Qualifications for Teaching ESL

Public Adult Schools in California

Credentialing Information for 2005 taken directly from the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing Website at:

Full-Time Adult

The Preliminary, Clear, or Professional Clear Full-Time Adult Education Teaching Credential authorizes the holder to teach the subjects named on the credential in courses organized primarily for adults. In addition, the holder may serve as a substitute in courses organized primarily for adults for not more than 30 days for any one teacher during the school year.

Adult Education Teaching Credentials are issued to individuals who meet the requirements listed below and who apply through and are recommended by either a Commission-accredited Local Education Agency (LEA) or by an Employing School District (ESD). A list of accredited LEAs (leaflet CL-506) may be obtained from the Commission's website.

Requirements for the Full-time Adult Credential

For the five-year* preliminary credential, all of the following requirements must be satisfied:

  1. Verify five years of experience and/or education (as specified on page 2) related to each subject to be named on the credential
  2. One of the following requirements must be satisfied:
    1. possess a high school diploma
    2. possess a diploma based on passage of the GED Test
    3. possess the foreign equivalent of a high school diploma
  3. Pass the California Basic Educational Skills Test (CBEST). (For more information, contact the CBEST Program, National Evaluation Systems, Inc., P.O. Box 340880, Sacramento, CA 94834-0880, 916-928-4001, or Applicants for the Adult Credential in non-academic subjects are exempt from this requirement.
  4. U.S. Constitution - applicants must satisfy one of the following requirements:
    1. complete a course (at least two semester units or three quarter units) in the provisions and principles of the U.S. Constitution (Submit a copy of the course description for evaluation purposes.)
    2. pass an examination in the Provisions and Principles of the U.S. Constitution given by a regionally-accredited junior college, community college, college or university
  5. Obtain verification, signed by a Commission-accredited LEA, or by an ESD authorized to do so in accordance with guidelines established by the Commission, that the applicant has been fully apprised of the requirements for both the preliminary and professional clear credentials, including Level I and Level II requirements of the program of personalized preparation

Core Requirements for the ESL Adult Education Credential (non-credit)

A bachelor's or higher degree completed at a regionally-accredited college or university and completion of 20 semester units or 10 upper division semester units in one or any combination of the following: Teaching English as a Second Language (TESL), Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL), English, Language other than English, Linguistics, Bilingual/bicultural studies, Teaching Reading, Speech


Community College - Non-Credit

Statewide Minimum Qualifications: To teach English as a second language (ESL) in a noncredit program, teachers must meet one of the following criteria:

  1. A bachelor's degree in teaching English as a second language, or teaching English to speakers of other languages.
  2. A bachelor's degree in education, English, linguistics, applied linguistics, any foreign language, composition, bilingual/bicultural studies, reading, or speech; and a certificate in teaching English as a second language, which may be completed concurrently during the first year of employment as a noncredit instructor.
  3. A bachelor's degree with any of the majors specified in subparagraph (2) above; and one year of experience teaching ESL in an accredited institution; and a certificate in teaching English as a second language, which may be completed concurrently during the first two years of employment as a noncredit instructor.
  4. Possession of a full-time, clear California Designated Subjects Adult Education Teaching Credential authorizing instruction in ESL.


Community College - Credit

Statewide Minimum Qualifications for Full-time or part-time instructor are:

  • Master's in TESL, TESOL, applied linguistics with a TESL emphasis, linguistics, with a TESL emphasis, English with a TESL emphasis, or education with a TESL emphasis;
    • Bachelor's in TESL, TESOL, English with a TESL certificate, linguistics with a TESL certificate, applied linguistics with a TESL certificate, or any foreign language with a TESL certificate; AND
    • Master's in linguistics, applied linguistics, English, composition, bilingual/bicultural studies, reading, speech, or any foreign language;
  • OR
  • The equivalent of the above. See individual districts for equivalencies.


Intensive English Programs

There are no statewide qualifications; requirements vary by institution but general guidelines include the following:

Full-time Instructors - Master's in TESOL, Applied Linguistics, or closely related field plus a minimum of two years of directly relevant teaching experience. Teaching experience in EFL programs abroad is preferred.

Part-time Instructors: University based IEPs require a Masters in TESOL, Applied Liinguistics or a closely related field, plus a minimum of two years of directly related teaching experience. Some proprietary language schools only require a Bachelor's of Arts; at least 6 months of teaching experience in ESL



Minimum Qualifications for ESL Teachers

There are no statewide qualifications for public or private colleges or universities. Interested persons should contact individual institutions. The following guidelines for UC and CSU generally apply to private colleges and universities as well.

Teaching ESL full-time or part-time: Instructor positions require a Master's in TESL, English, Linguistics, Applied Linguistics or a Master's degree in a closely related field with a TESL certificate.

Teaching TESL full-time or part-time: Lecturer positions require a Master's or Doctoral degree in Linguistics, Applied Linguistics, or Education. Professor positions require a Doctoral degree in Linguistics, Applied Linguistics or Education