How do I get ESL Teacher Certification?

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  • Written By: Mandi R. Hall
  • Edited By: W. Everett
  • Last Modified Date: 13 November 2019
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When attempting to obtain English as a second language (ESL) teacher certification, it is important to understand what this sort of certificate entails. ESL refers to the study of English by someone whose native language is one other than English. These teachers generally need the same education and training as other classroom teachers. Though teachers do not need to be bilingual, they do have to take extra college-level courses in ESL and get practical experience in a classroom of ESL students.

ESL classes, taught be ESL teachers, are offered in the United States, as well as other countries. ESL teacher certification is required when teaching ESL students of all ages. Students may be young children or elderly adults. While care must be taken to differentiate between learning processes, most ESL teachers teach conversational speaking, reading, and writing in a similar fashion, regardless of the student’s age.

Many schools and for-profit companies offer ESL teacher certification. Courses vary, but students typically earn credit hours as in a traditional school setting. Students may need to take anywhere from 50 to 150 class hours hours to earn an ESL certification.


ESL teacher certification classes are also offered online. To obtain an ESL teacher certification, teachers also generally must get classroom experience with students in an English as a second language class. If classes are in person, the school might provide the students for this practical-experience component of training. If classes are taken online or in a distance learning format, the student may tape himself teaching a student of ESL.

ESL teachers generally must earn a certificate in teaching English to speakers of other languages (TESOL). TESOL is often used interchangeably with ESL. Teachers also may be trained in teaching English as a foreign language (TEFL). Rules vary by country, but generally, teachers TEFL certification may teach English outside of the United States, while teachers with ESL or TESOL certification may also teach English inside the United States.

In the United States, ESL teachers generally must have a bachelor's degree and a state teaching certificate along with specific ESL training. Many universities offer a master’s degree program offering TESOL or ESL teacher certification, known as MATESOL. It is not necessary for potential ESL teachers to be bilingual, but it can be helpful.


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