The New Mexico Teaching and Certification Resource

To become a public school teacher in New Mexico candidates must earn a teaching license. The New Mexico teacher certification process is overseen by the New Mexico Public Education Department and is outlined below for those seeking information on how to become a teacher in New Mexico.

How to Become a Teacher in New Mexico

Like most states, New Mexico has a number of requirements that applicants must fulfill before working in the public school system. All teachers must hold a bachelor’s degree, complete a New Mexico teacher preparation program, and pass the required content and subject area examinations. Those who have a bachelor’s degree but have not completed a teacher preparation program may be eligible for alternative teacher certification in New Mexico.

New Mexico uses a tiered licensing structure for educators. Newly-licensed teachers begin as Level I Provisional Teachers. New teachers must complete a Professional Development Plan (PDP) developed with the school principal. Completion of the PDP, a mentoring program, and at least three years of experience with ratings of “Effective” or above with the approval of their school district to advance to the next level is required to move up to Level II Professional licensure. Candidates may pursue the highest level of licensure, Level III, by completing a master’s degree and three years of teaching with “Effective” ratings or better at Level II.

Quick Guide

Finding Approved Teacher Education Programs in New Mexico

Projected Job Growth


Growth in Teaching Jobs in NM through 20262

Anyone pursuing a New Mexico educator certificate must complete an approved teacher education program at an accredited school. You can find a list of approved programs through the Board website. You can also compare key metrics for these state-approved teacher preparation programs by using the sortable table on our New Mexico schools page.

Prospective teachers evaluating programs offered out-of-state or online should confirm that programs are accredited by that state’s regional accreditation body. There are six regional accreditation agencies, which are overseen by the US Department of Education.

Additionally, many schools look for accreditation from the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP). CAEP accreditation is a marker of excellence in teacher education.

New Mexico Teacher Education Requirements

The most direct way to fulfill the education requirements for becoming a teacher in New Mexico is to earn a bachelor’s or master’s degree from a regionally accredited college or university and complete an approved teacher education program. This is known as the traditional pathway to licensure. It is highly recommended that candidates select a teacher preparation program approved by the state. Completing a state-approved program helps to ensure that you have met the specific education requirements for your desired endorsement area(s) and streamlines the licensure process.

New Mexico Teacher Testing Requirements

New Mexico State SealThe NMTA (New Mexico Teacher Assessments) are required for all applicants for New Mexico educator certification. The NMTA is comprised of the Essential Academic Skills subtests I, II, and III, plus professional knowledge and grade-level specific exams that vary according to the grade level and subject(s) for which endorsements are being sought. Both individuals applying for initial New Mexico teaching certification and those who are adding certain endorsements must take the appropriate NMTA exams. Detailed information about the exams required and links to the application portal are available through the New Mexico Public Education Department.

Additional New Mexico Teacher Certification Requirements

New Mexico state law requires that anyone applying for New Mexico teacher certification submit fingerprints for a state and federal background check. This process should be initiated by requesting a fingerprinting card from the New Mexico Department of Public Safety.

New Mexico Teachers Licensing Application Process

Once the steps towards teacher certification in New Mexico have been completed, candidates must apply for a license. The following documentation is required:

  • Clearance of background check.
  • Official transcripts showing proof of bachelor’s degree.
  • Proof of teacher preparation program completion from an approved school.
  • Passing scores on required knowledge and subject area examinations.
  • Completed application for teaching certification in New Mexico.
  • Payment of non-refundable certification processing fee.

New Mexico has moved to an online licensure portal for applications and renewals. Visit the state’s Public Education Department for further details on New Mexico teacher certification.

New Mexico Teacher Outlook, Salary, and Jobs

During the 2016-2017 academic year, there were an estimated 336,263 K-12 public school students in New Mexico, with 869 public schools across the state.3 With approximately 21,331 public school teachers, this gave New Mexico a student-to-teacher ratio of 16:1.3

Through 2026, an annual average of 580 job openings for elementary school teachers, 290 average annual job openings for middle school teachers, and 460 average annual job openings for secondary school teachers are expected in New Mexico.2 Within the state, elementary school teachers earn an average annual salary of $55,390, middle school teachers earn an average annual salary of $52,810, and secondary school teachers earn an average annual salary of $55,380.4 The National Education Association – New Mexico provides more information on teaching careers and issues in the state.

TypeNumber EmployedAverage Annual Salary
Preschool Teachers2,490$34,100
Preschool Teachers, Special Education210$48,710
Kindergarten Teachers1,160$53,780
Elementary School Teachers7,260$55,390
Special Education Teachers, Kindergarten and Elementary School760$51,050
Middle School Teachers3,760$52,810
Middle School Teachers, Special Education490$46,760
Secondary School Teachers7,010$55,380
Secondary School Teachers, Special Education760$55,270
Secondary School Teachers, Career/Technical Education140$52,250

Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics as of May 2018.4

Frequently Asked Questions

Question: What are the requirements to become a high school teacher in New Mexico?

Answer: To become a high school teacher in New Mexico, you must hold a license from the state. The requirements for the license include completing a bachelor’s degree and a teacher preparation program that includes student teaching. You must also have at least 24 credit hours in the subject you hope to teach and you must pass the New Mexico educator tests for basic skills, secondary teacher competency, and content knowledge.

Question: How can I be a substitute teacher in New Mexico?

Answer: New Mexico does not offer state certification for substitute teachers, nor do they set minimum requirements for them. Rather, minimum requirements for subs are set by individual New Mexico school districts. If you are interested in becoming a substitute teacher in New Mexico, you should check with the school districts in your area for more information.

Question: How much do New Mexico teachers make?

Answer: On average, elementary through high school teachers in New Mexico (excluding special and career/technical education) earn $54,526 per year.4 They may earn more or less depending on their education, the grade level they teach, the school district they are in, and other factors.

1. New Mexico Public Education Department: https://webnew.ped.state.nm.us/
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, New Mexico: https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes_nm.htm