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11 Things to Consider When Choosing a Graduate Teacher Preparation Program

A checklist for people who want to become licensed teachers in Massachusetts for grades PreK–12.

Find the right education master's degree program for your goals.

You earned your bachelor’s degree in something other than education and started your career. But something in you wants to answer the call to teach. Now you’re looking for the best graduate school and teacher preparation program to reach your goal.

First, you'll need to enroll in a state-approved master’s degree program leading to initial teacher licensure from a regionally-accredited institution. But since you have lots of choices, you may be wondering how to pick the right one. Here are the questions we recommend you ask.

1. Does the graduate school have a strong reputation for preparing teachers? 

In 2017, Radius Global Market Research surveyed 200 Massachusetts principals and other hiring decision-makers on the qualities they value most in new teachers. The majority indicated that the number one quality was that the teachers had graduated from a school with a “longstanding tradition of preparing experts in education.”

2. Which teacher preparation programs are offered at the school?

The Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education issues teaching licenses for set grades and subjects. Each state-approved teacher preparation program leads to a specific license. Make sure the graduate schools you’re looking at offer a program that’ll help you become the kind of teacher you want to be. If not, ask if the school has a self-designed program based on your interests.

3. Who are the faculty teaching the courses?

Look for bios of faculty on the graduate school's website or in other materials. Read up on their experience, accomplishments, philosophy, or academic interests to determine if the school is a good fit.

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4. Will I graduate prepared to work with diverse learners?

Today’s schools are increasingly diverse. Teachers must help all students reach their potential while creating spaces where everyone is valued. See if the school’s materials call out their commitment to diversity and inclusion, social justice, and working across cultures. Look for programs that provide courses in topics like teaching English language learners, adapting instruction to teach students of varied abilities, or responding to today’s diverse classrooms.

5. Will I need to take prerequisite courses? How many credits are in my selected program?

Some graduate programs require that you take prerequisite courses, especially if you didn’t major in education as an undergraduate student. The number of courses or credits you might need to take could vary, so compare what each school and program require. Knowing the total number of credits will help you map out a plan from your first semester to graduation and figure out the earliest you might begin your new career.

6. How much will my degree cost?

Consider tuition, which may be charged for each credit you take, and other fees. Dig into each school’s scholarships and financial aid options.

7. How flexible is the program?

The way the program is taught could affect the time to complete and its cost. There are many options out there—full-time or part-time programs on campus, online, or off-campus at a satellite location. Some courses run on a 15-week semester, while others are delivered in shorter, accelerated terms. In a teacher residency program, you’d teach full-time for one year while taking courses.

8. Are there summer options for student teaching?

Initial teacher licensure programs include student teaching, which usually takes place in fall and spring when K–12 schools are open. However, some institutions have partnerships with schools that run summer programs, providing a way to work toward your degree year-round.

9. Are there student teaching opportunities in different environments?

You’ll want to figure out the type of school you want to work in, such as urban, suburban, or rural. Or maybe you’d like to teach in a school that has an arts or science focus. Ask about what kinds of schools you could be placed in for your student teaching.

10. How does the school prepare students for the Massachusetts Tests for Educator Licensure (MTELs)?

All aspiring teachers and school counselors must pass one or more computer-based pass/fail tests called the MTELs to become licensed. When looking at graduate schools, find out what supports they have for preparing students for the tests, the percentage of the students who pass, as well as the school’s deadline for passing the exams.

11. How are the school’s alumni making a difference?

First, find out how many graduates find full-time work in their chosen career shortly after graduating. Also, look for stories about successful alumni on the school’s website or other materials. You’ll want to choose a school that prepares teachers who really make a difference.

Learn More About What We Offer

At Lesley University, you can choose from several Master of Education (M.Ed.) programs leading to initial teacher licensure in a range of grades, subjects, and formats—including year-long teacher residency programs in local schools. We also offer professional licensure programs, graduate certificates, and PhDs. Explore all of our graduate programs.

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