Adult ESL Teacher Credentialing and Certification

This resource describes past and current efforts to professionalize the English as a second language (ESL) field.

J. Crandall
G. Ingersoll
J. Lopez
Author(s) Organizational Affiliation
University of Maryland Baltimore County (UMBC)
Center for Applied Linguistics (CAL)
Publication Year
Resource Type
Number of Pages

This resource describes past and current efforts to professionalize the English as a second language (ESL) field. It gives examples of available credentialing or certification programs and opportunities. The authors also provide a comprehensive table listing state credentialing and certification requirements. This article underscores the need for standardization of the adult ESL teaching field.

Required Training


What the experts say

This resource is important to the field of Adult Basic Education (ABE) as it documents adult ESL teacher certification and credentialing requirements in the 50 states and D.C.  The data, compiled in one comprehensive table, draws attention to the wide variation—and lack of standardization—that exists across states in the requirements for adult ESL teaching.  Citing the growing numbers of immigrants in the U.S., the brief underscores the importance of preparing ESL teachers to meet the increasing demand for ESL services and suggests that certification or credentialing may be an important component to professionalizing the ESL teacher workforce.  This timely study may be particularly useful for those concerned about this need in ABE, and ESL specifically, especially administrators and policy makers who can develop and implement legislation.

The authors recommend that states undergo a formal survey of their adult ESL teacher certification and credentialing efforts to provide insight into the effects of these efforts on ESL teacher development and performance.

Resource highlights include:

  • table with data of ESL teacher credentialing requirements across all states;
  • clear definitions of credentialing and certification substantiated with examples from the field;
  • brief overview of exemplary state and federal efforts to professionalize the adult ESL workforce, including the development of standards and initiatives to increase teachers’ access to professional development and resources;
  • references to various standards documents
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