How to Become a Teacher in New Mexico

Teachers have the power to make our country's future brighter one student at a time. With school districts throughout New Mexico dedicated to finding the best teachers to lead their classrooms, with the right education and training you'll have your chance to make a difference.

The following steps will help you become a licensed educator in the great state of New Mexico.

Choose What You Want to Teach

The first question you must ask yourself is what kind of teacher you want to become. Do you have a passion for a specific subject or subjects? If so, you should consider teaching middle school or high school. If you prefer to teach multiple subjects at a basic level, you should consider teaching elementary school. Some of the classes and tests you will be required to take will depend on which level you wish to teach.

Complete Your Bachelor's in Education Requirements for a Teaching Certificate in New Mexico

To become a teacher in New Mexico, the state Public Education Department requires teacher candidates to hold a bachelor's in education or teaching at minimum. In addition, you must complete a teacher preparation program that is approved by the New Mexico Board of Education. While in the teacher preparation program, your studies will focus on the subjects or level you want to teach.

If you are just starting out on your college career, then you are likely to be enrolled in a blended, or joint program. This means that the program you choose will likely provide you with both a bachelor's in education and a teacher preparation program. Contact a school representative or advisor if you do not have a bachelor's degree yet, so that you can make sure to enter the correct program.

Complete a Teacher Preparation Program

In order to become a licensed teacher in New Mexico, you must complete a teacher preparation program.

These educator preparation programs usually consist of fieldwork and a set curriculum. Some of the classes you take will likely focus on pedagogy, instructional methods for teaching various subjects, differentiated instruction, technology integration, and more. The fieldwork component usually consists of classroom observations, student teaching, and/or internships. You will learn how to create and implement lesson plans in order to teach in a way that is highly effective for diverse student populations.

As mentioned earlier, if you decide to become a teacher early on in your college career, this step can be completed while you are working on coursework for your bachelor's degree.

If you already have a bachelor's degree in an unrelated field or have not yet completed a teacher preparation program, you can complete an alternate or post-baccalaureate program. The program must be accredited.

Alternative Teacher Certification in New Mexico

If the traditional path to licensure does not apply to your situation, you can take an alternative route to teacher licensure in New Mexico.

Alternative Licensure Program / Portfolio for Alternative Licensure (OPAL)

This state has two primary alternative pathways to licensure: complete a post-baccalaureate alternative licensure program or complete an Online Portfolio for Alternative Licensure (OPAL). These alternative routes typically allow candidates to teach on an intern license while continuing to work on their credential requirements.

Master's Degree

Another option is for individuals who are dedicated to switching careers into teaching. This is the master's degree route. Many colleges or universities offer post-baccalaureate alternative licensure programs that are blended with master's degree programs in education.

Pass the Exams Required for Teacher Certification in New Mexico

All aspiring educators in New Mexico must take and pass the required Praxis exams, which include the Core Academic Skills for Educators: Reading, Writing, and Mathematics:

  • Core Academic Skills for Educators: Reading; and
  • Core Academic Skills for Educators: Writing; and
  • Core Academic Skills for Educators: Mathematics

Individuals must also pass the subject specific/specialty area PRAXIS II exam for the grade and/or subjects they want to teach. There are study guides and practice tests available for each version of the test.

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Apply for your New Mexico Teacher Certification/Teaching License

Application Requirements

In order to apply for your teaching license, you will need to submit the following to the New Mexico Department of Education:

  • Non-refundable application fee
  • Completed application form
  • Documents to support the application including passing test scores and official college transcripts
  • Completion of teacher education program
  • Background check must be processed by 3M Cogent.

Contact Information

New Mexico Public Education Department
Jerry Apodaca Education Building
300 Don Gaspar
Santa Fe, NM 87501
Phone: (505) 827-5821

Find a Teaching Job in New Mexico

As soon as you have completed all of the required steps, you will be ready to start your career in teaching! You will be ready to impact the lives of children in New Mexico.

New Mexico Public Schools

The state of New Mexico is calling upon educators to consider what it will take to dramatically improve public education in New Mexico. Teacher candidates are encouraged to match their qualifications with the NMREAP online database for job postings in the state and submit their application package. Particularly in demand are teachers qualified to teach English, math, sciences, and special education.

New Mexico Teacher Unions

Public school teachers can join a union once hired. Organizations like AFT New Mexico and the National Education Association of New Mexico are strong advocates for teacher rights and educational reforms which make a critical difference in the classroom.

New Mexico Teacher Retirement Benefits

Finally, teachers who are ready to retire should be in contact with the New Mexico Educational Retirement Board. Pensions for teachers come through this agency whose mandate is to manage the retirement assets of the state's teachers.

New Mexico Private Schools

Some teacher candidates are looking for a slightly different work environment that the one offered in a public school. These teachers are encouraged to consider applying to New Mexico's private schools as well. Just over half of the state's private schools have religious affiliation, and on average, they boast a ratio of 7:1. The small class sized allow teachers to easily incorporate differentiated instruction into their daily lessons. A private school may or may not require teachers to hold proper certification, however candidates with teaching certification will be highly valued.

Teacher Shortage in New Mexico by Subjects or Discipline (2020-2021)

The following list of teacher shortage areas in New Mexico has been obtained from the U.S. Department of Education Office of Postsecondary Education, Teacher Shortage Area (TSA) report for the 2020-2021 school year:

  • Bilingual Education
  • Mathematics 7-12
  • Science 7-12
  • PreK
  • Mathematics 6-12
  • Science 5-12

Number of Public and Private School Teachers By Grade

The following Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) table highlights the number of teachers in New Mexico in both private and public schools, by grade level, as of May 2020:

Grade Level Number of Teachers
Preschool Teachers, Except Special Education 2,680
Elementary School Teachers, Except Special Education 7,860
Middle School Teachers, Except Special and Career/Technical Education 3,240
Secondary School Teachers, Except Special and Career/Technical Education 6,180
Special Education Teachers, Preschool 240
Special Education Teachers, Kindergarten and Elementary School 940
Special Education Teachers, Middle School 490
Special Education Teachers, Secondary School 940

Continue Your Education and Professional Development

Teacher professional development is an important part of the educational field. Teachers take their ongoing commitment to improving their practice and student achievement in classroom. Additionally, professional development helps teachers achieve their long-term career and salary goals. In addition to in-services, there are a number of ways to develop one's practice. Some of these include engaging in research projects, curriculum planning and development, and providing service as a mentor to new teachers. Teachers should ensure that their PD choices enhance subject matter knowledge, apply appropriate teaching techniques, enhance assessment methodologies, or provide tools to effectively manage individual student needs in a variety of classroom settings.

Professional Development in New Mexico

The Department of Education in New Mexico has created a Professional Development Dossier (PDD) to help teachers in the state advance through the 3-Tiered Licensure System. The Dossier requirements dictate professional development through 5 strands: instruction, student learning, professional learning, administrator verification, and evaluation. Teachers seeking more information are encouraged to contact the New Mexico Public Education Department Professional Development Bureau.

Earn a Master's in Education or Teaching and Simplify the Requirements to Advance to a Level 3 License

The New Mexico Public Education Department developed the three-tier licensing system that assigns a base salary to each license level. Earn a master's in education or teaching and you'll enjoy a simplified transition from the Level 2 to Level 3 license, and the higher salary that comes with it.

As part of the three-tiered licensure system, you'll first earn a five-year Level 1 license. To advance to Level 2, you'll need to complete at three years of experience under your Level 1 license and pass an annual evaluation through the Professional Development Dossier (PDD) by receiving an Effective, Highly Effective, or Exemplary rating.

Then, to advance from a Level 2 to a Level 3 license, you'll need to complete at least three years of experience under a Level 2 license and receive a passing rating on the PDD. However, you can bypass the PDD if you earn a master's degree or National Board certification.

Earning Your Master's is Worth Real Dollars

A master's in education or teaching may mean more money in your pocket. For example, as of the 2020-2021 school year, educators in the Albuquerque Public Schools earned a minimum salary of $41,000, while educators with a master's degree earned a minimum of $41,398.

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May 2020 Bureau of Labor Statistics job market trends for elementary school teachers, middle school teachers, secondary school teachers, preschool teachers, teaching assistants, special education preschool teachers, special education elementary school teachers, special education middle school teachers, and special education secondary teachers. Figures represent national data, not school specific information. Conditions in your area may vary.

Data accessed June 2021.

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