Online Bachelor's Degree in ESL

According to data from the British Council, a projected 2 billion people around the globe will actively speak or begin learning the English language by 2020. This could mean an increasing number of English language learners entering English-speaking classrooms. Educators often refer to students who are not native speakers of English as "English as a second language" (ESL) students. These language learners tend to require special instruction to help them catch up with native speakers in the classroom and stay on grade level.

A steadily growing population of non-native speakers has increased the demand for qualified ESL instructors to accommodate these students and their unique academic needs. Fortunately, many accredited colleges and universities offer bachelor's degrees in ESL education, often available entirely online.

A projected 2 billion people around the globe will actively speak or begin learning the English language by 2020.

ESL degree online programs offer accessible, affordable pathways for those interested in becoming ESL teachers. Program graduates go on to pursue lucrative careers in and out of the traditional classroom. Many teach English in ESL classrooms in the United States, while others go abroad to teach the language in other countries. Yet other graduates may work in adult education, postsecondary education, or positions within the government and social services.

Earning an ESL degree online provides students with the knowledge and skills they need to begin careers teaching English as a second language. Below, learn more about what ESL degrees entail and what kind of certifications and careers these programs qualify graduates to pursue.

What Can I Expect From an Online Bachelor's in ESL Program?

Some aspects of an ESL degree may appear common across many programs, but the degree is not one-size-fits-all. Available courses, degree requirements, and program lengths may vary between schools. The information below serves as an example of what students might encounter while earning an ESL bachelor's degree online.

Curriculum for an Online Bachelor's in ESL

ESL programs often emphasize similar tenants and knowledge areas to prepare students to meet licensing standards. The courses below represent common courses in ESL degree online programs.

Diverse Learners

This course explores methods and issues in teaching culturally diverse learners. Students examine and consider the speaking styles, customs, and interactions of culturally diverse groups and explore how these factors can influence learning environments. Degree candidates also consider best practices for effectively and respectfully working with culturally diverse groups.

Reading and Writing in a Second Language

This course looks at literacy skills in English language learning. Students consider the relationship between an ESL student's first and second language, along with the differences and similarities between those learning processes. The course emphasizes specialized and specific literacy instruction methods for ESL students, in addition to the relationship between reading and writing in a second language.

ESL Teaching Methods

Pedagogy serves as a foundation of the ESL degree, and this course explores the various pedagogical methods for and implications of teaching in an ESL classroom. Students look at different types of teaching materials and resources and consider how each contributes to language learning.

Assessment of ESL Students

This course introduces concepts in measuring ESL students' language proficiency, including reading, writing, speaking, and comprehension. Students examine tools and resources for assessing both child and adult ESL students. They might also discuss the ethical implications for providing differentiated assessment in English-speaking classrooms.

Classroom Experience

As with most bachelor's degrees in education, many ESL programs require some form of classroom experience. Students generally observe a practicing ESL teacher at a school in their community. The course may involve some student teaching, formal observation write-ups, and lesson planning with the mentor teacher.

How Long Does It Take to Get an Online Bachelor's in ESL?

The time required to complete an accredited ESL degree online varies, depending on a variety of factors. Typically, bachelor's programs require at least 120 credits, which often takes 3-4 years to complete. However, this time requirement may differ based on each learner's individual circumstances and each program's specific requirements. A student transferring from an associate program, for example, needs only to complete upper-level ESL degree requirements.

Some degree programs require students to enter and complete coursework in cohorts, which can also extend program length. Individually paced programs, on the other hand, allow learners to complete coursework at their convenience and progress through their degrees more quickly.

Enrollment status may also impact how long it takes to complete a degree. Part-time students typically need more time to finish their programs. ESL programs with extensive internship requirements may take longer to finish, as well.

Is Online Learning Right for Me?

Online learning may not suit every type of learner. It requires strong skills in areas like time management and organization, as many online programs require students to be self-starters who can manage their workload without the added aspect of in-person lectures and class meetings. Successful distance learners manage their time efficiently, making sure to spend the appropriate amount of time per week on each class in order to meet required deadlines for coursework.

Online courses may require some synchronous activity, such as live discussion posts and webinars. Online students must have the flexibility to satisfy and be present for those requirements.

When considering whether your study habits suit online learning, make sure to look for programs that suit your lifestyle and offer the flexibility you need. Consider how you might keep yourself on track as an online student and think about what you would need from an online program to succeed.

ESL Certification

Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) certification is the most common qualification for teachers working with ESL students in U.S. public schools. To gain TESOL certification, candidates must first earn teacher certification, such as through a bachelor's degree in education or by taking required courses and passing required exams. Teachers may then earn their TESOL certification in addition to their formal teaching certification.

TESOL certification training requires at least 120 hours, which often takes students about four weeks. Many ESL degree online programs include this training in the required coursework. To practice outside the U.S., requirements depend on the employer. Within the U.S., requirements vary by state, but many states offer reciprocity agreements that allow teachers to transfer their license between states with ease.

ESL Careers

The ESL degree prepares graduates to work as teachers at varying levels, specifically instructing ESL students. These teachers work in a variety of environments, including traditional school and classroom settings, technical schools, and social and community service programs. Many graduates of ESL bachelor's degree online programs go on to work abroad, teaching English to students in their home countries. See below for some examples of careers these professionals pursue.

Kindergarten and Elementary School Teacher

Description ESL teachers working with kindergarten and elementary school students might focus on early language development, including phonics and literacy skills. They may work in mixed or ESL-specific classrooms. These teachers must demonstrate classroom management skills and a strong understanding of ESL student assessment.
Median Annual Salary $57,980
Projected Job Growth Rate 7%

Career and Technical Education Teacher

Description ESL teachers may also thrive as vocational and technical instructors, assisting adult learners with their language skills to help them advance within their fields. Teachers with expertise in other areas, like the culinary arts, healthcare, or auto repair, may apply those skills along with their ESL qualifications in vocational and technical classrooms.
Median Annual Salary $56,750
Projected Job Growth Rate 4%

Adult Literacy and High School Equivalency Diploma Teacher

Description TESOL professionals sometimes work with adult ESL students seeking their GEDs. These teachers help adult learners with their language skills, including reading, writing, speaking, and comprehension. They may work in night schools housed within traditional public schools or community colleges.
Median Annual Salary $53,630
Projected Job Growth Rate -5%

High School Teacher

Description High school ESL teachers still emphasize language development and comprehension but may focus more on assisting ESL students in choosing a college or career path. These teachers may work closely with guidance counselors and administrators to monitor the progress of ESL students, as well.
Median Annual Salary $60,320
Projected Job Growth Rate 8%

Middle School Teacher

Description ESL instructors working with middle school students generally prepare those students for high school curriculum. This may entail a strong focus on language development, particularly in reading and writing. These teachers must design lesson plans with ESL students in mind and monitor student progress through appropriate assessment.
Median Annual Salary $58,600
Projected Job Growth Rate 8%
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