Online Master's Degree in ESL Education

Online master's degree programs in English as a Second Language (ESL) education provide a convenient way to improve your teaching methods and advance your career anywhere in the world. Read on to learn how earning an online graduate degree in ESL works, how to choose a program, courses offered and get career prospects. Schools offering Teaching ESL degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Is ESL Education?

ESL teachers assist learners to become proficient in all areas of English language acquisition: speaking, listening, reading and writing. You may work in the U.S. public school system with first-generation Americans or you may work overseas. Your students may require a focus on basic conversational skills or work-related English skills. ESL teachers commonly work with students from many backgrounds and need to develop individualized learning plans accordingly. Creative communication methods are required to facilitate discussion with students.

DegreesPart-time and full-time master's degree and certification available online
Program RequirementsBachelor's degree required
Courses OfferedLinguistics, bilingual education, developmental psychology, classroom technology
Median Salary (2014)$49,590* per year (for Adult Basic and High School Equivalency Diploma Teachers)
Job Growth (2014-2024)7%* growth (for Adult Basic and High School Equivalency Diploma Teachers)

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

How Do Online Programs Work?

You can find online master's degree programs specifically in ESL or you can find ESL as a concentration in online master's degree programs in education. Sometimes, ESL is called linguistically diverse education. Online programs are typically administered using virtual classroom software, which could include discussion forums, video lectures or digital homework assignments. Distance-learning programs commonly offer many of the same services as their on-campus counterparts, including tutoring and career services.

How Do I Select a Program?

The website of Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL), the field's primary professional organization, is a key resource for emerging teachers ( While TESOL doesn't endorse programs, it does provide a comprehensive list and suggestions for program evaluation. Reviewing the curricula helps you determine if the program meets your needs. A curriculum with several theory-based courses, for example, is better designed to support the goal of entering a Ph.D. program.

Curricula with more practical courses prepare you to enter the classroom to teach. If you're interested in teaching in a public school, it's important to ensure that the program meets the certification standards of your state. Communicating with recent program graduates and evaluating program job-placement records are additional tips for program assessment.

What Classes Will I Take in a Master's Degree Program?

Coursework in master's degree programs in ESL education can be completed online and include pedagogical, language and linguistics training. You may also need to participate in student-teaching programs. The following are examples of classes you might find in the curriculum:

  • Language acquisition theories
  • Pedagogical methods
  • Linguistics for ESL teachers
  • Classroom technologies
  • Learning models
  • Assessment methods
  • Multilingual children and diversity
  • Curriculum development

How Much Does an ESL Teacher Get Paid?

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that ESL teachers earned a median annual wage of $49,590; top-earning ESL teachers made $81,990 per year, while the lowest paid made less than $28,290. Additionally, the BLS predicted a 7% increase in ESL jobs between 2014 and 2024. An increasingly globalized marketplace strengthens ESL teacher demand.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

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