Teaching certifications provide additional training for someone interested in teaching English as a second language (ESL). The specific type of teaching certification you need depends on what you plan to do in your career. Read on to learn the basics about the most common teaching certifications and the benefits of a TESL certification.
TEFL vs. TESL vs. TESOL: What’s the Difference?
There are three main teaching certifications that you can get. Each one offers different types of teaching skills depending on who you will be working with. All three certifications prepare you to work with populations that do not speak English as their native language. The main differences come in where and how you will be instructing your students.
- TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language): This certificate is common for anyone planning to go to a foreign country and teach English. Most people who get a TEFL eventually apply to teach abroad. These positions are very common in Asian countries, Africa, the Middle East, and South America.
- TESL (Teaching English as a Second Language): This certificate also prepares you to work with non-English-speaking populations. However, most people who pursue a TESL teaching certificate are planning to teach people who speak a foreign language when they come to a native English-speaking country. For example, this type of certificate is helpful to work with refugee populations or immigrants who arrive in the U.S. with little or no English language experience.
- TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages): This is another commonly used term for a TESL certification. The concepts that you learn in a TESOL program are similar to a TESL program, but emphasize learning to teach English to non-native speakers who live or go to school in an English-speaking country.
What is a TESL certification?
A TESL certification is a specific type of degree program where you can learn how to teach people who do not speak English as their native language. It is the most common certification for someone interested in teaching English second language (ESL) students in public or private schools in the United States. You could also use this certificate in other countries that speak English as a primary language, including:
- The United Kingdom
TESL courses provide future ESL teachers with the tools to create effective educational plans for students learning to speak English for the first time, including young students and adult learners. A TESL certification program is a master’s program and enrollees must first have a bachelor’s degree to participate.
Once you complete a TESL certification program, you will also need to verify and complete any license requirements in the state or country where you are planning to teach. Getting a TESL certification does not guarantee that you can get your license, but the right program will provide you with the necessary education to get a license and start your career teaching English to people who speak other languages.
Which English teaching certificate is the best?
The specific English teaching certificate that you need depends a lot on your career goals. Each one is designed to prepare you for teaching in a non-native language. A quality program will include:
- Curriculum and instruction foundations
- Research courses to help you understand ESL instruction
- Effective methods and assessment tools to measure English language understanding
- Common issues you might encounter in the classroom
- Linguistic analysis tools
Many master’s programs for TESOL also include a practicum where you gain real-world experience in elementary, secondary, or adult education as a bilingual ESL teacher.
If you are primarily planning to teach abroad, the TEFL is the more widely recognized certification. If you are planning to teach in the U.S., a TESL or TESOL certification is usually a better choice.
TESL Certification Career Outcomes
There are several career paths you can choose with a TESL certification. The most common are teaching positions in:
- Public or private elementary schools
- Public or private secondary schools
- Junior colleges
- State and private four-year universities
- ESL programs for adult learners
According to the latest information from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, ESL teachers make a median annual salary of $55,350.1 There are about 5,000 current job openings for ESL teachers. Though not all of them require a TESL certificate, this program can help you be better prepared for a career teaching English. It can also help you stand out among applicants for ESL teaching positions.
TESL Online Certification: How To Get an English Teaching Certificate
You obtain TESL certification by completing a master’s program. A typical program:
- Includes 30 credit hours
- Takes about two years to complete
- Provides you with the required eight-week teaching practicum experience to become an ESL teacher
Today there are many programs that offer courses online, and you can complete your TESL or TESOL on your own schedule while you teach or work in another position. Schools like the University of Kansas offer innovative learning environments that are interactive and effective, even without face-to-face instruction.
To enroll in a TESL or TESOL online certification program:
- Check the school’s admission requirements
- Submit an application
- Make sure you have a reliable computer and high-speed internet connection
- Engage in TESL learning with a community of students and faculty
Learn more about earning a TESL online today.
Find out how easy it is to start your online master's in TESOL* at KU. Get a brochure about the program, chat with one of our admissions advisors, and start filling out your application today.
Whether you want to become more efficient in the classroom, earn more money, or complete your state requirements for certification, an online master's degree from the University of Kansas can help you achieve your goals. The School of Education & Human Sciences at the University of Kansas is accredited and highly-ranked, making an online degree from KU a wise investment to advance your career in education.
*Master of Science in Education (M.S.E.) in curriculum and instruction with an emphasis in TESOL
- Retrieved on July 12, 2021, from bls.gov/ooh/education-training-and-library/adult-literacy-and-ged-teachers.htm#tab-5