Graduate Certificate/M.A.T in Teaching English as a Second Language

It is estimated that there are currently over 1 billion people learning English worldwide. In the U.S. alone, about one out of every ten public school students is learning to speak English. Educating them — in English and all the other subjects and skills they'll need — is one of the biggest challenges in U.S. public education today. If you want to develop the knowledge and skills to work with English learners (ELs) and to become a teacher advocate for this community, the Teaching English as a Second Language (TESL) program may be the right path for you.

We prepare teachers to work with K-12 and adult ESL (English as a Second Language) and EFL (English as a Foreign Language) students.

Students earning the Graduate Certificate take 24 semester hours to earn the “A”  license in English as a Second Language in North Carolina (ESL). Coursework includes linguistics, teaching methods, assessment, language acquisition and planning for K-12 instruction. In addition, candidates complete a semester of student teaching.

After the completing the graduate certificate, students have the option to earn a Master of Arts in Teaching English as a Second Language by taking 15 additional hours, which grants the “M” license after two years of teaching experience. Coursework includes research methods, advanced second language methods, teacher leadership and a seminar in professional development. Phase 2 prepares educators to become teacher leaders in their schools.

Why choose our program?

  • Our faculty are nationally recognized, award-winning experts in the field. They have been recognized for their scholarship, excellence in teaching, sustained service to schools, community engagement and in their efforts to promote diversity at both the local and national levels. They are mentors for our students not only in coursework but also in writing grant proposals and in the research process. Graduate students in TESL are trained to design and deliver professional development to schools and have numerous opportunities to collaborate with faculty on research projects. These collaborations often lead to opportunities to present at national conferences and to become published in the field.

  • The M.A.T. coursework is offered in a combination of online classes and face-to-face classroom experience. This allows students flexibility in their schedule but also provides rich interaction on campus with like-minded students and faculty.

  • Graduate students complete about 100 hours of clinical work in the schools and in the community prior to their student teaching. Through these experiences, candidates understand the struggles faced by diverse immigrant communities and are equipped to become advocates for these students and families.

  • Our program offers students unique opportunities to study abroad to enhance their understanding of other populations and cultures. Our Office of Education Abroad can assist students in finding an international study option that fits your interest and training. Graduate students in TESL have opportunities to travel to China, Korea, Germany, South Africa, and India as part of already established UNCC College of Education faculty-led summer programs.

  • Students complete community-engaged outreach projects that support students and families outside of the school environment.  Our students work with local non-profit advocacy organizations that support newly arrived refugees and immigrant students in the community at all levels, K-12.

  • All teacher education programs at UNC Charlotte are accredited by the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP).

Career Options

Teaching English as a second language is a high-demand area that continues to experience growth in schools across the country.  ESL is also identified as a high needs area in North Carolina as well as many other states. Currently, teacher candidates who enter programs in these high needs areas may qualify for loan forgiveness programs that can offset costs of tuition. Graduates may pursue careers in a number of areas such as:

  • Teachers in public or private K-12 schools

  • Teachers in private language schools

  • ESL instructors in English language training institutes

  • Individual tutors in schools and homes

  • Positions with multinational companies

  • Teachers of ESL abroad in countries such as China, Japan, and Korea

  • Instructors at non-profit organizations that serve immigrants and refugees

  • Consultants within federal and state government agencies



Our graduates hold a variety of teaching positions in the Charlotte area, around the U.S. and in various countries.  Graduates are employed in a teaching in local and national K-12 schools and districts, community colleges, English language training institutes, local non-profit agencies, and in a variety of programs abroad (Korea, China, Indonesia, Egypt). Graduates who choose to stay in the area are highly recruited and have easily found employment at Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools, Cabarrus County, Union County Schools, Kannapolis City, and other surrounding districts.

Student Opportunities

The Office of Teacher Education Advising and Licensure (TEAL) is an information and student success resource for current and potential teacher candidates. Their staff provides a variety of services such as: information on (and preparation resources for) testing required for program admission and teacher licensure, verification of program completion for teacher licensure, guidance surrounding the teacher licensure application process, and information on campus resources and scholarships/loans for education students.

The Center for Graduate Life provides the support and sense of community students need to meet the challenges they will face throughout their graduate experience. The Center offers workshops on topics like grant writing, presentation skills, publishing in scholarly journals, and understanding the academic job search. Virtual workshops are available online on subjects such as graduate academic writing and research writing at the graduate level.

The University Career Center provides services, programs, and support for students and alumni. Services include such options as an Education Career Fair held each spring semester, individual appointments with career advisors and the Hire-A-Niner online job and internship database. Southern Teachers Agency is a free placement service that helps recent graduates in their search for education jobs in PK-12 private and independent schools around the South.

Student Success Stories

One of our outstanding graduates is Emily Francis, an immigrant from Guatemala. She was recently highlighted on the Ellen DeGeneres Show for her determination to complete her education and her drive to give back to the community. Emily is making a huge impact on children at Irvine Elementary School in Concord, North Carolina where she was honored as Teacher of Year for the county. Click here to see how Emily’s dedication to her students earned $100,000 for her school!

Michelle Plaisance completed our program in 2010 and is now the Program Director of the Master of Arts in the TESOL program at Greensboro College. She also completed her Ph.D. from UNC Charlotte. Click here to see her most recent accomplishment.

Faculty Accomplishments

Our faculty research efforts have garnered numerous grants to enhance the training of our students and provide services to the immigrant population. Faculty grants have supported such initiatives as: NC Quest grant to provide innovative professional development for teachers in three local high needs schools, a 3-year evaluation that explores the impact of OurBRIDGE on the Charlotte immigrant community, a research project that uses an interdisciplinary approach to preparing Spanish Teachers, a curriculum project designed to purposefully infuse diversity into coursework to prepare teacher candidates for K-12 urban classrooms throughout all programs within the Department of Middle, Secondary, and K12 Education.

Our faculty are passionate about teaching, their academic disciplines and their students. Faculty members also use their research and community service experience to bring new instructional methods and innovative educational trends into the classroom. Faculty members have received awards from the UNC Charlotte College of Education for Excellence in Research, Excellence in Teaching, Excellence in Diversity and for their Sustained Service to Public Schools.  

Are you ready to make a difference in the lives English learners? If so, click here to learn more about the requirements for the Master of Arts in Teaching English as a Second Language,  graduate student financial aid and the graduate application process.