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How to Earn a Bachelor's Degree in ESL Online
Combine your passion for language and teaching by earning an online English as a second language (ESL) degree. With more English language learners projected to enter language assistance classes, schools need qualified and passionate ESL teachers. Nine states (Alaska, California, Colorado, Florida, Kansas, Nevada, New Mexico, Texas, and Washington) reported in 2016 that 10% or more of all public school students classified as English language learners. All but seven states reported increases in ESL students from 2000 to 2016.
Read on to learn how you can find the best online ESL degree and discover which career and salary prospects await graduates.
How Much Can You Make in an ESL Career?
Earning an ESL bachelor's degree online opens doors to a variety of occupations, most within academia. Graduates of online ESL schools become teachers who work with English language learners in kindergarten through 12th grade. Employers also need candidates with ESL degrees to fill positions as corporate trainers, social and community service managers, and instructional consultants. No degree guarantees you a certain position or salary, but graduates often qualify for competitive jobs in the field.
The list below features common jobs held by ESL graduates, including salary information and job growth rates.
Adult literacy and high school equivalency diploma teachers help students strengthen their ability to read, write, and speak in English. They work with students who need to study for high school equivalency exams. Teachers help English language learners develop the learning and studying skills to earn their high school equivalency diploma. Many of these teachers work on a part-time basis.
Median Annual Salary: $53,630
Job Growth (2018-2028): 10% decline
With the rise in student enrollment, employers need high school teachers for ninth through 12th grade classrooms. Public school teachers must obtain state licensure, after which they plan lessons, lead classroom discussions, assign homework, and administer tests. They also meet with parents and administrators after hours. Teachers spend time preparing students for standardized tests. Teachers with degrees in ESL work with English language learners.
Median Annual Salary: $60,320
Job Growth (2018-2028): 4% increase
As more schools focus on standardized test score performance, employers need to hire instructional coordinators, also called curriculum specialists. Instructional coordinators design curricula and lead training workshops for teachers to assess curriculum standards set by school boards. Many instructional coordinators specialize in subjects such as ESL. They work in elementary and secondary schools, colleges, and government agencies.
Median Annual Salary: $64,450
Job Growth (2018-2028): 6% increase
Employers need translators and interpreters to fill positions in education services; hospitals; government agencies; courts; tour companies; and professional, scientific, and technical services. Interpreters and translators must demonstrate proficiency in two or more languages. They translate written or spoken information into another language. Some translate information during parent-teacher meetings or in court during trials. Translators often use computer-assisted technology to help with translating materials.
Median Annual Salary: $49,930
Job Growth (2018-2028): 19% increase
Elementary school teachers lead classrooms of children from kindergarten through sixth grade. Teachers with an ESL specialty work one-on-one or in group sessions to assist second language students with building their skills in speaking, reading, and writing in English. These professionals may tailor lesson plans for ESL students and prepare them for standardized tests. To work in schools, teachers need a state certification or license.
Median Annual Salary: $58,230
Job Growth (2018-2028): 5% increase
Paychecks for graduates with degrees in ESL differ across the U.S. depending on the regional cost of living. Industry also dictates earning potential. See below for more details regarding job growth rates and salaries for graduates with degrees in ESL. Keep in mind that industries with above-average job growth rates almost always have job openings.
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Online English Language Learning Programs
Find a program that meets your affordability, flexibility, and education needs through an accredited, online school.
What Courses Can Be Taken for an Online ESL Degree?
Online ESL schools prepare students to teach. Well-rounded curricula include courses in grammar, the structure of the English language, cultural foundations of education, reading foundations, and teaching methods. Every school offers its own set of core and elective classes. To better understand the requirements for an ESL bachelor's degree online, see the sample classes listed below. Refer to your specific ESL program website for exact course requirements.
- Syllabus and Materials Development
- This class teaches prospective ESL educators how to design curricula for English language learners. Course materials cover different teaching models in ESL classrooms and techniques for communicating with families about student progress.
- This class teaches students essential phonetic teaching methods and activities to use in English language learning classrooms. Future teachers learn to help their students recognize patterns between sounds and letters to improve their reading proficiency.
- Cross-Cultural Studies for Teaching
- This class aims to help teachers promote diversity in their classrooms. It helps future teachers better understand different cultures and ethnicities in their schools and how those differences influence education.
- Assessment of Bilingual Students
- Students learn effective techniques to assess students enrolled in kindergarten through 12th grade ESL programs. They also study the accommodations teachers provide during tests for English language learners. Future educators discuss how to develop and score language proficiency assessments.
- This introductory course shows students how to teach the four components of communication to ESL students: listening, speaking, reading, and writing. Learners explore how to improve intercultural communication and effectively teach in modern diverse classrooms.
How to Choose the Best Online ESL Program
Think strategically when picking a college and program, taking an array of factors into consideration. Colleges feature varying tuition rates, reputations, and degree offerings, all of which influence the educational experience. Learn more about how to pick the best online bachelor's degree in ESL by browsing the Q&A below.
What strategies should I follow in choosing my ESL courses?
Look on the program website, where you can typically find the listed curriculum for a degree in ESL. Browse the major and pre-major course requirements and find elective offerings, which should include specialty courses. ELS majors must take all listed major requirements, but they can pick and choose their electives based on their interests. Academic counselors can help you map out an educational plan if you need further assistance.
How can I reach my career goals with this degree?
Bachelor's in ESL programs typically offer direct paths for students who want to become teachers or educational specialists. Learners enrolled in online ESL schools explore how to design syllabi and materials for English language learners. Courses also teach future teachers how to create assessments to evaluate language proficiency. Students gain classroom experience through internships. In states which offer ESL endorsements, degree programs often lead to these credentials.
What internships or fieldwork will I have to take and how does that work with an online degree?
Online bachelor's degree in ESL programs usually require students in their junior or senior year to complete a three-credit field experience or internship. Programs may also combine video observation with in-person experiences. Students typically intern in elementary, middle, and high schools. To receive approval for a field experience or internship, students must typically meet GPA and credit requirements.
Does it matter if my college and program are accredited?
Colleges may hold national or regional accreditation. Students who attend regionally accredited colleges can transfer their credits to other regionally accredited colleges with relative ease. To qualify for graduate school, students typically must hold a bachelor’s degree from a regionally accredited college. Programs may also hold specialized accreditation. The Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) International Association typically provides accreditation to quality online ESL programs.
How long will it take to earn my degree?
Earning an ESL bachelor's degree online usually takes four years. Accelerated programs may take three years or less to complete. The average college course runs 16 weeks, but accelerated programs offer eight- or 10-week classes. Exact timelines vary depending on each student’s circumstances. For example, full-time learners can usually complete their degree more quickly than part-time students.
How many credits is a bachelor’s degree?
The number of credits in an online bachelor's degree in ESL varies by program. Students can expect to take 120-130 credits to earn an ESL degree. Generally, students earn three credits per course, though seminars and field experience courses often offer four credits. Students with minors or concentrations in areas of study such as childhood education or adult education may need additional credits to graduate.
Will I have to attend classes on campus?
Many online ESL schools offer fully online programs in which students never have to visit campus. Others require students to complete a certain number of credits in person. Check the online ESL school website for exact requirements. Remember, even fully online programs may require students to occasionally meet in person for seminars or field experiences.
Scholarships and Financial Aid for ESL Programs
Resourceful students reign in college, especially when it comes to paying tuition. Students may take out federal and state loans to help pay for their education, which they must repay with interest later on. Learners can also find “free money” through grants and scholarships, which do not require repayment. See the five scholarships below for additional information.
The Teacher Education Assistance for College and Higher Education grant provides $4,000 to college students enrolled in participating programs. To apply for this grant, students must complete a FAFSA, meet the financial requirements, and have a minimum 3.25 GPA. They must meet with a grant counselor to discuss the terms of their grant. Applicants must agree to work in high-need fields, such as bilingual education in a school for low-income families, for four years.
Phi Delta Kappa International, a professional organization serving educators, offers scholarships of $500 to $5,000. Awards primarily go to high school seniors and undergraduates pursuing education careers. Applicants must submit their transcripts, a 500-word personal statement, and a letter of recommendation. They must also hold current membership with PDK International and demonstrate involvement in a leadership role. The scholarship committee accepts applications from full- and part-time students.
Students who want to become elementary school teachers can apply for the Nancy Larson Foundation College Scholarship. Founded by Nancy Larson, who created the Saxon Math K-4 program, this scholarship supports teachers, awarding $1,000 each to five students. The award goes to juniors, seniors, and graduate students enrolled in teaching programs. Interested candidates must submit an essay about their passion and purpose for teaching.
The National Institute for Labor Relations Research offers the Applegate-Jackson-Parks Future Teacher Scholarship, which supports undergraduate and graduate students enrolled in teaching programs at accredited colleges. The fund, which honors three Michigan teachers (Carol Applegate, Kay Jackson, and Anne Parks) who refused to pay mandatory union fees, offers one $1,000 scholarship every year. Applicants must submit transcripts and a 500-word essay about the "right to work" rule.
The National Association for Bilingual Education offers $2,000 every year to support students earning college degrees in ESL. The funds pay for recipients' tuition expenses. The online application process includes two letters of recommendation, proof of enrollment in an ESL program, transcripts, a personal photo for publicity purposes, and a personal essay. Applicants must be bilingual, hold a minimum 3.0 GPA, and demonstrate financial need.
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