ESL Education Degrees: Master's & Certification Info

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What kind of job can you get with a master's degree in ESL education? Find out program requirements, online options and info on courses for ESL education degrees.
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Studying ESL Education: Degrees at a Glance

English as a Second Language (ESL) education programs prepare you to teach speakers of other languages to read, speak and write in English. You can teach ESL at elementary and secondary schools, as well as colleges and adult or community education organizations. While master's degree programs in ESL teaching are available, a bachelor's degree is often the minimum requirement for this field. Most programs are specifically designed to prepare students to earn ESL teaching certification.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), high school teaching jobs for all subjects are predicted to grow 7% from 2010-2020. However, ESL teaching may actually be subject to faster growth in some areas because of demographic shifts in the population. During this same time, adult education and literacy teachers (which includes ESL instructors) could see a job increase of 15%.

Master's
Who is this degree for? Individuals interested in developing their skills in teaching foreign language students
Common Career Paths (with approximate median annual salary) - ESL adult teacher ($47,000)*
- Secondary school teacher ($54,000)*
Time to Completion 1-2 years full time
Common Graduation Requirements - Roughly 10-15 graduate-level courses
- Master's exams
- Foreign language requirement
Prerequisites Bachelor's degree
Online Availability Yes

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (May 2011 figures).

Master's Degree in ESL Education

Master's degree programs in ESL education are designed for those seeking to earn credentials to teach students who do not speak English as a primary language. As you evaluate these programs, consider that entrance requirements can vary by program: some programs accept applicants with a degree in any field, though others might require a major in teaching and a current teaching license.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • These degrees might fulfill certain licensure requirements if you live in a state that requires you earn a master's degree after obtaining your first-level teaching license
  • A master's degree in ESL education can open up wider career options for licensed teachers
  • Some of these programs are targeted to full-time teachers, with evening and weekend classes as well as online delivery

Cons

  • A graduate degree is not always requires for a ESL teaching position
  • For full-time teachers, finding the time to complete coursework requirements can be challenging
  • Teachers need to check whether offered courses and programs fulfill employer and state expectations

Courses and Requirements

Students enrolled in master's degree programs in ESL education study applications of linguistic theory in order to understand and better teach students who have not learned English as their native language. Courses cover both teaching methods and specific challenges faced by these student populations. The following are some topics that might be included:

  • Approaches in teaching ESL
  • Cognitive aspects of learning
  • Education in a cross-cultural context
  • English language learner assessment
  • Linguistic applications for written language learning
  • Minority education fundamentals
  • Technology in classroom instruction

Online Degree Options

Online programs are available and generally aimed at working professionals. The asynchronous delivery common in online programs allows you to work according to your own schedule, and can help you avoid lengthy commutes back and forth to classes in traditional brick-and-mortar institutions. Communication with your instructors and other students vary based on each school's program format. Additionally, some schools offer a blended program that allows you to complete part of the program at your convenience and part with face-to-face help from instructors at the school.

Stand Out with This Degree

In order to stand out with a degree in ESL education, you may want to select coursework that addresses current, recognized problems in your own school districts. Furthermore, you may also take advantage of opportunities within your current role or additional volunteer position to gain experience working with ESL students. Work in the ESL classroom holds special challenges, and student nationalities may not reflect student experience. Learning to address issues that might arise, stemming from possibly increased diversity and cultural differences, can demand both classroom education and hands-on application of ideas and theory.

After completing an education program, you may need to earn certification before securing a teaching position. The requirements for certification may vary based on the type of ESL certification sought (adult and overseas vs. public school education) and by the state or organization granting the credentials. For those moving from one state to another, additional coursework may be required for those seeking certifications.

Popular Schools

  • Online Programs Available
    1. Purdue University Global

    Program Options

    Master's
      • MS in Educational Psychology
      • MS in Educational Psychology
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    2. Full Sail University

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    Master's
      • MS - Instructional Design and Technology
      • MS - Instructional Design and Technology
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    3. Regent University

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    Master's
      • M.Ed. - Individualized Degree Program
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    4. American University

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    Master's
      • Master of Science in Instructional Design and Learning Analytics
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    5. Saint Leo University

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    Master's
      • MEd: Exceptional Student Education
      • MEd: Reading
      • MEd: Educational Leadership
      • MEd: Instructional Leadership
      • MEd: Instructional Leadership & Reading
      • MS: Instructional Design
  • Online Programs Available
    6. Grand Canyon University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • MA in Curriculum and Instruction
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      • M.A. in Reading with an Emphasis in Secondary Education
      • M.A. in Reading with an Emphasis in Elementary Education
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    7. Colorado Christian University

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    Master's
      • Curriculum and Instruction, M.A. - Emphasis in Culturally and Linguistically Diverse
      • Special Education, M.Ed.-Emphasis in Alternative Licensing
      • Special Education, M.Ed.-Endorsement in Special Education Generalist
      • Curriculum and Instruction, M.A. - Emphasis in Alternative Licensing
      • Curriculum and Instruction, M.A.
      • Educational Leadership, M.Ed. without Licensure
  • Online Programs Available
    8. Winthrop University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Master of Education in Special Education Intervention
  • Towson, MD

    Towson University

  • Stanford, CA

    Stanford University

Featured Schools

Purdue University Global

  • MS in Educational Psychology

Which subject are you interested in?

Full Sail University

  • MS - Instructional Design and Technology

What is your highest level of education?

Regent University

  • M.Ed. - Individualized Degree Program
  • M.Ed. in Curriculum & Instruction
  • M.Ed. in Curriculum & Instruction - Christian School

What is your highest level of education completed?

American University

  • Master of Science in Instructional Design and Learning Analytics

What is your highest level of education?

Saint Leo University

  • MEd: Exceptional Student Education
  • MEd: Reading
  • MEd: Educational Leadership

What is your highest level of education completed?

Grand Canyon University

  • MA in Curriculum and Instruction
  • M.A. in Communication with an Emphasis in Education
  • M.A. in Reading with an Emphasis in Secondary Education

What is your highest level of education?

Colorado Christian University

  • Curriculum and Instruction, M.A. - Emphasis in Culturally and Linguistically Diverse
  • Special Education, M.Ed.-Emphasis in Alternative Licensing
  • Special Education, M.Ed.-Endorsement in Special Education Generalist

What is your highest level of education completed?

Winthrop University

  • Master of Education in Special Education Intervention

What is your highest level of education?