Massachusetts ESL Teacher Job Description and ESOL Certification Requirements

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.

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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

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:

#1 ButtonEarn a Degree in ESL and Qualify to Become an ESL Teacher in Massachusetts
#2 ButtonPass the Massachusetts Tests for Educator Licensure (MTEL)
#3 ButtonApply For Your Initial Teaching License
#4 ButtonConsider Earning a Master’s in ESL to Maintain and Upgrade Your Massachusetts Teaching License
#5 ButtonLearn More About ESL Teacher Salary Expectations for Jobs 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.

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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

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

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

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:

 

Elementary School

Early Career (25th percentile): $64,760
Median: $82,520
Experienced (90th percentile): $123,700

 

Middle School

Early Career (25th percentile): $64,840
Median: $80,730
Experienced (90th percentile): $115,230

 

High School

Early Career (25th percentile): $66,050
Median: $83,680
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
Median: $84,550
Experienced (90th percentile): $124,890

 

Springfield (Middle School)

Early Career (25th percentile): $57,140
Median: $70,840
Experienced (90th percentile): $102,470

 

New Bedford (High School)

Early Career (25th percentile): $65,310
Median: $82,970
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.

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