bachelor’s degree and have completed one of the following requirements. You must either have a Massachusetts teaching license, completed the substitute skills basic training course with a passing score of 85 percent or higher, or have two years of teaching experience. Additionally, you will also have to submit to and pass a Criminal Offender Record Information (CORI), Sexual Offender Registry Information (SORI) and fingerprint check. Learn more about Boston substitute teaching requirements and the application process by visiting the Boston public schools’ website.

Physical Education (PE) Certification


In order to receive certification or licensure of physical education teachers at the elementary, middle and high school levels. Elementary classroom teachers may teach required elementary school physical education classes since they are tested in the licensure exam for the content area of physical education. Discover more on physical education requirements in Massachusetts by visiting the Massachusetts Association for Health, Physical Fitness, Recreation and Dance website.

Special Education Certification


For those candidates seeking certification in special education, you will have to decide which area of special education you wish to teach. Because the state of Massachusetts has several subject area assessments within special education, it would also be wise to know your grade level preference. For example, if you wish to teach students with disabilities at the elementary level, you will have to take the General Curriculum assessment and the Foundations of Reading exam. For those seeking a preliminary license in special education, you will also have to submit to a competency review.

English as a Second Language Certification


English as a Second Language students also known as English Language Learners (ELLs), are an important focus for the Massachusetts Board of Elementary and Secondary Education’s Proficiency Gap Task Force. Sheltered English Immersion (SEI) is an approach to teaching academic content in English to ELLs. Generally, but not always, ELLs are in the same classrooms as native English-speaking students, so to better serve these students, all core academic teachers and those administrators who supervise and evaluate core academic teachers are required to obtain an SEI teacher or SEI administrator endorsement. The two endorsements available are:

  • Core Academic Teachers (early childhood, elementary, teachers of students with moderate and severe disabilities, English, reading, language arts, mathematics, science, civics and government, economics, history, and geography)
  • Academic Administrators (principal/assistant principal or supervisor/director only)

Certifications for School Administrators


Massachusetts is one of the few states that offers a wide range of school administrator certifications. Regardless of the certification type you choose to pursue, you will have to also complete an administrative apprenticeship/internship. Below is a complete list of the different administrator certifications and the required hours needed to complete an apprenticeship.

Superintendent/Assistant Superintendent (All levels) – 500 hours
Principal/Assistant Principal – (PreK-6, 5-8, 9-12 grade level) – 500 hours
Supervisor/Director (Level depends on prerequisite license) – 300 hours
Special Education Administrator (All levels) – 500 hours
School Business Administrator (All levels) – 300 hours

Certificate vs Certification


A certificate is awarded by an educational institution, and signifies that a student has satisfactorily completed a given curriculum. Certificate programs can help students prepare for certification exams.


A certification is generally awarded by a trade group after an individual has met certain professional requirements (e.g. earned a specific degree, worked professionally in a given field for a set amount of time, etc.) and passed a certification exam.

In short, a certificate is evidence that someone has completed an educational program, while a certification denotes that someone has met a certain set of professional criteria and/or passed an exam.

Not all programs offered are designed to meet state educator licensing or advancement requirements; however, it may assist candidates in gaining these approvals in their state of residence depending on those requirements. Contact the state board of education in the applicable state(s) for requirements.

Teaching Reciprocity Agreements in Massachusetts

Massachusetts has a long running history of providing quality education to its students and educators. If you are already a licensed teacher in another state or looking to further your level of licensure in Massachusetts, you may qualify for teacher reciprocity with the state. The table below gives a granular description of the different reciprocity guidelines for candidates at any level of licensure.

NASDTEC Interstate Agreement Massachusetts is an active participant in the NASDTEC Interstate Agreement.
State Grants Full Reciprocity No.
Coursework Requirements Yes, however not initially and only for select candidates. Core academic teaching candidates must take a Sheltered English Immersion (SEI) course and obtain an SEI endorsement. Candidates with at least three years of employment under a valid out-of-state license may be eligible for a Temporary License while he/she completes the coursework requirements. The Temporary License is not available to candidates who fail any of the required state licensure tests.
Test-out or Exemption No.
Assessment Requirements Yes, however, not initially, and only for select candidates. Out-of-state candidates must receive a passing score on the Communication and Literacy Skills test and the subject matter knowledge tests appropriate to the license for which you are applying for. Candidates with at least three years of employment with a valid out of state license or certificate may be eligible for a Temporary License while he or she completes the required assessments. The Temporary License is only available to those candidates who pass all the required state licensure exams.
Different Requirements Based on Experience There are no different requirements based on experience, however, candidates with at least three years of employment with a valid out-of-state license or certificate may be eligible for a Temporary License while he or she works to meet requirements for full licensure.
Performance Requirements No.
Special Reciprocity for Advanced Credentials There are no special reciprocity guidelines for those with advanced credentials because the state of Massachusetts has three main certification levels-Provisional, Initial and Professional. Candidates with advanced teaching credentials are required to meet assessment requirements. Some may also be required to take a Sheltered English Immersion course.

Information reported by the Education Commission of the States.

Alternate Teaching Certification

Because of busy schedules and work/life balance, the traditional routes to teacher certification may not be feasible. However, alternative teacher certification can be a great way for you to obtain your teaching licenses at the pace that is right for you. The state of Massachusetts offers various alternatives to teacher certification depending on your current level of experience and education. Read below to get more information on the different alternate teaching certifications to find the program that is right for you.

Teach for America

Teach for America is a widely recognized program that aims to help prospective teaching candidates receive their certifications in states and areas that participate in the program. Most of Massachusetts participates in the program, which provides options for those looking to teach in particular areas in the state.

Massachusetts corps members teach in traditional and charter public schools in Boston neighborhoods, as well as in the nearby cities of Chelsea, Salem and Lynn to name a few. Candidates also teach in historic port cities on the South Coast, Fall River and New Bedford, as well as in Springfield and Holyoke, both located in Western Massachusetts. Wherever possible, Teach for America works to cluster multiple corps members in schools to maximize their impact on students and the community.

Transition into Teaching for Career Changers

Transitioning into teaching as a second career can seem like a daunting process. However, depending on your current level of education, the process may be more streamlined than you think. If you have a bachelor’s degree and have an idea of the area of interest you wish to teach, you may qualify for the provisional license while you work towards your Initial certification. Please keep in mind that the state of Massachusetts requires all prospective teaching candidates, regardless of education and experience level, to take and pass the MTEL exam among others. The best-case scenario for those looking into teaching as a second career is to talk to counselors and administrators working in the Massachusetts school system to find the right alternative program right for you.