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To teach in a public school in Massachusetts, you will need an educator license. And, and within a specified amount of time, you’ll need to renew or reach the next level of licensure to keep teaching. If you are wondering how this works, we’ve outlined the four levels of educator licensure available through the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. Find out which license you'll need and when, as well as how to get or renew each one.

The Four Types of Educator Licenses

Learn more about the pathways toward an Emergency License, Provisional License, Initial License, and Professional License.

If you are an aspiring educator, we recommend that you start with an approved master's degree program leading to an Initial License.

  • Emergency License

    This is a new license that the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education created in 2020 as a response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Under normal conditions, to become licensed to teach in Massachusetts, you need to pass licensure tests known as the MTELs (Massachusetts Tests for Educator Licensure). When MTEL testing sites closed due to the pandemic, the Emergency License ensured that the teacher pipeline was not interrupted.

    To get an Emergency License, you must:

    • Have a bachelor’s degree from a regionally accredited institution
    • Apply for it yourself through the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education

    MTELs are not required for an Emergency License. The state has extended this license until June 30, 2022

  • Provisional License (Optional)

    This is an entry-level license that you would pursue on your own through the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, not through an educator preparation program at a college or university. Lesley University does not endorse for Provisional Licenses.

    You may want to get an optional Provisional License if you are hired or expect to be hired to teach by a school system, but you have no prior teaching license. The Provisional License is most useful if you plan to teach a high-need subject where there is demand, but a short supply of teachers (such as physics).

    Like the Emergency License, you would need to have an undergraduate degree. However, unlike the Emergency License, all Massachusetts Educator Licensure Exams (MTELs) are required.

    To get a Provisional License, you must:

    • Hold a bachelor’s degree from a regionally accredited institution
    • Pass the appropriate Massachusetts Tests for Educator License (MTELs)
    • Take coursework on working with students with disabilities if you are applying for a Provisional License in Early Childhood or Elementary Education. Any coursework you take for this license should be part of an approved Initial License program. At Lesley University, we offer Initial Licensure programs and coursework in these areas.


    The Provisional License is valid for 5 years of teaching and is not renewable. You should start an approved graduate teacher preparation program leading to an Initial License while teaching under a Provisional License.

  • Initial License

    Having an Initial License means you’ll be ready to teach in classrooms on day one. To get an Initial License in Massachusetts, you’ll need to complete an undergraduate or graduate teacher preparation program that is approved by the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education—a high bar of excellence.

    Approved programs require a student teaching practicum and a Sheltered English Endorsement. You’ll also strengthen your skills in content areas and teaching methods. Lesley University endorses candidates who complete an approved Lesley Initial License program.

    To get an Initial License, you must:

    • Hold or earn a bachelor's degree from a regionally accredited institution
    • Pass the appropriate Massachusetts Tests for Educator License (MTELs) (see our MTEL resources and support)
    • Complete an approved program of study for an Initial License
    • Obtain Sheltered English Immersion Endorsement (SEI), which is included in your Lesley program of study
    • Alternatively, you may acquire an Initial License if you have a Provisional License, you are employed by a school district as a teacher or apprentice, and you’ll complete a district-approved program within 5 years


    The Initial License is valid for 5 years during which you are the teacher of record (main teacher in classroom) in a Massachusetts school. If you take time off from teaching, that time off does not count toward your 5 years.

    An Initial License is renewable for one time only, through a decision by the state’s Commissioner of Education. It requires being employed for 5 years under a valid Initial License, evidence of sound moral character, and a plan for how you will fulfill requirements for a Professional License.

    Once you have your Initial License, you should start earning a Professional License, which is required after teaching under the Initial License for 5 years. You may begin coursework toward your Professional License immediately while teaching under the Initial License.

    Applying for an Extension of Your Initial License

    If your Initial License is about to expire and you have not yet obtained a Professional License, you will need to apply for your Initial License again. You can do this through your ELAR account. The system will tell you that you already hold the license, and will ask you if you wish to apply for an extension. Complete the application and make your payment. 

    Lesley Undergraduate Education Programs

    We offer bachelor's degrees in Early Childhood Education, Elementary Education, Middle School Education, Secondary Education, and Special Education, all leading to Initial Licensure. We're one of a few schools offering a Special Education program at the undergraduate level.

    You can also choose from several accelerated bachelor’s plus master’s options, where you can get both degrees in about 5.5 years for a tuition discount.

    Lesley Graduate Education Programs

    You can pursue a Master of Education (M.Ed.) degree leading to Initial Licensure in:


    If you already have an Initial License, you can earn a master’s degree leading to an Initial License in Reading Specialist or School Counseling (School Counselor and School Adjustment Counselor). Or, get your license in Instructional Technology Specialist.

  • Professional License

    You’ll need to have earned a Professional License after teaching under an Initial License for 5 years as the teacher of record (main teacher in a classroom) in a public school. A Professional License indicates that you have deepened content knowledge.

    If you are applying for a Professional License, it must be for the same classroom level and type as your Initial License. Lesley University endorses candidates who complete an approved Lesley Professional Licensure program.

    To get a Professional License, you must:

    • Hold a bachelor’s degree from a regionally accredited institution
    • Hold an Initial License
    • Have completed 3 years of public or private school teaching experience under the Initial License, a one-year mentor induction plan (concurrent with year one), and 50 hours mentoring beyond the first year
    • If you don’t have a master’s degree, complete an approved master’s degree program leading to Professional Licensure (see Other Options for Professional License if you already have a master's degree)


    If you are an educator with a bachelor’s degree and an Initial License, at Lesley, we offer approved master’s degree programs leading to Professional Licensure in:


    The Professional License is valid for 5 calendar years, and you must renew it every 5 years. You may begin coursework toward this license as soon as you earn your Initial License.

    Other Options for Professional License

    Twelve-Credit Post Master’s Option for Professional Licensure. If you have a master’s degree and an Initial License, you can complete 12 credits of graduate coursework in the same subject matter area as your Initial License to meet part of the requirements for a Professional License in that same field. Read more about the Twelve-Credit Post Masters' Option.

    Adding Another Initial License to Move an Existing Initial License to Professional. Completing an approved licensure program for Reading Specialist, Special Education: Moderate Disabilities PreK-8, Special Education: Moderate Disabilities 5-12, or Special Education: Severe Disabilities will enable candidates to add another Initial License and use 12 of those credits to advance some Initial Licenses to Professional.

    Renewing Your Professional License

    You must renew your Professional License every 5 years through a variety of professional activities. For instance, one 3-credit graduate course that is appropriate to the license counts as 67.5 Professional Development Points (PDP) toward the required 90 PDPs needed to renew.

    Earn at least 15 PDPs in:

    • Subject matter knowledge
    • Sheltered English Instruction or English as a Second Language pedagogy (professional skills and knowledge)
    • Training in strategies for effective schooling for students with disabilities/instruction of students with diverse learning styles


    You may earn the remaining required PDPs through any combination of “elective” activities that address other educational issues and topics that improve student learning, additional content, or pedagogy.

    If you hold more than one license: You’ll need to take 30 PDPs to renew each additional area license, of which 15 PDPs out of the 30 must be content-related.

See Charting Your Path to Educator Licensure (PDF) for a visual representation of the information on this page.

Although we attempt to ensure certification information is accurate and complete, contents are subject to change.

Contact the Certification Office