An English as a Second Language (ESL) or Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) degree is essential for those looking to teach English as a second language in public schools, or for those who want to teach English abroad. There are a variety of options for those seeking to earn ESL teaching certification, but you must obtain a bachelor's degree from an accredited four-year college or university. ESL or TESOL courses can then be taken at a local college, by using online course resources or by obtaining alternative teacher certification. Requirements for both ESL and TESOL vary by state.

Opt for traditional ESL certification courses. For those who already possess a bachelor's degree in a subject related to ESL such as English, education or a foreign language, it is not difficult to acquire certification. However, you'll have to take additional coursework. Many universities offer ESL degree programs for students who already have bachelor's degrees in related subject areas, and the additional coursework typically takes about a year and will include teacher preparation and required testing. Upon completion of the coursework, students can be certified by the states in which they live to be teachers in their subject areas. In most states, about 30 hours of coursework in child psychology and development, educational theory and curriculum and instruction must be taken. Student teaching may also be required.

Sign up for online ESL training courses. A wide variety of programs online might meet your ESL certification needs. Online degree programs are particularly useful to nontraditional students who already have full-time jobs in education or other fields, or who have other commitments that prevent them from attending a traditional school full time. Online courses are just as valid as traditional site-based education; however, one must be cautious when seeking an online ESL degree. Check with your state's department of education to make sure the online university you are interested in is accredited.

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Obtain a Master of Arts in Teaching ESL degree. Enroll in an ESL MAT program. These degrees are designed for students who already possess a bachelor's degree in their subject areas and wish to earn certification and a master's at the same time. These programs generally take one to two years and are the best options for earning both a higher degree and ESL certification. A master's degree will also typically allow you to begin your teaching career at a higher pay scale.

Check into your state's alternative certification programs. Many states offer coursework options through the Department of Education that allow students with bachelor's degrees to pursue a teaching certificate through a certain number of hour requirements. Students must study for and pass a general testing requirements before pursuing this alternative coursework. Many school districts will hire teachers who pass these tests, with the understanding that the required coursework will be completed. This is an attractive option for those who want to work immediately while pursuing a teaching degree or ESL certification in their spare time.

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