What kind of certification should I have if I want to teach ESL? 

Ready to start your journey?

DegreeQuery.com is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.
DegreeQuery.com is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

What is ESL?

The initials stand for English as a second language. Students whose families have emigrated to the United States may not have English as their native language. It is essential for international students to learn the language. By doing so, these students can learn and comprehend the lessons taught in our educational programs.

The term ESL has received criticism as it refers to a language. When, in fact, many immigrants may be fluent in more than one language. For this reason, the United Kingdom and Ireland replaced the ESL initials to ESOL or English for speakers of other languages.

30 states, including Washington D.C., had a shortage of ESL teachers (2016-17 school year)

What is Required?

The requirements for an ESL teacher follow the same path as most teachers from the K through grade 12 levels. You need the minimum of a bachelor’s degree. There are also additional courses required before becoming a TESOL or teachers of English to speakers of other languages. TESOL teachers work with pre-schoolers, private and public schools, colleges, and businesses. The employment opportunities can extend to a foreign country where you teach English to those about to move to the U.S. However, the majority of TESOL teachers work in elementary, middle, and high schools.

TESOL degrees are available at resident and online colleges and universities at the bachelor’s and master’s degree levels. Most are graduate programs and graduate certificates. For example, the University of Alabama in Birmingham offers two graduate degrees and a graduate certificate for future ESL teachers. These are:

  1. Master of Arts in Education in ESL
  2. Educational Specialist (EdS0 in TESOL
  3. Graduate Certificate: Teaching Multilingual Learners

All of the above are available online.

The School of Education at the University of Southern California Rossier offers a Master of Arts in Teaching – Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (MAT-TESOL). You may take the program online or at the City Center campus in Los Angeles. The degree has an optional credential track that prepares you for English Language Development or World Languages teaching credentials in California.

Ashford University, an online for-profit university in San Diego, has a Bachelor of Arts in English Language Learner Studies or ELL. The degree benefits those who are or plan to teach in the school system or adult instruction settings. The coursework covers the strategies and practices for developing English speaking, listening, reading, and writing skills. Students take each course individually, with each lasting five weeks.

The admission requirements for the Ashford online degree include a GED or high school diploma with English as the primary language or a passing grade on the TOEFL (teachers of English as a foreign language) examination in the past two years.

Certificate Programs

The TESOL International Association has a Core Certificate Program in English Language Teaching. The 140 hours of lessons cost is $2,170 for non-members. There are 60 hours each of foundation and specialty courses, as well as 20 hours of teaching practicum. The program focuses on current and prospective teachers who have less than two years of English language teaching experience.

The above coursework is an asynchronous format, meaning you can log in anytime. There are no live or mandatory events. TESOL recommends that you devote at least ten hours every week to the lessons.

The American TESOL Institute also has certification programs. Certification, coupled with an undergraduate degree is the standard requirement for teaching English anywhere in the world. The institute offers three online programs:

  1. TESOL for Children
  2. TESOL Advanced
  3. TESOL for Business

The Children Certification addresses teaching methods for ages two to seventeen. Graduates of the 60-hour online course will have the skills to implement ESL lesson plans, target each student’s learning needs, monitor progress, and improve student achievement.

The 80-hour Advanced course is also a self-paced online format. Successful completion of either program provides access to the optional job placement service. Teachers who aspire to work abroad may teach in China, Japan, Taiwan, Korea, Cambodia, Poland, and Eastern Europe. Teachers in Korea, for example, may have a salary of $1,500 to $2,400 a month in U.S. currency. Assignments can last from a minimum of three months to several years. Additional benefits may include free housing, round trip airfare, paid vacations, and medical insurance. According to the American TESOL site, Taiwan has a demand for ESL teachers with a college degree.

Along with TESL and TESOL, TEFL joins the group of certifications. There is a difference between TEFL or Teaching English as a Foreign Language and ESL. The former refers to English taught to non-native speakers who live in a non-English speaking country. ESL is English taught to non-native speakers in an English speaking country. TEFL certification is globally accepted to teach English abroad to students whose first language is not English.

Further details are available at Teach Away that specializes in certifying and job placement for individuals who want to teach abroad. It attests that for as little as $995, you can become TEFL certified. One of the partners with Teach Away is the International House at the University of California, Berkeley. Their 120-hour curriculum ($1,095) supplies the requirements to teach overseas. It is a 100% online, self-paced format you can complete anywhere in the world.

Additional Resources:

If I want to become a superintendent, is a Master’s Degree enough, or do I need a Ph.D.? 

Does becoming a Middle School principal have different requirements from a High School principal? 

Do Charter schools have different requirements for their teachers? 

What is usually done for a background check of teachers?