Educator Licensing Process
Getting Your Educator's License
Overview of the Licensing Process
Educators, including teachers, support personnel, and administrators are required to hold a license issued by the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE). Just as a driver’s license certifies that you’ve received driving instruction and are eligible to drive a car, an educator’s license certifies that you have received adequate and up-to-date training and are thus eligible to teach in Massachusetts public schools. Every educator license is categorized by field, type, and grade level, such as "teacher, grades 1-6", "math teacher, grades 8-12", “latin teacher, grades 5-12” or "reading specialist, all grades".
The following overview is a general outline of the licensure process and is meant to familiarize you with the basic process. However, there are many different paths to licensure, depending on the type of license you’re seeking. These different paths will have different requirements, and it’s important to learn the details about your particular program. The best way to do this is to speak to your program coordinator and advisor. You can click here to find a list of licensure pathways. Click on the pathway you’re interested in to find out more about the program and the program coordinator. Once you’re admitted to a licensure program, you’ll meet with your advisor or program coordinator to map out your program of study.
Your Goal: Initial License vs. Professional License
Your first licensure goal as a future educator is to obtain an initial license. This license is valid for five years of employment, and can be extended once for an additional five years. In order to maintain your licensure as an educator, you’ll need to obtain a professional license before your initial license expires. A professional license is valid for five calendar years (note the difference from the initial license, which is valid for five years of employment) and is renewable every five years thereafter. You can find a quick reference guide to license prerequisites on the DESE website.
Your Education: Completing a Licensure Program
How do you learn to teach? You’ll need to complete an approved licensure program (as an undergraduate, a post-baccalaureate, or a graduate student), such as one of the excellent programs offered by the College of Education. In addition to learning the art of teaching from our outstanding teacher educators and researchers at the College, you’ll also fortify your subject knowledge in general studies and specialty areas by taking courses offered by departments throughout the University campus. The grand finale of your licensure process includes a field placement working directly with PreK-12 students in our partner districts, alongside excellent educators and mentors.
The Licensure Orientation
In your first semester you will be invited to a Licensure Orientation by the Educator Licensure Officer. This orientation is very important! The Licensure Officer will guide you through the process of creating accounts in several important systems: Tk20, ELAR, and the relevant UMass administrative systems (you can find more information about Tk20 and ELAR below.) The Licensure Office will guide you through creating an ELAR account and beginning your application for your educator licensure through DESE. You can create this account and begin your application after the licensure orientation as well, but not before it. This sets the foundation for your final licensure endorsement by UMass, once you have completed the entire program. Your initial license will be approved and issued by the DESE.
Academic Work: Coursework and Tests
Coursework includes assignments, lectures, discussions, papers, and other activities designed to build your knowledge both in your chosen subject area and in the method and practice of teaching. In addition to the coursework of this program, you’ll also need to complete licensure tests which are appropriate for the field and type of license you’re seeking. All educators need to pass the Massachusetts Tests for Educator Licensure (MTEL). These tests are designed to help ensure that Massachusetts educators can communicate adequately with students, parents/guardians, and other educators, and that individuals are knowledgeable in the subject matter of the license(s) sought. All educators seeking an Initial license in MA are required to take and pass the Communications and Literacy Skill MTEL test. Most licenses require educators to also take and pass additional subject matter knowledge tests. You can find preparation resources, register for your MTEL, and more, here.
Coursework and tests will help you develop depth of subject knowledge and the teaching skills to effectively impart this knowledge to your students (and to effectively research and craft education policy). But what about real-world experience? This is where pre-practicums and practicums come in.
Field-Based Experiences: Pre-Practicums and Practicums
Each licensure program requires you to engage in a series of field-based experiences called pre-practicums and practicums. For these experiences, you’ll be placed in a school or other setting appropriate to your program. There you will make initial observations and engage in hands-on activities, such as assisting the teacher, and taking responsibility for a range of teaching duties. The pre-practicum placement will help identify areas which may need improvement before your practicum.
After your pre-practicum is complete, you’ll begin your practicum. This means you’ll be working in a school in the same role and at the same level of the license you’re seeking. You’ll be supervised, observed, and guided by a licensed educator and your licensure program. A practicum is essential in your journey to become a licensed educator. You’ll gain invaluable experience, and it will provide another way for your licensure program to evaluate your progress and help you succeed. The College of Education offers field experiences and practicums in a diverse range of schools and agencies.
Program Completion and Endorsement
Once you have completed all your licensure requirements, (e.g. coursework, all relevant tests, pre-practicum, practicum, all forms, licensure application, and fees) you’ll be endorsed by the Educator Preparation (EdPrep) office and the state will approve your license. Congratulations!
Important Licensure Systems and Forms
As you work toward your educator license (which includes teaching, administrative, counseling, and school psychology licenses), you will complete a series of Licensure Forms (L-forms). The L forms listed on this page will document your process through the various stages and are submitted to the College of Education's Educator Preparation Office as we help you prepare to apply for your educator license in Massachusetts. Some licensing programs use a subset of these forms, and your program coordinator will confirm which forms you will need to submit. Completing and submitting all forms on time is very important, especially when we are preparing transcripts and support for your licensure application.
Please note that the following are licensure requirements only. You may have additional degree requirements that are not listed below. You can ask your program coordinator or advisor for information about additional requirements and to help you track your progress.
Tk20 and ELAR
In your first semester, you’ll attend a licensure orientation led by the Educator Licensure Officer. In this orientation, you’ll learn how to access the various online administrative systems you’ll need to complete forms, pay fees, and more. Two of the most important systems are Tk20 and ELAR.
Tk20 stands for “Technology in Kindergarten through Age 20”. It’s an online system administered by UMass that serves multiple purposes. You’ll use it to collect material for your portfolio, complete forms, and submit MTEL scores. After you’re admitted to the licensure program, you’ll need to purchase a Tk20 account (unless you’re a Speech, Language, and Hearing Disorders, or professional licensure program candidate). Log in to TK20 here.
ELAR stands for “Educator Licensure and Renewal”. It’s an online portal administered by the Massachusetts DESE where you can apply for your educator’s license and pay any applicable fees as regulated by the state. Log in to ELAR here.
The most important forms for you as a licensure candidate are L-forms. These forms are described below, in the order in which you’ll complete them. Click here for more information and links to the forms.
L1 (Program Admission and Enrollment Form): This is the first L-form you’ll complete and can be found in Tk20. If you’re a Speech Language Pathology or professional licensure candidate, you’ll complete a PDF version of this form. You’ll complete this form before you start your first semester as a licensure candidate.
L2-PPC (Pre-Practicum Placement Contract Form): You’ll complete an L2-PPC prior to starting your pre-practicum.You’ll need to fill out an L2-PPC for each pre-practicum.
L2 (Practicum Placement Contract Form): You’ll complete this form prior to starting your practicum. Depending on your program, you might need to complete more than one L2 form.
L3 (Candidate Assessment Form): This form will capture information about your experience during your practicum. Throughout your practicum, this form will be signed at each three-way meeting (between yourself, your program coordinator, and your supervising practitioner), and must be completed before your practicum is considered finished. Depending on your program, you might need to complete more than one L3 form.
L4 (Licensure Program Completion Form): Your program coordinator completes this form after you’ve successfully completed your coursework, practicum, and all other degree requirements.
You’ll only need to complete these forms under certain circumstances. Your program coordinator and advisor will help guide you through this process.
The following forms are in DocuSign PowerForm format. They can be completed and signed virtually through DocuSign. You will receive a confirmation from DocuSign when the form is complete. If you have questions or concerns, contact the Educator Preparation Office.
MTEL Deferral Form
If you need to delay taking your MTEL, you’ll use this form. First, you’ll need to discuss the MTEL deferment with your program coordinator. It’s important to understand that successful completion of the MTEL is required to get licensed.
Once you complete your portion of the form, it will be automatically forwarded to your program coordinator. Once the program coordinator completes their portion of the form, the completed form will be forwarded to the Educator Preparation Office.
Course Waiver/Substitution Form
If your advisor has approved a transfer course or you’ve deviated from your program or study, a course waiver/substitution form should be filled out.
This form will be started by your Program Coordinator. Once they fill out their portion of the form, it will be automatically forwarded to you. Once you fill out your portion of the form, the completed form will be forwarded to the Educator Preparation Office.