What do I need to do to get my ESL teacher certification?

ESL instruction is needed by English Language Learners (ELLs) in grades K-12 and in Adult Education. To become an ESL teacher in the United States, most states require ESL certification in addition to a Bachelor’s or Master’s degree and a teaching credential. Although ESL certification is not required in many cases to teach English abroad, having it can increase a teaching candidate’s chances of being hired.

Knowing how to speak another language is not required for ESL certification. If you have students with different native languages in the same class, knowing one other language is not going to be especially useful but knowing important and encouraging phrases in your students’ home language can help build a rapport with the students and their parents.

Before pursuing ESL certification, it’s a good idea to decide where you want to teach. Teaching English language learners in public elementary and secondary schools requires at least a bachelor’s degree and a teaching credential or alternative certification. There are also ESL career opportunities teaching English to adult learners through private institutions and adult education or other continuing education programs

Once you have a clear idea of where you want to work and have completed the academic prerequisites, these are the steps required to become an ESL-certified teacher in the United States:

Learn about state ESL requirements

Since requirements vary by state or school district, check with the Department of Education for the state where you want to teach to find out about course requirements.

Complete ESL training

Prospective teachers with a bachelor’s degree who are not yet credentialed can enroll in a master’s program that combines teacher preparation and ESL training.

Some states have alternative teacher certification programs for people interested in receiving an ESL teacher certification. You can find out if your state has an alternate ESL teacher certification program by doing some quick research on your state’s department of education website.

If you already have a teaching credential, you can return to school to take ESL courses that satisfy your state’s requirements.

Pass an ESL certification exam

Some states and university programs require teachers to pass a comprehensive ESL subject test before they apply for certification.

Apply for ESL certification.

Complete an application for ESL certification from your state department of education.