Undergraduate Certificate Program Teaching English as a Second Language

Teacher in a classroom with students

Teaching English as a Second Language (TESL) Certificate Overview

Portland State’s certificate in Teaching English as a Second Language (TESL) is for students interested in working abroad after graduation. Completion of this program will give you the skills to help meet the changing needs in education throughout the world while immersing yourself in a new culture. Add it to your major or a previous degree, and it's your gateway to international jobs.

The TESL certificate helps you develop skills and knowledge to teach English internationally without the commitment of a two-year master's degree. If you already have a master's degree in another field, completion of this program may qualify you to teach English as a second language in community colleges across the United States.

Our seven-course program combines practical teaching skills with in-depth knowledge about English, language learning, and cross-cultural interactions. The program prepares you to become a more effective and adaptable teacher.

Students may enroll in the program as undergraduates or as postbaccalaureates.

Degree Details

  • C
    Certificate Program
    On campus
    Total Credits
    Start Term

Teaching English as a Second Language Certificate: Why PSU?

Our small class sizes mean faculty know your name and career plans and provide you with consistent feedback on your coursework and practice teaching. They have experience teaching and doing teacher-training in North, Central, and South America, Africa, Europe, and the Pacific. Nearly half have volunteered with the U.S. Peace Corps and they bring their expertise and experience back into the classroom.

Your practice teaching takes place in a supportive environment with a partner throughout the term. You will learn from observing your partner, from your own teaching, and from an experienced teacher’s feedback.

You'll have opportunities to apply your skills to real-world settings. Students in the program work with community partners in Portland and around the world. Students have designed and recorded instructional webcasts conducted training sessions at Portland's most diverse schools, and carried out online tutoring for students in China.

Our department will connect you to employment, volunteer, and networking opportunities. We want to ensure you gain the experience you need to succeed. We have helped match students with positions in China, Korea, Ecuador, and Columbia, to name a few.

What can I do with a certificate in Teaching English as a Second Language?

Most of our graduates go on to teach English outside of the United States, working in private language schools, high schools, middle schools, and corporations in Central and South America, Asia, Turkey, the Middle East, Europe, and Africa — or even online.

Many students return to do the Master of Arts in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (MA TESOL) degree, which provides them with more thorough training for a career as a language professional.

Course Requirements

  • LING 390 Introduction to Linguistics
  • LING 392 Structure of the English Language
  • LING 438 Second Language Acquisition
  • LING 471/INTL 471 Understanding the International Experience
  • LING 477 TESOL Methods 1
  • LING 478 TESOL Methods 2
  • LING 409 Community ESL Practicum

Admission Requirements

  1. Admission to Portland State University.
  2. English proficiency in spoken and written English if the student is not a native speaker of English (a TOEFL score report of 80 iBT or higher or an IELTS band score of 6.5 or higher is required for proof of proficiency).
  3. One year proficiency in at least one foreign language if the student is a native speaker of English. (Note: If not fulfilled at the time of admission, this requirement can be fulfilled concurrently with the Certificate courses.)


Portland State University is fully accredited by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU).

The TESOL International organization recommends that Certificates have at least a minimum of 100 hours and supervised practice teaching. PSU's TESL Certificate exceeds these minimums so you gain a deeper understanding of teaching, learning, and language. Your supervised practice teaching experience includes observations as well as your own teaching.