Becoming a Licensed Educator in the State of Massachusetts

There are several paths to teacher licensure in the state of Massachusetts. Where you start will depend upon several factors:
  • Education
  • Experience
  • Career Goals

Helpful Terms and Informational Links

  • DESE Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (Massachusetts): Responsible for licensing educators in the state of Massachusetts. There are many positions in the public school system that require state licensure. The more common ones are teachers, principals, psychologists, counselors and nurses.
  • ELAR – Educator account with DESE, from which you can apply, renew and check your license status.
  • MTEL – Massachusetts Tests for Educator Licensure Requirement (all).
  • SEI - Sheltered English Immersion Teacher Endorsement (ELL) Licensure Requirement (core subject matter teachers only).

Pathways to Licensure (General Guidelines)

There are three main levels of teacher licensing in the state of Massachusetts:

Provisional License: Optional / Valid for 5 years / Non-Renewable

Apply for a preliminary license if:
  • No prior teaching experience 
  • If you are hired, or expect to be hired by a district to teach in a critical need area
  • If you have an out of state license, and your education did NOT include a practicum
  • If you have an out of state license which includes a practicum/internship, but you have already attempted or taken an MTEL



  • Bachelor’s Degree
  • MTEL Communication and Literacy
  • MTEL Content Area
  • Some licenses require a competency review such as special education, school guidance counselor, school psychologist and other specialist licenses.
* You should begin to prepare for your initial license while teaching under this license

Initial License: Valid 5 years renewable one time at the discretion of DESE

  • 150 hour Internship 

Professional License: Renewable every 5 years with an Individual Professional Development Plan

  • 3 years teaching on initial license
  • One year induction / mentoring training (provided by school district during your first year of teaching - see your principal)
  • 50 hour additional mentoring 
  • Master’s Degree in content area you wish to get your license
  • Master's Degree not within your content area plus 12 graduate credits in courses specific to your area of licensure
  • Completed an approved Professional License program

Temporary License: Valid 1 year 

  • Must hold a valid, comparable license or certificate in another state
  • Employed under this license for a minimum of 3 years
  • Has NOT satisfied any of the MTEL testing requirements

Vocational License:

  • Lawrence Public Schools does not have any vocational schools. 
  • For more information on this type of license click here.



How to Determine SPECIFIC Licensure Requirements

Click on the link below and enter the information on the area you want to teach:

How to Apply for Licensure

Click on the link below to apply for licensure:

Frequently Asked Questions

Please visit the DESE FAQ section for further information. 
Once I get my license, how long can I teach on it?
You can teach on each license for 5 years before you are required to move to the next level of licensure. The clock will begin ticking on your license once you are in a teaching position. If you are not teaching, the clock does not tick.  If you can show continuous progress toward the Initial License requirements, there may be the option for an extension of 5 years. This must be approved by DESE.
If I am licensed to teach in another state, do I need to meet Massachusetts’s licensure requirements?
Out-of-state applicants seeking their first license in the State of Massachusetts could qualify for one of three (3) types of Academic PreK-12 educator licenses: Temporary, Preliminary, or Initial. 
To see what your options are click here.
Can I use my experience teaching at a private school when I am moving from my initial to professional license?
You do not have to count the three years on the license clock. You still have 5 years on your license to teach in a public school. However, if you prefer, you may count those years in private school experience if you prefer to use them towards your Professional License.
If my teaching license is valid for 5 years, what happens if I take time off of teaching during those 5 years?
The license clock only ticks when you are teaching. Any years that you are not teaching will not be counted.
What happens if I have taught for five years on my initial license, but I am not ready to meet the requirements for a professional license?
You do have the option of requesting an “Initial License Extension” which will allow you to continue teaching for 5 more years while you work toward the requirements of your professional license. See DESE FAQs for the requirements for an “Initial License Extension.”

Correspondence from DESE

Anytime DESE needs to communicate with your regarding your license, they will send an email using the email address that you enter on your application; it is for this reason you need to be sure the email on your account is current and checked on a regular basis.
The email you receive is a trigger for you to log into your ELAR account and access DESE notifications. Log in, click “Check license status and history, make a payment,” scroll down to the bottom of the page where it says correspondence, click on “correspondence history.” There you will see two emails, one is a copy of the email that was to your personal email, and the second one will have details of DESE’s notification.

You can also view the following information:

  • Correspondence
  • Documents
  • Affidavit History
  • Payment History
  • TEST Results
  • College Endorsements
  • License Information
If you need help in understanding the process or would like some guidance please contact:
Lisa Lanteigne
HR Licensure Specialist
X 25632
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Administrator Licenses
Please use DESE’s Licensure Requirements tool to identify the pathway/requirement set that is most appropriate for you.
Administrator License Options
There are several options for administrative licenses in Massachusetts
  • Principal/Assistant Principal – PreK-6 / 5-8 / 9-12
  • School Business Administrator – All Levels
  • Special Education Administrator – All Levels
  • Superintendent/Assistant Superintendent – All Levels
  • Supervisor/Director – Level depends on prerequisite license*
*Educators applying for a supervisor/director license must specify a particular role. 
  Please use DESE’s Licensure Requirements Tool to view available roles for these licenses.
Temporary License
  • Valid for one (1) calendar year
  • Cannot be extended or renewed
  • Holds a valid license
  • Has been employed in another state under a valid license or certificate comparable to a Massachusetts initial license for at least three (3) years
  • Has NOT passed or failed Communication and Literacy Skills MTEL
Preliminary License (superintendent/assistant superintendent license only)
  • Valid for five (5) years of employment
  • Cannot be extended or renewed
  • Has a Bachelor’s degree
  • Has passed Communication and Literacy Skills MTEL
Initial License
  • Valid for five (5) years of employment
  • Cannot be extended
  • Has passed Communication and Literacy Skills MTEL
  • Completed one (1) of the following pathways:
  • A state-approved educator preparation program
  • An apprenticeship
  • Panel Review 
PAL Assessment 
  • As of September 1, 2014, educators seeking their first administrator license – principal/assistant principal at the initial level must demonstrate the successful application of the Professional Standards for Administrative Leadership through completion of a Performance Assessment for Initial License (MA-PAL).
SEI Endorsement
Professional License
  • Valid for five (5) calendar years
  • Renewable every five (5) years (see Professional License Renewal)
  • Requirements for each administrator license at the Professional level are unique to each license field. 
Frequently Asked Questions for Administrators 
I am in the process of getting my initial license as an Administrator and would like take the “Panel Review” pathway. What are the requirements and how do I submit documentation?
  • You will need to verify your eligibility by submitting an official transcript to DESE verifying that you completed a post-baccalaureate program in management/administration at an accredited institution; or submit a letter, on official letterhead signed by a head administrator, verifying that you have completed three full years of employment in an executive, management, leadership, supervisory, or administrative role. 
  • Please also submit a resume and written request for Panel Review consideration to the attention of Bob Johnson to initiate the process. You will be contacted with further instructions regarding how you may complete the Panel Review. (DESE)
What is the PAL Assessment?
PAL consists of four performance assessment tasks that reflect the authentic work of school leaders. The tasks are being developed in collaboration with Massachusetts educational leaders, pathway faculty and state officials and are intended to be completed as part of a preparation pathway.
The four tasks in the PAL Assessment are:
1 - Leadership through a Vision for High Student 
2 - Achievement Instructional Leadership for a Professional Learning Culture
3 - Leadership in Observing, Assessing, and Supporting Individual Teacher Effectiveness
4 - Leadership for Family Engagement and Community Involvement
How much time will it take to complete the PAL assessments?
There are four tasks that comprise the PAL assessment. Currently, during the Field Test, it has been estimated that each task can take up to 40 to 80 hours to complete. This of course will vary according to the individual. See PAL for details.
Does DESE offer resources for administrators to assist them in their position?
Yes, DESE offers a wide variety of resources to help them in their role of an administrator, such as Assessment, Budget, Edwin Analytics, Finances, Grants / Funding opportunities, Laws and Regulations, Nutrition, School Profiles and School Safety.
If you need help in understanding the process or would like some guidance please contact:
Lisa Lanteigne
HR Licensure Specialist
X 25632
The RETELL initiative (Rethinking Equity in the Teaching of English Language Learners) was launched in Massachusetts by the Department of Secondary and Elementary Education (DESE) to address the persistent gap in academic proficiency experienced by ELL students. As part of the initiative, all core academic teachers of ELLs as well as principals, assistant principals, and directors who supervise or evaluate these teachers must obtain their Sheltered English Immersion (SEI) Endorsement. Any teacher or administrator who is required to but does not earn the SEI Endorsement within the allotted time period will not be able to renew, advance, or extend their license. * 
Core Academic Teachers are defined as early childhood teachers, elementary teachers, teachers of students with moderate disabilities, teachers of students with severe disabilities, and teachers of the following academic subjects: English, reading or language arts, mathematics, science, civics and government, economics, history, and geography. 
In Lawrence, we believe that all educators are teachers of language. More than 70% of our students speak a language other than English as their first language. New educators to our district who are not SEI-endorsed must be on track to earn the SEI Endorsement within one year of being hired. 
MA Educators
All approved Massachusetts Educator Preparation Programs are now required to include SEI Endorsement in their program. However, MA educators who graduated from a MA Educator Preparation Program before July 1, 2014 and/or who do not have their SEI endorsement will need to follow one of the “Paths to SEI Endorsement” below. 
Out-of-State Educators
Out-of-state educators applying for their MA Initial License must be SEI-endorsed in order to obtain their license.  Out-of-state educators who apply for their MA Preliminary or Temporary License have one year to complete their SEI requirement.  Please click here for an overview of licensure requirements for out-of-state educators. 
Paths to SEI Endorsement
  • Complete and pass a for-cost course offered by select providers, listed here. Please contact the for-cost course providers directly for information. 
  • Pass the Massachusetts SEI MTEL Subject Test. Study materials and information can be found here
  • Possess a valid MA ESL/ELL license.
  • Possess a bachelor’s degree in a Department- approved major, or other Department-approved graduate level training. To determine approval, apply for the SEI endorsement through ELAR  and select Path 2 (transcript review based on a related degree or graduate level training).  
  • An overview of RETELL initiatives can be found on the MA Department of Education’s website
  • Instructions for applying for the SEI Endorsement in ELAR can be found here
  • The Massachusetts Teachers Association has compiled a list of FAQs on their website.
  • For questions about applying for a transcript review, contact the Office of Educator Licensure at 781-338-6600.
  • General questions? Email the RETELL team at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or call them at 888-789-1109.
* The Office of English Language Acquisition and Academic Achievement. “RE: RETELL- Requirement to Earn the SEI Endorsement.” Letter to Massachusetts Educators. 8 Dec 2015. Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, Malden, MA.
New Teacher Mentoring Program
Each teacher who is new to the teaching profession or new to Lawrence Public Schools will be assigned a mentor in their first year of practice. ** Mentors will be seasoned professionals who are familiar with the particular school and the district as a whole. They will spend one-on-one time with their mentees, while also serving as the induction coordinator for their mentees, connecting them to other professional resources within the school or district. 
Lawrence Public Schools follows the guidelines established by the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education for new teacher mentoring and induction.  
However, because Lawrence Public Schools operates under a system of district management called Open Architecture, we leave it up to principals to decide what is best for their new teachers.  Because of this, mentoring may look different depending on how the school structures it.
For instance, 
  • Beginning teachers will absolutely receive a full-year of mentoring, while incoming teachers may only participate in certain activities at the beginning of the year, such as Orientation activities.
  • Principals and their Leadership Teams will identify the differentiated support needs of beginning teachers, incoming teachers, or second and third year teachers, which may involve a mix of classroom observations, collaborative planning, or formal professional development sessions.
  • After the full year of mentoring, the new or incoming teacher will receive a letter from the district stating that they have completed the required mentoring program for the district. This letter, plus employment verification provided by the Human Resources Office, will be required in order for you to attain your Professional license. YOU are responsible for keeping these documents and submitting them at the appropriate time. 
  • While there are no strict requirements as to the specific number of hours mentors and mentees must spend together, there is a requirement to track the types of activities and the total time spent together. Lawrence Public Schools suggests many different activities for mentors and mentees to engage in with each other, and we require that this is tracked and closely monitored by the principals, particularly the number of classroom observations. 
Suggested activities include: 
  • Structured meeting time for mentors and mentees to plan together
  • Structured meeting time for mentors and mentees to meet with school leadership
  • Mentors and Mentees observing each other and debriefing these observations
  • Mentors and Mentee observing other excellent educators and debriefing these observations
  • Mentors and Mentees co-teaching a lesson
  • PD sessions facilitated by Advanced Educators, Master Educators, or coaches (suggested topics would be: standards-driven lesson planning; ESL strategies across content areas; integrating formative and summative assessments and engaging with data; parent engagement best practices; Educator Evaluation, etc.) 
**Note: if you are a new teacher in Lawrence Public Schools and you believe you have not been assigned a mentor, please reach out to your principal and Office of Human Resources.

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