Massachusetts Alternative Teacher Certification

Alternative teacher preparation programs, also known as non-traditional programs, are designed for those who have a bachelor’s degree outside of education and typically lead to the award of a certificate or master’s degree. In order to attract business professionals and career changers to the teaching profession, the state of Massachusetts has provided a few alternative routes to certification for individuals who have at least a bachelor’s degree. If you don’t have a bachelor’s degree, see our guide to traditional certification in Massachusetts. Continue reading to learn more about alternative route licensure in the state.

Requirements for Alternative Certification

Alternative certification can be a convenient way to transition into teaching as it can allow you to potentially begin teaching in a paid position while fulfilling the requirements for a standard teaching certificate. The typical candidate for the alternative approach to certification has work experience and a desire to pursue a career in education and holds a bachelor’s degree but lacks the formal teacher preparation requirements for an initial certificate. These approaches may result in the award of a master’s degree or a post-graduate certificate. Candidates can follow one of several routes to teacher licensure in Massachusetts, outlined below.

Types of Alternative Teaching Licenses in Massachusetts

In Massachusetts, prospective educators must typically complete a formal, state-approved teacher preparation program in order to become certified as educators. However, these pathways do commonly allow teachers to lead a classroom while completing the required teacher training.

Provisional Teaching License

A Provisional license is available for those who hold a bachelor’s degree and have passed the Massachusetts Tests for Educator Licensure (MTEL) appropriate to the grade level and content the candidate wishes to teach. This approach to certification gives the candidate the ability to begin teaching right away. The Preliminary license is valid for up to five years while the candidate completes an approved educator preparation program, which is required for a renewable Initial license.

Professional Teaching License

Candidates who hold a bachelor’s degree may also obtain Massachusetts teacher certification by completing an approved post-graduate program that includes teacher preparation. Alternative programs such as these can be completed in as little as one year as a certificate. Candidates also have the option of earning a master’s degree in education or in the academic discipline to be taught that includes an approved certification program.

Candidates following alternative licensure pathways who choose this route typically complete an Alternative/Practice-Based Licensure Program, which combines a yearlong residency in a school with master’s-level education. You can view available programs through the Massachusetts Department of Elementary & Secondary Education.

Preliminary Vocational Technical Education License

For those who wish to teach career and technical education subjects, the Vocational Technical Education License offers alternative routes to the classroom. As for teachers in traditional subjects, career and technical educators pursuing this type of license may obtain a Preliminary license with fewer requirements than for standard Initial teacher licensure while working towards advancement to a renewable license.

The basic requirements for an Preliminary Vocational Technical Education license are:

  • Possessing at least a high school diploma
  • Having the required years of professional experience, which vary based on the subject to be taught
  • Holding state-level licensure or certification in the profession to be taught, if available
  • Earning passing scores on the Vocational Subject Matter Test(s) and either the Vocational Technical Literacy Skills Test (VTLST) or the Communication and Literacy Skills Test

Once a Preliminary license is issued, candidates have five years to meet the requirements for a Professional Vocational Technical Teacher License, which is renewable. You can read more about these requirements through the Massachusetts Department of Elementary & Secondary Education.

Testing Requirements for Massachusetts Alternative Certification

Prospective educators who wish to teach traditional subjects must pass the Massachusetts Tests for Educator Licensure (MTEL). The required tests vary based on the subject area(s) and grade level(s) to be taught, so candidates should consult the guide to MTEL requirements. Career and technical (professional vocational) educators must pass the vocational subject-area tests for each content area to be taught as well as either the Vocational Subject Matter Test(s) and either the Vocational Technical Literacy Skills Test (VTLST) or the Communication and Literacy Skills Test, which are outlined in the guide to vocational technical licensure.

Transferring Teaching Licenses from Another State

Teachers who hold a license from another state and can verify at least three years of teaching experience may be eligible for licensure by reciprocity in the state of Massachusetts. Massachusetts participates in the National Association of State Directors of Teacher Education and Certification (NASDTEC) Interstate Agreement. Teachers with an out-of-state certification may be eligible for a Temporary license, which is valid for one year while completing Massachusetts testing requirements and fulfilling educational deficiencies. For further details, see our teaching license reciprocity guide or contact the Massachusetts Department of Elementary & Secondary Education.

Schools with Alternative and Master’s Programs in Massachusetts

In order to ensure that you qualify for licensure, it’s important to verify that the certification program you select is approved by the state. The list below includes school-based programs that typically lead to a certificate or master’s degree that have been approved by the Massachusetts Department of Education (MDOE).

  • American International College (Certificate, Master’s)
  • Bay Path University (Master’s)
  • Boston College* (Master’s)
  • Boston University (Master’s)
  • Brandeis University (Master’s)
  • Bridgewater State University (Certificate, Master’s)
  • Cambridge College (Certificate, Master’s)
  • Clark University (Master’s)
  • Curry College (Master’s)
  • Eastern Nazarene College (Master’s)
  • Elms College (Master’s)
  • Endicott College* (Alternative, Master’s)
  • Fitchburg State University* (Master’s)
  • Framingham State University* (Certificate, Master’s)
  • Gordon College (Master’s)
  • Harvard University* (Alternative, Master’s)
  • Lasell University (Master’s)
  • Lesley University* (Alternative, Master’s)
  • Massachusetts College of Art (Certificate, Master’s)
  • Merrimack College* (Master’s)
  • Mount Holyoke College (Master’s)
  • Northeastern University (Master’s)
  • Regis College (Master’s)
  • Salem State University* (Certificate, Master’s)
  • Simmons University (Master’s)
  • Springfield College* (Certificate, Master’s)
  • Stonehill College* (Alternative, Master’s)
  • Tufts University (Master’s)
  • University of Massachusetts-Amherst (Certificate, Master’s), Boston* (Alternative, Master’s), Dartmouth* (Master’s), Lowell (Master’s)
  • Westfield State University (Certificate, Master’s)
  • Worcester State University* (Certificate)

*Schools with an asterisk offer programs that can include paid classroom placements, subject to qualifications and experience. The student may be responsible for securing their own placement. Contact program(s) of interest for further information.

Additional Resources

1. Massachusetts State Department of Education: https://www.doe.mass.edu