About the General Program

How can I tell if the online Graduate Certificate in TESOL is for me?

The certificate in TESOL is designed for you if you are interested in teaching adult students, either in the US or overseas. It is an entry-level professional credential. It does not fulfill any state certification requirements for teaching ESL in public schools. The online Graduate Certificate can be completed online from anywhere in the world and can be completed in as few as 2 or 3 semesters (9–12 months).

Who are the students in the program?

The students in Penn State World Campus online classes come from different parts of the world, are different ages, and have different experiences and interests. In our Graduate Certificate in TESOL, the range of student backgrounds is particularly wide, given the professional content of the program. Such diversity is essential in the collaborative learning environment that the online program facilitates. You will be communicating and collaborating with people who may think about and understand the course content differently from you, and this will only make your learning experiences richer.

Who are the teachers in the program?

The teachers of the four online courses have doctoral degrees in TESOL, Applied Linguistics, or related fields of study and have experience in teaching language to nonnative speakers as well as in training new language teachers. Most of our instructors have a link to the Department of Applied Linguistics; they may teach here full-time, be graduates of the doctoral program, or have other professional connections to our department.

What kind of jobs can I get with the TESOL certificate?

There are numerous opportunities around the world, and here in the USA, in different types of programs and institutions for people who want to teach English. A graduate-level certificate in TESOL will give you a leg up on the competition for entry-level positions worldwide. Overseas, many private and public schools will consider the TESOL certificate an advantage. In the U.S. (similar to the UK and Australia), you may be able to find work in a community-based literacy or ESL program. Some university-based intensive ESL programs consider TESOL Certificate holders for part-time positions.

Does the graduate certificate in TESOL give me certification to teach in public schools in the United States?

No. Our online Graduate Certificate in TESOL does not fulfill any state certification requirements for public school teachers. If you work as a public school teacher and want to earn general Professional Development credits, you should inquire as to whether credits earned in our Certificate program may be accepted by your school district for that purpose.

So what’s the difference between "certification" in TESOL and a TESOL "Certificate"?

The term "certification" refers to the process carried out by a State Department of Education, certifying that you have earned the appropriate credentials to teach a specific subject in public schools.

On the other hand, in TESOL, the term "Certificate" refers to a document certifying that an individual has completed a short-term teacher training program specializing in teaching English as a Second Language to adult learners. Which one is better? It depends on your professional goals.

Can I earn both a Certificate and a Masters in TESOL at Penn State?

Yes. We offer the online Graduate Certificate in TESOL and a Master’s degree in Teaching English as a Second Language (MA TESL). You can transfer the credits you earn in the online Certificate program directly to your MA TESL program through our “step-up” option. If you enter the MA TESL program through this step-up option, you do NOT need to submit TOEFL, IELTS or GRE scores.

Can I transfer credits from another institution and apply them to the online Graduate Certificate in TESOL?

This is possible in principle: the MA TESL admissions committee will consider transferring a maximum of one course taken at a non-PSU site. The committee will carefully review such documentation and will make its decision regarding your case. Relevant credits earned at Penn State commonwealth campuses are subject to review, but in general these credits transfer automatically as long as you complete the correct paperwork.

Will the credits I earn in the online TESOL program at Penn State transfer to other programs at other institutions?

 This depends on the institution you want to transfer credits to. Our program cannot dictate to other institutions how and whether credits will transfer.

What if I am already a student in the MA TESL program at Penn State and I want to take an on-line course offered through the online Graduate Certificate in TESOL?

MA TESL students often take an online class as one of their elective classes, both while in residence on campus and from their home towns or home countries. If you are an international student on a student visa, you may take only 3 credits online while studying on campus. Both domestic and international MA TESL students can take up to 12 credits online (total) while they are completing their degree program.


About Program and Course Requirements

How much work is involved? Does it involve more work than in face-to-face courses?

Our online classes are taught asynchronously. This means that you can complete the assignments according to your own weekly schedule.

However, you may find that the intensity of the work is actually greater in an online class than in a face-to-face class! Also, in online courses, you will have to take responsibility for your own learning. Our classes use a weekly schedule for assigning readings, written work, and other class activities, so while you have the freedom to work when it fits into your schedule, you still have to submit work in a timely manner every week.

Time management can be difficult for online students who hold full-time jobs, who have family and other outside responsibilities and who take more than one online class at a time. Overall, we have found that students generally spend about 6–9 hours per week on online coursework, readings, and assignments depending on study habits.

How much technology do I need to know?

You need to know how to use the basic applications on a computer (e.g., Word processing, email, the Internet, etc.). Any additional software applications you need to use will be explained to you in the program orientation, and you will be provided with opportunities for online help in accessing and using such software.

Can I see course content before I enroll in the course?

No. The class material will be made available to you after you register for a specific class. You do not have to buy a separate textbook for any of our online classes, as all the readings and assignments are made available to you online.

Will I ever be required to come to Penn State's University Park campus for any of the TESOL certificate program?

No. The only program requirements that will be completed offline are the field experiences and observations that are arranged by you and approved by your instructor.

How long does it take to complete the certificate in TESOL?

 The time to complete the certificate in TESOL depends on how many courses you take per semester. Generally, students take 1–2 courses per semester because of family and work commitments. Students may take as few or as many courses as they want per semester, as long as the program is completed within 5 years. You should plan to complete the capstone e-portfolio within 6 weeks of finishing your coursework.

Who arranges the practicum activities in the courses?

You are responsible for identifying a population of English learners where you can tutor, teach, observe, or interview (depending on the requirements of the course you’re taking) in your area. Universities, public schools, places of worship, and community resource centers (such as the library or YMCA) often have English classes of some type.

How is the practicum arranged, approved, and evaluated?

 Each course requires you to engage in a set of practical experiences (e.g., tutoring, teaching, observation, etc.). You are responsible for identifying, obtaining permission or approval from, and interfacing with representatives from a program or set of programs.  Your online instructor will evaluate your practicum activity when you submit written reflective or analytical assignments based on those experiences.

How are TESOL students evaluated (tests, papers, assignments, etc.)?

 The required assignments vary by course, but in general they are written assignments, online quizzes/polls, discussion boards, chat rooms, and video/audio presentations. 

What is the e-portfolio that is required for completion of the program?

See the full explanation on our Capstone Project page

What type of computer specs and software do I need?

World Campus will confirm with you that you have the appropriate technology to succeed in accessing the online classes.


About Applying to the Program

Do I need any experience or background in order to apply to the program?

The only prerequisite is that you must have earned a BA (undergraduate) degree with a cumulative GPA of 3.0 from an accredited university. You do not need to have any teaching experience or explicit knowledge of English grammar. The program is designed to meet the needs of people who are new to English language teaching as well as those who may have some experience and background in the field.

Are GRE scores required for admission into Penn State's certificate in TESOL program?

No. Penn State does not require GRE scores for admission to the online Graduate Certificate in TESOL program.

What are the minimum TOEFL or IELTS scores for admission?

International students may take either the TOEFL or the IELTS. The minimum requirements for the TOEFL are 600 on the paper test, 250 on the computer-based test, and 100 on the Internet-based test, with a minimum score of 23 on the speaking section. Applicants taking the IELTS must score at least 7.0.

How do I apply for the online Graduate Certificate program?

Applying to the online Graduate Certificate in TESOL program is a two-step process. See the instructions on our Application Procedure page [link to Application Procedure]

What are the application deadlines?

In general, for USA-based students, applications are accepted on a rolling basis throughout the year. However, for international applicants, we ask that you apply for admission using the following schedule:

For admission to Fall semester, apply by AUGUST 1.

For admission to Spring semester, apply by OCTOBER 1.

For admission to Summer semester, apply by APRIL 1.

Who is the contact person for general questions about application procedures?

Contact Ms. Sally Arnold by phone at (814) 865-6227 or by email at sah4@psu.edu.

Contact the Coordinator, Dr. Deryn Verity, by email at dpv3@psu.edu for general questions about the program itself.

When will I find out if I am accepted?

We make decisions about certificate in TESOL applicants as the applications arrive. You should hear about your acceptance 2 to 3 weeks after your application materials have been received.

Where can I find information for international applicants?

 For our online program, you do not need to obtain any visas or complete other paperwork that is required for students who want to study on campus. However, you should consult the World Campus website for information pertaining specifically to international applications.