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Masters in TESOL and ESL Online
Masters in TESOL and ESL Online
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Masters in TESOL and ESL Online
What are TESOL and ESL
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Masters in TESOL and ESL Online
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Masters in TESOL and ESL Online
Masters in TESOL and ESL Online
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Masters in TESOL and ESL Online
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Masters in TESOL and ESL Online

Masters in TESOL and ESL Online

Communication is the backbone of all human activity, without which we would not be able to function the way we have been doing ever since the advent of the first known language. Effective communication enables us to express ourselves, showcase our skills and talents, feel, emote, and evolve. English, without a doubt, is arguably one the most powerful languages there is and widely spoken across the world. TESOL or Teaching English as a Second or Other Language, and ESL or English as a Second Language, are two areas of study that have become increasingly popular in the United States. A Master’s in TESOL online, or Master’s in ESL online prepares students to know and teach English to others whose native tongue is a language other than English. These degrees help students develop scholarly and professional understanding in language, learning, research methodology, and teaching methodology, among others, and build a career in advocating and teaching English in international settings.

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Best Masters in TESOL and ESL Online Programs

The best online ESL Master’s programs or the best online MA TESOL programs should be well structured to cover all the key aspects of learning and teaching English. Additionally, they should be taught by well-trained and experienced faculty members who have a command of the language. Other aspects such as institutional reputation, accreditation or licensure, infrastructure, research facilities, and of course, cost should be factored in as well. Based on all of these, here is a Rankings Table of some of the best TESOL and ESL programs:

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College Name & Address Tuition Graduation Rate
Florida State University
222 S. Copeland Street, Tallahassee, Florida 32306
$9,684 83%
University of Missouri
105 Jesse Hall, Columbia, Missouri 65211
$9,478 71%
Clarkson University
8 Clarkson Ave, Potsdam, New York 13699
$33,312 78%
University of Southern California
University Park, Los Angeles, California 90089
$47,880 92%
University of Kansas
Strong Hall, 1450 Jayhawk Blvd, Room 230, Lawrence, Kansas 66045
$9,989 67%
Azusa Pacific University
901 E Alosta, Azusa, California 91702
$16,571 68%
Arizona State University
University Drive and Mill Avenue, Tempe, Arizona 85287
$11,720 63%
University of North Dakota
264 Centennial Drive, Stop 8193, Grand Forks, North Dakota 58202-8193
$11,060 61%
St. John’s University
8000 Utopia Pky, Queens, New York 11439
$29,816 63%
University of Alabama, Huntsville
301 Sparkman Dr, Huntsville, Alabama 35899
$10,632 58%
Webster University
470 E Lockwood Ave., Saint Louis, Missouri 63119
$13,500 58%
Sam Houston State University
1806 Ave J, Huntsville, Texas 7734
$5,765 54%
University of Missouri, Saint Louis
One University Boulevard, Saint Louis, Missouri 63121
$12,283 52%
California University of Pennsylvania
250 University Ave, California, Pennsylvania 1541
$9,288 50%
St. Cloud State University
720 Fourth Ave. South, Saint Cloud, Minnesota 56301
$7,607 48%
Kennesaw State University
1000 Chastain Rd, Kennesaw, Georgia 30144
$5,328 46%
Liberty University
1971 University Blvd, Lynchburg, Virginia 24515
$7,935 47%
Texas A&M University, Commerce
2600 South Neal Street, Commerce, Texas 75428
$3,630 43%
Southeastern University
1000 Longfellow Blvd, Lakeland, Florida 33801
$13,365 45%
Mercy College
555 Broadway, Dobbs Ferry, New York 10522
$16,686 44%
The University of Texas Permian Basin
4901 E University, Odessa, Texas 79762
$2,384 40%
Grand Canyon University
3300 W Camelback Rd, Phoenix, Arizona 85017
$10,528 41%
Arkansas Tech University
Administration Bldg 200, 1509 N Boulder Ave, Russellville, Arkansas 72801
$5,256 38%
Campbellsville University
1 University Dr, Campbellsville, Kentucky 42718
$8,473 36%
Western Governor’s University
4001 South 700 East Suite 700, Salt Lake City, Utah 84107
$7,500 21%

Source Integrated Post Secondary Education Data System & University Data
*Tuition rates are for in-state and per year. Program specific rates may apply.
**NA – data not available

What are TESOL and ESL Programs

A frequently asked question is – “what is a Master’s in TESOL?”. A Master’s in TESOL prepares students to become educators and teach English to people whose native tongue is not English but another language. In the United States, many immigrants, for example, speak two or more foreign languages. For such people, English could be the third or even fourth language to learn, which is where the ‘SOL’ – Second or Other Language – comes in. With pure ESL programs, the emphasis is solely on English being the second language. All things considered, TESOL and ESL programs focus on reading, writing, and speaking, along with communication, linguistics, grammar, and development aspects as well. Be it TESOL or ESL, they both offer similar curricula, and their names are interchangeable.

Difference between TESOL, ESL, EFL, TEFL and ESOL Programs

Many students considering a career as an English Language Teacher (ELT) ask the question – “is TESOL and ESL the same?” To add to the confusion, there are several other acronyms used in conjunction with teaching English. While they are pretty much the same, in essence, there is very little difference between ESOL, TESOL TEFL, and ESL. Here is a quick rundown of all of them:

Acronym / AbbreviationDescription
ESLEnglish as a Second Language is learning English in a country where English is mainly spoken or where English is the official language. For Example: Immigrants in the US who speak, say, Spanish but use English as a Second Language.
EFLEnglish as a Foreign Language is learning English in a non-English-speaking country. For Example: Chinese who speak Mandarin but learn English as a Foreign Language.
ESOLEnglish as a Second or Other Language applies to both ESL and EFL contexts but where English may be the 3rd or 4thlanguage.
TEFLTeaching English as a Foreign Language is the same as EFL but applies to those who engage in teaching.
TESOLTeaching English as a Second or Other Language is the same as ESOL but applies to those who engage in teaching.

Understanding Masters in TESOL and ESL Programs

The Master’s in TESOL is primarily designed to cater to the varying needs of English Language Learners (ELLs), specifically those for whom English is the third or fourth language. Under this program, students will learn pedagogical theory along with best practices that can be applied in a classroom environment. Master’s in ESL students will also understand the fundamentals of English language instruction but from the context of English as a Second Language and English as a Foreign Language. And apart from a practicum or field experience that students will gain, various topics such as Linguistic Analysis, Bilingual Education, Historical and Current Theories of Second Language, and Cultural Influence in Second Language Teaching are generally covered.

Masters in TESOL and ESL Degree Types

A TESOL degree generally caters to students and educators who have a deep desire to teach English to others while advancing their knowledge and use of the language. Although TESOL and ESL Master’s programs are looked at in the same light, they target specific audiences and therefore have their independent degrees.


A Master of Arts or MA TESOL degree stems from the department of arts and humanities. This (generally) two-year program focuses on subject-specific information and practical skills, concerning English in particular. An MA TESOL (also sometimes referred to as MAT) provides students with an opportunity and licensure to teach.



Similar to an MA TESOL is a Master of Arts or MA ESL, with the primary difference being that this degree caters to teaching students for whom English is generally a Second Language.


Like an M.Ed. TESOL, the Mater of Education or M.Ed. ESL is designed for individuals who are already experienced teachers and who want to learn new techniques and revised methodology in teaching English as a Second Language.

Specializations in Masters in TESOL and ESL Online Programs

There are many concentrations and areas of specialization in a Master’s in TESOL. For students who wish to build a career in a subfield of ESL, opting to specialize in it should be a natural choice. Concentrations can also tailor a degree to cater to specific areas such as Multilingual Education, Program Management, and Educational Technology. Some examples of specializations include Literary Translation, Translation for Professions, Conference and Community Interpreting, and more. Here are a few others to consider, from a list of many:

Master’s in Forensic Linguistics

This unique program, which combines elements of law and linguistics, focuses on oral and written communication through the lens of crime analysis. Courses include:

  • Forensic Language Structure
  • Legal and Ethical Issues in Forensic Linguistics
  • Authorial Attribution and Speaker Identification
  • Advanced Criminological Theories

Master’s in Computational Linguistics

This program studies what role machines play in processing human language and the several technologies used for language processing. Courses include:

  • Introduction to Syntax for Computational Linguistics
  • Deep Processing Techniques for Natural Language Processing
  • Natural Language Processing Systems and Applications
  • Advanced Statistical Methods in Natural Language Processing

Master’s in Applied Linguistics

The Applied Linguists program is designed to develop the expertise and skills needed to work effectively as language instructors. Courses include:

  • Introduction to Language and Linguistics
  • Introduction to Language Acquisition
  • Language Teaching Methods
  • Language Assessment
  • Technologies for Language Teaching
  • Language Curriculum and Materials Design

Curriculum and Skills Gained in Masters in TESOL and ESL Online Programs

Almost all Master’s in TESOL programs touch upon a variety of topics that relate to teaching English as a second, other, or foreign language. However, curriculum varies significantly by accreditation and program, so students should carefully choose what courses they want to take up that will serve their personal development and professional goals. Here is an exhaustive list of Master TEFL TESOL accredited online courses:

  • Approaches to Research
  • Second-Language Acquisition Theories
  • Methods of Teaching English as a Second Language
  • Curriculum Development in Bilingual Education
  • Critical Discourse Analysis,
  • Historical Foundations of Critical Pedagogy
  • Methods and Materials in Foreign Language Instruction
  • Critical Perspectives on Christianity and English Language Teaching
  • Language Learning through Technology
  • Language Program Design
  • Reflective Teaching
  • Sociolinguistics and Language Teaching
  • Education in Today’s Schools
  • Education Evaluation and Assessment in Children and Adolescents with Disabilities
  • Modern English Structure
  • Theory and Practice in Bilingual Education
  • Curriculum and Diverse Learners
  • Educational Research
  • Foundations of Educating English Language Learners and Second Language Acquisition
  • Methods of Teaching English to English Language Learners
  • Approaches to Research, Linguistics, Methods of Teaching English as a Second Language
  • Second-Language Acquisition theories
  • Brain-based Learning
  • Foundations of Instruction for English Language Learners
  • Linguistics
  • Literacy in Bilingual Settings
  • Methods of Teaching and Evaluating ELLs with Special Needs
  • Language and Culture for Educators, Linguistics for Educators, Materials for and Assessment of English Language Learners
  • Methods of Teaching English Language Learners
  • Second Language Acquisition
  • Second Language Acquisition for TESOL Educators
  • Linguistic Analysis for TESOL Educators
  • Cultural Anthropology
  • Curriculum, Testing, and Assessment
  • English as a World Language
  • Teaching Grammar, Lexicon, and Pronunciation
  • Foundations of Curriculum and Instruction
  • Understanding Research in Education
  • Reading and the English Language Learner in Pre-K-12
  • Multicultural Education
  • Methods of TESOL
  • Assessment in TESOL
  • Problems in Second Language Instruction

Some colleges may insist on a practicum experience, internship, or submission of a thesis.

Students of Master’s in TESOL and ESL programs would have acquired a host of skills at the end of their programs, some of which include their ability to:

  • exhibit foundational knowledge in linguistics and communication;
  • theorize and explore foundations of second language acquisition;
  • demonstrate sound pedagogical knowledge and teaching methodology;
  • design and develop curriculum for second or foreign language learners;
  • support children and adult learners in their English language acquisition and mastery;
  • confront the challenges that second language learners face linguistically and culturally;
  • assess, evaluate, and chart the progress of English Language Learners (ELLs);
  • understand cultures and communities, and the influence language has on them;
  • demonstrate in-depth knowledge of research techniques and their use.

Accreditation for Masters in TESOL and ESL Online Programs

Without exception, accredited online ESL programs are the only ones that will lead to lucrative jobs. This is because working in an education environment will almost certainly require certification and licensure, and accreditation forms the basis for this. Therefore, students who are considering a Master’s in TESOL Online should always ensure that the program they are looking at is accredited regionally, nationally, or programmatically. Here are a few accrediting organizations as examples:

Timeline for graduation from Masters in TESOL Online Programs

Generally speaking, to complete a Master’s in TESOL online, one would require anywhere between 1 and 2 years, with the standard duration being two years. Of course, students who enroll in part-time programs would take longer.

Most Master’s in TESOL online programs require 30 to 36 credits but can vary depending on whether the student has opted for a thesis or a non-thesis program. Thesis-based programs tend to take longer to complete than their non-thesis counterparts.

Some colleges offer accelerated programs that can help students earn their degree in about a year. However, most of these programs will require the candidate to have a Bachelor’s degree in education and have completed certain prerequisite courses.

Masters in TESOL and ESL Online Programs Admission Requirements

Master’s in TESOL online requirements are quite up to standard expectations. In almost all cases, students should have earned a Bachelor’s or Master’s degree from a regionally accredited institution and meet all other admission requirements, such as:

  • An Application Form with requisite Application Fee
  • Official Academic Transcripts
  • A Statement of Purpose
  • A Resume
  • Three Letters of Recommendation
  • Proof of English Proficiency

Additionally, applicants must meet Grade Point Average (GPA) criteria in which some colleges will require the student to have:

  • a minimum of a 3.00 cumulative GPA (scale is 4.00= “A”) in the last 60 hours of a student’s first Bachelor’s degree program; OR
  • a minimum of a 3.00 cumulative GPA (scale is 4.00= “A”) in an applicable Master’s degree program.

Note: It is not uncommon for some colleges to accept students with lower GPAs.

A majority of colleges accept undergraduate majors in fields such as (but not limited to):

  • Applied Linguistics
  • Anthropology
  • Comparative Languages and Literature
  • Communication
  • Education
  • Cognitive Science
  • History
  • Law
  • English Literature

Note: In most cases, enrollment to Master’s in TESOL and ESL programs does not require standardized test scores of either GRE or GMAT to be submitted unless specified. However, students are advised to read the College Prospectus and/or Program Guide for exact admission requirements, eligibility criteria, and other details.

Masters in TESOL and ESL Online

MA TESOL Online 1-Year Programs

Although most traditional MA degrees require two years to complete, an MA TESOL online one-year program is possible. Many online MA TESOL programs are designed to be completed in a year, which is a great option to fast-track one’s studies and seek employment earlier. Having said that, students who are considering such programs should check the list of admission requirements, because more often than not, they will be required to have completed certain prerequisite courses to be eligible to apply.

Masters in TESOL and ESL Online

How to Pay for Masters in TESOL and ESL Online Programs

Master’s in TESOL online programs can be expensive to take up. Students should, therefore, always consider various sources of funding for their education and go with what suits them best. From a wide range of funding options, here are a few that can pay for a Master’s program:

Masters in TESOL and ESL Online


Many Universities offer merit-based scholarships, alumnae-funded grants, and fellowships to accomplished students. Private organizations award scholarships based on academic record, community, cultural background, religious affiliation, or other such criteria. (Note: Since scholarships tend to be the first and preferred choice for most students, it is easy to get entangled in Scholarship Scams.)

Masters in TESOL and ESL Online


More often than not, grants are need-based and do not necessarily fund only the tuition fee of an awardee. Other student and education-related expenses such as books, study material, travel, student accommodation, etc., are often funded by Grants.

Masters in TESOL and ESL Online


Graduate Teaching Assistantships or Graduate Research Assistantships are viable funding mechanisms for a Master’s program. Graduate Assistants assist senior teachers in several tasks, like routine paperwork, research, class preparation, or even helping weaker students with their studies, for which they are compensated monetarily.

Masters in TESOL and ESL Online

Working on Campus

Another notable option to fund a Master’s in TESOL or ESL is for students to work on campus by the University. These part-time jobs could earn enough to pay for education, at least in part.

Masters in TESOL and ESL Online

Student Loans

Federal Loans, Bank Loans, and Private Loans may serve as a comparatively easy option for raising money. But one should keep in mind that loans attract interest, and irregular repayment will translate to increased cost and student debt.

Masters in TESOL and ESL Online


Free Application for Federal Student Aid or FAFSA is an application to determine a student’s eligibility for student financial aid. More information on FAFSA is available here.

There are other funding mechanisms that students could consider, which are covered in the best Financial Guide.

FAQs about TESOL Programs

Q: Is getting a masters in TESOL worth it?
A: English has always been a very popular cross-border international language and a preferred choice for most people who have to learn a foreign language. Teaching careers for English Language Learners (ELLs), in particular, are very promising and pay reasonably well, making a Master’s in TESOL worth it.
Q: What is a master’s in TESOL?
A: A Master’s in TESOL investigates the use of English as a Second or Other Language (ESOL) by understanding various methods of teaching, critical pedagogy, cultural influence on English as a second or foreign language, historical analysis, and other such aspects. It also focuses on reading, writing, and speaking English while dealing with communication, linguistics, and grammar.
Q: Who can study TESOL?
A: Depending on the type of degree – MA or M.Ed., students will have to have an appropriate or corresponding academic background to study TESOL. For example, Master of Arts students would have had to complete required coursework in education-related topics typically. M.Ed. Programs are best suited for those already in the teaching profession, whereas MA students are trained to qualify them to teach. All things considered, though, individuals who are passionate about teaching, and English and who show interest in working with people from diverse backgrounds, cultures, communities, and ethnicities, will find a Master’s in TESOL and ESL program rewarding.
Q: Where to study TESOL?
A: Some of the best colleges to study TESOL and obtain a Master’s degree in TESOL and ESL have been listed on this page. One should choose a college and program carefully, as each of them has unique and distinct courses on offer that serve varying needs.

Careers and Salary Outlook for Masters in TESOL and ESL Graduates

Online Master’s degrees in TESOL are designed to provide students with the skills and knowledge necessary to teach English as a Second or Other Language (ESOL) to students from different backgrounds, and who may be young children, adolescents, and adults of all grade levels.

Private and public schools and colleges, and other educational institutions hire TESOL professionals as English instructors, as do companies, who hire them as consultants for varied roles. Graduates of a Master’s in TESOL online can also be Curriculum Developers, TESOL Program Directors, Postsecondary Educators, or even Private Tutors.

Here is a list of possible careers and the median annual salary for each job, as reported by the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS):

(source: Glassdoor)

Certifications and Licensing for TESOL and ESL Graduates

Graduates of a Master’s in TESOL online or Master’s in ESL degree may need to take additional measures to be considered for employment in certain industries. Many teaching jobs, for example, necessitate a state-issued license, and obtaining such licensure will also help individuals advance in their careers and earn higher salaries. K-12 public school educators in all states are mandated to hold a license to teach. Although licensure requirements differ from state to state, graduates are generally required to have an accredited degree and should have completed at least one certified teacher-preparation program. It is for this very reason that students should preferably take up an online Master’s degree in ESL with certification.

An important point to note is the difference between a Master’s in TESOL vs. a Certificate in ESL. While the Master’s degree provides students with the requisite understanding of what to teach and how to teach English as a Second or Other Language (ESOL) to students, Certificates, especially in ESL, prepare graduates for the classroom environment in K-12 settings and other ESL settings. Certificate programs also tend to be shorter programs and a viable alternative to a full-fledged degree.

Praxis I and Praxis II tests, conducted by Education Testing Service (ETS), are two common undertakings for state licensure. has a comprehensive list of all teaching certification requirements by state.

Additional Resources for TESOL and ESL Professionals

English is, in itself, a vast subject. It keeps evolving with time, which only means that Master’s in TESOL online graduates must also stay up to date with the latest English language and the many methods and approaches to teaching it. Networking and connecting with peers, sharing ideas, opinions, literary works, and lesson plans will help TESOL students and educators advance their careers and widen their horizons. Some of the many available resources to help with this are:

  1. TESOL International Association
    The TESOL International Association has a separate TESOL Resource Center with all kinds of resources for TESOL students and graduates, such as Lesson Plans, Teaching Tips, Live Event Resources, Assessment, Activities, and more.
  2. International Association of Teachers of English as a Foreign Language
    International Association of Teachers of English as a Foreign Language (IATEFL) is one of the most thriving communities of ELT teachers in the world and offers recorded webinars, publications, news, and events.
  3. Waylink Language Resources
    Waylink Language Resources is a goldmine for TESOL & TEFL teachers. From practice materials to notes to help with vocabulary, grammar, punctuation, and academic writing, this website has it all! (Note: This is a UK-based website, so expect all content to be in UK English)
  4. ESL Library
    ESL Library has beautifully designed, well-planned English lessons and flashcards, along with Assessment Tools and resources on Grammar & Usage, Classroom Management, Young Learner Activities, and more.

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