11 Things to Consider When Choosing an Undergraduate Teacher Preparation Program

A checklist for those who want to become a licensed teacher in Massachusetts in grades PreK–12.

Becoming a teacher starts with a bachelor's degree.

You’ve always known you wanted to be a teacher. Now it’s time to start thinking about applying for college and choosing an education major.

First, you’ll need to enroll in a state-approved bachelor’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 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 education majors are offered at the school?

The Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) issues teaching licenses for set grades and subjects. Each state-approved teacher preparation program leads to a specific license. Make sure the colleges and universities you’re looking at offer a program that will help you become the kind of teacher you want to be.

3. Do I have to double major?

Some schools require that students majoring in education also complete a second major. For example, if you’re planning to teach history to adolescents, you might have to major in middle school or high school education, and in history.

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4. Who are the faculty teaching the courses?

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

5. 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.

6. How soon will I get into classrooms for student teaching?

All teacher preparation programs leading to initial licensure require student teaching. Some schools place their education students in PreK–12 classrooms as early as freshman year, while others wait until sophomore or junior year. The earlier you get into the classroom and the more experiences you have, the better you’ll be able to decide the type of environment you want to work in after graduation.

7. 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.

8. How much will my degree cost?

Consider tuition and other fees you’ll be charged each semester. Dig into each school’s scholarships and financial aid options.

9. Is there a way to get a bachelor’s and master’s degree in one program?

Some schools offer programs where you can start working on your master’s degree while you are earning your bachelor’s degree, for a tuition discount. You could graduate with both degrees, ready for a wider variety of teaching positions.

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 colleges, find out how they prepare students for the tests, the percentage of the students who pass, the school’s deadline for passing the exams, and what happens if a student doesn’t pass.

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

Find out how many graduates find full-time work in their chosen career or head to graduate school 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

At Lesley University, you can choose from several Bachelor of Arts (BA) programs leading to initial teacher licensure. Explore our undergraduate education programs, as well as our accelerated master's degrees where you can earn your BA and M.Ed. in one streamlined program in about 5 1/2 years of full-time study, for a tuition and time savings.

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