Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL, or often called English as a Second Language, ESL) can be a highly rewarding career, offering you the opportunity to live and work abroad. There is also a strong industry in English language instruction here in the United States and in other English speaking countries. TESOL obviously makes a great choice for travel lovers (fantasizing about living in South America or Asia?) or for people looking for a career change (want to get out from behind that desk?). However, for people with little or no previous teaching experience, you will have to successfully complete a teaching certificate program before ever setting foot in the land of your dreams or heading off down your new career path.

English as a Second Language instruction can be studied at a four year college or university, but it is usually tied to a larger course of study, such as a Master’s degree in TESOL (MATESOL). These programs can offer a TESOL certificate, but they are a serious commitment of time and financial resources beyond simply receiving a teaching certificate. If you are just looking to move overseas, or transition more easily into ESL teaching without investing 2-3 years for training (let alone thousands of dollars in tuition), then a regular TESOL certification program offered by a language school or teacher training facility will be more appropriate.

Even without looking at four year colleges and universities, there is still a bevy of professional certifications in the TESOL industry that international employers recognize. Choosing the right one can be a difficult task, as there is a diverse range of certificates offered in the field (e.g. a TESOL or CELTA certificate), administered by a wide host of independent institutions. However, there is a basic set of criteria on which to judge these programs, largely shaped by the expectations of potential employers around the world. (Employer expectations are crucial to consider when choosing a program. For example, Oxford Seminars is a relatively inexpensiv e and quick choice, but it is not as widely recognized by employers – in fact, Oxford Seminars is neither recognized by TESL Canada, nor by Canadian language schools.) Selecting a course that meets these basic criteria should not be too much trouble, once you know what to look for in a teaching certification program.

How long does the course take to complete, and how many training hours does it give you? Almost all employers require a minimum of 100 training hours; however, some employers at the more competitive schools require a minimum of 120 hours.

Does the course include evaluated teaching practicum? In other words, do they teach you how to teach in front of real ESL students, and evaluate you while you practice? Teaching practice is an invaluable opportunity, especially for those without previous teaching experience in front of a classroom. Your teacher training program should definitely include evaluated practicum.

Does the program provide job placement services? Jobs can always be found on the internet, but a good teacher training program should offer you assistance in finding a position that meets your goals. In choosing a teacher training program, be aware of the job placement assistance they can provide, whether or not they have a proven track record, and how long they will provide assistance. Some programs offer help during and immediately after the course, while some will give assistance at any point after receiving the certificate.

Is the institution’s certification accredited? Is the program legit? Just make sure that program or institution is real. Do they have their own space, or is it a make-shift program operating out of a rented room or exists only online? Do they have materials and teaching resources? Are there other teacher trainees and international students you can interact with? Will there be someone you can go back to with questions or for job placement assistance? Your overall vibe of the program or institution should be a strong indication of whether or not it is right for you.

Is the program good value for your money? Last, but certainly not least, you should evaluate the cost of the program. Does the school meet your needs, and meet the criteria mentioned above that employers will expect? The program should strike a balance between cost and providing you with the resources you will need to find a good ESL job.

With these criteria in mind, you should be better prepared to evaluate a teaching certificate program. Below you will find a chart of some choices for a teaching certificate program and information on how they match up against the basic criteria mentioned above. Good luck on choosing a program that is right for you, and that will help you meet your professional goals.
School Certificate Type # of Training Hours Evaluated Practicum? (Y/N) Certificate Program Cost Job Placement? (Y/N) Accredited? (Y/N) Web Address
Transworld Schools TESOL 140 Y $2,000.00 Y – ongoing assistance Y – Accredited by ACCET & Approved by the State of California
International Teacher Training Organization TESOL 120 Y $2,250 Y – ongoing assistance (guaranteed in Mexico) Y – Accredited by ACCET
TEFL International TESOL 120 Y $2,290.00 Y – country specific assistance at TEFL Int’l site in that country Y – Accredited by the British Council
Cambridge CELTA CELTA 120 Y $1,400 - $2,500 (Depending on location of course.) Dependent on location, but most provide little or no placement. Y – Accredited by the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority (UK)
Oxford Seminars TESOL 60 Y – one session only $1,095.00 Y – 6-month (only) Teacher Placement Service N
Global TESOL College TESOL 120 N $1,195.00 Y - ongoing N