New Mexico ESL Teacher Job Description and ESOL Certification Requirements

According to the Migration Policy Institute, New Mexico has the third highest population of English Language Learner (ELL) students in the country. These students represent 18.5 percent of the total state student population, or one in every five students (2004-05 academic year statistics).

New Mexico’s Public Education Department’s Bilingual Multicultural Education Bureau works with Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) in New Mexico to ensure that each ELL student is well served.

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

Follow these steps to become an ESL teacher in New Mexico:

#1 ButtonComplete a Bachelor Degree and Teacher Preparation Program
#2 ButtonPass Basic and Content Level Exams
#3 ButtonApply for Your New Mexico Teaching License
#4 ButtonMaintain and Upgrade Your New Mexico Teaching License



Step 1. Complete a Degree and Teacher Preparation Program in New Mexico

In order to become a TESOL certified teacher in New Mexico, you must complete a bachelor’s degree program from a regionally accredited college or university. There are four different pathways to licensure in New Mexico, which will be explored in Step 3 below.

For the purposes of exploring educational requirements, two options apply:

  • Option 1: Complete an approved educator preparation program that includes student teaching (and pass the NMTA tests listed in Step 2 below)
  • Option 2: Complete an alternative degree program WITHOUT an approved education preparation program –from these choices:
    • Bachelor’s degree with 30 semester hours in the TESOL area, OR a master’s degree with 12 graduate semester hours in the TESOL area, OR a doctoral degree in TESOL,


    • Pass the NMTA tests listed in Step 2,



Requirements for licensure under Options 1 and 2 for every possible licensure area are listed here. Student teaching is a requirement for licensure in any area in New Mexico. You must choose which area you wish to become licensed in, and then seek the TESOL endorsement, as you cannot be licensed in TESOL.

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For the TESOL endorsement, you must complete 24 to 36 semester hours in TESOL courses, including a student teaching portion. The courses you take will depend upon your institution’s requirements.



Step 2. Pass the Necessary Exams for TESOL Certification in NM

The New Mexico Public Education Department’s Professional Licensure Bureau requires that all teacher candidates pass basic skills and content testing in their desired teaching area. Currently, both types of tests are paper-based and offered by the New Mexico Teacher Assessments (NMTA). However, starting in January 2015, these tests will be replaced by the equivalent National Evaluation Series (NES) of tests, which are computerized.

Basic Skills Testing

All teacher candidates must pass the NMTA Assessment of Teacher Basic Skills. This will measure your skills and knowledge in mathematics, written communication and reading comprehension. You must also pass the NMTA of Teacher Competency that corresponds with the licensure area you seek (Elementary, Secondary, or Early Childhood). To view the NES listing of assessments that are likely under the new system, click here.

Content Area Testing

You must pass the Content Area Test (CAT) that goes along with your desired area(s) of endorsement. For TESOL, it is the Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages test (under the NMTA). This should change in January 2015 to the NES K-12 English to Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) test.



Step 3. Apply for Your New Mexico Teaching License and TESOL Endorsement

When you have completed the necessary requirements above, you are ready to apply for your New Mexico Teaching License (and TESOL endorsement). There are four licensure pathways possible in New Mexico:

  • Option 1: Complete a bachelor’s degree and approved teacher preparation program
  • Option 2: Complete an alternative degree program
  • Option 3: Hold a bachelor’s (or higher) degree with a valid teaching license from another state or country, proof of completing an approved teacher education program, proof of passing a teacher competency exam, and evidence that you have taught under that license
  • Option 4: Hold certification by the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards

Regardless of the option you choose above, you must use the Initial Application Packet to apply for first-time licensure in New Mexico. Make sure to include:

  • All necessary fees
  • Official transcripts
  • Completed fingerprint background check materials (instructions to obtain are on application)
  • Copies of any current licenses you hold
  • Documentation of any alternative preparation program you completed
  • Verification of any teaching experience you have
  • Copies of any out-of-state exam scores you have

Mail the above to: New Mexico Public Education Department, Professional Licensure Bureau, 300 Don Gaspar, Santa Fe, NM 87501-2786. If you meet the requirements, you will be issued a Level 1 license, valid for five years.

To apply for your TESOL endorsement after you receive your teaching license, you must use the Initial Endorsement Application. Include all fees, transcripts, indications that you have taken the correct NMTA examination, and copies of out-of-state documents such as test scores. Send to the above address.



Step 4. Maintain and Upgrade Your New Mexico Teaching License

Your Level 1 teaching license is valid for five years. To upgrade it to a Level 2 license, you must:

  • Complete three years of full-time teaching experience (with at least 160 days per year) under the Level 1 license
  • Complete a Professional Development Dossier (PDD) to demonstrate your professional growth during the past three years.

Once you are issued a Level 2 license, it is valid for 9 years. To renew it and keep it a Level 2 license, use the online Same Level Licensure system. You must also submit a statement from your school’s superintendent recommending your continued licensure.

If you wish to upgrade your Level 2 license to a Level 3A, you must complete three years of full-time teaching experience (with at least 160 days per year) under the Level 2 license and meet one of the following requirements:

You can renew the level 3A license (valid for 9 years) through the online system above. You will also need to submit a statement from your school’s superintendent recommending your continued licensure.

Graduate Degrees for TESOL Teachers in New Mexico

As you can see above, earning a graduate teaching degree can help you to advance your license in New Mexico’s professional licensure system. Possibilities for TESOL teachers seeking graduate degrees in New Mexico are:

  • Master of Education in TESOL
  • Master of Arts in Education – TESOL Specialization
  • Master of Arts in Teaching – Elementary TESOL
  • Master of Arts in Teaching – Secondary TESOL
  • Master of Arts in Curriculum and Instruction – TESOL Concentration

New Mexico ESL Endorsement Salary Bonus Incentive

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, New Mexico has fewer ESL teachers than the national average but is slightly above that average in relation to population size. New Mexico is unique because of its large Native American and Spanish-speaking populations. In 2000 only 63.5 percent of the New Mexico population spoke primarily English at home.

The most common non-English language spoken is Spanish, followed by Navajo and other Native American tongues like Apache, Cherokee, Dakota, Choctaw, Pima and Yupik. The state also has roughly one percent each of Vietnamese, Chinese, Korean, Vietnamese, German, French, Italian and Arabic speakers.

ESL teacher certification in New Mexico is granted under the Public Education Department’s Professional Licensing Bureau. There are two types of endorsements available to prospective ESL teachers in New Mexico: TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) and Bilingual. The first is intended for teachers who will be teaching English language learners in an English classroom setting while the Bilingual endorsements is for teachers who are fluent in Spanish who will be teaching in a dual-language classroom.

Individuals applying for either ESL endorsement must have a bachelor’s degree or better and a valid NM teaching certificate. Additional requirements for a TESOL endorsement include passing the Content Knowledge Assessment Test in TESOL and at least 12 semester hours in ESL courses like:

  • Cross-cultural Literacy
  • TESOL Assessment
  • Foundations of Bilingual Education
  • ESL Teaching Methods

For a Bilingual endorsement one must pass the Prueba de Espanol four-skills test and at least 12 semester hours in courses like:

  • Hispanic Culture and Language
  • Spanish writing skills
  • Spanish for the bilingual classroom
  • ESL teaching methods and assessment

New Mexico’s teachers, including ESL teachers, earn an average of $50,030, with experienced tenured teachers earning as much as $70,790.

The table below provides 2013 Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) salary information for Adult, Basic and Secondary Education and Literacy Teachers (ESL teachers are included in this broader category).

Area name
Annual Median Salary
Albuquerque NM
North and West Central New Mexico nonmetropolitan area
Eastern New Mexico nonmetropolitan area

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