Teacher Certification Made Simple!

TESOL Certification

TESOL, which stands for teachers of English to speakers of other languages, is a high-demand teaching field, with opportunities across the United States and throughout the globe. There are TESOL teaching possibilities in all grade levels, from preschool to adult, in public and private schools, and for businesses and online. How does one become a TESOL teacher and what does the job entail? Here is some information to get you started.

What is a TESOL teacher?

A TESOL teacher assists students who are English language learners (ELL) in mastering the English language. TESOL teachers might work in U.S. public schools with immigrant children, in a self-contained or inclusive classroom, or in a foreign country with students who want to achieve proficiency in English as a second language (ESL).

TESOL is a broad category, as teachers may be certified in ESL, English as a foreign language (EFL) or English for speakers of other languages (ESOL).

TESOL Teacher Job Description

Most TESOL teachers work in an elementary school, middle school or high school setting. Students may be starting to learn English at any age, so TESOL teachers need to be well versed in phonetics as well as reading, writing and speaking strategies, and technology proves to be useful with all grade levels.

At the elementary school level, TESOL teachers work with students between five and 10 years old. This is a crucial stage, as students are learning the foundations of the English language, so TESOL teachers need to teach students the skills to become more fluent while catering to shorter attention spans.

Middle school teachers need to build upon the foundations learned in elementary school or start from scratch if the students are new to English at this stage.

At the high school level, TESOL teachers need to help students become more fluent in preparation for college or work.

Training and TESOL Certification

The minimal requirements to enroll in a certification program are a high school diploma and English fluency. Prospective teachers who want to work abroad can get certified through a fast-paced TESOL program like the American TESOL Online.

Students can also enroll in bachelor’s degree programs in ESL or TESOL online or in traditional university classes, which will enable them to work abroad or in the United States. Prospective teachers who already have bachelor’s degrees (do not have to be in ESL or TESOL) can get their master’s degrees in ESL through a program like the USC Rossier School of Education.

It is important to consider where you want to work. Many schools abroad require only a bachelor’s degree in any subject area, while American public schools require state certifications in ESL, EFL or ESOL. If you wish to work in the United States, you should check with individual states’ departments of education for certification requirements. See our TESOL certification roadmap for additional information.

Required Tests

Masters of Arts in Teaching TESOL programs may require candidates to sit for a number of tests and pass them with specific scores for admission.

Here is a list of commonly required tests with their admissions benchmarks:

  • TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language)

Prior to admission into a TESOL Masters program, non-native English speakers must usually pass the TOEFL exam with a score of at least 600 for the written version of the test or 100 for the electronic version.

  • IELTS (International English Language Testing System)

Non-native English speaking applicants to TESOL Masters programs may take the IELTS as an alternative to the TOEFL. A minimum score of 6.5 on the IELTS is usually compulsory.

  • ESL (English as a Second Language) Placement Test

After passing either the TOEFL or IELTS, non-native English speakers may had to take this exam to gauge their proficiency in written English and judge whether or not he or she will need to take additional courses in composition.

  • GRE (Graduate Record Examination)

Some TESOL Masters programs require native speakers of English to take the GRE. Although the GRE is not usually required for non-native speakers, it may be beneficial.

Teacher Prep

The length of a Masters of Arts in Teaching TESOL program may be from one year for full-time students to two or three years part-time. During this span, pupils take a variety of courses that can be broken down into four broad categories:

  • Understanding the Classroom

A large portion of teacher preparation in a Masters of Arts in Teaching TESOL program is dedicated to understanding the relationship between instructors and students. This is necessary as educating an individual requires knowing both your own expectations and that of your pupil.

  • Designing Course Materials

This portion of the program focuses on theories of learning and their implementation in creating a rewarding, efficient in-class experience. Specific methods of teaching reading, writing, listening, speaking and other TESOL material to English language learners are examined.

  • Linguistics

In linguistics courses, students explore the components that make up the English language, like grammar, semantics and syntax, and the means of applying this knowledge in the classroom in a way appropriate for English language learners.

  • Capstone

A capstone course offers students an opportunity to consolidate their educational experience into one effort, commonly in the form of a portfolio. Combining their study of pedagogy and linguistics with hands-on skills, students develop a portfolio which demonstrates not only their mastery of the program content, but also their ability to apply what they’ve learned.

TESOL Teacher Benefits

TESOL teacher salaries and benefits are just as diverse as the job categories and opportunities. American TESOL teachers earn an average of $40,390 and are entitled to public school benefits like health insurance and paid school holidays. Many countries provide housing accommodations, travel compensation, health benefits and a decent salary.

Teach Away offers recruitment services for schools in Europe, Africa, Asia and Latin America, detailing the benefits offered in each area. Once you become a TESOL teacher, it is beneficial to join an organization like TESOL International Organization, which provides job listings and professional development. After all, one of the greatest advantages to becoming a TESOL teacher is the ability to work almost anywhere in the world.

Earning your TESOL certification (Teaching English as a second language) is a career option many instructors do not immediately consider, but it can be a rewarding, unique experience. It offers the freedom to explore other countries while working or the opportunity to teach in a rapidly growing, in-demand field at home.


Visit USC Rossier for more information about earning your Masters Degree in TESOL.