Massachusetts ESL Teacher Job Description and ESOL Certification Requirements

Nearly eight percent of all Massachusetts public school students participated in programs for English language learners in the 2012 school year. Over the past decade the number of these students has increased by more than 10,000 to the current level of over 62,000. ESL teachers in Massachusetts fill a vital role by making it possible for English language learners to become fully integrated as English speakers and have every opportunity for success in the future.

The Master of Arts in Teaching - TESOL online program from the USC Rossier School of Education prepares you to teach students of all ages in the U.S. and internationally, gives you the option to pursue a teaching credential, and can be completed in 12 months.
Campbellsville University Offers an ESL Endorsement (P-12), M.A. in Teaching - Secondary Education, M.A. in TESOL
Liberty University Offers Undergrad Cert and B.Ed. in English as a Second Language.
Greenville University Offers a Master of Arts in Education - Teaching English as a Second Language (ESL)
George Mason University Offers a Master of Education (MEd) in Curriculum and Instruction, Concentration in TESOL
Capella University offers online Master’s program in English Language Learning and Teaching designed to help educators advance their career in supporting diverse student populations. While it does not satisfy licensure requirements, the program can help you build the skills to use instructional strategies, emerging trends, and best practices to effectively teach English Language Learners to help students adapt to new cultural environments.
St. John's University Offers an Online Ph.D. in Literacy
Saint Joseph's University Offers an English as a Second Language Certificate

To become an ESL teacher in Massachusetts you will work with the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education to complete the requirements for licensure as they have been defined by the Massachusetts Board of Elementary and Secondary Education. To teach ESL in Massachusetts you will need to navigate the following steps:

#1 ButtonEarn at Least a Bachelor’s Degree in an ESL Field
#2 ButtonPass the Massachusetts Tests for Educator Licensure (MTEL)
#3 ButtonApply for a TESOL Teaching Certification
#4 ButtonRenew Your TESOL Teaching License



Step 1. Earn at Least a Bachelor’s Degree in an ESL Field

To be eligible for TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) in Massachusetts you must earn at least a bachelor’s degree. This should be in TESOL or an TESOL-related field and should also include an educator preparation program.

The major you choose should include core courses that provide instruction in the areas of:

  • Multiculturalism or cultural diversity
  • Linguistics
  • Language arts
  • English language structure, grammar, and reading
  • Foreign languages – the most common foreign languages spoken by Massachusetts ESL students are:
    • Spanish
    • Portuguese
    • Vietnamese
    • Chinese
    • French Creole

Educator Preparation Program

You will also need to complete an educator preparation program in TESOL offered in combination with a degree in a TESOL field that leads to initial certification. These programs are available through colleges, universities, and alternative teacher programs specific to the two different grade levels for which ESL teachers are licensed, grades pre K-6 and grades 5-12. The educator preparation component of the degree program will focus on developing a strong pedagogical foundation in the field of TESOL, including courses such as:

  • Teaching English language learners
  • Cultural sensitivity in teaching students from a variety of cultural backgrounds
  • ESL curriculum development
  • Choosing the right assessments for ESL students
  • ESL teaching strategies and approaches
  • Psychology of learning a second language

Traditional educator preparation programs culminate with placement in a student teaching assignment where you will work under the close guidance of an experienced ESL teacher in the classroom.

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Alternative Programs and Out-of-State Reciprocity

Alternative programs will also focus on your development in the field of pedagogy as it relates to ESL, however these programs tend to be more intensive and shorter than their traditional counterparts. Instead of completing a student teaching segment, alternative programs will involve you being placed directly in the classroom as an ESL teacher where you will work in close collaboration with a team of supporting teachers and staff.

If you have already completed a bachelor’s degree in a TESOL field, you may choose to pursue a TESOL educator preparation program offered as post-baccalaureate study. In this case you may also consider a master’s degree such as an M.A.T., M.Ed. or MATL.

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.



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 an TESOL teaching license:

  • Communication and Literacy Skills Test
  • English as a Second Language Test

These are part of the Massachusetts Tests for Educator Licensure (MTEL) system, and you can register for both of these online.

Communication and Literacy Skills Test

Required to ensure you possess the basic skills required to be a teacher of any subject, the Communication and Literacy Skills Test is divided into two main subject areas with a total of 86 questions:

  • Reading
    • 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
  • Writing
    • 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



Step 3. Apply for a TESOL Teaching Certification

When you have completed the steps up to this point you will have met the TESOL certification requirements in Massachusetts. You can apply for a teaching license online using the Education Licensing and Recruitment (ELAR) System or you can mail a completed application packet, $100 fee, and official transcripts to:

Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education
Office of Educator Licensure
75 Pleasant Street
Malden, MA 02148

Depending on the route you have taken to qualify for an ESL teaching license, your first license will be one of the following:

  • Initial License – if you have taken the traditional route to certification (bachelor’s degree combined with an ESL educator preparation program)
  • Preliminary License – if you completed an alternative educator preparation program
  • Temporary License – if you are an experienced ESL teacher from a different state and have yet to complete your MTEL tests

Once you have earned your teaching license you can start searching for ESL teacher jobs in Massachusetts on websites such as the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education’s Careers in Education.

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 4. Renew Your TESOL Teaching License

Your Initial License is valid for five years and may only be renewed once. To do this you will need to show that you have worked as an ESL teacher in Massachusetts and intend to upgrade to the next licensure level, a Professional License.

You can upgrade to a Professional License as soon as you have been employed as an ESL teacher for three years and have completed a teacher induction program with a satisfactory review. 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 will need to complete 150 Professional Development Points (PDPs) every five years in order to renew this. 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 can improve job security, open up future career opportunities, and bolster teaching performance which can in turn result in better student achievement.

As you explore the different aspects of the ESL teacher job description, you may find it helpful to look to outside agencies for networking opportunities and additional information on PDPs or other related activities. The Massachusetts Association of Teachers of Speakers of Other Languages (MATSOL) is one such agency where you can discover teaching ideas and materials, professional learning opportunities, and a variety of additional resources.

Massachusetts ESL Endorsement Salary Bonus Incentives

According to 2012 data from the Migration Policy Institute, the 995,962 foreign born residents of Massachusetts came from the following areas:

  • Latin America – 35.6%
  • Asia – 29.5%
  • Europe – 23.3%

While many children from the state’s immigrant population speak English well, six percent of the public school students in Massachusetts participated in programs for English Language Learners (ELL) during the 2011-12 school year, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.

In Massachusetts as a whole, 51,574 students were enrolled in ELL programs as of the 2011-12 school year. In the Boston Public School system, more than 40% of the students spoke a different language at home in 2014. Approximately 17,000 Boston public school students required ELL services that year.

Despite having such a large population of ELL students, Massachusetts had a critical ESL teacher shortage during the 2013-14 and 2014-15 school years according to the U.S. Department of Education.

Since ESL teacher jobs frequently require teaching experience and advanced degrees, these teachers are often eligible for bonus incentives for their ESL endorsement.

The 2013 salaries for Massachusetts K-12 teachers are available from the Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development and are shown below:

Grade Level
Elementary School Teachers
Middle School Teachers
Secondary School Teachers

Other ESL teachers specialize in training adults. They are included in the Bureau of Labor and Statistics category of Adult Basic and Secondary Education and Literacy Teachers. 2013 salary data for these Massachusetts professionals is shown in the following table:

Area name
Annual Median Salary
Barnstable Town MA
Boston-Cambridge-Quincy MA-NH
Boston-Cambridge-Quincy MA NECTA Division
Brockton-Bridgewater-Easton MA NECTA Division
Framingham MA NECTA Division
Haverhill-North Andover-Amesbury MA-NH NECTA Division
Lawrence-Methuen-Salem MA-NH NECTA Division
Lowell-Billerica-Chelmsford MA-NH NECTA Division
Peabody MA NECTA Division
Estimate Not Released
Providence-Fall River-Warwick RI-MA
Taunton-Norton-Raynham MA NECTA Division

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