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 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 20242

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.

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.

See our list of CAEP accredited schools in Massachusetts.

Massachusetts Teacher Outlook
The Massachusetts Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development projects 141 average annual job openings due to growth and 573 average annual job openings due to replacements for elementary school teachers, 93 average annual job openings due to growth and 376 average annual job openings due to replacements for middle school teachers, and 126 average annual job openings due to growth and 550 average annual job openings due to replacements for secondary school teachers in Massachusetts through 2024.3 The US Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that there are 69,880 elementary, middle, and secondary school teachers in the state, excluding special education.4 Massachusetts elementary school teachers earn an average annual salary of $71,390, while middle school teachers earn an average annual salary of $71,090 and secondary school teachers earn an average annual salary of $72,280.4 Visit the Massachusetts Teacher Association for updates on the education job market and news regarding education in Massachusetts.

Massachusetts Teacher Education Requirements

Massachusetts State SealThe 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, 3 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

The 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 here.

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 Salary and Jobs

TypeNumber EmployedAverage Annual Salary
Preschool Teachers14,520$36,090
Preschool Teachers, Special Education1,140$58,040
Kindergarten Teachers3,490$68,270
Elementary School Teachers27,220$71,390
Special Education Teachers, Kindergarten and Elementary School6,600$68,190
Middle School Teachers18,530$71,090
Middle School Teachers, Special Education4,110$67,910
Secondary School Teachers24,130$72,280
Secondary School Teachers, Special Education4,530$67,090
Secondary School Teachers, Career/Technical Education2,500$72,670

Data from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics as of May 2015.4

Frequently Asked Questions about Becoming a Teacher in Massachusetts

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.

Teaching and Education Programs

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1. Massachusetts State Department of Education: http://www.doe.mass.edu
2. Projections Central, Long Term Occupational Projections: http://www.projectionscentral.com/Projections/LongTerm
3. Massachuestts Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development: https://www.mass.gov/massachusetts-occupational-and-industry-projections
4. US Bureau of Labor Statistics, May 2015 State Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates, Massachusetts: https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes_ma.htm