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A Guide to English as a Second Language Certification

written by: Faith Oh•edited by: Elizabeth Stannard Gromisch•updated: 12/31/2010

Having you ever dreamed of teaching English as a second language and using that as a ticket to travel or live abroad? Read on to learn more about how you can make this dream a reality with an English as a second language certification.

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    Overview

    English is one of the most popular languages worldwide and it is becoming more so in non-English speaking countries. This has provided a market for English as a Second Language (ESL) experts and teachers in these places. Many college graduates that are citizens of English-speaking countries such as the United States, Canada, Australia and so on, are often recruited into some of the teaching ESL programs in Asian countries including Japan, China and South Korea. ESL experts are also needed in international business to serve the needs of multinational corporations doing business worldwide.

    In the U.S., ESL experts get jobs teaching immigrants at various levels of education as well as teaching future ESL experts in community colleges, colleges, graduate schools and other certification programs.

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    Qualifying for ESL Certification

    Many people who are interested in English as a second language certification either have a background in English with a bachelor's degree in English or a related humanities course. Other's have a teaching background and may be interested in specializing in teaching ESL. Still others have a background in linguistics.

    However, if you do not have any of these educational qualifications, the best way to break into ESL and have an adventure at the same time is to spend some time as an ESL teacher abroad. Many of these programs such as JETS (in Japan) just require that you have a college degree, be a native English speaker or have native proficiency, and are a citizen of an English-speaking country. With that kind of experience under your belt, you can then apply for further academic training that may garner you better paying jobs especially back in the U.S. or at the college and university level.

    In addition, if you already have a relevant educational background, you can apply for either a teaching ESL (TESL) certificate, master's or doctorate program depending on how high you want to go. According to Peterson's, there are three graduate programs that offer certificates in ESL, 298 that offer master's degrees and 83 doctorate programs. An example of an ESL graduate certificate program is the one at the University of California, Berkeley.

    If you are in high school or yet to declare a college major and you are interested in TESL, Peterson's estimates that there are 83 college programs in the U.S. that offer a bachelor's degree in TESL or teaching English as a foreign language (TEFL), as it is often called. If you are using their online search tool, make sure you search under education as the subject area.

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    Finding the Best Program Fit

    When you are trying to find the best program for you, you are better off ignoring popular rankings. It is best to consider such things as cost, where you want to live, what your career aspirations are and how a particular program can assist you in reaching your objectives, and finding professors with similar research interests if you are considering master's or PhD programs. Phds.org is a good online resource to help you search for and rank doctorate programs according to criteria that you stipulate are important to you.

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    References and Resources

    Peterson's Graduate School Search (http://www.petersons.com/graduate-schools.aspx)

    UC Berkeley Extension: Teaching English as a Second Language (http://extension.berkeley.edu/cert/tesl.html)