TESOL Certification

If you want to be a teacher and also love to travel, there is a way to combine the two. You can teach the basics of the English language to nonnative speakers in another country by earning Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) certification.

TESOL usually includes two other acronyms that are often used interchangeably but actually have slightly different meanings:

  • Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL). This term is usually used when English is being taught in a country where it is not the native language, such as teaching English to Chinese people in China.
  • Teaching English as a Second Language (TESL). This label is most often used when English is taught to nonnative speakers in a country where English is the official language, such as teaching English to immigrants in the United States or the United Kingdom. Another common term for this situation is (English as a second language (ESL).

All of these acronyms can be confusing, but the fact is that certification in any of them is generally acceptable to most employers and will usually qualify you to teach English to nonnative speakers in the United States or anywhere in the world.

There are many programs that offer certification in TESOL. These programs can be found through colleges and universities, private TESOL schools, businesses, and distance learning or online institutions. Location, prices, courses, and length of training can vary, so you need to compare schools to find one that suits your schedule and your needs best. There is no internationally recognized administrative body for TESOL, but you should make sure that any TESOL course or school you are interested in is accredited by an outside regional or national accrediting agency or educational body.

Many TESOL schools offer online courses and job placement services. Many of them also have specialized courses in which you can earn TESOL certification for teaching specific categories of students, such as children, adults, business executives, workers in the tourism industry, or students who wish to study at English-speaking colleges and universities.

In order to enroll in most TESOL schools, you are usually required to:

  • Have at least a high school diploma or its equivalent. A bachelor’s degree in any subject, but especially in English or a related field such as education or linguistics, is always a plus and can probably negotiate you a higher salary when you are placed in a job.
  • Be fluent in English. Nonnative speakers of English who wish to enroll in TESOL schools must usually demonstrate fluency of the language by passing a proficiency test such as the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) or the International English Language Testing System (IELTS).
  • Obtain the necessary passports, visas, or working papers.

Most TESOL schools do not require that you speak a foreign language in order to enroll or have any prior teaching experience. You usually learn the basics of teaching English and how to communicate in different ethnic environments. You will also compare different educational methods of teaching English to speakers of other languages and create TESOL lesson plans.

Before successfully receiving TESOL certification, most schools require you to pass a standardized assessment test and complete a period of student teaching.