Complete Guide to an Online Teaching Degree - ESL
There are 135 online colleges and universities offering English as a Second Language (ESL) degrees at the associate, bachelor's, master's, doctoral, and certificate levels. In addition to a comprehensive list of all accredited online schools offering ESL degrees, we highlight the top schools for ESL degrees based on affordability and academic excellence. Individuals who have a teaching degree in ESL and who are licensed may find work in public schools teaching students from Pre-K to the twelfth grade. There are also opportunities to teach in private schools and businesses in the United States and abroad.
When choosing an ESL degree program, prospective students should check to make sure it is accredited. The Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP) is the primary accrediting agency for teaching degrees. Students should look to make sure that their school has both regional and programmatic accredition so they can ensure they are receiving an education that will prepare them for their future careers.
Comprehensive List of Accredited Online Schools - ESL Degrees (135)
2017 Top Online Colleges Offering ESL Degrees
The 25 online colleges and universities are the top schools for ESL degrees. These schools provide a combination of affordable tuition and academic rigor with annual tuitions under $11,000 and academic strength scores of 60% and higher. University of Kansas boasts the highest academic strength score on the list and offers a MSE in Curriculum & Instruction in TESOL for $8,325 per year. Third-ranked The University of Texas of the Permian Basin has the lowest tuition with a Master of Arts in Bilingual/ESL Education costing of $4,698 annually.
View our methodology for more details.
|Rank||School||Annual Tuition||Academic Strength|
|#1 University of Kansas||Annual Tuition $8,325||Academic Strength 72%|
|#2 Roosevelt University||Annual Tuition $5,925||Academic Strength 67%|
|#3 The University of Texas of the Permian Basin||Annual Tuition $4,698||Academic Strength 64%|
|#4 McDaniel College||Annual Tuition $8,550||Academic Strength 69%|
|#5 Kennesaw State University||Annual Tuition $7,344||Academic Strength 67%|
|#6 Louisiana State University - Shreveport||Annual Tuition $5,534||Academic Strength 63%|
|#7 Southeast Missouri State University||Annual Tuition $6,201||Academic Strength 64%|
|#8 Greenville College||Annual Tuition $6,688||Academic Strength 64%|
|#9 University of North Dakota||Annual Tuition $8,012||Academic Strength 66%|
|#10 Marshall University||Annual Tuition $5,660||Academic Strength 61%|
|#11 Biola University||Annual Tuition $10,350||Academic Strength 70%|
|#12 Arizona State University||Annual Tuition $8,475||Academic Strength 66%|
|#13 Buena Vista University||Annual Tuition $8,112||Academic Strength 64%|
|#14 University of Northern Iowa||Annual Tuition $8,126||Academic Strength 64%|
|#15 Hamline University||Annual Tuition $10,625||Academic Strength 69%|
|#16 Webster University||Annual Tuition $10,625||Academic Strength 69%|
|#17 Trevecca Nazarene University||Annual Tuition $8,910||Academic Strength 65%|
|#18 University of Louisiana-Monroe||Annual Tuition $8,550||Academic Strength 64%|
|#19 University of Colorado Colorado Springs||Annual Tuition $9,574||Academic Strength 66%|
|#20 Asbury University||Annual Tuition $11,875||Academic Strength 70%|
|#21 Spring Arbor University Online||Annual Tuition $9,010||Academic Strength 65%|
|#22 University of South Alabama||Annual Tuition $7,245||Academic Strength 61%|
|#23 Southeastern University||Annual Tuition $6,750||Academic Strength 60%|
|#24 Emporia State University||Annual Tuition $8,231||Academic Strength 62%|
|#25 Stephen F. Austin State University||Annual Tuition $7,650||Academic Strength 61%|
Online ESL Degree Overview & Career Information
The training involved in becoming an ESL instructor depends on the academic level that the individual wishes to teach. To teach English as a second language at the elementary and secondary level requires the same certification that is required for any teacher- a minimum of a bachelor’s degree as well as state certification. To teach adult literacy and GED classes, one needs a bachelor's or master's degree, but not necessarily an certification. A master's degree can be appropriate for aspiring teachers that have a non-education related undergraduate degree, or teachers who wish to gain more education in order to better serve their students. Doctoral degrees in ESL are also available, though this level is only required for those who want to teach at the university level or go into research.
An online associate degree can help offer students many opportunities for the future, preparing to teach English and helping them pursue careers in industries such as education, history, and tourism. Requiring 60 credits, it usually takes two years of full-time study to complete an associate degree in the ESL program. The curriculum often consists of classes focused on linguistics, grammar, pedagogy and language patterns analyzation. In order to be eligible for admission to an associate degree in ESL program, applicants must present a high school transcript showing graduation details, and their admission may be affected by their high school GPA scores. A personal essay, ACT (American College Test) or SAT (Scholastic Aptitude Test) scores, as well as other documents, might also be required. Many students will often transfer to a four-year college to gain bachelor's degrees upon finishing their associate degree.
A bachelor's degree is the minimum amount of education needed in order to become a certified ESL teacher. Those interested in this career could earn a bachelor's in Education or a subject area such as English, and then pursue a certification course once they have graduated. Or, they can attend a bachelor's program that is specifically aimed at at training students to become ESL teachers. Students in an education-focused bachelor's degree will have to complete supervised student teaching. A bachelor's degree will take around four years to complete and involved at least 120 credit hours of study. Classes that a student might take during this program of study include Structure of the English Language, Intercultural Communication, Introduction to Linguistics, and Modern Grammar. In order to be admitted to a bachelor's program an applicant will need to have at least a high school diploma or GED. This type of program can be found at colleges and universities.
Master's degree program in ESL are available to those who already have a teaching license and who want to add to their knowledge and skill set, as well as individuals who don't have a teaching background and who want to begin a career as an ESL teacher. This type of program will generally take two years to complete and will consist of around 30 credit hours of study. Classes that students may take include Language Structure and Acquisition, Linguistics, Language and Culture in the Classroom, and ESL for Children. Student teaching will also be required. After earning a master's degree graduates will be qualified to either start working or continuing working as an ESL teacher to students from Pre-K to the twelfth grade. Those who are looking to earn a master's as a way to become a licensed teacher will need to check with their state for any additional requirements. In order to be admitted to one of these programs an applicant will need to have earned a bachelor's degree, and depending on the program this degree may or may not need to be in a related field. Depending on the nature of the program the applicant may also need to have a teaching license and work experience in the field. Other typical admission requirements include letters or recommendation, an essay outlining the individual's career and educational goals, and a resume.
Depending on an individual's goals, an online doctoral degree in teaching ESL may be an appropriate option. A doctorate prepares students to work in leadership roles within the field of education, as well as careers teaching the next generation of educators at the university level, or conducting their own research. This level of program will be made up of traditional coursework as well as performing research and writing a dissertation. Classes that a doctoral student might take include Interlanguage Pragmatics, Sociolinguistics and Language Teaching, Language Teacher Education, and Curriculum Design. In order to be admitted to a doctoral program a student will need to have completed a master's degree in a similar field. Other typical requirements include letters of recommendation, work experience in the field, and a written statement going over the applicant's research goals. While there are some universities that offer this level of program in an online format, most are delivered in a face-to-face format. The length of time is take to earn a doctorate will vary, but students should expect to spend at least three to four years on their studies.
There are many online options available to those looking to earn a certificate in teaching English as a second language. An ESL teaching certificate program can be found at various universities, and most are available at the graduate-level, meaning that an applicant must have an undergraduate degree in order to be admitted. These programs are typically aimed at individuals who are either current teachers or aspiring teachers who want to learn how to teach English language learners. Students will learn how to create lessons and develop the skills they need to effectively teach ESL learners of various ages how to speak, read, and write English. A certificate program will typically take a year or two to complete. Some schools allow students to complete this type of certificate while also working on a graduate degree in education. A certificate by itself is not enough to qualify a graduate to gain teaching licensure but those with just a certificate may be able to find work teaching in private settings, like private language schools or businesses. Teachers who already have licensure may be wish to earn this type of certificate in order to teach a wider variety of classes and students.
Requirements for becoming an ESL teacher
As with any teaching profession, those who work as ESL teachers in the Pre-K through 12th grade setting will need to be licensed. Licensing varies from state to state, but usually an aspiring teacher will need at least a bachelor's degree. They will also have to go through teacher training, either as part of their undergraduate program or during a master's or certification course, and student teaching will be required. A certification test will also likely be required.
It should be noted that earning a degree in ESL and becoming a licensed ESL teacher is different from earning a Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) or similar certificate on its own. This type of certificate will qualify an individual to teach English overseas in private language institutes, but not in public schools in the United States.
The Importance of Accreditation for ESL Programs
One thing to keep in mind when choosing a degree program is accreditation. One important type of accreditation is regional accreditation, which is the most highly regarded and most widely accepted accreditation for higher education institutions. Regional accreditation means that the school has been evaluated by an outside organization which has determined that the school meets certain educational standards. This type of accreditation is important for a variety of reasons, including that credits earned through that school will transfer to other schools and also that students will have access to federal financial aid.
Another important type of accreditation is programmatic accreditation. This is when an organization specializing in a particular subject accredits program that teach that subject. For many years, NCATE, or the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education, was the main professional accreditation agency for education program, along with The Teacher Education Accreditation Council (TEAC). As of July 1, 2013, NCATE and TEAC merged to form The Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP). CAEP uses a set of five Standards to evaluate programs, with criteria including the quality of the professors and the kinds of practical experiences, such as student teaching, that a student has access to. Those who wish to become an ESL teacher should find a program that has received programmatic accreditation from CAEP or NCATE, because this will give them assurance that they are receiving a quality education that will prepare them for their future careers.
- National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education. Accessed July 7, 2016. http://ncate.org/.
- The Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation. Accessed July 7, 2016. http://caepnet.org.
- Admissions. ASU Online. Accessed November 21, 2016. http://asuonline.asu.edu/education/admissions.
- B.A. Degree in English/Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL). Oklahoma Christian University. Accessed November 21, 2016. http://www.oc.edu/academics/b-a-degree-in-english-teaching-english-as-a-foreign-language-tefl-#degree-requirements.
- Doctor of Philosophy in Education - English as a Second Language. Northcentral University. Accessed November 21, 2016. https://www.ncu.edu/school-of-education/doctor-of-philosophy-in-education/english-second-language.
- English as a Second Language (Graduate Certificate). ASU Online. Accessed November 21, 2016. http://asuonline.asu.edu/online-degree-programs/certificates/graduate-certificate-english-second-language.
- M.A. Curriculum & Instruction–English as a Second Language. ASU Online. Accessed November 21, 2016. http://asuonline.asu.edu/education/degree-programs/curriculum-instruction/esl.
- M.Ed. in Curriculum & Instruction: English to Speakers of Other Languages. Concordia University Portland. Accessed November 21, 2016. http://education.cu-portland.edu/college-of-education/masters/curriculum-and-instruction/esol/.
- Master of Arts English Language Learning (ELL) (PreK-12). Western Governors University. Accessed November 21, 2016. http://www.wgu.edu/education/master_education_english_language_learning.
- Occupational Outlook Handbook - Adult Literacy and High School Equivalency Diploma Teachers. Bureau of Labor Statistics of the United States of America. Accessed July 7, 2016. http://www.bls.gov/ooh/Education-Training-and-Library/Adult-literacy-and-GED-teachers.htm#tab-2.
- Occupational Outlook Handbook - Kindergarten and Elementary School Teachers. Bureau of Labor Statistics of the United States of America. Accessed November 21, 2016. http://www.bls.gov/ooh/education-training-and-library/kindergarten-and-elementary-school-teachers.htm#tab-4.
- Online Doctor of Education in TESOL (Ed.D.). Anaheim University. Accessed November 21, 2016. https://www.anaheim.edu/schools-and-institutes/graduate-school-of-education/doctor-of-education-in-tesol.html.
- Teaching English as a Second/Foreign Language (B.A.). Liberty University. Accessed November 21, 2016. http://www.liberty.edu/academics/arts-sciences/modernlanguages/index.cfm?PID=680.
- Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages: Online Graduate Certificate. Mizzou Online. Accessed November 21, 2016. http://online.missouri.edu/degreeprograms/ed-tesol/gradcertificate.aspx.