How to Become a Teacher in New Mexico

Aspiring teachers can find several pathways to teaching certification in New Mexico. Learn about New Mexico's education and licensing requirements for teachers.

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by Marisa Upson

Updated June 10, 2022

Reviewed by Dr. Samantha Fecich

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How to Become a Teacher in New Mexico
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Teachers in all 50 states require certification to teach in public schools. To obtain this license in New Mexico, applicants must hold a bachelor's or master's degree, complete a state-approved teacher preparation program, and pass state-specific exams. Some alternative licensure routes enable candidates to begin their teaching career while addressing shortages.

In New Mexico, teaching position vacancies rose from 571 in 2020 to 1,048 in 2021. The state launched an initiative asking National Guard members and state workers to become volunteer substitute K-12 teachers in 2022 to address this critical teacher shortage.

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Ready to start your journey?

Whether considering going back to school for a teaching degree or enrolling in one of the best online colleges in New Mexico, our guide will set you on the course to learning how to become a teacher in New Mexico.

How Do I Become a Teacher in New Mexico?

The New Mexico Public Education Department (NMPED) manages the state's teacher certification requirements. New Mexico has 10 licensing classifications for teachers. A few of these include early childhood, elementary, middle level, secondary, special education, and blind and visually impaired.

In 2003, New Mexico developed a three-tiered teaching licensure system. This progressive system requires teachers to demonstrate increased competencies as they advance. Each advanced tier offers a salary increase.

To obtain your teaching license or certification in New Mexico, you must first earn a bachelor's degree. Many state-approved bachelor's in education programs offer a pathway to licensure. Teachers licensed in other states may meet New Mexico's teacher reciprocity requirements.

Meet Minimum Education Requirements

Individuals must hold a bachelor's degree to become a licensed teacher in New Mexico. Aspiring school teachers may meet these requirements by earning their on-campus or online bachelor's in education from an approved program. Middle school and high school teachers may earn a bachelor's in their subject area.

Each specialty area requires a set number of undergraduate credits. For example, elementary school teachers must complete a minimum of 30 credits in elementary education, including student teaching, six credits in teaching reading, and 24 credits in another teaching field, like social studies, math, science, or language arts.

The alternative route to licensure enables prospective teachers with a bachelor's degree in a non-teaching discipline to gain temporary internship licensure. This license allows them to start teaching in New Mexico while they complete the requirements. They may also earn a master's degree that includes a state-approved teaching experience.

Gain Student Teaching Experience

Obtaining a teaching certification in New Mexico requires the completion of an approved teacher education program. In 2018, the NMPED established a 2.75 minimum GPA requirement for educator preparation programs.

New Mexico's state-approved teacher preparation programs consist of fieldwork and coursework, preparing students for implementing lessons and instructing them on the art and science of pedagogy. Coursework may include curriculum development, teaching methods, and classroom management. Fieldwork consists of a mandatory 14-week student teaching experience.

Many approved bachelor's in education programs in New Mexico include the required student teaching experience.

Pass Required Certification Tests

Teacher certification in New Mexico requires passing three or more New Mexico Teacher Assessments. For an elementary school teacher, these Praxis exams include:

Prospective middle and high school teachers do not take the elementary education or reading instruction exam. Instead, they take the content knowledge assessment test regarding their specific area of instruction.

Apply for Certification

Applicants must submit a completed application packet to the NMPED. This includes an application form completed via the NMPED online licensure portal, a $150 fee, official sealed transcripts from the accredited institution where they earned their bachelor's degree, and registration for an FBI background and fingerprint check.

Out-of-state teachers applying for a reciprocating license provide official educational transcripts and a copy of their valid teaching license. Additional requirements include copies of teachers' test scores and verification of experience.

Typically, applications take 1-4 weeks from October to April and 8-12 weeks from May to September to review, depending on the number received.

How Do I Maintain Teaching Certification in New Mexico?

The Level 1 teaching license is good for up to five years. Teachers must advance to Level 2 licensure by the end of the fifth year and can apply after three years of teaching experience. Teachers complete an approved mentoring program and demonstrate increased proficiency by submitting a professional development dossier (PDD) to advance.

The PDD is a collection of classroom data, such as student work, handouts, lesson descriptions, and photos that record a teacher's experience in the classroom.

Teachers may remain at Level 2 by renewing their license every nine years. They may also pursue a Level 3 license after earning an approved master's degree, completing another three years of teaching, and submitting another PDD. They may also advance to Level 3 by teaching another three years and earning a National Board Certification in their teaching area.

Career Outlook for Teachers in New Mexico

The need for teachers in New Mexico increased by 84% in 2021, translating to about 1,048 teacher vacancies. In 2022, Senate Bill 1 passed, increasing the base salary for New Mexico teachers by about 20%.

The bill increases the minimum wage to $50,000, $60,000, and $70,000 for tier Levels 1-3, respectively. Going to graduate school and earning a master's in education can lead to increased wages.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, high school teachers in New Mexico earned an average annual salary of $56,710 in May 2020. However, the location can affect salary levels for those with a career in education.

For example, elementary school teachers find the highest concentration of jobs in Las Cruces, a city that employs 1,400 teachers and pays an average annual salary of $71,230 as of May 2020.

According to the U.S. Department of Education, the most in-demand teaching positions in New Mexico in the 2021-22 school year were English as a second language, special education, science, and math.

In-Demand Teaching Careers in New Mexico

Early Childhood Teacher

Early childhood educators may obtain a birth to preK or a preK-3 teaching certification. Licensure requires a bachelor's with a minimum of 45 credits in early childhood education and passing the associated Praxis exam. These teachers focus on their students' cognitive and social development and may work in federal and state-funded programs like Head Start.

Median Annual Salary: $31,100

Elementary Special Education Teacher

Special education teachers work with students experiencing emotional, learning, mental, or physical disabilities. In New Mexico, these teachers require an additional 30 credits in special education coursework and must pass the special education: core knowledge and applications Praxis exam. The state aims to instruct these students in an inclusive educational environment.

Median Annual Salary: $55,550

Elementary English as a Second Language Teacher

Adding the teaching English to speakers of other languages (TESOL) endorsement requires a minimum of 24 hours in TESOL coursework and passing the Praxis English to speakers of other languages exam. These teachers instruct students whose native language is not English. In 2015, English learners accounted for about 16% of New Mexico's public school enrollment.

Median Annual Salary: $58,060

High School Mathematics Teacher

Math teachers in New Mexico require an additional 24-36 credits in math and a passing score on the Praxis mathematics exam. These teachers typically teach high school students foundational math subjects, like algebra and geometry, before instructing students on advanced studies in trigonometry, statistics, and pre-calculus.

Median Annual Salary: $55,740

Middle School Science Teacher

Middle school science teachers in New Mexico require an additional 24-36 credits in science and a passing score on the middle school science Praxis exam. At this level, instruction usually entails an overview of physical, life, earth, and space sciences. Additional topics include scientific study and research and, in some schools, hands-on instruction in the lab.

Median Annual Salary: $51,210

Frequently Asked Questions About Teaching Certification in New Mexico

How do I get teaching certification in New Mexico?

In New Mexico, aspiring teachers need to earn a bachelor's degree and complete a state-approved teacher preparation program that includes a 14-week student teaching experience. Most approved bachelor's in education programs include teacher preparation.

Those with a bachelor's who have not completed the teacher prep may obtain an internship license. This enables them to teach while fulfilling the teacher preparation program requirement.

Prospective teachers must also pass the required New Mexico teaching assessment Praxis exams for their specific field. Licensed teachers from other states may also qualify for a New Mexico teaching license under the state's reciprocity agreements.

Can I teach in New Mexico without certification?

All public schools require teaching certification in New Mexico. However, New Mexico state regulations for private and home schools do not require teacher certification. Therefore, private schools may or may not require teachers to hold licenses.

Alternative license requirements may also allow prospective teachers to begin teaching in New Mexico without a Level 1 license. This alternative route to licensure allows candidates to teach on an intern license while working on their certification requirements.

Gaining certification offers increased potential earnings and career opportunities. Additionally, several programs seek to increase the number of teachers by providing scholarships and awards for students who can demonstrate financial need.

How long does it take to become a teacher in New Mexico?

It usually takes at least four years to become a teacher in New Mexico. This includes the time it takes to earn your bachelor's degree from a program incorporating the approved teaching preparation program. Applicants also need to pass state-specific exams and background checks.

Some prospective teachers may choose to earn a master's degree. This route is common for those with a bachelor's in an area outside of education who need to complete their teaching preparation program. This approach may add about two years. However, after gaining several years of teaching experience, earning a master's readies teachers to apply for Level 3 licensure.

What can I do with teaching certification in New Mexico?

There are several different types of teaching certifications in New Mexico. Each license allows holders to work in a specific field of education. For example, an individual with an early childhood birth to preK license may teach children from birth to age four in a New Mexico school district.

Alternatively, an early childhood preK-3 license allows holders to instruct children from age three to the 3rd grade. In addition to elementary, middle, and secondary licenses, the state also offers licensure in special education preK-12 and secondary vocational-technical 7-12.

How do I become a substitute teacher in New Mexico?

Due to New Mexico's substitute teacher shortage, the state launched the Supporting Teachers and Families initiative. This initiative reduced the requirements to work as a substitute teacher in New Mexico. Candidates must be 18 years of age or older and have a high school diploma or GED.

Substitute teachers must also clear a mandatory background check and complete an online training program. This initiative speeds up the approval process to as little as two days. The program encourages National Guard members and state workers to apply. These requirements may change as the need for substitute teachers fluctuates.

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