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Do I Need a Master’s Degree to Teach High School in Massachusetts?

May 21, 2019

Insights from the School of Education and Social Policy at Merrimack College

Massachusetts has a structured, tiered system for teachers. Meaning to earn a professional license, teachers must earn a master’s degree and pass the pertinent parts of the Massachusetts Test for Educator Licensure (MTEL). A master’s degree is not required to begin a career as a high school teacher in Massachusetts. Teachers must earn a bachelor’s degree and pass the MTEL in their subject area. However, teachers must eventually earn a master’s degree in secondary education to earn the professional license needed to continue as teacher in the state.

How to Start as a High School Teacher in Massachusetts

Working as a high school teacher in Massachusetts means working in one of the best states for education. Massachusetts teachers generally enjoy higher pay and the advantage of working in a state that emphasizes learning. Consequently, the state requires a high set of expectations of the skills needed from teachers.

That starts with the MTEL, which is overseen by the state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. After earning a bachelor’s degree, teachers are required to pass sections of the MTEL that pertain to the areas in which they plan to teach.

After passing the exam, teachers may apply for a preliminary teacher’s license, which is only valid for five years. Teachers then use that time to complete a state-approved teacher preparation program.

Getting a bachelor’s degree, passing the MTEL and completing the preparation program allow teachers to earn what is known as an initial license. This is valid for 10 years. After that, unless they are granted an extension, teachers must earn a professional license. That’s where earning a master’s degree comes into the equation.

Professional License

One requirement to earn a professional license is to earn a master’s degree in education. The best graduate degree programs prepare students to succeed on the MTEL exams that also must be passed to earn a professional license. For example, the online master’s degree in secondary education at Merrimack College is approved by the state and aligned with the knowledge requirements from the Massachusetts Professional Standards for Teachers and Subject Matter Knowledge.

Why A Master’s Degree is Worthwhile

Being a high school teacher in Massachusetts is a reward onto itself. The state rewards teachers with one of the best educational environments in the country. It also offers some of the best pay that a teacher can earn in the United States.

Massachusetts secondary school teachers earn a mean annual salary of $80,020, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The Boston metropolitan area ranks among the top metro areas in the country for employing teachers. Furthermore, the government projects that the number of secondary school teachers in Massachusetts will increase 11.2% by 2026. That’s higher than the 8% projected for the entire nation.

While not a requirement to become a high school teacher in Massachusetts at first, a master’s degree is one of the main pathways for earning the required professional license. It’s an extra step not every state requires teachers to take, but the advantages for teachers in Massachusetts make it worthwhile.