English as a Second Language (ESL) Program Specialist Postbaccalaureate Certificate

The ESL Postbaccalaureate Certificate offers a path for in-service teachers and graduate students to complete the ESL certificate to prepare to work with English learners in public school classrooms. The ESL Postbaccalaureate Certificate may be completed on campus or through an intensive study immersion experience option. The ESL courses are offered at the University Park, Berks, and Lehigh Valley campuses.

Resulting Certificates

The ESL Postbaccalaureate Certificate program is a 15-credit program including practical teaching experience with English learners. The ESL Postbaccalaureate Certificate program was designed to allow teachers to choose a set of courses that meet content guidelines set by the Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE) for the ESL Program Specialist Certificate. In addition to receiving a postbaccalaureate certificate from Penn State, those who have completed a Pennsylvania teaching certification (Instructional I or II) will receive a letter that verifies completion of the state requirements for the ESL Program Specialist Certificate and may apply directly through the PA Department of Education for the ESL Specialist Certificate. Teachers interested in this route should confer with ESL Postbaccalaureate Certificate faculty to ensure their options and plans align with PDE expectations.

The ESL Certificate is a program offered cooperatively by the Department of Curriculum & Instruction and the Department of Applied Linguistics. Students who are interested in teaching English in other countries or would like to teach adult English language learners should consider the online TESOL program or the master’s of arts degree in TESL (Teaching English as a Second Language) program in the Department of Applied Linguistics.

Admission Requirements

An applicant must hold either a (1) a baccalaureate degree from a regionally-accredited U.S. institution or (2) a tertiary (postsecondary) degree that is deemed comparable to a four-year bachelor's degree from a regionally-accredited U.S. institution. This degree must be from an officially recognized degree-granting institution in the country in which it operates. To be considered for admission, an applicant must demonstrate a minimum grade-point average (GPA) of 3.0 (out of 4.0).

The language of instruction at Penn State is English. All international applicants must take and submit scores for the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) or International English Language Testing System (IELTS), with some exceptions. Minimum test scores and exceptions are found in the English Proficiency requirements section of the Graduate School Admission website.

Many US states and territories require professional licensure/certification to be employed. If you plan to pursue employment in a licensed profession after completing this program, please visit the Professional Licensure/Certification Disclosures by State interactive map.  

Admission Process

Application to the ESL Postbaccalaureate Certificate program is initiated through the Graduate School.  Individuals who already have an undergraduate degree and are seeking admission to the postbaccalaureate program must complete and submit the Penn State Graduate School online application. Select "Certificate Admission" for the application type, and choose one of University Park, Berks, York, and Lehigh Valley as the campus and "English as a Second Language Program Specialist" as the certificate.  A non-refundable fee of $65 is required.

Applications to the ESL Postbaccalaureate Certificate program may be made at any time.


Students complete five courses for certification as an ESL Program Specialist:

  • APLNG 484: Discourse-Functional Grammar
  • APLNG 493: Teaching English as a Second Language
  • WL ED 400: Foundations of Language in Second Language Teaching
  • WL ED 444: Language, Culture and the Classroom: Issues for Practitioners
  • WL ED 483: Evaluating Schools Performances and Programs with English Language Learners (ELLs)

Immersion Experience Option

The ESL certificate at Penn State may be completed on campus or through an intensive study option, Teaching ESL with Immersion Experience, which offers the opportunity to complete the program over two academic sessions (Spring and Summer) and includes an international practice teaching experience. A specific application process is required. Applications for the Immersion experience are submitted in November for the program beginning the following January.