Teaching ESL in Philadelphia: Degree and School Information

Oct 06, 2020

Philadelphia Schools with ESL Teaching Degrees

There are several universities in and around Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, offering English as a Second Language (ESL) and Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) programs, predominantly at the graduate level. This article highlights the coursework and, in some cases, field experiences required in programs at three schools. Also included is a table of statistics on the universities and some info on a few other college options. Keep in mind that state certification requirements have changed as of 2013 and programs may have additional requirements.

  • Located just two miles from downtown Philadelphia, the University of Pennsylvania (UPenn) is a research-focused institution offering a wide variety of master's and doctoral (PhD) programs. Students can complete a master's degree in TESOL or a master's degree in language and literacy that includes TESOL coursework.
  • Temple University, situated right in the heart of Philadelphia, has the largest school of education in the metropolitan Philadelphia area, and almost 30 programs leading to state certification. Available programs include an ESL certificate, TESOL master's degree and a doctoral program in applied linguistics.
  • Located around 14 miles from central Philadelphia, Holy Family University, a Catholic school, has three campuses. With an average graduate class size of 7 and an overall student-to-faculty ratio of 11:1, the institution reports that 80% of its alumni work in their field of study or go on to graduate school within a year of graduation. A TESOL master's degree and an ESL certificate is available for students to earn.

Comparison of Schools

Explore and compare the costs, acceptance rates, enrollment numbers and more for the profiled schools in the table below. The facts and figures can help you make an informed education decision.

University of Pennsylvania Temple University Holy Family University
School Type 4-year; private, not-for-profit 4-year; public 4-year; private, not-for-profit
Total Enrollment (2019) 26,675* 38,794* 3,110*
Campus Setting Large city Large city Large city
Graduate School Tuition (2019-2020) $40,182* $17,846 in-state
$24,236 out-of-state*

Source: *NCES College Navigator

University of Pennsylvania

With the exception of an undergraduate urban education minor, UPenn offers teacher education programs primarily at the graduate level. Program applicants need to supply a resume, letters of recommendation, GRE scores and transcripts from a completed baccalaureate (or higher) degree.

Master of Science in Education, TESOL

This master's degree program is offered through the Educational Linguistics Division and focuses on preparing students to teach English to non-native speakers in a variety of settings. Degree candidates are taught to assess the needs and motivations of their future students and, over the course of the degree program, they will study sociolinguistics, acquisition of a second language, approaches to teaching languages and the structure of English. To combine classroom theory with practical experience, students also work in the field as interns or tutors. There are 12 course units required for completion, including a 30-hour service project and internship.

Master of Science in Education - Language and Literacy

The language and literacy program combines coursework for teaching English as an additional language with pre-K-12 literacy coursework for native English speakers. Classes in the program cover how to teach English and other modern languages, educational linguistics, evaluating differences in language and learning and second language acquisition. A final portfolio project in reading/writing/literacy and a TESOL thesis serve as the comprehensive exam at the end of the program. For students who are certified in elementary and secondary education, successful completion of the program meets the ESL portion of the Pennsylvania ESL Specialist Certificate and all of the requirements for the Pennsylvania Reading Specialist Certification.

Temple University

Temple University, which focuses on preparing teachers to work in a variety of settings, has recently revised its programs to provide varying pathways to certification. The school places an emphasis on clinical experience and practice in teacher preparation.

ESL Certificate

The ESL certificate program is designed as an ''add-on'' certificate for teachers who hold, or are currently earning, Pennsylvania Instructional I or II certification. All classes meet in the evening, and are offered both during the school year and over the summer. There are four courses in the program covering the foundations of teaching a language, curriculum design for teaching languages, understanding how those learning English develop literacy and how to teach foreign/second language skills. Applicants need to provide proof of certification, or evidence of enrollment in a program, along with letters of recommendation. Currently enrolled undergraduate students may also apply and will need to provide a statement of interest.

Master of Science in Education, TESOL Concentration

Designed for a variety of professionals who seek to meet the needs of English language learners, this program doesn't provide teacher certification. Over the 31 semester hours of coursework required, students will complete 18 semester hours of classes in applied language study, language acquisition and pedagogy in addition to a practicum. The remainder consists of at least two TESOL electives and one non-TESOL electives. Electives might include classes in bilingualism, applied linguistics, second language writing or research methods. Applicants will need to provide GRE or Miller Analogies Test scores, official transcripts from completed undergraduate and graduate education, letters of recommendation, a resume and a goal statement. Graduation from the program requires maintaining a 3.0/4.0 GPA and passage of a comprehensive exam.

PhD in Education, Applied Linguistics Concentration

Temple offers a PhD program in education with a concentration in applied linguistics that focuses on how languages, especially second or additional ones, are taught, used and learned. This concentration program prepares students for academic research in areas such as TESOL, second and foreign language education or applied linguistics. The concentration involves 18 semester hours of classes, such as language assessment and testing, methods for applied linguistics research, and writing in a second language. The PhD program also includes elective courses, a research apprenticeship and preparation courses for the qualifying exam and the proposal/dissertation, both of which require an oral defense. Application requirements for the doctoral program are the same as for the master's program.

Holy Family University

Holy Family offers a variety of both undergraduate and graduate programs, from pre-K levels on up. Holy Family also offers several reading specialization programs, with and without certification. All programs require applicants to pass background checks.

ESL Certificate

Eighteen credits of coursework are required to earn the ESL certificate at Holy Family. Classes will cover linguistics for language teachers, second language acquisition, teaching culturally and linguistically diverse students, and assessment and program design for ESL students.

Master of Education in TESOL and Literacy with ESL Program Specialist Certificate

Combining facets of ESL pedagogy such as language and culture, instruction planning and implementation and assessment, the master's program at Holy Family requires completion of 30 credits of coursework. Classes will cover linguistics, second language literature and vocabulary, acquisition of language, and program design and assessment for ESL students. To earn the ESL specialist certificate, applicants must already hold teacher certification in Pennsylvania. New state requirements regarding special education coursework will add nine credits of inclusive education classes, if this has not been earned elsewhere.

Other Schools

Also in Philadelphia, LaSalle University offers a Master of Arts in TESOL designed to prepare students to teach. The program involves 36 hours of credits and requires a practicum and a thesis for graduation. Located in nearby West Chester, West Chester University also offers a Master of Arts in Teaching ESL program, as well as a certificate of preparation ESL program for those wishing to teach either in the U.S. or abroad.

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