Educator Credentials

It is important for early educators to understand the difference between the requirements for earning a degree at a college or university and the requirements for teacher certification in the state of Massachusetts. The first is determined by each individual college or university depending on the specific program of study. Early educators earn degrees in early childhood education, child development, and other related areas of study.

Completing the requirements for teacher certification or licensure in MA is a separate process determined by state agencies, either the Department of Early Education and Care or the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. It is important to be sure that completion of the college degree program you choose will allow you to meet the requirements for the type of teaching position you would like. The definitions below can help you understand the different degree and teacher certification options.

Whether your goal is to teach in a preschool classroom in a community-based program, teach in an infant-toddler classroom, teach in a public school (preschool to Grade 2 with children with special needs), become a family child care provider, or a director of a child care program, you will need certain professional qualifications and college coursework to further your career. Creating a clear plan at the start is the best way to ensure that you build on what you know to achieve your goal in the most efficient and cost-effective way. There are advisors available to help you plan your pathway from where you are now to achieve your goal. The Educator and Provider Support (EPS) program in each Region can help you find career counseling and academic advising. 


Child Development Associate is a nationally recognized early educator credential. It is based on a set of core competency standards that guide early educators to develop their knowledge and skills. The CDA credentialing process is designed to help early educators build understanding of child development and learn how to put their knowledge into practice. Early educators can earn a CDA credential for the specific setting and age-group they serve. It addresses the nurturing of emotional, physical, intellectual and social development. Educators can also earn a CDA with bilingual specialization. Some colleges award college credits for CDA that can be applied towards degree requirements.

About the Child Development Associate (CDA) Credential

Council for Professional Recognition:

- Click to view their CDA Video


There are several different types of degrees that come from different types of colleges, for different types of study. Generally, Certificate programs and Associates Degrees are earned in 1-2 years and can be found at Community Colleges. Other colleges and universities offer Bachelor’s Degrees, designed to be completed in 4 years as a full-time student.

  • AA/AS - Associates of Arts or Associate of Science is a 2-year degree which may provide a program of study designed to prepare students for a particular vocation or to prepare students to transfer credits and build on them to complete a 4-year degree.
  • BA/BS - Bachelor of Arts or Bachelor of Science degree is a 4-year degree which provides a program of study designed to prepare students for a particular career or to continue with their studies in a graduate program.
  • MA/MAT/MS/ MEd - Master of Arts, Master of Arts in Teaching, Master of Science or Master’s in Education are graduate degrees taking one or two years beyond a 4-year degree program. Master’s programs offer advanced education in an area of specialty and may include field specific credentials, certificates or licensure.
  • CAGS - Certificate of Advanced Graduate Study is a certificate program offered to allow graduate study beyond a Master’s degree for specialization in a particular field without the requirement of a doctoral dissertation.
  • PhD - Doctor of philosophy degree entails coursework beyond a masters degree as well as the passing of comprehensive exams and the completion of a scholarly project known as a dissertation. The completion of a dissertation is evidence that the student is knowledgeable capable and prepared to make independent contributions to their field of study. The exact number of years to complete a PhD varies by discipline and by student, but can take between 4-8 years.

2+2 Program = a 4-Year Degree!

A “2+2” program is one that allows students to begin with a 2 year degree at a community college and then transfer all credits towards a four-year degree which can be completed in 2 more years as a full-time student. 2+2 programs are a partnership between a community college and a four-year college working together to make sure that all of the courses in the program of study create a comprehensive degree program in the most cost effective and time efficient way. Please note that completing a program could take more than 2 years if a student is attending part-time or if some required courses have not been taken in the first 2 years. If you are interested in a 2+2 program, it is important to talk with an academic advisor to plan your individual pathway and be sure it works for you.

EEC Certification

EEC Certifications currently require a combination of college coursework and supervised field experience in an early education program. These certifications allow early educators to provide early learning experiences for young children in child care centers, family child care homes, and preschool programs licensed by EEC. All requirements are specifically spelled out in an application process. There are three levels of Certification beginning with Level 1: Infant-Toddler OR Preschool Teacher, Level 2: Infant-Toddler OR Preschool Lead Teacher, and Level 3: Director I and Director II. Brief descriptions of each EEC Certification can be found in the Glossary.

More information and the application packet: MA Department of Early Education and Care Certifications

Licensure (DESE)

DESE teacher licenses for prek to grade 2 in the public schools and many private schools require a college Bachelor’s degree with specific coursework and student teaching experiences. Educators may earn a degree specifically designed to provide the required coursework and student teaching experiences needed to earn teacher licensure, or they may earn a Bachelors degree and then pursue a teaching license through a Masters level licensure program. Earning a teacher license requires passing the Massachusetts Tests for Educator Licensure (MTEL) for the grade levels or subjects you wish to teach.

More information: Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education Licensure


The Early Childhood Post Masters Certificate has been developed by the Department of Early Education and Care in collaboration with the University of Massachusetts Boston. It is a 4-course 12-credit advanced graduate course of study open to early educators working in a variety of settings. Courses are offered on Saturdays in a blended format with online components. The program is designed for early educators to take one course per semester with a cohort of other educators and takes 2 years to complete.

More information on the course of study and admission requirements: The Post Master's Certificate Program in Early Education Research, Policy, and Practice