Best Online Graduate Certificate in ELL Programs

We've ranked the top online associate, bachelor, master, and Ph.D. programs in English language learning. Compare schools by cost and convenience.

portrait of Heather Mullinix
by Heather Mullinix

Published March 17, 2022

Reviewed by Dr. Samantha Fecich

Our Review Network

BestColleges is committed to delivering content that is objective and accurate. We have built a network of industry professionals across healthcare and education to review our content and ensure we are providing the best information to our readers.

With their first-hand industry experience, our reviewers provide an extra step in our editing process. These experts:

  • Suggest changes to inaccurate or misleading information.
  • Provide specific, corrective feedback.
  • Identify critical information that writers may have missed.

Our growing Review Network currently consists of professionals in fields like business, nursing, social work, and other subject-specific industries; professionals in higher education areas such as college counseling and financial aid; and anti-bias reviewers.

Reviewers typically work full time in their industry profession and review content for BestColleges as a side project. Our reviewers are members of the Red Ventures Education Freelance Review Network and are paid for their contributions.

See a full list of our Review Network contributors.

Edited by Taylor Gadsden
Share this Article

According to the National Education Association, English language learners (ELLs) make up the fastest-growing student population in the country. School systems have reported an increase of 1 million ELL students since 2000.

Improving English language skills for ELL students remains a vital component of overall academic success. Much of a student's education requires reading and writing. Nineteen states reported a shortage of ELL teachers in the 2021-22 school year, with a need at all grade levels. ELL teachers can also work in the $10 billion global language learning industry.

www.bestcolleges.com is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

Ready to start your journey?

A graduate certificate in ELL allows educators to seek professional certification in teaching English as a second language (ESL) without earning a new degree. Graduate certificate programs offer a cost-effective way to learn new skills faster than earning a master's degree. You can find a high-quality online graduate certificate in ELL program at top online schools that allows you to continue working while you learn.

What Is an Online Graduate Certificate in ELL Program?

A graduate certificate in ELL consists of 12-18 credits focused on teaching English language learners. Most master's degrees require 30-36 credits. While certificate programs do not lead to a new degree, the credits students earn could apply toward a master's degree in elementary, secondary, or adult education. Admission requirements vary but typically include a bachelor's degree and teaching experience.

Students who intend to teach in a public school or for a global English learner educational service will likely need to apply for teacher licensing or professional certification. Both licensing and certification require specific educational training. Learners should check with their state department of education or TESOL International Association on specific educational requirements.

What Can I Expect From an Online Graduate Certificate in ELL Program?

ELL and ESL teachers work with students with varying English proficiency and academic understanding. An online graduate certificate in ELL equips learners with best practices and instructional strategies to help these students succeed.

A graduate certificate in ELL typically consists of 4-6 courses targeted at language development, assessment, and instructional practices. Many students complete a certificate in one year compared to 2-3 years for a master's degree. Certificate programs also do not require a capstone project or thesis.

A graduate certificate in ELL may include the same curriculum as a master's degree specialization in ELL. Online graduate certificate in ELL programs typically feature flexible, asynchronous courses, allowing students to meet professional and family commitments while furthering their education. Many schools offer rolling admissions, allowing learners to begin taking courses at any time.

However, being a successful ESL teacher requires more than creative lesson plans. Teachers working with ELL students need exceptional communication skills to interact with students, parents, and other teachers. Teachers must also understand each student's culture to engage them in lessons. Because each student needs individual instruction and attention, ESL teachers must be creative, organized, and adaptable.

Still Looking for the Right Fit? Discover Similar Programs.

Popular Online Graduate Certificate in ELL Programs

Learn about start dates, transferring credits, availability of financial aid, and more by contacting the universities below.

What Courses Will I Take in a/an PROGRAM_NAME?

Language Acquisition and Development

Students examine the foundation for language acquisition through research in cognitive science, psychology, linguistics, and neuroscience. Topics covered in the course include phonological development, learnability theory, and bilingualism.

Supporting Second Language Learners, Families, and Communities

ELL teachers must engage their students in the classroom and the school community. They must also engage families in the school community. This course uses case studies and research reviews to develop culturally sensitive strategies for engaging students and families.

Language Assessment

Assessments help teachers understand each student's specific educational needs. Students review current best practices in evaluating language proficiency and academic achievement. They also learn to address cultural and linguistic barriers that may impact assessment equity.

Content-Based ESL Instruction

ELL students can benefit from including content from other subjects in their ELL classes. This method can drive academic achievement and language acquisition. Students in this course evaluate lesson plans that integrate reading, writing, speaking, and listening for students at different proficiency levels.

Sociolinguistics

This course examines the connection between language and society and culture to better understand language variation. Students examine social psychology and language variation theories and apply those concepts to ELL instruction.

Find the Tools You Need to Get Started on Your Degree

What Are the Admission Requirements for an Online Graduate Certificate in ELL Program?

Admission standards vary by school and by program. Students may apply through the school's graduate admissions office or an office dedicated to graduate certificate programs. An admissions packet may include:

  • Undergraduate Degree:Depending on the program, learners may need a degree in education. Other programs may accept students with a bachelor's degree in another field.
  • Official Transcripts: Students can request these from all schools where they completed college-level classes. Transcripts verify completion of an undergraduate degree, stated GPA, and that learners have taken prerequisite courses.
  • Resume: This document details work history. Include relevant volunteer work, educational experience, and professional experience.
  • Teaching License:Some online graduate certificate in ELL programs require classroom teaching experience and a valid teaching license.
  • Entrance Exam: Graduate schools often accept the GRE or other standardized exams. Students should verify their school's requirements. Many programs waive this requirement for certificate programs.
  • Personal Statement or Essay: This brief writing sample explains what students hope to gain from the program and their professional goals. It also showcases an individual's writing ability.
  • Letters of Recommendation:Ask for recommendations from supervisors, former instructors, and colleagues.

What Can I Do With an Online Graduate Certificate in ELL Degree?

Career Outlook

Earning a graduate certificate in ELL can qualify you for in-demand positions as an ESL teacher in school systems nationwide. Schools need qualified teachers for early childhood programs, elementary and high school students, and adult learners.

Schools continue to see more students who need the expertise and support of an ESL teacher. The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) reported more than 5 million students spoke a language other than English in 2018, increasing by 500,000 students since 2010.

California and Texas reported the highest percentage of ELL students in their school systems in 2018, which were 19.4% and 18.7%, respectively. Only five states reported less than 3% of their students spoke a native language other than English.

People can also teach English to students from other countries. English is one of the most popular languages, with 1.35 billion English speakers. Most of these people speak English as a second language.

See where a graduate certificate in ELL can take you. Learn more about education careers.

Career Paths

ESL Teacher

ESL teachers instruct students whose primary language is not English. They help students understand how to converse and carry out daily tasks in an English-speaking setting. They also integrate academic content to help students understand concepts discussed in their other classrooms. ESL teachers need at least a bachelor's degree, a state teaching license, and specialized training to support ELL students.

Median Annual Salary: $46,310

Kindergarten and Elementary Teacher

Kindergarten and elementary teachers work with young students to build a strong foundation for future success. They create lesson plans and work with students in classrooms, small groups, or individually to develop reading, math, and science skills. They also help students understand how to interact with others in classroom and social settings. Teachers grade assignments and provide feedback, communicate with parents, and enforce classroom rules.

Median Annual Salary: $60,660

Adult Literacy Teacher

Adult literacy and basic education teachers work with students age 18 and older on specific educational needs, like passing the high school equivalency exam. Teachers assess student knowledge and academic proficiency to develop individualized learning plans and monitor progress. Many adult literacy teachers focus on skills that help their students with daily living tasks and preparing for a job search.

Median Annual Salary: $55,350

Instructional Specialist

An instructional specialist often provides coaching and instructional support to teachers in a specific subject area, like ELL instruction. They monitor research and best practices in their field and share that information with assigned teachers. They also evaluate teachers in their classrooms, offering feedback to improve teacher performance and student achievement. Most instructional specialists hold a master's degree in curriculum and instruction. They also have teaching experience and additional training in their subject area.

Median Annual Salary: $60,120

Immigration Services

Immigration service workers help people moving to a new country overcome legal and language barriers. They may work for nonprofits, assisting immigrants or refugees as they transition to their new homes. ELL training helps these workers understand how to communicate with their clients. It also helps them gain language skills as they navigate immigration agencies, find employment, and register children for school.

Median Annual Salary: $55,000

ELL Not For You? Check Out These Related Careers.

Continuing Education

Students may choose to continue their education by earning a master's degree in ELL or doctorate in educational leadership. A graduate certificate often satisfies about half the credits required for a master's degree.

Research and best practices in ELL instruction continue to evolve. Ongoing seminars, workshops, and in-service sessions enhance a teacher's ability to serve their ELL students. Often, teachers must complete continuing education to maintain their teaching license. Professional certification also requires ongoing training.

How Do I Choose Online Graduate Certificate in ELL Program?

Cost

The cost of a graduate certificate in ELL can vary widely. Tuition can cost from $275 per credit to over $1,000 per credit, depending on the school. Part-time students may pay a per-credit fee for each course. Some schools may waive out-of-state fees for online students. Learners should consider true program costs, which include necessities, such as books and a laptop, and potential funding sources like scholarships, grants, or tuition waivers.

Program Format

Learners can choose from in-person and online certificate in ELL programs. They can also attend full-time or part-time. Many schools offer flexible class scheduling for in-person learners with night or weekend classes. Online classes may meet at scheduled times or follow an asynchronous learning format for more flexibility.

Location

Students also need to consider attending school on campus or online. While online learning allows students to choose from schools nationwide, learners may still consider a college nearby. Attending a school locally can provide greater access to campus services and reduce the cost of any in-person sessions.

Accreditation

Teachers should ensure their school's education department holds accreditation from the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation. Learners can verify curriculum requirements for an ESL endorsement on their teaching license with the state education department.

Student Support

Student support services can include academic advisors, peer mentors, and alumni networks. Online students should check for dedicated librarians to assist with accessing journals and other materials. The career services office can help with resume preparation, interview practice, and internship placement.

Best Accredited Online Graduate Certificate in ELL

Rankings compiled by the the BestColleges Ranking Team

Is your school on this list? Get the BestColleges ranking seal.

How We Rank Schools

At BestColleges, we believe a college education is one of the most important investments you can make. We want to help you navigate the college selection process by offering transparent, inclusive, and relevant school rankings.

Our rankings are grounded in a few guiding principles and use the latest statistical data available from trusted sources. Read our ranking methodology. We hope our approach helps you find the school that is best for you.

Best Online Graduate Certificate in ELL

  1. The University of Georgia
    Location

    Athens, GA

    Tuition

    $15539

    Based in Athens, the University of Georgia enrolls over 9,000 graduate students. The 15-credit online graduate certificate in teaching English to speakers of other languages takes three semesters to complete.

    Some core courses include classroom methodology and practice, tools for assessing development of language learners, bilingualism and bilingual education, and theories of first and second language acquisition. Students enrolled in the graduate certificate in English language learning finish the program with a guided practicum, where they can apply their newly learned teaching strategies.

    Applicants must hold a bachelor's degree from a regionally accredited postsecondary institution. UGA charges the same tuition rate for in-state and out-of-state students. The University of Georgia is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).

  2. The University of North Florida
    Location

    Jacksonville, FL

    Tuition

    $10809

    Based in Jacksonville, the University of North Florida enrolls over 2,000 graduate students and features a 19-to-1 student-to-faculty ratio.

    The online graduate certificate in teaching English language to speakers of other languages requires six courses to complete. UNF notes that students may have the opportunity to work in China, Korea, or Mexico for a year while enrolled.

    Students pursuing the online graduate certificate in English language learning take core courses in applied linguistics and grammar, curriculum development, content instruction, and cross-culture communication and knowledge.

    Applicants need a bachelor's degree from a regionally accredited institution with a minimum 3.0 GPA for the last 60 credits of undergraduate work. The University of North Florida is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).

  3. George Washington University
    Location

    Washington, DC

    Tuition

    $39600

    Located in Washington, D.C., George Washington University enrolls over 26,000 students. The 12-credit online graduate certificate in teaching English to speakers of other languages (TESOL) includes core courses in second language instruction, second language acquisition, teaching second language reading and writing, and linguistic applications in English as a second language.

    This program prepares graduates for work in the U.S. and abroad. Students can pursue careers in elementary and secondary school programs or community volunteer language programs. Applicants to the graduate certificate in English language learning must hold a bachelor's degree from a regionally accredited postsecondary institution.

    The university charges the same tuition rate for in-state and out-of-state students. George Washington University is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE).

  4. Biola University
    Location

    La Mirada, CA

    Tuition

    $32729

    Based in La Mirada, California, Biola University enrolls over 6,000 students in Christian-centered education. The 21-credit online graduate certificate in teaching English language to speakers of other languages takes 2-3 semesters to complete. Students can earn this certificate as part of the master's program or as a stand-alone.

    Students enrolled in the online graduate certificate in English language learning take core classes in structure of English, materials evaluation and preparation, and vocabulary learning and teaching. Online learners must complete a practicum.

    Applicants need a bachelor's degree and must profess a Christian faith. Tuition rates are the same for in-state and out-of-state students. Biola University is accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior College and University Commission (WSCUC).

  5. George Mason University
    Location

    Fairfax, VA

    Tuition

    $19064

    Based in Fairfax, Virginia, George Mason University boasts an 80% employment rate for students within six months of graduation. The 18-credit online graduate certificate in teaching English language to speakers of other languages offers core classes in English grammar and pedagogy, introduction to linguistics, English pronunciation and pedagogy, and second language acquisition.

    Students enrolled in the graduate certificate in English language learning must complete a practicum in English as a second language. Learners can earn this certificate as part of a master's or as a stand-alone program.

    Applicants must hold a bachelor's degree from a regionally accredited postsecondary institution. Virginia residents receive a discounted tuition rate. George Mason University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).

  6. The University of Cincinnati — Main Campus
    Location

    Cincinnati, OH

    Tuition

    $20085

    Located in Ohio, the University of Cincinnati — Main Campus enrolls more than 46,000 students and offers over 400 degree programs, including the 15-credit online graduate certificate in teaching English language to speakers of other languages.

    This program requires core courses in foundations of first and second language acquisition, applied linguistics, and teaching English as a second language methods. Students enrolled in the online graduate certificate in English language learning must complete a practicum.

    Applicants do not need a bachelor's degree but must complete at least 30 credits of undergraduate work with a minimum C grade. Elementary through secondary school teachers receive a discounted tuition rate for this program. UC adds nonresident surcharges to tuition.

    The University of Cincinnati — Main Campus is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).

  7. Indiana University — Bloomington
    Location

    Bloomington, IN

    Tuition

    $11931

    Indiana University — Bloomington enrolls over 19,000 graduate students and offers more than 125 degree programs. The 12-credit online graduate certificate in English as a foreign language/English as a second language teaching includes core courses in language foundations, instruction and assessment approaches, teaching English in K-12 classrooms in global contexts, and computer-assisted language learning.

    Students enrolled in the graduate certificate in English language learning must complete a practicum in literacy, culture, and language education. This program provides professional development certification not teaching certification for Indiana or other states.

    Applicants need a bachelor's degree from an accredited institution with a minimum 2.75 GPA. The university charges the same tuition rate for in-state and out-of-state students. Indiana University — Bloomington is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).

  8. Webster University
    Location

    Saint Louis, MO

    Tuition

    $22727

    Based in St. Louis, Missouri, Webster University features more than 50 online undergraduate, graduate, or certificate programs. The 21-credit online graduate certificate in teaching English as a foreign language offers core courses in English for speakers of other languages methods, curriculum development in second language classrooms, teaching English pronunciation, and second language acquisition.

    Webster encourages students enrolled in the online graduate certificate in English language learning to consider a master's in teaching English as a second language. Students must complete a practicum in English as a second language to graduate.

    Applicants must hold a bachelor's degree with a minimum 2.5 GPA. Webster charges the same tuition rate for in-state and out-of-state students. Webster University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).

  9. Missouri State University — Springfield
    Location

    Springfield, MO

    Tuition

    $10235

    Missouri State University — Springfield enrolls over 23,000 students across eight different colleges of study. The 15-credit online graduate certificate in teaching English to speakers of other languages includes core courses in linguistic theory, sociolinguistics for language teaching, principles of second language acquisition, and methods in teaching English to speakers of other languages.

    Students enrolled in the graduate certificate in English language learning may transfer three credits (one class) into the program from a regionally accredited institution. Learners need a minimum 3.0 GPA to graduate.

    Applicants must hold a bachelor's degree from a regionally accredited postsecondary institution with a minimum 3.0 GPA. Missouri residents receive a discounted tuition rate. Missouri State University — Springfield is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).

  10. Sam Houston State University
    Location

    Huntsville, TX

    Tuition

    $12516

    Based in Huntsville, Texas, Sam Houston State University features over 130 degree programs and enrolls more than 21,000 students. The 12-credit online graduate certificate in second language instruction includes core courses on topics including social cultural language influence on learning, second language acquisition and development, and applied linguistics in ESL/EFL settings.

    Students enrolled in the online graduate certificate in English language learning do not need to complete a practicum. Graduates of the program can use their certificate for teaching or can enter a master's program.

    Applicants must hold a bachelor's degree. SHSU charges the same tuition rate for in-state and out-of-state students. Sam Houston State University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).

Frequently Asked Questions About Graduate Certificate in ELL Programs

Is a graduate certificate in ELL worth it?

Schools across the U.S. need ESL teachers. NCES reported 10.2% of all public school students in 2018 were English language learners, increasing by 500,000 students from 2010. Nineteen states reported shortages in ESL teachers in the 2020-21 school year.

Research from the U.S. Department of Education found 80% of ELL students speak Spanish, Arabic, Chinese, Vietnamese, or Haitian Creole. The predominant language for ELL students varies by location. Knowledge of a foreign language can complement your ELL teaching ability.

What can you do with a graduate certificate in ELL?

Earning a graduate certificate in ELL prepares you to teach English language learners in public schools, early education programs, and adult literacy programs. The curriculum includes best practices in language acquisition, language and academic assessment, and cultural awareness.

You can also earn a professional certification in teaching English to speakers of other languages or teaching English as a foreign language. These certifications allow you to teach English abroad or virtually to students worldwide.

Is an ELL graduate certificate program hard?

While a graduate certificate in ELL does not result in a master's degree, you must complete graduate-level coursework. The curriculum offers a high level of academic rigor. You should plan to devote several hours each week to your assignments.

The graduate certificate curriculum focuses on teaching and assessing ELL students. You do not need to take extra classes in research methods or educational leadership. Unlike a master's degree, a graduate certificate in ELL does not require completing a capstone project or writing a thesis.

How long does it take to get a graduate certificate in ELL?

A full-time student can complete a graduate certificate in ELL in a year. Part-time students may need an additional semester. Most graduate certificate in ELL programs require 12-21 credits or 4-6 classes.

Many schools offer part-time enrollment with flexible class schedules for working students. You can also consider earning an online graduate certificate in ELL. Online programs may feature asynchronous classes and accelerated formats that allow you to complete your program faster.

What's the highest-paying job you can get with a graduate certificate in ELL?

According to Payscale, ESL teachers earned an average of $46,310 in Feb. 2022. However, a graduate certificate in ELL can prepare you for other educational careers outside the classroom. You may take on supervisory roles in a school system, such as education coach or curriculum developer. Education coaches earned an average of $60,000 as of Feb. 2022, while curriculum developers earned $67,680 as of March 2022.

Where you live, your teaching experience, and your education level all impact salary. Kindergarten teachers, for example, earned a median salary of $60,660 in May 2020. But kindergarten teachers in Massachusetts earned an average of $80,700.

Image Source: FatCamera, Getty Images

BestColleges.com is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

Compare your school options.

View the most relevant school for your interests and compare them by tuition, programs, acceptance rate, and other factors important to find your college home.