Online Master’s Programs in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL)

TESOL educators help elementary students gain English language skills and educate middle and high schoolers learning English as a second language. During an online master's in TESOL program, graduate students study the best methodologies for teaching English to speakers of other languages. Earning a master's prepares graduates for roles as TESOL instructors at the K-12 level, ESL teachers for adult learners, and administrators that oversee TESOL programs. The flexibility and convenience of online TESOL master's programs often appeal to working educators and professionals. This page outlines important information about earning a master's in TESOL online, including common coursework, potential careers and salaries, and professional organizations and resources.

Overview of an Online Master’s Program in TESOL

Earning a master's in TESOL online prepares graduates for leadership roles teaching English to speakers of other languages. This section introduces common classes in a master's in TESOL program, the typical length of the degree, and information on identifying top programs.

Common Classes and Coursework


TESOL Methodologies

Graduate students examine research on TESOL practices, including the best methods for improving English speaking, listening, and writing. The course explores how to adapt teaching materials to meet student needs, including how to assess student abilities and create customized plans for English language learners. Graduates apply these skills as TESOL teachers.

Teaching Reading and Writing

This course covers the best teaching practices for improving core English skills. Students examine the role of learning vocabulary and best practices for expanding student vocabulary. The course also explores how to create effective teaching materials, including how to adapt online resources.

Language Learning Theories

In this class, TESOL graduate students study different theories on language learning, with an emphasis on current research. The course explores communicative language teaching, second language learning, and theories for teaching English. Students also examine the process of creating lesson plans that apply language learning theories.

Curriculum Planning

Courses on curriculum planning teach learners how to use curricular approaches, plan lessons, and design materials to support a curriculum. The class examines needs analysis and adaptation as part of the curriculum planning process. Graduate students also explore assessment and testing practices.

TESOL Practicum

TESOL master's programs incorporate practicums to build learners' hands-on experience. During the practicum, graduate students create lesson plans to fit a set of curriculum guidelines. The practicum may include classroom observation and supervised teaching. This experience prepares graduates for careers as TESOL teachers.

Skills You Will Gain

The skills gained during a TESOL master's program prepare graduates for careers as K-12 TESOL educators, instructional coordinators, and adult English teachers. During a master's program, coursework emphasizes practical skills such as designing a curriculum, creating lesson plans based on student abilities, and practicing various instructional methods. Students learn the theoretical basis for teaching English to speakers of other languages and review research on the most effective teaching methods. This experience builds strong competencies in teaching English grammar, writing, and reading.

coursework emphasizes practical skills such as designing a curriculum and creating lesson plans based on student abilities

TESOL students also build strong critical-thinking and communication skills by assessing research and writing analytical papers. Through presentations, group projects, and practicums, graduate students hone their practical skills. On a daily basis, TESOL teachers draw on these abilities to educate students, coordinate with school administrators, and interact with parents.

Graduates of a master's in TESOL program meet the educational requirements for a doctoral program. Many academic positions, such as TESOL professor and researcher, require a doctorate, the terminal degree in the field.

Average Degree Length

A master's in TESOL or ESL typically requires 30-36 credits of coursework, with some programs requiring additional electives for specializations. However, the length of a TESOL master's program varies depending on the program requirements, such as a practicum or master's thesis. In general, full-time students can complete the degree in two years.

Some online TESOL master's degree programs offer alternate enrollment options, such as part-time enrollment, which can add time to the degree. Graduate students can complete their degree in less time by choosing a program that offers accelerated timelines and/or summer courses.

In general, full-time students can complete the degree in two years

The flexibility of online TESOL master's programs often appeals to working educators. Many online programs let graduate students arrange coursework around their teaching or work schedule. By choosing an online learning format, prospective students can also attend a top program without relocating.

How to Find a Top Program

Several factors, including graduation rates and faculty credentials, can help prospective TESOL master's students narrow their choices to a top online program. Researching a program's support services, job placement record, and alumni network allows prospective students to identify the best program for their career goals and interests.

  • Graduation Rate

    By researching TESOL programs' graduation rates, prospective students can identify top programs. In general, programs with high graduation rates rank higher than those with lower graduation rates.

  • Faculty Credentials

    Prospective students should review faculty specializations, research, and degrees to find the best TESOL programs for their research and career interests.

  • Student Services

    Online programs that offer advising, access to on-campus resources, and other services are more likely to support students as they complete their degree.

  • Alumni Network

    Researching a program's alumni network and job placement record can help prospective students find programs that offer the best pathways to their intended career path. Active alumni networks provide strong support when graduates pursue career advancement.

  • Specialization Options

    TESOL graduate students can specialize in areas such as elementary education or secondary education. The best programs offer coursework and specializations that align with the prospective student's career goals.

TESOL Careers After Earning Your Master’s

After completing an online master's in TESOL program, graduates qualify for several career paths. Some ESL teachers work with students from kindergarten through 12th grade, while others teach adult learners. TESOL teachers create lesson plans based on their students' skill levels and adapt teaching materials to meet individualized learning goals. At the secondary level, TESOL teachers may provide content-area instruction, matching the content to student abilities. A master's in TESOL also prepares graduates for careers as instructional coordinators, designing and implementing curricula for TESOL programs.

Elementary School Teacher

At the elementary level, TESOL teachers help students build literacy skills while strengthening math, writing, and science abilities. Elementary teachers create lesson plans, instruct students, and assess student learning.

Average Annual Salary: $57,980

Middle School Teacher

Middle school TESOL teachers build English language skills and content area knowledge for students. They design lesson plans, adapt materials to student abilities, and grade student work.

Average Annual Salary: $58,600

High School Teacher

High school ESL teachers strengthen students' English language and writing skills. Teachers design lesson plans based on student abilities and assess student learning.

Average Annual Salary: $60,320

Adult Literacy Teacher

Adult literacy teachers help adult learners gain English skills, including reading and writing. Teachers with a TESOL background may work as adult literacy teachers in diverse sectors.

Average Annual Salary: $53,630

Instructional Coordinator

Instructional coordinators oversee a school's curriculum. With a TESOL background, instructional coordinators can develop English literacy materials, assess the effectiveness of ESL programs, and work with teachers to implement a TESOL curriculum.

Average Annual Salary: $64,450

Source: BLS

Additional Certifications for TESOL

Graduates with an online master's in TESOL degree qualify for several licenses and certifications, which help candidates stand out in the job market. Some requirements, such as a teaching license or a TESOL endorsement, meet public school teaching requirements. TESOL students interested in teaching English in a corporate setting can also add a certification to demonstrate their skills.

Teaching license

An accredited master's in TESOL degree meets the educational requirements for a teaching license in most states. Typically, candidates must submit proof of a qualifying educator preparation degree, pass teaching and content area examinations, and undergo a background check. However, the exact process and requirements vary by state.

TESOL endorsement

Educators with a current teaching license can add a TESOL endorsement or certification to their license after completing a TESOL master's degree. The endorsement requirements vary by state, but candidates typically must pass an examination focused on teaching English to second language learners.

Professional Organizations and Resources for TESOL Students

Online master's in TESOL students and graduates benefit from professional organizations and resources. Many organizations offer networking, financial aid, and professional development opportunities.

  • National Education Association Dating back to 1847, NEA represents 3 million members, including TESOL teachers. The association offers professional development resources, local chapters, and teaching tools.
  • TESOL International Association This organization offers online courses, seminars, and symposiums for TESOL educators. The association also hosts a career center with career development resources.
  • International Association of Teachers of English as a Foreign Language IATEFL hosts webinars and online training sessions, organizes an annual conference with networking opportunities, and grants scholarships for members and nonmembers.
  • Association of American Educators AAE represents educators across the country. The association offers resource guides, hosts state chapters, and awards classroom grants and scholarships. AAE also provides teaching materials, including lesson plans.
  • Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development ASCD offers resources for educators, particularly those focused on curriculum development. The association hosts webinars and training events, organizes conferences, and publishes Educational Leadership magazine.
  • Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation CAEP sets accreditation standards for educator preparation programs, including online master's in TESOL programs. Prospective TESOL students can check a program's accreditation status on the CAEP website.
  • Dave's ESL Cafe Dave's ESL Cafe offers resources for teachers, including text and lesson recommendations. The site also hosts teacher forums, teacher training forums, and job boards.
  • Common Core Federal Common Core standards set benchmarks for learning at the K-12 level, including for English language learners. The Common Core site provides teaching materials, instructional resources, and lesson plans for educators.
  • Internet TESL Journal This journal published articles, research papers, and lesson plans from 1995-2010. Today, ESL teachers can use the journal as an online reference.
  • ESL Library ESL Library aggregates lesson plans, resources, and reporting tools for ESL teachers, including student-focused content and visual materials to improve language skills.
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