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%.
|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
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
- 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
- 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.