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TESOL Certificate Program
Teachers College, Columbia University
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TESOL Certificate Program

FAQs > Frequently Asked Questions

Frequently Asked Questions

If you would like more in-depth information about any of the topics below, have further questions, or simply prefer to speak with a real person, please contact us directly. Our phone number is 212.678.3459, or we can be reached via email at:

Choosing the Teachers College TESOL Certificate Program

How is this program different from other certificate programs?

The TESOL Certificate Program at Teachers College, Columbia University is one of the most in-depth certificate programs offered today. Your instructors will all be experienced ESL/EFL teachers. Your courses will offer you a unique blend of theory and practice and include hands-on approaches to teaching reading, writing, speaking, and listening, as well as classroom management. You will also study the fundamentals of how English works, the most up-to-date theories on how languages are learned, and how to assess students. Besides this solid foundation, the program includes intensely supervised teaching practice and it includes senior teacher mentoring. And, of course, a certificate from Teachers College, Columbia University is recognized around the world as an assurance that you have received the best possible preparation.

What is the difference between TESOL and TEFL? ESL and EFL?

TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) is an umbrella term used to describe the art of teaching English to anyone who is not a native speaker of English. TESOL may take place in an English-speaking country, or in a country where English is not an official language and considered a foreign language, in which case it may be called TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language).

ESL (English as a Second Language) is used to refer to English instruction to non-native speakers in a country where English is the dominant language. These learners may be acquiring English as a third, fourth, or fifth language. EFL (English as a Foreign Language) is taught in a country where English is not an official language and considered a foreign language. ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages) is another acronym commonly used to refer to the study of English by non-native speakers.

Does the program meet the 120-hour requirement needed for teaching in some schools abroad?

Our program more than meets the 120-hour requirement. Actual program hours vary from year to year, but are always over 120 hours.

What kind of work is required to receive a certificate from the Teachers College TESOL Certificate Program?

To receive a Certificate, you must have at least a B average in your coursework and receive at least a B in the courses Classroom Practices and the Practicum. Our alumni describe the program as exhilarating and intense. Expect at least two hours of homework reading, writing, and lesson-planning on week nights and over the weekends. Please note that the vast majority of participants complete the program successfully and receive certificates. If you keep yourself organized, you will too.

Will I be teaching actual students?

Yes! During the program, you will work with your teaching mentor and your teaching team planning for and then teaching your own class in our Community Language Program. Participants repeatedly tell us that they find the student teaching component of our program very rewarding, saying they enjoy the relationships they build with their students. They also say they appreciate the opportunity to put everything they are learning about TESOL into practice in a sheltered, supportive environment where they themselves can learn and grow. For more information about the student-teaching experience, visit our Student Teaching page.

Applying to the program

Do I need teaching experience to be accepted?

No teaching experience is necessary to apply to the TESOL Certificate Program. Students will participate in supervised team student teaching as part of the program.

Do I need to finish college to apply?

You must have a B.A., B.S., or an equivalent undergraduate degree from an accredited college or university to apply to the program. The only exception is graduating seniors, who receive provisional acceptance. In order to receive final acceptance, graduating seniors must submit a copy of their diploma before the program.

If I am accepted, can I defer my enrollment?

Yes. Upon written request, you may defer enrollment for one year. Please contact our office for more information about this process.

How much does the program cost?

Tuition is $6,800, plus a $50 application fee. You should plan on spending approximately $250 on books and supplies. Housing costs vary, depending upon whether you live in TC housing or not. For the summer program, students may apply for Summer Conference Housing through the Office of Residential Services website. Summer Conference Housing is offered on a rolling basis. If you choose to apply for on-campus housing, remember to apply early, since these options fill up fast.

Is there any financial aid available for this program?

Unfortunately, we are not able to offer scholarships and it is not possible to pay for the program with federally-funded student loans at this time. However, if you are interested in applying for a personal continuing education loan, please contact our the Office of Financial Aid for more information.

Finding a job

What kind of work will I be able to find with a TESOL Certificate from Teachers College, Columbia University?

Our graduates go on to find work as varied as their backgrounds. Some travel and teach overseas, while others find work in non-profit English programs and for-profit language schools here in the United States. Most of our graduates work with adult learners, but some (particularly those who teach abroad) also teach children. Graduates with a background in another professional field often combine their newly acquired teaching skills with their prior professional experience. For instance, alumni with a business background might go on to teach English to executives. Graduates with Master's degrees in related areas (language, education, etc.) and prior teaching experience often find work in community colleges in the U.S. and in universities abroad.

Will I be able to teach in public schools after completing this program?

The TESOL Certificate Program is a non-credit, non-degree program. It does not provide K-12 certification or an ESL endorsement on a public school teaching license. It is primarily for those who wish to teach adults in continuing education programs in the U.S. and abroad. For information on the TC TESOL MA program offering K-12 TESOL certification, please contact the TESOL Graduate Advisor at For information on how to obtain an ESL endorsement on an existing teaching license, please contact your local or state department of education.

Will you help me find a job?

All participants who have graduated from our program and looked for work have found work. During the program itself, we offer a workshop on how to find a job. We also place you on a special Teachers College TESOL & Applied Linguistics jobs list-serve where you receive regular news of openings in the U.S. and abroad. Your fellow students are often one of the best sources for job referrals. These students become an important component of your professional network throughout your teaching career.

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