Certificate in ESL/TESOL

Educators interested in teaching English as a second language might be interested in ESL/TESOL certification. Certificate programs might prepare students for careers teaching abroad, or for teachers interested in teaching in the public classroom.

Do you have the desire to teach English to non-native English speakers? If so, your first step in pursuing a career as an ESL (English as a Second Language)/TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) instructor might be to start preparing to study for your certificate in ESL/TESOL. Regular education teachers who are interested in widening their experience may also want to consider this additional qualification.

According to the National Center for Educational Statistics, there continues to be an increase in ESL students throughout the nation’s public schools, which is good news for those who are looking to enhance their careers1.

Job changers and recent college grads may also be interested in studying for the certificate in ESL/TESOL, especially those students who are familiar with the nuances of other cultures and the many difficulties that non-native English speakers experience when learning a new language.

An Overview of Certificate Programs in ESL/TESOL

There are two types of certificate programs that students can apply for. They include a graduate certificate and an independent certificate. Both of them require a bachelor’s degree2.

Graduate certificates are taught at the university level they may take two to four semesters worth of work to complete. The credits that students receive might be transferrable to some master’s degree in ESOL/TESOL. Independent certificate programs, which take between two and six weeks to complete, focus on practical training and the different methods of teaching a second language. This particular certificate can usually not be applied toward a state teaching license or a master’s degree3.

Common Program Requirements for ESL/TESOL Certificates

If you enroll in an ESL/TESOL certificate program, expect to experience a blend of academic instruction and practical training. The idea is to give you a chance to learn the theoretical aspects of TESOL, which include teaching methodologies, the theory of language learning, assessment skills, linguistics and cross-cultural communication, in addition to practical training through supervised student teaching and mentoring opportunities.

Students may take the following courses while studying for the ESL/TESOL certificate:

  • Classroom Practices & Practicum – students may learn how to plan lessons, create activities for students, evaluate materials, manage a classroom setting, give feedback and promote learner autonomy.
  • Second Language Acquisition – this course focuses on how languages are learned and the impact the learner and learning environment have on the process.
  • Pedagogical Grammar – discuss how sentences are structured and languages are used, and also become more familiar with the difference nuances of English grammar.
  • Intercultural Communication – students learn how spoken and written language varies across cultures.
  • Assessment – students learn about the design, development and scoring of standardized tests.

Student teaching and senior teacher mentoring is an important aspect of many TESOL certificate programs and can make the difference when graduates step foot in the classroom as ESL instructors for the first time. If you are interested in pursuing this exciting and growing field, earning a Certificate in ESL/TESOL may be a good place to begin4.


1. https://nces.ed.gov/fastfacts/display.asp?id=96

2. http://www.tesol.org/docs/pdf/2466.pdf?sfvrsn=2

3. http://www.tesol.org/docs/pdf/2466.pdf?sfvrsn=2

4. https://www.bls.gov/ooh/education-training-and-library/adult-literacy-and-ged-teachers.htm#tab-6

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