School Counselor Licensure in Massachusetts

The Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education issues two school counseling licenses. One is valid in pre-kindergarten through grade eight; the other in grades five to twelve. There are two level of licensure. Initial licensure requires a master's degree. Professional licensure requires professional experience; a school counselor at this level must also meet additional educational requirements or achieve national certification.

Massachusetts school counselors are classified as professional support personnel.

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Educational Requirements

A student must complete a master's degree with a counseling major (http://www.doe.mass.edu/lawsregs/603cmr7.html?section=11).

The prospective school counselor is to develop knowledge of the following:

  • Use of curricular frameworks
  • Interpretation of test results such as Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System (MCAS)
  • Psychology of learning
  • Theories of normal and abnormal development
  • Understanding of learning and behavioral disorder
  • Preventing and treating mental illness, abuse, violence, and substance abuse in students
  • Principles and practices of guidance counseling
  • Laws and regulations
  • Resources for referral
  • Group counseling and group leadership
  • Career counseling
  • Consultation skills
  • Statistics and research as they relate to school counseling

Additionally, individuals seeking licensure in grades five through twelve must develop competency in college counseling and use of post-secondary resources.

The student will need a practicum of at least 450 hours. It is to be completed in a school setting.

Examination Requirements

Massachusetts does not require school counselors to pass a content area examination. As educators, though they must pass the Communication and Literacy Skills test. It is part of the Massachusetts Tests for Educator Licensure (MTEL) series. The examination consists of two subtests: reading and writing. The reading subtest is multiple choice. The writing test includes open-response and short-answer items as well as multiple choice. The minimum score is 240 on each subtest. The MTEL website includes study resources, including an overview, scoring rubric, and practice test (http://www.mtel.nesinc.com/).

The prospective school counselor may take the test before or after submitting a license application. In some cases, it will be required as a condition of admission to the school of education. The test is administered via computer at Pearson VUE websites. Candidates can select from many testing locations, in Massachusetts and in other states. The examination is available most weekdays and Saturdays throughout the year. It is necessary to make an appointment beforehand.

Registration is carried out online. Candidates have the option of taking the two subtests together or registering for each separately. It costs $125 to register for both subtests. It costs $85 to register for just the reading subtest; $95 to register for just the writing subtest. Candidates can pay by credit or debit card.

Scores are released according to a published schedule (http://www.mtel.nesinc.com/PDFs/MTEL_2014_2015_TestDates.pdf). The candidate’s score report is for personal information. In most cases, scores are automatically reported to the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.

A candidate who does not pass must wait 45 days before retaking the examination. If one subtest was passed, it is only necessary to retake the one that was failed.

The MTEL program can be reached by telephone at (413) 256-2892 or (866) 565-4894.

The Application Process

A prospective school counselor may submit an application before all requirements have been met.

The applicant may use the academic licensure application form, available on the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education website (http://www.doe.mass.edu/educators/resources.html?section=applications). An applicant also has the option of applying online, utilizing the Educator Licensure and Recruitment (ELAR) system. The Department notes that this method is faster.

The Department recommends that supporting documents be sent together in one envelope. The applicant will use the following address:

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

First-time applicants must pay a nonrefundable $100 fee. If this is an added license area/ endorsement, the applicant will owe just $25.

Status can be monitored online. Applicants can also call the Credentialing Call Center to hear a general message about where the Department is in its review process.

An applicant who has not yet met all requirements will receive written correspondence outlining the steps that must be taken.

Out-of-State Candidates

Massachusetts has entered into an agreement through the National Association of State Directors of Teacher Education and Certification (NASDTEC) to accept most educator programs offered in other states; exceptions include school psychologist, school nursing, and speech, language, and hearing disorder specialist.

The agreement does not exempt educators from degree requirements. Nor are educators excused from testing requirements. However, the testing timeframe may be extended. Massachusetts may issue a temporary license, valid for one year, to an out-of-state licensee who has three years of experience but has not yet met testing requirements.

Out-of-state educators may verify a license and three years of recent experience or completion of either 1) a state-approved program offered by a regionally accredited university or 2) a program accredited by the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE), the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP), or the Teacher Education Accreditation Council (TEAC).

Earning the Professional License

In order to move from initial to professional licensing, a school counselor will need three years of employment.

Additionally, the school counselor will need to demonstrate either 60 semester hours of coursework or professional certification through an approved organization. Credit hours earned as part of the original license-qualifying master's may be credited. The Department will also credit graduate courses completed in related fields. Related fields include mental health counseling, school psychology, or clinical psychology, among others.

Certification may be earned through the National Board for Certified Counselors (NBCC) or the National Board for School Counseling (http://www.doe.mass.edu/lawsregs/603cmr7.html?section=11).

Candidates for NBCC certification take an examination after meeting eligibility requirements (http://www.nbcc.org/Certification).

Additional Information

Licensing information is available on the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education website (https://gateway.edu.state.ma.us/elar/licensurehelp/LicenseRequirementsCriteriaPageControl.ser). A license representative is available to answer questions at (781) 338-6600. Current hours of operation are 9:00 to 12:00 and 2:00 to 5:00 on weekdays. However, hours may vary according to the time of year. Educator Licensure also maintains a walk-in customer service counter at the Department of Education office in Malden. Additional contact information is available online (http://www.doe.mass.edu/educators/contact.html).

The Massachusetts School Counselors Association is the state’s professional organization (http://masca.org).

You may be interested in the Massachusetts Counselor license requirements.

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