What Are the Requirements to Be an ESL Teacher?

For those interested in teaching English as a Second Language (ESL), pursuing a certificate or degree in ESL or any related fields may be most useful. Read on to learn what programs and certificates are available, prerequisites, courses to expect, and licensing requirements. Schools offering Teaching ESL degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Types of Programs Are Available for ESL Teachers?

A number of educational programs can prepare you to teach ESL. If you plan to pursue a career teaching ESL abroad, you may decide to pursue a Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) certificate or enroll in a Certificate in English Language Teaching to Adults (CELTA) program. Teaching English as a Second Language (TESL) certificates also are available and typically are designed to prepare you to teach adult learners in the U.S.

Master's degree programs also are available. In general, the programs could prepare you to teach at multiple levels in the U.S. and abroad or to work in areas such as curriculum development or computer-aided language learning, among other careers.

Program Levels Certificates, master's degrees
Prerequisites Bachelor's degree, fluency in foreign language (optional), linguistics classes
Common Courses Linguistics, cultural diversity, second language assessment
Licensure Requirement Most states require a teaching license or certification

Are There Any Educational Prerequisites?

If you plan to become an ESL teacher, you'll typically need at least a bachelor's degree from an accredited school. While fluency in a foreign language isn't required to teach ESL, it may be beneficial. Some programs also recommend taking foreign language or linguistics classes before enrolling in an ESL teaching program.

If you aren't a native English speaker, you may need to submit a Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) score to demonstrate language proficiency.

What Will I Learn?

ESL programs cover basic listening, speaking, reading and writing skills, in addition to covering vocabulary, pronunciation and grammar. You'll also learn how to create a syllabus and use different teaching methodologies and evaluation criteria to help students learn English. Most certificate programs offer only coursework, although some, such as CELTA, do offer supervised teacher training. Commonly explored topics include these:

  • Linguistics
  • Second language assessment
  • Cultural diversity
  • Theories of language acquisition

Master's degree programs typically culminate in a Master of Arts (M.A.) in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) or a Master of Education (M.Ed.). These programs give you a greater understanding of how to apply language teaching in a variety of settings from K-12 classrooms to adult education programs. Topics address materials development, curriculum design, psycholinguistics and cultural diversity. In addition to coursework, you may be required to student teach an ESL class.

Will I Need a License?

While requirements for teaching ESL vary in the U.S., most states require teachers to hold some form of state-issued teaching license or certification. Most programs advise incoming students to check with the applicable board of education regarding additional teacher certification and licensure information for the area in which they plan to teach. However, if you plan to teach outside of a school setting or abroad, you may not need to obtain a license. While salaries for ESL teachers vary depending on location and level of teaching, as of April 2016, salaries for certified ESL teachers between the 10th and 90th percentiles ranged from $27,680 to $66,775, according to PayScale.com.

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.

Popular Schools

  • Strayer University

    Strayer University responds quickly to information requests through this website.

    Popular programs at Strayer University:

    • Master

    Online Programs Available

  • The George Washington University

    The George Washington University responds quickly to information requests through this website.

    Popular programs at The George Washington University:

    • Master
    • Certificates

    Online Programs Available

  • George Mason University

    George Mason University responds quickly to information requests through this website.

    Popular programs at George Mason University:

    • Master

    Online Programs Available

  • Northcentral University

    Northcentral University responds quickly to information requests through this website.

    Popular programs at Northcentral University:

    Online Programs Available

  • Saint John's University

    Saint John's University responds quickly to information requests through this website.

    Popular programs at Saint John's University:

    • Doctoral

    Online Programs Available

  • Grand Canyon University

    Grand Canyon University responds quickly to information requests through this website.

    Popular programs at Grand Canyon University:

    • Doctoral
    • Master
    • Bachelor Degrees

    Online Programs Available

  • Purdue University

    Purdue University responds quickly to information requests through this website.

    Popular programs at Purdue University:

    • Master

    Online Programs Available

  • Capella University

    Capella University responds quickly to information requests through this website.

    Popular programs at Capella University:

    • Doctoral
    • Master

    Online Programs Available

  • Kaplan University

    Kaplan University responds quickly to information requests through this website.

    Popular programs at Kaplan University:

    Online Programs Available

  • Full Sail University

    Full Sail University responds quickly to information requests through this website.

    Popular programs at Full Sail University:

    • Certificates

    Campus Locations:

    • Florida: Winter Park
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