English as a Second Language (ESL) Program Specialist Certification

Start today on your ESL Program Specialist Certification!

Quick Facts

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  • Application requirements: Online application, transcripts and minimum GPA of 3.0
  • Deadline(s): April 15 for summer start, July 15 for fall start and Dec. 15 for spring start. The application and all supporting materials are due by the listed deadlines.
  • Course Requirements: 5 courses (15 credits)
  • Typical Course Load: Fall (2 courses), Spring (2 courses), Summer (1 course) 
  • Time to Completion: 12 months
  • Alumni Current Positions: Teach ESL and English Language Development (ELD) classes and coordinate their school district’s ESL/EDL departments.
  • Note: Due to Pennsylvania Department of Education criteria, international students are not eligible for this program. 

The number of English learners (ELs) in the United States has grown steadily and so has the demand for teachers of English as a Second Language. In 2016, the U.S. Department of Education reported that 32 states, including Pennsylvania and New Jersey, had shortages of ESL teachers. 

Approved by the Pennsylvania Department of Education, Lehigh’s fully online English as a Second Language (ESL) Program Specialist Certification allows educators with elementary or secondary certifications or those currently pursuing certification to become certified ESL teachers. Proficiency in a second language is not required to enroll. 

For the students they work with, ESL teachers are vital to their ability to learn, in addition to being advocates who make sure they get the help and resources they need to progress in school. This program seeks to enhance educators’ knowledge of linguistics and second language pedagogical practices, while fostering their development as teacher-advocates. 

With ESL certification, K-12 educators can: 

  • Teach ESL and English Language Development (ELD) classes
  • Become linguistically and culturally responsive general educators
  • Lead and coordinate their school district’s ESL/EDL departments 

Lehigh’s ESL certification program is 15 credits and can be done in as little as 12 months with classes available online and in the evenings. 

Students may begin in any semester with a May 1 deadline for a summer start, July 15 for a fall start and Dec. 15 for a spring start. 

Those wishing to apply should complete the online application and provide their official undergraduate and (if applicable) graduate transcripts. A minimum grade point average of 3.0 is required for undergraduate work.


EDUC 391 Educational Linguistics 3
EDUC 419 Second Language Acquisition 3
EDUC 420 Contemporary Issues in English Language Learner Education 3
EDUC 423 Curriculum and Materials Design for English Language Learners 3
SPED 404 Cultural and Linguistic Diversity 3

Course descriptions can be found in the course catalog.

"ELs constitute 10% (or 4.8 million) of all students enrolled in U.S. public schools."

Institute of Education Sciences' National Center for Education Statistics, 2017