ESL Education Degrees: Master's & Certification Info

About this article
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.
View available schools

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. The George Washington University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Masters in Interdisciplinary Secondary Transition Services
      • Master of Arts in Education and Human Development in Special Education for Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Learners
      • Master of Arts in Education and Human Development in Educational Leadership and Administration
      • Master of Arts in Education and Human Development in Educational Technology Leadership
      • Master of Arts in Education and Human Development in Organizational Leadership and Learning
  • Online Programs Available
    2. George Mason University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Master of Education in Special Education, specializing in Applied Behavior Analysis
      • Master of Education in Special Education, specializing in Autism Spectrum Disorder
  • Online Programs Available
    3. Kaplan University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Master: Teaching (for Aspiring Teachers: Grades 5-12)
      • Master: Higher Education - College Admin./Leadership
      • Master: Education (for Practicing Teachers: K-12)
      • Master: Higher Education - College Teaching/Learning
      • Master: Higher Education - Online College Teaching
      • Master: Higher Education - Student Affairs
  • Online Programs Available
    4. American University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Master of Science in Instructional Design and Learning Analytics
  • Online Programs Available
    5. Saint Joseph's University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • MS - Special Education with Autism Specialization
      • MS in Education - Special Education - Master's Only
      • MS in Education - Special Education and Special Education Certification
      • MS - Secondary Education with OATCERT Certificate
      • MS - Special Education with Wilson Reading Certificate
      • MS in Education - Instructional Technology
  • Online Programs Available
    6. Northcentral University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • MEd - General Education
      • M.Ed. - Early Childhood Education
      • M.Ed. - Curriculum and Teaching
      • M.Ed. - International Education
      • MEd - PK-12 Principal Leadership
      • M.Ed. - Educational Leadership
  • Online Programs Available
    7. Concordia University Portland

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Master of Education - Curriculum & Instruction: Leadership
      • M.Ed. in Curriculum and Instruction - Online Teaching and Learning
      • M.Ed. in Curriculum and Instruction - STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math)
      • M.S. - Curriculum & Instruction: Methods & Curriculum
      • Master of Science - Common Core State Standards
      • M.Ed. in Curriculum and Instruction - Early Childhood Education
  • Online Programs Available
    8. Purdue University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Master of Science in Education in Special Education
      • Master of Science in Education in Learning Design and Technology
  • Online Programs Available
    9. Saint John's University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Master of Science in Library and Information Science
      • Master of Science in Library and Information Science: Academic Librarianship
      • Master of Science in Library and Information Science: Archival Studies
      • Master of Science in Library and Information Science: Legal Information Professional
      • Master of Science in Library and Information Science: Management
      • Master of Science in Library and Information Science: Public Librarianship
  • Campus and Online Programs
    10. Full Sail University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • MS - Instructional Design and Technology

Featured Schools

The George Washington University

  • Masters in Interdisciplinary Secondary Transition Services
  • Master of Arts in Education and Human Development in Special Education for Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Learners
  • Master of Arts in Education and Human Development in Educational Leadership and Administration

What is your highest level of education?

George Mason University

  • Master of Education in Special Education, specializing in Applied Behavior Analysis
  • Master of Education in Special Education, specializing in Autism Spectrum Disorder

What is your highest level of education?

Kaplan University

  • Master: Teaching (for Aspiring Teachers: Grades 5-12)
  • Master: Higher Education - College Admin./Leadership
  • Master: Education (for Practicing Teachers: K-12)

Which subject are you interested in?

American University

  • Master of Science in Instructional Design and Learning Analytics

What is your highest level of education?

Saint Joseph's University

  • MS - Special Education with Autism Specialization
  • MS in Education - Special Education - Master's Only
  • MS in Education - Special Education and Special Education Certification

What is your highest level of education completed?

Northcentral University

  • MEd - General Education
  • M.Ed. - Early Childhood Education
  • M.Ed. - Curriculum and Teaching

What is your highest level of education?

Concordia University Portland

  • Master of Education - Curriculum & Instruction: Leadership
  • M.Ed. in Curriculum and Instruction - Online Teaching and Learning
  • M.Ed. in Curriculum and Instruction - STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math)

What is your highest level of education?

Purdue University

  • Master of Science in Education in Special Education
  • Master of Science in Education in Learning Design and Technology

What is your highest level of education?