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  • Office of Educator Licensure

    District and School Resources

    District and school administrative staff such as human resources officials, are integral to the hiring and professional support of licensed educators. Here you will find an overview of topics and tools that may assist with these functions.

    Massachusetts Educator Licensure Legal Requirements:

    To be eligible for employment by a school district in any position covered by 603 CMR 7.00, a person must have been granted a license by the Commissioner that is appropriate for the role.

    The role covered by each license is defined by the title and requirements of the license. Superintendents and principals intending to employ an educator in a role not obviously defined by an existing license must determine the most appropriate license set forth in 603 CMR 7.00 or 603 CMR 4.00 by comparing the actual duties and responsibilities of that role with the license requirements.

    Please note that this guidance relates to legal employability as outlined in M.G.L., Chapter 71, s. 38G, and 603 CMR 7.00. It does not cover the federal requirements for Highly Qualified teachers.

    Useful Resources:

    • Licensure Requirements Tool: Need to find the requirements for a specific license? Please use the Licensure Requirements Tool to search for individual pathways/licensure requirement sets.

    • Massachusetts Educator License Mapping Tool: the interactive tool shows which courses are in-field for which teacher licenses. Federal reporting requirements ask states and districts to designate teachers as "in-field" or "out-of-field" for each course they are teaching. To accomplish this, the Department has developed a Mapping Tool that links educator licenses to courses taught. The tool is helpful in determining the most appropriate license for the roles assigned to your personnel.

      Due to COVID-19, State Regulations have been updated to permit an educator to be employed for a maximum of 50% (normally 20%) of his or her time (during the 2020-2021 school year) in a role or at a level for which the individual does not hold a license; except in a role requiring any of the following licenses: Teacher of Moderate Disabilities, Teacher of Severe Disabilities, Teacher of Deaf and Hard of Hearing (ASL/TC), Teacher of Deaf and Hard of Hearing (Oral/Aural), Teacher of Visually Impaired, Teacher of Speech, Language and Hearing Disorders, school nurse, or English as a Second Language license. Federal compliance can be maintained as long as out-of-field teachers are not disproportionately assigned to protected populations of students.

    • Matching Licenses : This chart is designed to assist districts in associating licenses the Department formerly issued to licenses currently offered.

    • Employment/Induction and Mentoring Verification Form

    Licensure Hardship Waiver:

    According to Regulations for Educator Licensure and Preparation Program Approval 603 CMR 7.00, in order to be employed as an educator in Massachusetts, most roles require a license. In the event that an employer has not been able to recruit a licensed educator for a particular position, they may consider applying for a hardship waiver to permit employment of an educator who does not yet hold the appropriate license. The hardship waiver is an exemption from the requirement for one (1) school year to employ an unlicensed individual. It is the district's responsibility to follow the instructions for logging the waiver request in ELAR and submitting the requested evidence that a good faith effort has been made to hire licensed personnel.

    Good-faith Effort

    Districts applying for a hardship waiver may do so beginning on April 1st of each year (though the actual period of the waiver is July 1 – June 30th). Detailed directions for applying for a waiver can be found at: Process to Request a Waiver for Educator Licensure. In general, however, DESE expects the following to justify that a good-faith effort was made:

    • External job posting viewable to the public for at least 2 weeks (beginning after January 1 or no more than 6-months from waiver request date). For the 2021/22 school year, our Office will also accept an internal posting which was posted for at least 1 week, sometime within the six months preceding your waiver request. An internal posting will only be applicable when the educator was employed in the district in 2020-21 and determined that experience with the district's remote and hybrid learning implementation in 2020-21 is a necessary qualification for a specific position during the 2021-22 school year . Examples of internal postings: copy of email, which includes the posting, sent to all staff members of a district and/or a posting only accessible on the district's intranet.
    • List of all licensed individuals who applied
    • Reasons/rationales those individuals were not hired, rationale must address what knowledge, skills or ability the licensed candidate was lacking.
    • Explanation of why unlicensed individual is qualified for the role
    • Persons employed under hardship waivers must demonstrate that they are making continuous progress toward meeting the requirements for licensure in the field in which they are employed in order for an additional waiver to be granted after one year.

    Critical Shortage Waiver (for retired educators)

    In addition to hardship waivers, Massachusetts law also provides for 'critical shortage' waivers that permit a school district to employ a retired educator beyond their usual earning limits – in certain circumstances. Pursuant to M.G.L. Chapter 32, s. 91(e), the earnings limitations on re-employment of retirees in Massachusetts public schools are eased in the event that the district has made a good-faith effort to hire qualified non-retirees and has been unable to find them. The 'critical shortage' application process is similar to that of requesting a hardship waiver, but it is done via hard copy, not the ELAR system. School districts that are interested in hiring a retired educator to fill a critical shortage position must fill out and submit the application and supporting evidence as requested. For questions regarding pension and salary, please contact the Massachusetts Teachers Retirement System (MTRS) at (617) 679-MTRS (6877).

    On April 3, 2020, Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker signed into law Chapter 53 of the Acts of 2020. The Act adopts measures to help municipalities operate during the state of emergency that the governor declared on March 10, 2020 and it includes a provision related to Critical Shortage Waivers for retired Educators. For additional information please review the following document: Critical Shortage Waiver — 2021 Update.

    Accessing DESE's Security Portal

    The Department issues User Names for school and district staff, and staff from other organizations who need access to secure web-based applications available through the Department's Security Portal. People who have created or updated their user profile through the Educator Licensure And Renewal (ELAR) application are able to provide more information that allows the Department to securely identify them.

    The Retrieve User Name/Reset Password link is for ELAR members. If you use DESE Security Portal Applications on behalf of your school, district, or other organization, please see your organization's Directory Administrator. Your Directory Administrator can reset your password.

    Often, people who access DESE Security Portal applications for their school, district, or other organization, are also licensed Massachusetts Educators. If this is true for you, you can either use the Retrieve Username/Reset Password tool or contact your organization's Directory Administrator. If you select the Retrieve Username/Reset Password link, you will find yourself creating what seems to be a 'new' Profile; this is normal. If a Profile exists with your name and personal information, you will be reminded of your User Name once we receive enough information to make a match. At this time, you will also be able to change your Password.

    The Commissioner's Hotline:

    The Commissioner's Hotline is a designated phone number that superintendents and appropriate central office staff may call to:

    • Ask licensure questions
    • Troubleshoot pending licenses
    • Expedite an application
    • Ask questions about the background check policy

    DropBox Central:

    DropBox Central is a tool you can access after logging into the DESE Security Portal that is useful for securely downloading data.

    • Educator Licensure Status DropBox: Use this when you are interested in downloading a spreadsheet of the current licensure and MTEL details of your entire staff. Instructions within the DropBox will guide you through uploading your roster of staff to the InBox, and an overnight process will run to return all related licensure data for your staff to the OutBox. Call the Commissioner's Hotline if you require assistance.

    Upload Supporting Documents Directly into ELAR:

    You may log into ELAR, look up an applicant, and upload documents directly to their profile on the Activity Summary page via the Administrative Inquiry function.

    Statewide Applicant Fingerprint Identification Services (SAFIS)/ National Background Checks (Fingerprinting):

    In January 2013, the Governor signed Chapter 459 of the Acts of 2012, An Act Relative to Background Checks which expanded school employers' access to criminal history reports of applicants and employees.

    DESE puts forth regulations, and answers questions employers have about their regulatory requirements, however, DCJIS is the agency that administers the program.

    Last Updated: November 4, 2021

    Contact Us

    Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education
    75 Pleasant Street, Malden, MA 02148-4906

    Voice: (781) 338-3000
    TTY: (800) 439-2370


    Disclaimer: A reference in this website to any specific commercial products, processes, or services, or the use of any trade, firm, or corporation name is for the information and convenience of the public and does not constitute endorsement or recommendation by the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.