ESL Certification Requirements in Massachusetts

Find out how to become a certified ESL teacher in Massachusetts. Discover how the licensure process works and find out what educational requirements are needed for teachers in the state.

Massachusetts certifies PreK-12 teachers in English as a Second Language (ESL) education. Future ESL teachers will need to become licensed for a particular grade level and/or content area first, then apply for an additional ESL license in order to start teaching in the field.

Massachusetts Salary Information & Requirements

Average Salary for Teachers in Massachusetts (2017)* $37,510 (Preschool), $71,790 (Kindergarten), $76,590 (Elementary), $74,400 (Middle), $76,170 (High School)
Required Degree Bachelor's degree, ESL licensure program
Degree Field Education (for chosen content area/grade level)
Testing Requirements MTELs: Communication & Literacy Skills, ESL exam, subject exams

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Step 1: Earn a Bachelor's Degree

Becoming a certified ESL teacher in Massachusetts begins where all other licensure programs do: with an approved, accredited teacher preparation program. Teachers will need to pursue a degree in ESL. While at the school learning about their content area and basic educational principles, students will complete a Sheltered English Immersion (SEI) endorsement course to prepare them for teaching. A more specific ESL license will be added later. They will take classes like linguistics, literacy and literature as well as a student teaching component. All programs will be slightly different depending on the content area or grade level range, but will include education-related classes like:

  • Introduction to Special Education
  • Teaching Reading in the Content Area
  • Methods for Teaching Mathematics
  • Child or Adolescent Psychology

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  • Bilingual and Multilingual Teacher Education
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Step 2: Take All Required MTEL Tests

Next, teachers will take all required Massachusetts Tests for Educator Licensure (MTEL) exams. All teachers need to take the Communication and Literacy Skills exam, which is made up of a reading and a writing subtest. The reading subtest contains 42 multiple-choice questions, while the writing subtest contains 35 multiple-choice questions, 7 short-answer questions, and 2 open-response questions. Teachers have 4 hours for this exam and must score at least a 240 on each subtest. Next, teachers need to take any additional subject exams required for their licensure areas, such as early childhood, biology, or mathematics. Teachers will also need to take the ESL MTEL, which is made up of 100 multiple-choice questions and 2 open-response questions. This is a 4-hour exam requiring a score of at least 240.

Step 3: Turn in the Certification Application

Then, teachers will need to fill out the application for licensure through Massachusetts' online Educator Licensure and Renewal (ELAR) tool. This is the time for teachers to apply for either a Provisional License, which is valid for 5 years and non-renewable, or an Initial License, which is valid for 5 years and may be renewed once. These licenses require transcripts and test scores for the application process, and the Initial Licensure process also requires proof of the SEI endorsement. When teachers have been awarded one of these licenses, it will be time for the final step.

Study Resources for Future Massachusetts ESL Teachers

All future teachers in Massachusetts will need to complete MTELs, so why not start studying now? Check out some of the many resources available online below and practice for the Communication & Literacy Skills and ESL MTELs!


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