English As a Foreign Language (EFL) Degrees for Teachers

Students interested in English as a foreign language (EFL) programs can pursue graduate certificates and master's degrees in the field. These programs offer training for those interested in teaching English to non-native speakers.

Essential Information

Teaching English as a foreign language (TEFL) is different from teaching English as a second language (TESL) in that the primary goal of TEFL is to teach outside of the United States where English is not natively spoken. Program candidates typically need to have a bachelor's degree and proficiency in a second language to apply for admission. Both graduate certificate and master's programs include lecture-based coursework and student-teaching practicums. Master's programs often require a thesis project as well. Upon graduating from these programs, students may pursue professional teaching licensure or certification.

Teaching English as a Foreign Language Certificate Programs

TEFL certificate programs offer specialized and advanced training to individuals interested in teaching English to non-native speakers. Many of these programs focus on both theoretical and practical aspects of English-language instruction, providing students with foundational theories, methodologies and educational techniques. Students can gain skills in assessment, student-centered learning, lesson planning, collaboration and differentiation. Programs commonly require students to complete a practicum where they implement lessons using principles and techniques learned during coursework. Throughout a program, students can learn aspects of English grammar, style and usage. Students might also develop an understanding of international communication and cultural competency, which could aid in increasing fluency and proficiency within a classroom. Course topics might include:

  • Teaching pronunciation
  • Teaching modern grammar
  • Classroom practices
  • Linguistics
  • Writing instruction

Master's Degrees in Teaching English as a Foreign Language

Many master's degree programs in teaching English as a foreign language equip students with teaching methods that combine theoretical, practical and critical knowledge. They introduce theories and applications for diverse teaching methods, contemporary technologies and testing. Students might receive training on educating children or learners of all ages. Programs usually require participation in supervised classrooms, possibly overseas, to demonstrate their comprehensive understanding of communicative functions and pedagogy. Some programs require students to develop a thesis or create a portfolio of work based on their experience. Coursework in TEFL usually cover linguistics, classroom techniques and technology. Individuals might study topics such as:

  • Curriculum development
  • Second language literacy
  • Sociolinguistics
  • Assessment and evaluation
  • Instruction methods
  • Listening, speaking, reading and writing techniques

Popular Career Options

Students who earn a certificate in TEFL can qualify for careers in public and private institutions, as well as colleges abroad. Some individuals might find careers in private language schools in the U.S. Overall, individuals can work in such positions as:

  • Adult education tutors
  • Overseas language teachers
  • English language curriculum developers
  • Language program directors

Career Outlook and Salary Information

Individuals with a master's degree in teaching English as a foreign language could qualify to work in foreign language school systems. Graduates might be able to find positions as English teachers or as secondary teachers overseas. Based on job postings at TEFL.com, salary figures can vary depending on the country and area where a teacher is employed.

Certification Options

While it's not always mandatory to seek certification, many overseas schools prefer or require their EFL educators to be EFL-certified. The Certificate in English Language Teaching to Adults (CELTA) designation is recognized by most EFL employers. CELTA is the initial qualification for individuals with little or no training experiences and for anyone who may want to teach English abroad. The University of Cambridge administers the examination for the CELTA credential.

For teachers who are passionate about teaching English as a second language, pursuing a graduate certificate or master's degree will help them hone their skills and improve their employability.

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