MA DESE Licensure Information

Massachusetts Department of Elementary & Secondary Education Licensure Information

The Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) is responsible for licensing all professional educators in accordance with MGL c.71, sec.38G. No person shall be eligible for employment as a teacher, guidance counselor, director, school psychologist, school adjustment counselor, school social worker, school nurse, library media specialist, school business administrator, principal, supervisor, director, assistant superintendent of school, and superintendent of schools by a school district unless he has been granted by the commissioner a provisional, or standard certificate with respect to the type of position for which he seeks employment; provided, however, that nothing herein shall be construed to prevent a school committee from prescribing additional qualifications; and provided further, that a superintendent may upon request be exempt by the commissioner for any one school year from the requirement in this section to employ certified personnel when compliance therewith would in the opinion of the commissioner constitute a great hardship in securing teachers for that school district.

You can apply for your license and maintain your license through your ELAR account at DESE.  It is very important for you to be familiar with your ELAR account which houses your demographic data, schools attended, license information and status, as well as other important documents that have been scanned into your file such as correspondence from DESE, MTEL test scores and other important documents.  It is your responsibility as a professional educator to maintain your license.

There are four types of educator licenses:

Temporary: You are a licensed teacher from another state and have taught under that license for at least three years. This license is good for one year and is not renewable. You must take the Massachusetts Test for Educator Licensure (MTEL) which consists of the Communication and Literacy and subject matter tests.

Preliminary: You have not completed a teacher training program at the undergraduate or graduate level, but passed the MTEL tests. This license is good for five years, and it not renewable. Within the five years, you must complete a teacher preparation program. Some licenses require a competency review such as special education, school guidance counselor, school psychologist and other specialist licenses.

Initial: You have completed teacher preparation program at the undergraduate or graduate level. This license is good for five years, and can be extended for an additional five years. In order to move to the professional license, you must teach under that license for at least three years, complete a mentor/induction program, 50 hours of mentoring beyond the mentor/induction program, and a Master’s degree containing 12 credits in your license content area. If you already hold a Master’s degree, you must demonstrate that you have taken 12 graduate credits in your content area (i.e. if you are a math teacher, you must complete 12 graduate credits in mathematics – not pedagogy). In addition, you are required to submit a letter to the DESE from Westport’s Human Resources office that you have taught under the license for at least three years, completed the mentor/induction program and 50 hours additional mentoring. The DESE provides more information regarding the requirements to move from the initial to the professional license on their website.

It is very important to note a specific requirement about your Master’s degree or the 12 credit option. Your college transcript documenting the Master’s or 12 credits must identify the course was taken in the department of your license content area. Using the example above, a math teacher’s transcript must show 12 graduate credits taken from the college/university math department. For example, a transcript that lists the course “EDUC 5105 Mathematics in the Secondary Classroom” will not meet the DESE requirements. The course must be listed on the transcript as “MATH 5107 Calculus A/B” (please note this is simply an example for illustration purposes).

Educators who hold an initial license will notice an asterisk under the expiration column. The asterisk indicates your license is valid for five years of employment. The clock begins when you start working under your license. If you do not teach immediately, or take a leave from your position, you have five full years to work under that license.

Professional: This is the level of licensure that all educators aspire to and are required to reach. The professional license is good for five years. Every five years, you must renew your license and certify that you have completed 150 PDPs, 80% of which must be in your content/content pedagogy. If you stop teaching and do not renew your professional license, the status will shift to inactive after five years. You may teach under an inactive license for two years, at which time you must complete the 150 PDP requirement.

Every educator at the professional stage is required to maintain an Individual Professional Development Plan outlining your professional goals and how they connect to the school and district goals. The Plan allows you to record and track your PDP’s.

Westport Community Schools can apply for a waiver if an applicant does not hold one of the above licenses. The district must certify they could not find an appropriately licensed teacher. A waiver is good for one school year, and the district can only apply for a second year waiver after they have determined they could not find an appropriately licensed teacher. The waiver candidate must demonstrate to the DESE continuous progress to be considered for a second year waiver. It is important to note that a waiver does not constitute as a license and will not count towards Professional Teaching Status. 

To determine all requirements for any teaching license, visit the DESE Licensure Help Online.

For all license level changes (from preliminary to initial and/or initial to professional) or for those seeking an administrator license an employment verification form must be completed. The DESE has strongly recommended using the forms below.