ESL Certification in California with Program Descriptions

California has 17 schools that offer ESL certification programs. Learn about the certificate and degree programs, tuition information, and program options for the ten largest schools to make an informed education decision.

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Essential Information

California has more than 15 schools offering English as a Second Language (ESL) certification and, of the 10 largest, 8 are located in Southern California. ESL programs may be part of a teacher certification program or part of a school's linguistics department. Also, programs in teaching ESL have a variety of names because they are designed for students with different goals, like teaching in public K-12 schools, at the postsecondary level, or in foreign countries. Some programs offer concentrations within the degree or bilingual authorization. Programs may be offered online. Graduation requirements vary by program, but in some cases students will need to complete a thesis.

Career Requirements

Though California ESL teachers at colleges and universities don't need a teaching license, most employers prefer to hire candidates with a master's degree in applied linguistics or Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL). To teach abroad, the minimum requirements typically include a bachelor's degree in any field and a certificate in Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL).

Since 2006, an English learner authorization has been a part of teacher certification requirements in California. So, all California teachers in K-12 schools are required to obtain certification in Cross-cultural, Language, and Academic Development, or CLAD: this is required of both new teachers and those already working in the field. CLAD requirements may be included in some of the listed graduate programs, and, sometimes, the classes to fulfill CLAD authorization are offered either as a certificate program or as a minor for education majors. Additionally, a state test, teaching practicum, and probationary period during the first years of employment are required to be fully licensed to teach in California. The ten schools listed here are all considered to be approved programs by the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing, though only some of the programs include the full range of courses required to earn a preliminary teaching credential. Read about the program descriptions of the ten largest schools in California that offer ESL certification and evaluate some of the details in the comparison table below.


Alliant International University

Alliant International University, located in San Diego, is the parent institution of 6 other schools located throughout the state of California. This school offers 2 degrees and 2 certificates in ESL in its Hufstedler School of Education: a graduate certificate in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages and the California Teachers of English Learners (CTEL) certificate, as well as the M.A. in TESOL, and Ed.D. in TESOL are offered at this school. The certificate programs and part of the M.A. program can be completed both on-campus and online, but doctoral courses must be completed on-campus, in San Diego. This school offers small seminar style classes and a focus on applied scholarly research.

  • Programs Offered: Graduate Certificate in TESOL
    CTEL Certificate
    Master of Arts in TESOL
    Doctor of Education in TESOL
  • Tuition & Fees (2012): $15,190*
  • School Type & Setting: 4-year, private not-for-profit; large city

Azusa Pacific University

Located in Azusa, a large suburb northeast of Los Angeles, Azusa Pacific University enrolls close to 10,000 students and offers certificate programs, bachelor's degrees and advanced degrees. In addition to its 39-unit summer TESOL program in Thailand, the Global Studies, Sociology, and TESOL department at this school offers three choices of certificates in TEFL or TESOL, an undergraduate minor in TESOL, and four different M.A. program options in TESOL. Each program has different requirements and some can be completed online. The field-based certificate and MA programs in TESOL can be completed while teaching English internationally, and there is one MA program that offers college graduates in Taiwan the chance to earn a 36-unit Master's degree both on the Azusa campus and internationally.

  • Programs Offered: TESOL summer program
    Certificate in TEFL
    Certificate in TESOL
    Master of Arts in TESOL
  • Tuition & Fees (2012): $31,076*
  • School Type & Setting: 4-year, private not-for-profit; large suburb

Biola University

Biola University is located southeast of Los Angeles in La Mirada, a large suburb. Biola's B.A in Intercultural Studies may include a minor in TESOL and its Cook School of International Studies offers graduate certificates and Master's degrees in applied linguistics and TESOL. The programs offered in this department include a graduate certificate in linguistics, an M.A. in Applied Linguistics, a graduate certificate in TESOL and an M.A in TESOL, the latter option may be completed on-campus or online. All programs at Biola require coursework in biblical studies, but the TESOL programs also include practice teaching and coursework in language and culture, which is geared toward preparing students to become English teachers in multi-cultural settings. The linguistics programs include more theoretical course-work and may also prepare students to work in the fields of translation, language instruction, or further scholarly pursuits.

  • Programs Offered: Undergraduate minor in TESOL
    Graduate certificate in Linguistics
    Master of Arts in Applied Linguistics
    Graduate certficate in TESOL
    Master of Arts in TESOL
  • Tuition & Fees (2012): $31,004*
  • School Type & Setting: 4-year, private not-for-profit; large suburb

California State University - Los Angeles

California State University - Los Angeles is located in a large city and enrolls more than 20,000 students each year. Cal State - LA offers the M.A. in TESOL to prepare teachers for a variety of positions teaching English both in the United States and Abroad. This program consists of 45 units and a comprehensive evaluation or thesis is also required for completion. Students pursuing this degree will study linguistics, teaching methodology, and the process of language acquisition, and will research language testing, socio-cultural influences, and practical applications in the classroom.

  • Program Offered: Master of Arts in TESOL
  • Tuition & Fees (2012): $6,101 in-state; $17,759 out-of-state*
  • School Type & Setting: 4-year, public; large city

California State University - Northridge

Located north of Los Angeles, in Northridge, California State University - Northridge offers a number of programs in Teaching English as a Second Language (TESL), TEFL, and linguistics. The linguistics department at this school offers an undergraduate major and minor in linguistics and a minor in TESL, a certificate in TESL, and two Master's degrees - the M.A. in linguistics and the M.A. in TESL. Some classes offered as a part of these programs include language and the law, English for specific purposes, English structures for ESL/EFL teaching, language development and acquisition, and linguistic analysis. Cal State - Northridge has 17 faculty members in its linguistics department, each with varying areas of specialization within this field of study.

  • Programs Offered: Bachelor of Arts in Linguistics
    Undergraduate minor in linguistics
    Undergraduate minor in TESL
    Graduate Certificate in TESL
    Master of Arts in Linguistics
    Master of Arts in TESL
  • Tuition & Fees (2012): $6,296 in-state; $17,954 out-of-state*
  • School Type & Setting: 4-year, public; large city

Loyola Marymount University

Loyola Marymount University is located in Los Angeles, California, only a few miles from the Pacific Ocean. LMU offers many ESL programs for students pursuing their preliminary teaching credential. For students who have earned their credential out-of-state, or who require continuing education credits in bilingual authorization, LMU offers its California Teachers of English Learners (CTEL) Certificate. This certificate is a 12-unit course designed as continuing education for credentialed teachers who need to fulfill California's Bilingual Cross-cultural and Academic Development (BCLAD) requirements to teach English language learners in K-12 schools. The other ESL program options at this school include programs that lead to a combined M.A. in Bilingual Education and either a single-subject or multiple-subject California teaching credential, with BCLAD authorization. Students pursuing either of these combined M.A and Teacher certification programs choose to concentrate in elementary or secondary education and may also choose to supplement the degree with an additional Spanish or Mandarin option, which includes additional coursework detailing specific strategies for language instruction within these cultures. LMU also offers an M.A. in TESL.

  • Programs Offered: CTEL Certificate
    Master of Arts in Bilingual Elementary Education
    Master of Arts in Secondary Bilingual Education
    Master of Arts in TESL
  • Tuition & Fees (2012): $39,125*
  • School Type & Setting: 4-year, private not-for-profit; large city

San Jose State University

San Jose State University is located in Northern California: it is a public 4-year school that offers undergraduate and advanced degrees and enrolls more than 30,000 students, which makes it the largest school in Northern California offering ESL certification. The TESOL program at this school is part of its applied linguistics program. In this field of study, San Jose State offers an undergraduate TESOL certificate, a graduate TESOL certificate and an M.A in TESOL. Additionally, a B.A. and M.A. in linguistics is also offered. Students pursuing the M.A. option may also be able to simultaneously earn an M.A. in linguistics, with permission from both departments. These certificate and degree offerings are geared towards students who seek to pursue careers in higher education teaching ESL, or teaching English as a Foreign Language (EFL) at colleges and universities overseas. Although SJSU has offered TESOL programs as part of preparation for a single subject credential in the past, current course offerings are not designed around this goal. However, some courses may count towards a California state CLAD certificate.

  • Programs Offered: Bachelor of Arts in Linguistics
    Undergraduate Certificate in TESOL
    Graduate Certificate in TESOL
    Master of Arts in TESOL
    Master of Arts in Linguistics
  • Tuition & Fees (2012): $6,852 in-state; $18,510 out-of-state*
  • School Type & Setting: 4-year, public; large city

University of California - Los Angeles

University of California - Los Angeles is the largest school in California offering certification in ESL. UCLA's ESL program offerings include a bilingual authorization certificate, which is part of its Graduate School of Education and Information Studies department, as well as 5 degrees and one minor in its linguistics department. The linguistics department at this school offers programs including a B.A in Applied Linguistics, undergraduate minor in language teaching, PhD in Applied Linguistics, M.A. in Applied Linguistics, or graduate certificate in Teaching English as a Second or Foreign Language (TEFSL).

  • Programs Offered: Bachelor of Arts in Applied Linguistics
    Undergraduate minor in langauge teaching
    Graduate Certificate in bilingual education
    Graduate Certificate in TEFSL
    Master of Arts in Applied Linguistics
    Doctor of Philosophy in Applied Linguistics
  • Tuition & Fees (2012): $12,692 in-state; $35,570 out-of-state*
  • School Type & Setting: 4-year, public; large city

University of San Francisco

The University of San Francisco is a private, not-for-profit school located in San Francisco, California. Close to 10,000 students are enrolled at USF, and its M.A. in TESOL is offered in its education department. This degree is offered as a 15-unit supplement to coursework required for a preliminary single or multiple-subject teaching credential and prepares students to teach in K-12 schools, to teach English abroad, or to teach ESL at the community college level. For prospects demonstrating proficiency in Spanish, an optional bilingual authorization in Spanish is also offered at this school as an additional component to the teacher credential programs.

  • Programs Offered: Bilingual authorization in Spanish for teacher credential candidates
    Master of Arts in TESOL
  • Tuition & Fees (2012): $38,884*
  • School Type & Setting: 4-year, private not-for-profit; large city

University of Southern California

Located in Los Angeles, the University of Southern California is a large school in an urban setting and offers 2 degrees in TESOL. The Master of Arts in TESOL and the Master of Science in TESOL are offered as a part of its Rossier School of Education and include coursework in the theory and practical applications of teaching English in ethnically and linguistically diverse settings. Although USC does offer credentialing programs for aspiring teachers, both TESOL programs are non-credential programs, which means that courses required to earn either a single-subject or multiple-subject preliminary teaching credential are not included.

  • Programs Offered: Master of Arts in TESOL
    Master of Science in TESOL
  • Tuition & Fees (2012): $44,463*
  • School Type & Setting: 4-year, private not-for-profit; large city

School Comparison: At a Glance

School Name School Type & Setting ESL Certification Courses Offered Undergraduate Tuition & Fees (2012-2013)
Alliant International University 4-year, private not-for-profit; large city Graduate Certificate in TESOL,
CTEL Certificate,
Master of Arts in TESOL,
Doctor of Education in TESOL
$15,190*
Azusa Pacific University 4-year, private not-for-profit; large suburb TESOL summer program,
Certificate in TEFL,
Certificate in TESOL,
Master of Arts in TESOL
$31,076*
Biola University 4-year, private not-for-profit; large suburb undergraduate minor in TESOL,
graduate certificate in Linguistics,
Master of Arts in Applied Linguistics,
graduate certficate in TESOL,
Master of Arts in TESOL
$31,004*
California State University-Los Angeles 4-year, public; large city Master of Arts in TESOL $6,101 in-state
$17,759 out-of-state*
California State University-Northridge 4-year, public; large city Bachelor of Arts in Linguistics,
undergraduate minor in linguistics,
Undergraduate minor in TESL,
graduate Certificate in TESL,
Master of Arts in Linguistics,
Master of Arts in TESL
$6,296 in-state
$17,954 out-of-state*
Loyola Marymount University 4-year, private not-for-profit; large city CTEL Certificate,
Master of Arts in Bilingual Elementary Education,
Master of Arts in Secondary Bilingual Education,
Master of Arts in TESL
$39,125*
San Jose State University 4-year, public; large city Bachelor of Arts in Linguistics,
Undergraduate Certificate in TESOL,
Graduate Certificate in TESOL,
Master of Arts in TESOL,
Master of Arts in Linguistics
$6,852 in-state
$18,510 out-of-state*
University of California-Los Angeles 4-year, public; large city Bachelor of Arts in Applied Linguistics,
undergraduate minor in langauge teaching,
Graduate Certificate in bilingual education,
Graduate Certificate in TEFSL,
Master of Arts in Applied Linguistics,
Doctor of Philosophy in Applied Linguistics
$12,692 in-state
$35,570 out-of-state*
University of San Francisco 4-year, private not-for-profit; large city Bilingual authorization in Spanish for teacher credential candidates,
Master of Arts in TESOL
$38,884*
University of Southern California 4-year, private not-for-profit; large city Master of Arts in TESOL,
Master of Science in TESOL
$44,463*

Source: *NCES College Navigator

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