The Massachusetts Teaching and Certification Resource

Like all states, Massachusetts requires that educators hold certification from the state before they can teach in the K-12 public school system. The Massachusetts certification process is overseen by the Massachusetts Department of Elementary & Secondary Education and is outlined in detail below for those looking for information on how to become a teacher in Massachusetts.

How to Become a Teacher in Massachusetts

Massachusetts uses a tiered licensing structure that provides pathways to the classroom based on each candidate’s education and experience. In all cases, the minimum requirement to become a teacher in the state is a bachelor’s degree. Candidates must also pass the appropriate Massachusetts Tests for Educator Licensure (MTEL) for the content areas and grade levels they wish to teach. Candidates who meet these basic requirements may apply for a Preliminary license, which is valid for five years while the Preliminary teacher completes a state-approved teacher preparation program.

Candidates who have a bachelor’s degree, have passed the MTEL exams, and have completed a state-approved teacher preparation program are eligible for an Initial license, which is valid for up to ten years. During the period of Initial licensure, candidates must fulfill the requirements for a Professional license.

A Professional license can be earned by completing an approved master’s program in education or in the license content area, earning National Board for Professional Teaching Standards (NBPTS) certification, or completing a post-graduate 12 credit program in the license content area. Candidates who have taught for at least three years under an Initial license may also complete a one-year induction program combined with 50 hours of mentoring to move to the Professional certificate.

There are also alternative teacher certification programs in Massachusetts for those who have a bachelor’s degree but have not completed a teacher preparation program.

Quick Guide

Finding Approved Teacher Education Programs in Massachusetts

Projected Job Growth


Growth in Teaching Jobs in MA through 20262

Perhaps the most important step to becoming a fully-licensed Massachusetts teacher is completing an approved teacher preparation program at an accredited school. You can see a directory of approved programs through the Massachusetts Department of Elementary & Secondary Education. To compare key metrics for these state-approved teacher preparation programs, use the sortable table on our Massachusetts schools page.

Candidates who complete a teacher preparation program out-of-state or online must ensure that the school attended holds regional accreditation. There are six regional accrediting agencies in the US, which are overseen by the Department of Education. Without this accreditation, the state of Massachusetts will not grant teacher certification. Educator preparation programs that are part of the NASDTEC Interstate Agreement can also qualify candidates for Massachusetts educator licensure.

Additionally, programs in any state with accreditation from the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP) or unexpired accreditation from the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE) can qualify graduates for Massachusetts licensure. CAEP accreditation is not required, but it is highly regarded for its rigorous standards.

Massachusetts Teacher Education Requirements

The level of education required to lead a classroom in Massachusetts varies based upon the type of licensure sought. Career teachers undergo continuous education to move up through the tiers and attain the highest level of licensure for classroom teachers, the Professional license. The tiered system requires education levels as follows:

  • Preliminary license: A bachelor’s degree and passing scores on the appropriate Massachusetts Tests for Educator Licensure (MTEL).
  • Initial license: Meet the requirements for a Preliminary license, plus completion of an approved teacher preparation program.
  • Professional license: Meet the requirements for an Initial license, plus: Completion of an approved master’s degree program; or, completion of an approved alternative program; or, earning National Board Certification; or, three years of teaching combined with completion of a one-year induction program.

Once an educator receives a professional license, they must attend workshops and/or take courses to earn the professional development points (PDPs) necessary for their certificate to be renewed.

Massachusetts Teacher Testing Requirements

Massachusetts State SealThe state requires that anyone pursuing teacher licensure in Massachusetts take and pass the appropriate Massachusetts Tests for Educator Licensure (MTEL). Although the exact examinations required will vary depending on the grade level and subject area a candidate plans to teach, prospective teachers will typically need to pass the Communication and Literacy Skills Test as well as a Subject test designed to assess the candidate’s expertise in their specific content area. You can read more about the required exams on the Massachusetts Department of Education website.

Additional Massachusetts Teacher Certification Requirements

All Massachusetts educators are required to undergo state and national background checks via fingerprinting. This process is handled through the Statewide Applicant Fingerprint Identification Services (SAFIS) department, which candidates may refer to for detailed information on the process.

Massachusetts Teachers Licensing Application Process

Once prospective teachers have completed all requirements for Massachusetts teacher certification, an application for a license must be submitted. The Massachusetts Certification Office receives the majority of applications in June, July and August, so it’s advisable to send in all information three to four months in advance of your estimated date of employment. Required documentation includes:

  • Official transcripts showing proof of bachelor’s degree.
  • Verification of completion of a Massachusetts teacher preparation program (if applying for an Initial license).
  • Proof of passing scores on the MTEL exam series.
  • Payment of non-refundable application fee.
  • Submission of completed application for certification.

Applications should be submitted through the online Educator Licensure and Renewal (ELAR) portal. Visit the Massachusetts Department of Education for further details on earning teaching certification in Massachusetts.

Massachusetts Teacher Outlook, Salary, and Jobs

There were about 1,856 K-12 public schools in Massachusetts during the 2016-2017 school year, with an estimated student enrollment of 964,514.3 With approximately 72,413 public school teachers, this gave Massachusetts an overall student-to-teacher ratio of 13:1.3

Estimates are that there will be 2,320 average annual job openings for elementary school teachers, 1,510 average annual job openings for middle school teachers, and 2,080 average annual job openings for secondary school teachers in Massachusetts through 2026.2 Massachusetts elementary school teachers earn an average annual salary of $82,600, while middle school teachers earn an average annual salary of $79,030 and secondary school teachers earn an average annual salary of $80,020.4 Visit the Massachusetts Teacher Association for updates on the education job market and news regarding education in Massachusetts.

TypeNumber EmployedAverage Annual Salary
Preschool Teachers16,360$39,180
Preschool Teachers, Special Education1,060$64,370
Kindergarten Teachers3,020$75,510
Elementary School Teachers30,380$82,600
Special Education Teachers, Kindergarten and Elementary School6,490$74,470
Middle School Teachers16,910$79,030
Middle School Teachers, Special Education3,470$74,500
Secondary School Teachers26,420$80,020
Secondary School Teachers, Special Education4,630$76,080
Secondary School Teachers, Career/Technical Education2,710$83,880

Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics as of May 2018.4

Teacher Shortages in Massachusetts

According to the US Department of Education Teacher Shortage Area report for 2021-2022, Massachusetts broadly has the following shortages5:

  • Career and Technical Education (Business, Marketing and Information Technology (BMIT)), Pre-K-12
  • Language Arts (General), Pre-K-12
  • Mathematics (General), Pre-K-12
  • Science (General), Pre-K-12
  • Social Studies (General), Pre-K-12
  • Special Education (General), Pre-K-12
  • World Languages (General), Pre-K-12

Frequently Asked Questions

Question: How do I become a substitute teacher in Massachusetts?

Answer: Massachusetts does not require certification for substitutes serving less than 90 days in the same position. However, school districts may set different requirements. Some districts, such as Boston Public Schools, prefer candidates to have a teaching license or at least two years of teaching experience in a K-12 environment. Candidates in any school district must also be fingerprinted and pass a criminal background check.

Question: How much do teachers make in Massachusetts?

Answer: Massachusetts teachers earn average annual salaries of around $80,000 per year (among elementary, middle, and high school teachers excluding special and career/technical education).4 Factors that may affect teacher salaries in Massachusetts include location, school district, and qualifications of the teacher.

Question: What kinds of teachers are needed in Massachusetts?

Answer: For the 2021-22 school year, Massachusetts reported teacher shortages in career and technical education, social studies, special education, math, world languages, science, and language arts.5 Teachers of these subjects may find jobs more easily than other teachers.

1. Massachusetts State Department of Education: https://www.doe.mass.edu
2. Projections Central, Long Term Occupational Projections: https://projectionscentral.org/Projections/LongTerm
3. National Center for Education Statistics, State Nonfiscal Public Elementary/Secondary Education Survey Data, 2016-2017: https://nces.ed.gov/ccd/stnfis.asp
4. Bureau of Labor Statistics, May 2018 State Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates, Massachusetts: https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes_ma.htm
5. US Department of Education, Teacher Shortage Areas: https://tsa.ed.gov/