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Online ESL Degree Programs Resource

An ESL degree can be put to use in many career positions, such as teaching in elementary to high schools, in colleges and universities, or overseas, or tutoring students one-on-one. Qualified K-12 teachers of English as a second language are in high demand, as the field is a designated shortage area in many regions in the US. Many ESL programs are available to choose from, including online ESL degree programs.

ESL Degrees & Certification

Whether they graduate from traditional universities or online schools, ESL degree holders can qualify for many types of jobs. Because there has been an influx of foreign students as well as growing numbers of US-born students who speak a language other than English at home, there is a significant need for ESL teachers in the US. In addition to placements in the US, there are ESL jobs in a variety of countries that range from full-time, permanent positions to temporary opportunities that can keep the instructor constantly on the move.

Profiles of English Second Language Programs

Western Governors University
Western Governors University’s ELL (English Language Learners) Endorsement Preparation Program allows already-certified elementary and secondary teachers to qualify for an additional endorsement to teach English as a Second Language (ESL) in grades kindergarten through 12. The program, which students complete entirely online with the exception of a three-credit practicum, generally requires 12 to 18 months to complete. Each semester runs for six months. All ELL/ESL students will be matched with a mentor, with whom they will work throughout the program. The curriculum covers such topics as culture, the professional role of the ELL teacher, and subject-specific pedagogy. All students will complete a mandatory orientation to acclimate them to online learning. WGU recommends that students investigate their state’s ELL/ESL certification requirements, which may require additional examinations or coursework that is specific to the individual state.

Texas A&M University
Texas A&M University’s graduate program in English as a Second Language (ESL) provides students with the opportunity to earn a Master of Science (MS) or a Master of Education (MEd), the latter of which prepares students to move on to doctoral study. Graduates of the program gain the credentials to teach ESL in a number of settings, including kindergarten through 12th grade, in community programs, at community colleges, and in school settings abroad. 32 credits are necessary to earn the MS, while the MEd program requires 36 credits. All ESL graduate students must complete the same three core classes: Analysis of Teaching Behavior, Cultural Foundations of Education, and Curriculum Development. The program takes place in a traditional classroom setting on campus. GRE scores are not required.

Arizona State University
Arizona State University features a 30-credit graduate program leading to a Master of Arts (MA) in Curriculum and Instruction – English as a Second Language (ESL). Students will complete a comprehensive curriculum that includes an introduction to research, ESL for children, assessment and evaluation of English Language Learner (ELL) students, and bilingualism and second language acquisition. The program culminates with a practicum in which students gain hands-on teaching experience in an ESL classroom. The mandatory practicum ensures graduate students meet all of the educational requirements for earning an endorsement in ESL in Arizona.

ESL Degree Requirements and Coursework

Personal characteristics that fit well with the role of an ESL teacher include patience, good communication skills, a strong desire to teach speakers of another language, and a strong work ethic. Bilingualism is helpful. Requirements for entrance into an ESL program vary depending on the school but commonly include a minimum GPA, completion of specific courses, qualifying exam scores, letters of recommendation, and a personal essay.

Some examples of courses that can be found in a ESL program curriculum include:

  • ESL Curriculum and Instruction
  • Grammatical Structure of American English
  • The English Language
  • Teaching English as a Foreign Language
  • Cross Cultural Issues in ESL
  • Principles of Language Testing
  • Special Topics in ESL
  • Teaching Practicum

ESL and Foreign Language Teacher Career Interviews

Teaching and Education Programs

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Frequently Asked Questions About Becoming an ESL Teacher

Question: What’s the difference between “ESL” and “TESOL”?

Answer: ESL stands for English as a Second Language while TESOL stands for Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages. The terms are sometimes used interchangeably, though in some cases, TESOL is used to refer to teaching English language learners who are less fluent.

Question: What certification do I need to teach English abroad?

Answer: Requirements for teaching English abroad depend on the school hiring. Generally, they look for someone with a four-year degree. Some employers like to see that you have state-level ESL, TEFL, or TESOL certification. You should also have previous teaching experience and some knowledge of the language spoken in the country in which you hope to work.

ESL Degree Program Student Reviews

Student Review: “The MATESOL graduate program at the University of Central Florida proved to be a wonderful experience. Initially, you are given the option of a thesis or a four-hour comprehensive written exam. The thesis or exam material had to relate to the five core courses of the teaching program, which was Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages. I opted for the comprehensive exam and passed with flying colors. I found the teachers were friendly and always available in/after class for questions. I still speak and correspond with a couple of my teachers, who have now become mentors. The classes, themselves, were challenging but also enlightening. Because of my experience at UCF, I have now moved on to become a university teacher myself.” -Catherine M., student at University of Central Florida
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