Frequently Asked Questions About Licensure

What is an Educator's License, and how do I get one?

An Educator license is a credential issued by the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. An Educator license is required for teaching and other professional roles in public schools. Licenses are issued for specific roles and levels (e.g., elementary teacher, secondary mathematic teacher, reading specialist); there is no "general teaching license " issued in Massachusetts. Most individuals become licensed to teach in Massachusetts by completing approved programs as undergraduates, post-baccalaureate, or graduate students through four-year colleges or universities; however, there are actually five routes to obtaining An Educator license:

  • Route One is the approved undergraduate program for prospective teachers.
  • Route Two includes approved one- or two-year post-baccalaureate programs as well as approved alternative programs.
  • Route Three is for Educator candidates who will receive their preparation in school district-based approved preparation programs. This route is for prospective Educators who have not completed a practicum and related pedagogical coursework who seek an apprenticeship in a classroom under the direct supervision of a teacher and/or Administrator who holds a Professional License.
  • Route Four is for Educator candidates who receive their preparation in district-based, approved preparation programs. This route is designed for prospective Educators who have not completed a practicum and related pedagogical study, are hired as teachers of record, and are assigned to a mentor.
  • Route Five is for candidates who have completed an educator preparation program outside Massachusetts.

Most individuals seeking licensure through the University of Massachusetts Amherst Educator Licensure Advisory Council (ELAC) approved programs will be enrolled in programs that meet Route One or Two requirements. If you think you may be eligible for licensure under one of the other routes, you should refer to the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education website: www.doe.mass.edu.

Are there different levels of Licensure?

Yes. The Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education grants licensure at the Preliminary, Initial, and Professional levels. The State also issues a Temporary License.

Preliminary License: An Educator license issued to a person who holds a bachelor's degree and has passed the Massachusetts Tests for Educator Licensure (MTEL) and met other eligibility requirements established by the Massachusetts Board of Higher Education. The Preliminary License is valid for five years of employment. During the five years of employment, the candidate must complete an approved program in order to be granted an Initial License.

Initial License: An educator license issued to a person who has completed a bachelor's degree, passed the Massachusetts Tests for Educator Licensure, completed a professional preparation program approved by the Commissioner, and met other eligibility requirements established by the Massachusetts Board of Education. The Initial License is valid for five years of employment and may be renewed at the discretion of the Commissioner for an additional five years.

Professional License: An educator's license issued to a person who has met the requirements for an Initial License, completed a Performance Assessment Program or an approved Master's degree program, and met other requirements established by the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. The Professional License is valid for five years and renewable for an additional five years.

Temporary License: An educator's license issued to a person who holds a valid license or certificate of a type comparable to at least an Initial License in Massachusetts from another state or jurisdiction, and who has been employed under such license for a minimum of three years but who have not yet satisfied the testing requirements in Massachusetts. This license is valid for one year and is nonrenewable.

What are the minimum requirements for licensure? 

For a classroom teaching license, the minimum requirement is a Bachelor's degree in arts or sciences appropriate to the instructional field or an interdisciplinary major from an accredited college or university, and passing scores on the appropriate subtests of the Massachusetts Tests for Educator Licensure. These requirements only fulfill the most basic requirements for Preliminary License. There are other requirements for school guidance counselors, school administrators, speech therapists, school psychologists, and reading teachers.

Is there a test for licensure?

Yes. Individuals seeking Licensure in Massachusetts are required to take and pass a two- or three-part test that includes a test of communication and literacy skills, a subject matter test and, in some instances, a reading test. More information about these tests can found on the MTEL Information page or by contacting the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, (781) 388-3300, x253. 

If I have a Bachelor's degree, can I receive Initial Licensure without seeking a Master's degree?

Yes. The Division of Continuing and Professional Education on the University of Massachusetts Amherst campus, in cooperation with some programs, offers a route of admission for those who already have an appropriate bachelor's degree to work toward licensure without having to earn a Master's degree. These candidates are post-baccalaureate candidates. For more information, please contact the Division of Continuing and Professional Education at (413) 545-0530.

If I graduate from a Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) approved program, will I get licensed?

Graduates from a Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) approved program submit an application for Massachusetts Licensure to the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education through the Educator Licensure Office. If you have completed all program requirements and are recommended by the program director, the Educator Licensure Officer will recommend you for the appropriate license. However, you must also pass the Massachusetts Tests for Educator Licensure in order to obtain licensure from the State.

I'm not from Massachusetts and want to get licensed in my home state. Can I do this if I complete a program at the University of Massachusetts Amherst?

Whether or not other states will recognize the credentials earned through an approved licensure program at UMass Amherst depends on the particular state’s licensure/certification requirements. To be certain of the credentials required by a particular state, individuals should be in touch with that state’s Department of Education. Please note that the initial licensure programs at UMass Amherst are NCATE and NASDTEC approved.

In any case, educators should note that a license earned in Massachusetts does not exempt them from the testing requirements of the state to which they are applying for licensure/certification. Applicants must still pass whatever test is required and submit all documents required for certification in each state.

To be licensed as a reading specialist, do I need a classroom teaching certificate?

The Commonwealth of Massachusetts requires a classroom license and at least one year of experience at that level for Reading Licensure. However, please note that the Reading Licensure Program at the University of Massachusetts Amherst requires a classroom license and a minimum of three years teaching experience before admission to the program. For more information about reading specialist licensure, contact Professor K-C Nat Turner.

To be licensed as a school guidance counselor, do I need a classroom teaching license?

You do not need to hold a regular teaching license in order to hold a school counselor license. You do, however, need to fulfill the requirements for school counseling. For more information about the school guidance counselor program, contact Professor John C. Carey.

Who is the best person to answer my questions about licensure? 

If you know the subject and/or grade level you want to teach, you should contact the individual program. See the directory for representative contact information. If you have general questions, contact the Educator Licensure Office.

Where can I find additional information on licensure in Massachusetts?

Additional information on licensure in Massachusetts can be found at the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education website.