Online Master’s In TESOL and ESL Programs

January 5, 2022

Reviewed by ACO Rankings Team
Online Master’s In TESOL and ESL Programs is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

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English as a second language (ESL) instructors work in primary and secondary schools, community colleges, and other education settings. These professionals help individuals of all ages improve their English skills. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), ESL instructors earn a median salary of $54,350 per year.

Experienced ESL instructors can pursue a doctorate to qualify for roles as postsecondary instructors. According to the BLS, these professionals earn a median annual salary of $64,910, with those in California and New York earning the highest salaries.

Students can pursue a master's in ESL and teaching English as a second language (TESOL). These programs provide the knowledge and skills ESL instructors need to educate students of all ages. is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

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Exploring Degree Options in TESOL and ESL

Q. What kind of jobs can you get with a TESOL and ESL degree?

Graduates can become postsecondary educators, curriculum developers, private tutors, and program directors. Some positions may require additional education.

Q. How long does it take to get a TESOL and ESL degree?

Full-time learners typically earn their master's in TESOL and ESL in about four semesters. Part-time students may need an additional 1-2 semesters to graduate, depending on their course load.

Q. What should I major in to be an ESL teacher?

To prepare for ESL teaching careers, undergraduates can major in ESL, English, writing, or education. Students earning a master's in TESOL and ESL receive in-depth instruction on best practices for ESL teachers.

Q. How much does it cost to get ESL certified?

The cost of obtaining a K-12 teaching license varies by state. In California, licensure candidates pay $100 when they submit their application. Upgrading a licensing or adding endorsements typically costs less.

Why Get a Degree in TESOL and ESL?

A TESOL and ESL degree can lead to numerous teaching positions, since schools around the world hire qualified ESL instructors. Typical job settings for U.S. graduates include K-12 and postsecondary schools. Additionally, a master's degree often leads to increased salary potential and job prospects.

Online learning can make earning a master's degree more affordable and accessible. Distance learners often pay reduced tuition rates, and online students typically save money on housing, transportation, and campus fees. Many online programs feature asynchronous courses, which do not require students to log on at set times. This flexibility can help students continue working while earning a degree.

How Much Does a TESOL and ESL Degree Cost?

Tuition rates vary based on factors including program and institution type. Public colleges usually charge less than private universities. Prospective degree-seekers should research the average return on investment for a school's alumni. Students who attend more affordable programs may experience the same professional outcomes as graduates of more expensive programs. Many colleges and universities perform and publish institutional research on this topic.

In addition to tuition, prospective students should budget for fees and supplies. For example, master's in TESOL and ESL programs may charge fees for practicing educators working toward a licensure endorsement.

Individuals who plan to teach in another state can earn their TESOL and ESL master's degree online to avoid relocation. Many public colleges and universities charge all online learners the same per-credit tuition rate, regardless of residency. This can save distance learners thousands of dollars in tuition.

Calculating the Cost of a College Degree

TESOL and ESL master's degree-seekers can use the following college affordability calculator to select a program that fits their budget. Users enter information about their after-tax income, cost of living, financial aid, and educational expenses. The calculator produces the amount that the user can put toward monthly tuition payments without going into debt.

Break down your current financial situation, and receive a college tuition estimate you can afford to pay.

How Much Do TESOL and ESL Majors Make?

According to BLS data, ESL teachers earn a median salary of $54,350 per year, which is about $15,000 higher than the median salary for all occupations. The highest-paid ESL teachers live in large metropolitan areas, such as Los Angeles and the San Francisco Bay Area.

Additional career options for graduates of TESOL and ESL degrees include middle and high school teacher, school and career counselor, and postsecondary teacher. TESOL and ESL master's degrees emphasize many of the skills teachers and counselors need. However, these professions may require additional education or on-the-job training.

Current ESL instructors may need a state-issued teaching license to qualify for raises and promotions. Licensed ESL teachers can pursue careers in K-12 education and add subject endorsements by passing examinations. Like a master's degree or graduate certificate, a license can improve a professional's hireability. The BLS projects a 10% decline in ESL teaching positions from 2019-2029, but additional credentials can help individuals stand out in the job market.

Courses in TESOL and ESL

Students earning a TESOL and ESL master's degree typically complete coursework in second language acquisition, English language teaching, and curriculum and materials design. These courses emphasize specialized instructional techniques. Degree-seekers often hone their skills during an independent study project and an internship.

The following sample curriculum introduces three courses common to many TESOL and ESL master's degrees. However, available classes and course requirements vary by school. Learners can explore their prospective program's website and contact an academic advisor for detailed information.

Second Language Acquisition

ESL instructors must understand how people of different ages learn and use a second language. This course explores the differences between natural language acquisition and the process of learning a new language in a classroom setting. Coursework emphasizes the latest theories and instructional techniques.

English Language Teaching

ESL educators apply numerous tools to help non-native speakers master the language. This class introduces degree-seekers to various tools and assessments ESL instructors use to measure students' progress. Learners observe ESL classes, and course requirements may include tutoring ESL students and conducting mock lessons with peers.

Curriculum and Materials Design

Like other educators, ESL instructors create curricula, lesson plans, and learning materials. This course explores the curriculum-creation process. Degree-seekers demonstrate mastery of relevant skills by creating a sample curriculum and assessments. Prerequisites for this course typically include an English language teaching class.

Certification to Teach TESOL or ESL

After earning a TESOL and ESL degree, graduates may need to complete additional steps to qualify for positions in the field. For example, many teaching careers require a state-issued license. A license qualifies individuals to teach in public K-12 schools. Obtaining licensure can also help professionals earn a salary increase or promotion.

All states require K-12 public school educators to hold a license. Licensure requirements vary by state, but candidates must have completed a teacher-preparation program and hold a bachelor's degree. Additional requirements typically include student-teaching experience and a background check. Educators may pursue one or more licensure endorsements in areas such as ESL, English language, and literature.

Scholarships for TESOL and ESL

Master's in TESOL and ESL degree-seekers can research and apply for numerous financial aid opportunities online, including scholarships. Typical application requirements include a satisfactory GPA, recommendation letters, and an essay. The following scholarship programs accept applications in 2021. Learners should research each award's requirements and deadline before applying.

Dr. Jessie Reppy Memorial Scholarship

Who Can Apply: New Jersey graduate students majoring in ESL can apply for this competitive scholarship. Candidates need a minimum 3.0 GPA and submit a 750-word essay.

Amount: $2,500

PDK Educational Foundation Scholarship

Who Can Apply: Phi Delta Kappa awards this scholarship to undergraduate and graduate students preparing for careers as K-12 educators. Applicants must hold PDK membership. The scholarship committee considers part-time students and those without U.S. citizenship.

Amount: $500-$5,000

NAACP Scholarships

Who Can Apply: The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People offers three annual scholarships for African American student members. Applicants need a minimum 3.0 graduate GPA and U.S. citizenship. Candidates demonstrate financial need by submitting their FAFSA results.

Amount: $2,000-$3,000

Online Master's in TESOL and ESL Programs 2021

  1. Murray State University

    Murray, KY



    A public college in Kentucky, Murray State offers one of the state's top online master's in TESOL and ESL programs. Students earning the MA in TESOL develop skills in linguistics, culture, language teaching, and assessment. The program offers several start dates throughout the year.

    The degree requires at least 30 credits, including core courses and electives. Learners gain foundational skills in teaching methods. They also study curriculum design and testing and evaluation. Degree-seekers complete an internship. Most students undertake a teaching internship. However, learners can also pursue an internship in research and materials design.

    While Murray State offers all required courses online, the program typically offers only 1-2 online courses each semester. Online students can complete internship requirements locally. Most students earn the online master's in TESOL and ESL in 24-36 months.

  2. Southeast Missouri State University

    Cape Girardeau, MO



    Serving domestic and international students, SEMO's online master's in TESOL and ESL focuses on linguistic knowledge and teaching skills. The online program includes no on-campus sessions. Degree-seekers design and develop their own language instruction program.

    The 33-credit curriculum includes 27 core credits and six elective credits. Core coursework explores curriculum design and research methods. Students also learn materials development. Elective options include intercultural awareness and trends in English instruction. Another elective is computer-assisted language learning.

    SEMO offers three capstone options. They include a thesis, a non-thesis graduate paper, and a portfolio. Students who opt for the portfolio or non-thesis track take a comprehensive final exam. The thesis track requires an oral defense.

  3. SUNY College at Brockport

    Brockport, NY



    A midsize public college based in western New York, SUNY Brockport serves about 8,000 students annually. The school's online master's in TESOL and ESL prepares graduates to teach K-12 English language learners globally. Most degree-seekers already hold a New York state teaching license. The program prepares learners to obtain an ESOL endorsement.

    The 30-credit curriculum covers diversity in education and teaching reading. Courses also explore linguistics research. Students take a course in methods and materials focused on either grades K-6 or 5-12.

    During a 25-hour field experience, ESL degree-seekers observe teaching practices in an ESL classroom. Learners also complete a 20-day summer teaching practicum. In the practicum, students work directly with English language learners.

  4. University of Northern Iowa

    Cedar Falls, IA



    A major public college, UNI enrolls more than 9,500 students online and on campus in Cedar Falls. UNI offers an online master's in TESOL and ESL program. The degree appeals to students who want to teach in K-12 schools, community colleges, or overseas English programs. The curriculum fulfills requirements for Iowa's ESL teaching endorsement.

    Degree-seekers complete 33-34 credits. Most students graduate in about two years. The curriculum features courses in bilingualism and bilingual education. Other courses include cultural aspects of language and second-language acquisition. An optional one-credit thematic research course prepares students to write research papers.

    UNI offers the program fully online, with no required campus visits. However, online students attend weekly synchronous Zoom sessions. Students complete an in-person TESOL practicum locally.

  5. Sam Houston State University

    Huntsville, TX



    A public college based in Huntsville, Texas, SHSU offers a master of education in TESOL. The program focuses on instructional theories and research-based teaching practices. Graduates receive a second-language instruction certificate with no extra coursework.

    The 30-credit curriculum features 18 core credits. Core classes cover foundational topics such as applied linguistics and second language assessment. Other core concepts include ESL methodology. Elective options explore specialized topics including gaming and literacy. Students also learn digital literacy and language arts instruction.

    Students can complete an ESL practicum in an education environment. Participants in the 45-hour practicum observe practicing ESL teachers. They also prepare their own ESL lessons under close supervision. Students earning the master's in TESOL and ESL online can complete the practicum at a local approved site.

  6. University of Maryland-Baltimore County

    Baltimore, MD



    A public college, UMBC features an online master's in TESOL and ESL program. Degree-seekers gain strong theoretical and practical knowledge for language instruction. UMBC offers many degree pathways and rolling admissions. Students can enroll for the fall, spring, or summer semester. UMBC delivers the TESOL program in online and hybrid formats.

    Degree-seekers complete 39-51 credits. UMBC offers a 36-credit general track, a 39-credit thesis track, and a 42-credit P-12 certification track. A combined thesis/P-12 certification option requires 51 credits.

    Regardless of track, all program participants complete a core curriculum. Core coursework explores learning and cognition and ESL teaching methods. Learners also explore cross-cultural communication. The thesis track includes six credits of thesis research. The certification track includes a nine-credit internship in an ESL education setting.

  7. Kennesaw State University

    Kennesaw, GA



    A public Georgia college, KSU provides a master of education in TESOL. The online master's in TESOL and ESL program prepares learners to instruct students in linguistically and culturally diverse environments. New students begin during the summer semester. Most learners graduate in 18-24 months.

    The 36-credit curriculum includes coursework in curriculum development. Students analyze teacher inquiry and research. They also study teaching strategies in reading and writing. Degree-seekers complete a TESOL practicum. Students receive an ESOL endorsement after completing their first two semesters.

    Program applicants must hold a clear, renewable Georgia teaching license. Applicants submit a personal statement, a resume, and two recommendation letters. KSU may require an admission interview.

  8. Regent University

    Virginia Beach, VA

    Based in Virginia Beach, Regent serves more than 11,000 students. The Christian school features an online master's in TESOL and ESL program that focuses on adult education. Regent offers eight annual start dates.

    TESOL degree-seekers complete 30 credits. The curriculum highlights standards-based methods for evaluating language learning. Degree-seekers prepare to instruct adults learning English as a foreign language. Courses explore developmental leadership and technology in education. Another course covers language teaching approaches and practices.

    Rather than submitting a statement of purpose or writing sample, applicants answer a short questionnaire about their professional interests and career goals. Applicants may also need to participate in a phone or in-person interview.

  9. Arkansas Tech University

    Russellville, AR



    A public college based in Russellville, ATU offers an online master's in TESOL and ESL program. The program prepares teachers and other educational professionals to work with English language learners. Graduates can add an ESL endorsement to their Arkansas teaching license.

    Students complete at least 30 credits, including 12 core credits and 18 elective credits. Coursework introduces key TESOL topics including second-language acquisition. Other topics include ESL assessment and teaching people of other cultures. Students choose from electives such as language and society and composition for teachers. Linguistics for ESL teachers is another elective option.

    Degree-seekers complete either a practicum or a comprehensive exam. The practicum features hands-on experience in a TESOL teaching environment.

  10. University of North Carolina at Charlotte

    Charlotte, NC



    UNC Charlotte is a major public research college. The school enrolls more than 30,000 students on campus and online. Students can earn a master's in TESOL and ESL online. The program focuses on social justice. Learners explore advocacy and equity issues about English language learning. UNC Charlotte offers rolling admissions, with start dates in the fall, spring, and summer.

    Applicants must hold UNC Charlotte's TESOL graduate certificate. The master's in TESOL qualifies holders for advanced teaching licensure in the state. Degree-seekers complete an electronic portfolio in preparation for advanced licensure.

    The TESOL certificate requires 18 credits. The master's in TESOL curriculum comprises an additional 12 credits. Required courses cover teacher leadership, advanced pedagogy, and professional development.

Portrait of Thomas Broderick

Thomas Broderick

Thomas Broderick is a freelance writer and the owner of Broderick Writer LLC. He creates study guides, informational websites, and blog posts for clients in the education field. Thomas is also a published author of over 20 short stories and a member of the Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America.

Portrait of Reese Lopez

Reese Lopez

Reese Lopez is a freelance writer with over a decade of experience in the education field. After earning his BA in English from Evergreen State College, he worked as an English language instructor and tutor before joining Affordable Colleges Online. Reese lives in Portland, Oregon, where he also writes fiction and performs in the local music scene.

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