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There are many different certification options for those who are interested in teaching ESL. The type of certification that is most appropriate will depend on where the prospective teachers plan to teach, the age level they wish to work with, and the level of teaching certification, if any, that they already possess. For example, an individual with a bachelor’s degree but no experience or training in education who would like to volunteer as an adult ESL teacher in a community-based program might need no formal certificate or training in order to do so. On the other hand, someone who wants to teach ESL in a U.S. K–12 public school system would, in most cases, need a teaching certificate—which typically involves an undergraduate degree in education or coursework attained through an alternative certification program—as well as endorsement (an added credential) to teach ESL. For those who are interested in teaching English abroad, certification requirements vary tremendously. Some EFL programs require a Master’s degree in ESL and significant teaching experience, whereas others may require no special training and little or no teaching experience.
For individuals who would like to teach ESL or EFL, the main options available to gain teaching credentials are certificate courses, undergraduate and graduate degree programs, and add-on endorsements for those who are already certified to teach another subject area. The following chart offers some general parameters for what may be considered the minimum certification requirement for various ESL teaching situations.
to teach K–12 ESL in the United States?
Undergraduate degree in education with add-on ESL endorsement
to teach ESL in higher education in the United States?
Master's in TESOL or M.A. in related field plus a TESOL certificate
to teach adults in the United States?
Bachelor's degree (Master's degree, TESOL certificate, or practical experience preferred)
to teach overseas?
Bachelor's degree and an English language teaching certificate or participation in a volunteer program
This Resource Guide lists publications, Web sites, listservs that provide information related to TESOL certification, and ERIC documents on the topic.
This introduction was excerpted from Coltrane, B., & Morrison, S. (2002, November). TESOL certification: What are the options? Language Link.
The following journals and magazines often include articles on professional development for ESL teachers, including TESOL certification.
Boydson, J. E. (2002). Teacher
Certification Requirements in All Fifty States. Sebring, FL: Teacher
This book presents the requirements for obtaining a teaching certificate in the 50 states and the District of Columbia. The requirements in the manual are derived from information supplied by the certification offices of each state and the District of Columbia, plus information from other organizations such as the National Association of State Directors of Teacher Education and Certification (NASDTEC).
Garshick, E. (Ed.). (2002). Directory
of Teacher Education Programs in TESOL in the United States and Canada, 2002-2004.
Alexandria, VA: Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages.
This directory provides information about nearly 400 TESOL teacher education programs in the United States and Canada. Entries describe program length, requirements, courses, staff, tuition, fees, admission requirements, and summer sessions. State and provincial requirements for teaching ESL are also included.
Snow, D. (1997). More
Than A Native Speaker: An Introduction for Volunteers Teaching Abroad.
Alexandria, VA: Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages.
This book offers a nontechnical introduction to English teaching geared toward English-speaking volunteer teachers working outside their home countries. More Than a Native Speaker covers classroom survival skills, lesson planning, and adaptation to life in a new country, with detailed discussions of how to teach listening, speaking, reading, writing, grammar, vocabulary, and culture.
Ward, B. (Ed.). (2001). Careers
in English Language Teaching. Los Angeles: American Language
This book, also know as The CELT Guide, is an excellent resource for people who want to find a job teaching ESL/EFL and for experienced teachers who want to further enhance their careers. The CELT Guide includes practical information on ESL/EFL teacher training programs, career development, and working in the United States, Canada, and around the world.
International Association of Teachers of English as a Foreign Language (IATEFL) is a membership organization that seeks to develop and support English language teaching professionals throughout the world.
Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) is an international professional association for teachers of English around the world. Benefits of membership include publications, an annual convention, and job placement and career services. The TESOL Web site has an excellent section on starting your career in TESOL.
The TESOL Web site offers a listing of universities that offer graduate certificates in TESOL and private language school certificate programs.
America's Literacy Directory is an online database that offers information on volunteer opportunities with literacy and education programs around the United States.
The documents listed below were identified by searching the ERIC database using the following combination of ERIC descriptors and keywords:
You may wish to conduct your own search of the ERIC database on the World Wide Web. If you need help with your search, call 1-800-276-9834 or email our User Services staff. Information on obtaining the documents listed below can be found at the end of this section or by clicking here.
What Do They Need from MA TESOL Programs: A Case Study of Four Non-Native EFL Teachers.
Lo, Yi-Hsuan Gloria
March 01, 2001
Notes: Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) (St. Louis, MO, February 27-March 3, 2001).
Available from: EDRS Price MF01 Plus Postage. PC Not Available from EDRS.
This paper considers the situation of a non-native speaker of English who is educated in teaching English to speakers of other languages in the United States, and then returns to his or her country of origin to teach. This teacher encountered many difficulties and much resistance to the teaching methodologies learned in American graduate schools in her native culture. This paper investigates the extent to which other teachers trained in the United States encountered similar difficulties when returning to the native countries. The teacher, in this case, recounts her experiences in Taiwan. This study contains interviews with four Teaching English to Speakers of Other Language (TESOL) graduate students (three from Taiwan, one from Thailand) who received their master's degrees in the United States and returned to their homelands to teach after completing their studies. Three questions are addressed: (1) To what extent do Master's (MA) TESOL programs fulfill the needs and expectations of non-native English-as-a-foreign-language (EFL) teachers? (2) What are the factors that hinder the fulfillment of the needs and expectations of non-native EFL teachers? and (3) What recommendations and implications can be drawn from this study for MA TESOL programs? It is found that there are no EFL programs that specifically cater to the needs of those planning to teach abroad. It is suggested that a collaborative model of a MA TESOL program be created to cater to these students. Suggestions for making the program more responsive to such students are included. Appendices A and B contain a questionnaire and semi-structured interview questions. (Contains 23 references.) (KFT)
Required Courses for Master's Degree in TESOL: A Nationwide Survey.
Palmer, Ian C.
March 29, 1995
Notes: Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages (Long Beach, CA, March 28-April 1, 1995).
Available from: EDRS Price MF01/PC01 Plus Postage.
This paper reports on a study conducted to assess number of credits completed nationally for a degree in Teaching English as a Second Language, what portion were required courses, and what courses were actually required. Data were gathered by a survey mailed to 159 institutions in November 1994; 94 responses were usable that covered 39 U.S. states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico. Average credits completed were 36, ranging from 27 to 75. The "typical" program was found to include at least six required courses, at least one methods and materials course; four more courses selected from linguistics, English structure, language acquisition, research methods, reading in a second language, intercultural communication, and testing/evaluation; and a practicum or internship. Literature courses or other extraneous subjects were a minuscule part of the corpus of required work, and there was never a distinction made between "syntax" and "English syntax." Particular courses are ranked by frequency of listing for the Master's degree. (NAV)
Making a Career Choice.
Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages, Inc., Alexandria, VA.
Availability: Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL), Inc., 1600 Cameron St., Suite 300, Alexandria, VA 22314 ($22.95; member, $19.95).
This packet of information contains materials that will answer many questions about Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL). Individual sections cover the definition of TESOL and other acronyms in the field, what is an English-as-a-Second-Language (ESL) professional, how to get started, and qualifications and opportunities. Specific articles include: (1) "What Employers Want in an ESL/EFL Teacher" (Lynn Henrichsen) and (2) "Overseas Salary and Benefits: Questions To Ask, Answers To Have" (Lynn McNamara). Other sections deal with worldwide training program directories and correspondence courses in teacher training, job placement and referral sources, and employment contacts by country. TESOL articles on teaching in Japan, Korea, Czechoslovakia, and Portugal include general information on teaching English outside of the United States. Intensive English programs, international schools, and foreign agencies are listed, and a copy of the "State Certification Requirements for Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages in the U.S." is included. TESOL worldwide affiliates are listed, and a brief bibliography of necessary books is offered. (NAV)
The TESOL Certificate: A View from Outside the U.S.
Notes: Revised version of a paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages (27th, Atlanta, GA, April 13-17, 1993).
Available from: EDRS Price MF01/PC01 Plus Postage.
The role of the Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) in the certification of English-as-a-Second-Language (ESL) teachers is discussed. The professional association has been considering taking on a certification role to reduce discrimination against non-native speakers trained to teach ESL, sometimes passed over in favor of untrained native English-speakers. A number of arguments against the associations' adopting a certification role are examined, including: the likelihood of TESOL's ultimately adopting a program accreditation role; financial problems faced by the association; difficulties in development and assessment of appropriate criteria for certification; controversy over the value of teacher training versus teaching experience; competition with master's degree programs; legal concerns over discrimination against teachers not certified by TESOL; the form of certification, whether at a single competency level or several; documentation of experiential learning; and a code of ethics or professionalism, a common element in other certification programs. It is recommended that all such issues be addressed when considering TESOL's role in teacher certification. (MSE)
Survey of TESOL Preparation Programs in the U.S.
Notes: Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the Teachers of English To
Speakers of Other Languages (24th, San Francisco, CA, March 6-10, 1990).
Available from: EDRS Price MF01/PC02 Plus Postage.
A survey of training programs for teachers of English as a Second Language is presented. The survey focused on 177 graduate level ESL teacher education programs. The study categorized 177 graduate-level programs into three groups. Over 1,300 different course titles occurring 2,567 times across the programs are integrated in 27 areas that are later reorganized into more general categories of conformity with those representing the competency objectives of the English-as-a-Second-or Other-Language (ESOL) teacher education programs in the Guidelines for the Certification and Preparation of Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) in the United States. The program's admission criteria and program requirements are also studied. Findings are quantified and tabulated for clear presentation and cross comparison. A discussion of the results in light of the guidelines and research in TESOL teacher education concludes the paper. (MSE) (Adjunct ERIC Clearinghouse on Literacy Education)
TESOL's P-12 Teacher Education Standards Are Here!
ESL Magazine, v5 n2 p22-24 Mar-Apr 2002
Discusses the P-12 Teacher Education Standards--a project of the Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL)--which have recently been completed. These new standards specify the knowledge, skills, and dispositions of effective English-as-a-Second-Language teachers and are part of a series of efforts by TESOL to provide performance-based standards to guide the policy and practice of educating English language learners in the United States. (Author/VWL)
More Than Talk: A Proposal for TESOL Teacher Education.
TESOL Journal, v10 n4 p3-4 Win 2001
Suggests that TESOL teacher educators can achieve learner-centered and context-sensitive training in their courses and beyond their classrooms by taking the following steps: (1) being an advocate for their university students and for diversity in the profession; and (2) learning about the cultures of the educational systems in which their students will be working. (Author/VWL)
Developing Cross-Cultural Communicative Competence in Pre-Service ESL/EFL Teachers: A Critical Perspective.
Sehlaoui, Abdelilah Salim
Language, Culture and Curriculum, v14 n1 p42-57 2001
Examined efforts to develop cross-cultural communicative competence in students enrolled in an M.A. course in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL). Focused on the conceptualization of culture utilized in the program, professional and cultural identity formation processes that appear to be occurring, and characterization of students' analyses of power relations and their position within these relations. (Author/VWL)
A National Survey of State Certification and Training Program Requirements for Teachers of ESL.
Hess, Robyn S.; Katsiyannis, Antonis
Journal of Intensive English Studies, v13 p63-78 Spr-Fall 1999
Investigated state certification and training program requirements for English-as-a-Second-Language teachers to examine the link between these requirements and specific competencies established by the Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages organization. A survey was mailed to contact persons from state departments of education who were listed in the 1992 "TESOL Directory." (Author/VWL)
Many Faces, More Voices: Mastering a TESOL Degree.
Butler-Pascoe, Mary Ellen
American Language Review, v1 n4 p20-22 Sep-Oct 1997
Institutions across the United States are striving to meet the diverse needs of students in master's programs in teaching English-as-a-Second-Language. A reas of specialization include teaching in college and university programs, teaching adult education, English for special purposes, overseas English teaching, teacher training, and doctoral studies. (MSE)
Teachers' Voices in Program Evaluation and Improvement: A Case Study of a TESOL Program.
Fradd, Sandra H.; Lee, Okhee
Teaching and Teacher Education, v13 n6 p563-77 Aug 1997
Describes the role of evaluation in the development and ongoing improvement of a program to prepare Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL). The teachers' voices presented here suggest the importance of considering their contributions in refining and improving teacher preparation programs. Implications for ongoing program evaluation and improvement are discussed. (SM)
The full text of most materials in the ERIC database with an "ED" followed by six digits is available through the ERIC Document Reproduction Service (EDRS) in microfiche, by email, or in paper copy. Approximately 80% of ERIC documents from 1993 to the present are available for online ordering and electronic delivery through the EDRS Web site. You can read ERIC documents on microfiche for free at many libraries with monthly subscriptions or specialized collections. To find an ERIC center near you, contact our User Services staff.
The full text of journal articles may be available from one or more of the following sources:
To obtain journals that do not permit reprints and are not available from your library, write directly to the publisher. Addresses of publishers are listed in the front of each issue of Current Index to Journals in Education and can now be accessed online through the CIJE Source Journal Index.
If you would like additional information about this or any topic related to language education or linguistics, contact our User Services Staff.
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