Schools for ESL Instructors

An ESL teacher helps newcomers adjust and assimilate as English speakers within American society. Find out the kinds of degree programs available and the classes offered in them. Schools offering Teaching ESL degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

English as a Second Language (ESL) or related certificate or degree programs can prepare students to work in the field. Keep reading about the types of programs offered, whether they can be completed online, and coursework requirements in the article below to make sure you make an informed decision when enrolling in a program.

How Do I Find a School for ESL Instructors?

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) states that while a bachelor's degree may qualify you to become an ESL teacher, some employers might require you to hold a master's degree ( ESL-related programs and courses are usually presented through an institution's school or department of arts and sciences, English, education, linguistics, humanities or social science.

The National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE) is recognized by the U.S. Department of Education and the Council for Higher Education Accreditation as a legitimate accrediting organization for teacher training programs ( Its online directory lists schools throughout the United States that offer one or more programs in the category of Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL).

The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) can be an excellent tool to use in your search for degree-granting programs ( In the category of Teaching English as a Second or Foreign Language/ESL Instructor, the NCES offers a searchable database of over 250 schools carrying programs that may suit your needs.

What Undergraduate Programs Are Available?

Schools may offer you a chance to earn a Bachelor of Arts in ESL or TESOL. A 4-year program can consist of as many as 137 credits. Typical courses can cover educational philosophy, educating diverse learners, ESL in K-12 classrooms and second language acquisition theory. In addition, you must complete several practicums or lab courses, along with student teaching fieldwork at the elementary and secondary levels.

Schools may offer you the opportunity to minor in ESL or earn an undergraduate certificate in ESL. Certificate programs can consist of 20-30 credits. In addition to completing a student teaching component, you must demonstrate competence in a foreign language and complete methodology practicums in the areas of listening, reading, writing and speaking. Certificates are school-related designations. Earning one doesn't mean you're certified or licensed by your state as an ESL instructor. You can also opt to pursue a program leading to a Bachelor of Arts degree with a major in a field such as English or linguistics.

Which Schools Offer Bachelor Degree Programs in ESL?

If you are looking for a bachelor degree program in ESL, you will find them commonly available at many schools. Here are a handful:

  • Boston University houses a Bachelor of Science in Bilingual Education degree program
  • Liberty University delivers a Bachelor of Arts in Teaching English as a Second/Foreign Language degree program
  • Lewis University has a Bachelor of Arts in Early Childhood Special Education with ESL Endorsement degree program

Will I Need Graduate Study?

According to the BLS, some employers do require master's degrees. However, you may be able to qualify for employment as an ESL instructor with a bachelor's degree, a teaching certificate and an ESL graduate endorsement. Schools may allow you to complete a 12-credit graduate program leading to an ESL endorsement, without pursuing a degree. A graduate certificate program can consist of 21 credits.

You may qualify to earn one of several types of master's degrees pertaining to ESL. Among these are Master of Arts programs in English, linguistics or teaching, as well as Master of Education programs. In all appropriate master's degree programs, you may be able to concentrate in ESL. Master's degree programs can consist of 36-40 credits and can take up to 2.5 years to complete, depending on the school. Often, ESL endorsement or certificate programs are incorporated into a master's degree program.

The BLS mentions that the necessity of teacher certification or licensure can be determined by your situation. If you want to serve as an ESL instructor in a state-run program, you must hold a teaching credential. This isn't necessarily so if you're looking to teach at private schools. State teaching credentials may also be necessary for admission into some graduate-level certificate or degree programs.

Which Schools Offer Graduate Certificate Programs in ESL?

Graduate certificate programs in ESL are offered by numerous institutions. For a few examples, see the following:

  • University of Massachusetts Lowell provides a Teaching English as a Second Language Graduate Certificate program
  • Penn State hosts an online Graduate Certificate in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages program
  • University of Missouri has a Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages Graduate Certificate program available online

Which Schools Offer Master Degree Programs in ESL?

A slew of universities allow students to enroll in master's degree programs in ESL or a related field. See the list below for a few of them:

  • Hamline University houses a Master of Arts in English as a Second Language degree program
  • Arizona State University delivers an online Master of Arts in English as a Second Language degree program
  • Indiana University has a Master of Science in Literacy, Culture, and Language Education with a focus on English as a Second (New) Language degree program

Are There Any Online Programs?

You may have the opportunity to complete some or all of your undergraduate or graduate courses online. If you already hold a state teaching credential, schools may exempt you from any practicums normally required. In other cases, schools may allow you to complete classroom work online, but practicums and student teaching requirements must be completed live.

Depending on your employer, entering the field of ESL education may require either a graduate certificate or master's degree in addition to a bachelor's degree. Many of these programs are delivered both traditionally and through the internet, allowing you more flexibility as you look to enter the workplace.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

  • 1. Degree Options:
The schools in the listing below are not free and may include sponsored content but are popular choices among our users. Tuition and costs will vary across programs and locations. Be sure to always request tuition information before starting a program.

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