Accredited Online ESL Certification Programs

By OnlineU Staff | Updated 9/4/2020
Quick Facts
Accreditation: CEA
Average Tuition: $25,938
Average Salary: $58,657

Aspiring teachers who want to work with English language learners must have a certificate in TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language), TESL (Teaching English as a Second Language), or TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages). These certificates are available online at many universities across the country. After completing a certificate program, graduates can go on to teach English as a second language in schools or in organizations around the world. Below, we highlight the most popular accredited online schools offering ESL certificate programs. We also highlight the 17 best online master's in ESL programs, ranked based on their tuition costs and alumni salaries provided by PayScale.

When choosing an ESL program, prospective students should ensure the program is accredited. Students should look for schools that have both regional and programmatic accreditation to confirm they are receiving a quality education that will adequately prepare them for a career in the field.

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Most Popular Accredited Online Schools for ESL Certificate Degrees

Visitors to our site are most interested in these schools
Rank School Annual Tuition Recommend Rate
# 1 #1 Arizona State University $23,483 69% (103 reviews)
256 Programs, 1 Certificate in ESL (view all)
256 Programs, 1 Certificate in ESL
  • Grad Certificate in English as a Second Language
# 2 #2 Grand Canyon University $17,050 52% (483 reviews)
275 Programs, 1 Certificate in ESL (view all)
275 Programs, 1 Certificate in ESL
  • Graduate Certificate of Completion in Teaching English to...
# 3 #3 Indiana Wesleyan University Online $9,816 41% (29 reviews)
192 Programs, 1 Certificate in ESL (view all)
192 Programs, 1 Certificate in ESL
  • Graduate Teaching Certificate - English as a New Language
# 4 #4 Liberty University $11,700 58% (296 reviews)
640 Programs, 1 Certificate in ESL (view all)
640 Programs, 1 Certificate in ESL
  • Undergraduate Certificate in Teaching English as a Second...
# 5 #5 Brenau University $29,050 Add Review
92 Programs, 2 Certificate in ESL (view all)
92 Programs, 2 Certificate in ESL
  • Graduate - ESOL Endorsement
  • Undergraduate - ESOL Endorsement
# 6 #6 University of Alabama at Birmingham $19,704 100% (1 review)
114 Programs, 1 Certificate in ESL (view all)
114 Programs, 1 Certificate in ESL
  • Graduate Certificate in Teaching Multilingual Learners
# 7 #7 Regent University Online $18,380 47% (17 reviews)
385 Programs, 2 Certificate in ESL (view all)
385 Programs, 2 Certificate in ESL
  • Certificate of Graduate Studies in Teaching English to Sp...
  • Certificate of Graduate Studies in Teaching English to Sp...
# 8 #8 Northcentral University $17,917 50% (239 reviews)
327 Programs, 1 Certificate in ESL (view all)
327 Programs, 1 Certificate in ESL
  • Post-Master’s Certificate in English As A Second Language
# 9 #9 Colorado Christian University $31,866 54% (13 reviews)
121 Programs, 1 Certificate in ESL (view all)
121 Programs, 1 Certificate in ESL
  • TESOL Certificate
# 10 #10 Western Governors University $6,670 73% (684 reviews)
77 Programs, 1 Certificate in ESL (view all)
77 Programs, 1 Certificate in ESL
  • Endorsement Prep. Program in ELL (PK-12)
# 11 #11 Eastern Kentucky University $19,444 33% (3 reviews)
127 Programs, 1 Certificate in ESL (view all)
127 Programs, 1 Certificate in ESL
  • Endorsement Preparation in English as a Second Language (...
# 12 #12 Post University Online Not Provided 40% (100 reviews)
141 Programs, 1 Certificate in ESL (view all)
141 Programs, 1 Certificate in ESL
  • Graduate Certificate in Teaching English Language Learners
# 13 #13 Concordia University-Chicago $32,078 Add Review
120 Programs, 2 Certificate in ESL (view all)
120 Programs, 2 Certificate in ESL
  • Endorsement in ESL
  • Graduate Certificate in TESOL
# 14 #14 Boise State University $23,776 100% (1 review)
61 Programs, 1 Certificate in ESL (view all)
61 Programs, 1 Certificate in ESL
  • Endorsement in Idaho ENL/Bilingual
# 15 #15 Murray State University $24,540 Add Review
91 Programs, 1 Certificate in ESL (view all)
91 Programs, 1 Certificate in ESL
  • Endorsement in ESL Certificate for Kentucky Teachers
# 16 #16 Purdue University - Main Campus $28,794 100% (4 reviews)
108 Programs, 2 Certificate in ESL (view all)
108 Programs, 2 Certificate in ESL
  • Graduate Certificate in Teaching English Language Learner...
  • Graduate Licensure in English Language Learning (ELL)
# 17 #17 George Mason University $35,922 Add Review
90 Programs, 1 Certificate in ESL (view all)
90 Programs, 1 Certificate in ESL
  • Graduate Certificate in Teaching English as a Second Lang...
# 18 #18 Ohio University-Main Campus $21,656 75% (4 reviews)
108 Programs, 2 Certificate in ESL (view all)
108 Programs, 2 Certificate in ESL
  • Certificate in Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL)
  • Endorsement in Teaching of English to Speakers of Other L...
# 19 #19 Saint Joseph's University $44,974 Add Review
71 Programs, 1 Certificate in ESL (view all)
71 Programs, 1 Certificate in ESL
  • Certificate in English as a Second Language Endorsement (...
# 20 #20 Columbia University in the City of New York $59,430 Add Review
92 Programs, 1 Certificate in ESL (view all)
92 Programs, 1 Certificate in ESL
  • Advanced Certificate in Bilingual/Bicultural Education
# 21 #21 St. John's University $41,760 Add Review
47 Programs, 4 Certificate in ESL (view all)
47 Programs, 4 Certificate in ESL
  • Graduate Advanced Certificate in Intensive Teacher Instit...
  • Graduate Advanced Certificate in Intensive Teacher Instit...
  • Graduate Advanced Certificate in Intensive Teacher Instit...
  • Graduate Advanced Certificate in TESOL
# 22 #22 University of South Florida Online $17,324 67% (3 reviews)
151 Programs, 1 Certificate in ESL (view all)
151 Programs, 1 Certificate in ESL
  • Graduate Certificate in ESOL
# 23 #23 Concordia University - Nebraska $32,220 0% (1 review)
38 Programs, 1 Certificate in ESL (view all)
38 Programs, 1 Certificate in ESL
  • ESL/ELL Endorsement
# 24 #24 Indiana University - Bloomington $35,456 100% (1 review)
93 Programs, 2 Certificate in ESL (view all)
93 Programs, 2 Certificate in ESL
  • Graduate Certificate in EFL/ESL Teacher Preparation
  • Graduate Certificate in EFL/ESL Teaching
# 25 #25 University of North Dakota $20,759 67% (3 reviews)
187 Programs, 1 Certificate in ESL (view all)
187 Programs, 1 Certificate in ESL
  • Graduate Certificate in English Language Learning Education

Online ESL Degree Overview & Career Information

The training involved in becoming an ESL instructor depends on the academic level that the individual wishes to teach. To teach English as a second language at the elementary and secondary level requires the same certification that is required for any teacher- a minimum of a bachelor’s degree as well as state certification. To teach adult literacy and GED classes, one needs a bachelor's or master's degree, but not necessarily a certification. Doctoral degrees in ESL are also available, though this level is only required for those who want to teach at the university level or go into research.

Online Certificates in ESL

There are many online options available to those looking to earn a certificate in teaching English as a second language. An online ESL teaching certificate program can be found at various universities, and most are available at the graduate-level. A certificate program will typically take a year or two to complete. Some schools allow students to complete this type of certificate while also working on a graduate degree in education.

A certificate by itself is not enough to qualify a graduate to gain teaching licensure but those with just a certificate may be able to find work teaching in private settings, like private language schools or businesses. Teachers who already have licensure may wish to earn this type of certificate in order to teach a wider variety of classes and students. Students will learn how to create lessons and develop the skills they need to effectively teach ESL learners of various ages how to speak, read, and write English.

Requirements for Becoming an ESL Teacher

As with any teaching profession, those who work as ESL teachers in the Pre-K through 12th grade setting will need to be licensed. Licensing varies from state to state, but usually an aspiring ESL teacher will need at least a bachelor's degree. They will also have to go through teacher training, either as part of their undergraduate program or during a master's or certification course, and student teaching will be required. A certification test will also likely be required.

ESL is also widely known as ELL (English Language Learners), so a student who is interested in teaching ESL will also find value in ELL programs. However, it should be noted that earning a degree in ESL and becoming a licensed ESL teacher is different from earning a Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) or similar certificate on its own. This type of certificate will qualify an individual to teach English overseas in private language institutes, but not in public schools in the United States. Program descriptions should be read carefully.

The Importance of Accreditation for ESL Programs

One thing to keep in mind when choosing a degree program is accreditation. One important type of accreditation is regional accreditation, which is the most highly regarded and most widely accepted accreditation for higher education institutions. Regional accreditation means that the school has been evaluated by an outside organization which has determined that the school meets certain educational standards. This type of accreditation is important for a variety of reasons, including that credits earned through that school will transfer to other schools and also that students will have access to federal financial aid.

Another important type of accreditation is programmatic accreditation. This is when an organization specializing in a particular subject accredits programs that teach that subject. For many years, NCATE, or the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education, was the main professional accreditation agency for education programs, along with The Teacher Education Accreditation Council (TEAC). As of July 1, 2013, NCATE and TEAC merged to form The Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP). CAEP uses a set of five Standards to evaluate programs, with criteria including the quality of the professors and the kinds of practical experiences, such as student teaching, that a student has access to. Those who wish to become an ESL teacher should find a program that has received programmatic accreditation from CAEP or NCATE, because this will give them assurance that they are receiving a quality education that will prepare them for their future careers.

This website offers school details to prospective students as an informational resource. The appearance of a school listing on this website should not be interpreted as an endorsement of the school by this site.