Massachusetts has long served as a beacon of opportunity for America’s immigrants, and today it’s no different. According to the American Immigration Council, immigrants make up 17 percent of this state’s population and about one-fifth of its labor force.
The strong foreign-born population of Massachusetts, of course, translates into an equally strong English Language Learner (ELL) demographic. According to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), ELLs made up 10.3 percent of the state’s total PreK-12 student population in 2018.
NCES figures dating back to 2000 show a steady growth in the number of ELLs in Massachusetts. In 2000, Massachusetts was home to just 49,077 ELLs. By 2010, this number had increased to 54,988. By 2018, the number of ELLs had taken a meteoric leap to 95,086 – or nearly double the number of ELLs since 2000.
This sort of surge in the number of ELLs has produced a shortage of ESL teachers in Massachusetts in recent years. The U.S. Department of Education reported a shortage of ESL teachers in all grade levels (PreK-12) during the 2021-2022 school year.
If you have aspirations of becoming an ESL teacher in Massachusetts, there’s never been a better time than now.
These steps will show you exactly how to earn TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) certification and become an ESL teacher in Massachusetts:
Step 1. Earn a Degree in ESL and Qualify to Become an ESL Teacher in Massachusetts
The Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education offers ESL certification for either PreK-6 or 5-12. Therefore, if you’re new to the teaching field and haven’t yet completed any college education, learning how to become an ESL teacher in Massachusetts starts with choosing either a bachelor’s or master’s in ESL that’s offered as part of a state-approved teacher preparation program.
For example, Elms College offers a BA in ESL in either PreK-6 or 5-12. Some of the ESL courses within this program includes:
- Language and Literacy Development
- Bilingualism and Applied Linguistics
- Issues in ESL/Bilingualism
- Methods of Teaching ESL
Already a Massachusetts licensed teacher and want to add an ESL license to your current license?
Massachusetts has a nice selection of programs aimed at licensed educators in Massachusetts who want to add an ESL license to their current license. You can earn the required coursework by completing an undergraduate certificate, graduate certificate, or master’s degree in ESL.
For example, the University of Massachusetts offers a four-course ESL certificate program for existing educators, while Cambridge College Boston offers a 33-credit MEd in ESL.
Note: All ESL programs leading to ESL licensure in Massachusetts must include a 150-hour supervised practicum experience.
While certificate programs offer a streamlined path to an ESL license in Massachusetts, a master’s degree often proves beneficial for teachers who are interested in broadening their professional opportunities, increasing their earning potential, and satisfying their professional development requirements. (see Step 4).
If you have already completed a bachelor’s degree in a TESOL field, you may also choose to pursue a master’s degree that doesn’t result in ESL licensure.
Already have a bachelor’s degree in another field?
Your bachelor’s degree in another field may qualify you to earn initial licensure through a master’s program that’s part of a teacher preparation program. Many schools that offer bachelor’s level teaching certificate programs also offer master’s options that include all of the coursework and practical experiences necessary to become certified as a Massachusetts educator.
Alternative Programs and Out-of-State Reciprocity
If you’re a teacher who has completed some experience and coursework in ESL (but not an approved licensure program), you may work toward licensure through the Performance Review Program for Initial Licensure (PRPIL).
The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education will generally recognize that you have met the endorsement requirements for becoming an ESL teacher in Massachusetts if you are either a licensed ESL teacher with three years of experience in your home state, or if you completed an TESOL educator preparation program that is approved by your home state. Learn more about becoming licensed as an out-of-state candidate here.
Step 2. Pass the Massachusetts Tests for Educator Licensure (MTEL)
The Massachusetts Board of Elementary and Secondary Education requires that you pass two tests to be eligible for a TESOL teaching license:
- Communication and Literacy Skills Test
- English as a Second Language Test
Communication and Literacy Skills Test
The Communication and Literacy Skills Test is divided into two main subject areas with a total of 86 questions:
- Writing patterns and critical thinking
- Pinpointing the main ideas and supporting details of selected works
- Purpose and point of view
- Graph interpretation
- Words and phrases definitions
- Creation of compositions and summaries
- Sentence structure, grammar, and error correction
English as a Second Language Test
The English as a Second Language Test will assess your specific knowledge in the field of ESL. A passing score is considered to be 240 and the exam itself is divided into three sub-areas:
- Sub-area I Foundations of Second-Language Instruction – approximately 44 multiple-choice questions which equate to 35 percent of the total score
- Basic linguistic and sociolinguistic theory applied to English language learners
- Stages and processes of language learning
- ESL instructional approaches and best practices
- Cultural and social considerations for English language learners
- Sub-area II Second-Language and Content Learning – approximately 56 multiple-choice questions which make up 45 percent of the total score
- Application of oral and aural language assessment and instruction
- Application of research, theory, and practice for developing reading comprehension
- Reading assessments for English language learners
- Application of writing instructions and assessments
- Development of social and academic language fluency
- Sub-area III Integration of Knowledge and Understanding – 2 open-response questions, accounting for 20 percent of the total score. For this section you will need to prepare an analysis on one, and possibly both, of the following topics:
- ESL content learning
- ESL instruction
Already a Licensed Teacher in Massachusetts – Add an Additional License
If you already hold a teaching license in Massachusetts, you can add an ESL license on top of this. To accomplish this, you will need to complete a classroom practicum or internship in ESL totaling at least 150 hours as well as pass one of the following subject matter tests:
- English as a Second Language Test
- English Language Learners Test
Step 3. Apply For Your Initial Teaching License
Once you pass the required exams, you’ll be eligible to apply for your Initial License through the Education Licensing and Recruitment (ELAR) System. This five-year license can be renewed once.
Step 4. Consider Earning a Master’s in ESL to Maintain and Upgrade Your Massachusetts Teaching License
After you have been employed as an ESL teacher for three years and have completed a teacher induction program with a satisfactory review, you’ll apply for a Professional license. A teacher induction program will contain three key features that are designed to help you transition effectively into your new career as an ESL teacher:
- A new teacher orientation program
- A mentoring ESL teacher
- A supportive team of professionals who will periodically evaluate your teaching performance through classroom observations that will result in helpful suggestions
Once you have earned a Professional License, you’ll need to complete at least 150 Professional Development Points (PDPs) every five years for renewal. One of the ways you can earn these points is through graduate study at a college or university. ESL teachers will often earn a master’s degree to help fulfill their PDP requirements.
Massachusetts ESL teachers find that there are several benefits to earning a master’s degree besides the fulfillment of PDP requirements. Having a master’s degree in ESL can improve job security, open up future career opportunities, and bolster teaching performance which can in turn result in better student achievement.
Step 5. Learn More About ESL Teacher Salary Expectations for Jobs in Massachusetts
As of May 2020, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported the following salaries for educators in Massachusetts:
Early Career (25th percentile): $64,760
Experienced (90th percentile): $123,700
Early Career (25th percentile): $64,840
Experienced (90th percentile): $115,230
Early Career (25th percentile): $66,050
Experienced (90th percentile): $118,890
BLS stats also reveal what ESL teachers are earning in Massachusetts in some of its largest metro areas, as of May 2020:
Boston (Elementary School)
Early Career (25th percentile): $64,590
Experienced (90th percentile): $124,890
Springfield (Middle School)
Early Career (25th percentile): $57,140
Experienced (90th percentile): $102,470
New Bedford (High School)
Early Career (25th percentile): $65,310
Experienced (90th percentile): $116,980
Join a professional organization like the Massachusetts Association of Teachers of Speakers of Other Languages (MATSOL) to learn more about professional learning and professional opportunities.
Learn about the latest job opportunities for Massachusetts ESL teachers through the MassCareers website.
Because of the persistent demand for ESL teachers in Massachusetts, it’s commonplace for school districts to offer financial incentives to ESL teachers. Salary supplements like annual stipends and signing bonuses are often offered to individuals who fill ESL teaching positions in areas of ESL teacher shortages or in hard-to-staff schools or regions.
May 2020 Bureau of Labor Statistics salary and job market trends for elementary school teachers, middle school teachers, and secondary school teachers represent state data, not school-specific information. Conditions in your area may vary. Data accessed June 2021.
Student population data from the National Center for Education Statistics represents English language learners (ELL) enrolled in public elementary and secondary schools in the fall of 2018.