2018 Best Online Colleges for ESL Teaching Degrees

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Quick Facts
Accreditation: CEA
Degree Levels: Associate, Bachelor's, Master's, Doctoral, and Certificate
Avg Tuition: $23,302
Avg Salary: $58,657

There are 134 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.

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Comprehensive List of Accredited Online Schools - ESL Degrees (134)

2018 Best Online Schools Offering a Master's in ESL

ESL-Top Online Colleges-2018-Badge

These 25 schools represent the top options for a master's in ESL based on academic rigor and affordability. With the highest academic strength score of 75%, University of Alabama in Huntsville offers a Master of Education - English Speakers of Other Languages for $6,732 each year. Ranked #4, Valdosta State University has the most affordable tuition of $5,274 for an online Master of Arts in Teaching in Education - English to Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) program.

View our methodology for more details or learn more about SR Education Group.

Rank School Annual Tuition Academic Strength
#1 #1 University of Missouri Annual Tuition $6,120 Academic Strength 74%
#2 #2 University of Alabama in Huntsville Annual Tuition $6,732 Academic Strength 75%
#3 #3 Roosevelt University Annual Tuition $6,225 Academic Strength 68%
#4 #4 Valdosta State University Annual Tuition $5,274 Academic Strength 62%
#5 #5 Kennesaw State University Annual Tuition $6,894 Academic Strength 67%
#6 #6 Southeast Missouri State University Annual Tuition $6,363 Academic Strength 65%
#7 #7 Mercer University Annual Tuition $8,850 Academic Strength 74%
#8 #8 University of Kansas Annual Tuition $8,625 Academic Strength 72%
#9 #9 Emporia State University Annual Tuition $6,716 Academic Strength 64%
#10 #10 Auburn University Annual Tuition $9,150 Academic Strength 73%
#11 #11 Union College - KY Annual Tuition $6,400 Academic Strength 61%
#12 #12 Huntington University Annual Tuition $7,000 Academic Strength 62%
#13 #13 Arizona State University Annual Tuition $8,775 Academic Strength 69%
#14 #14 Spring Arbor University Online Annual Tuition $9,350 Academic Strength 70%
#15 #15 Southeastern University Annual Tuition $6,750 Academic Strength 60%
#16 #16 University of North Dakota Annual Tuition $8,422 Academic Strength 66%
#17 #17 Ball State University Annual Tuition $9,045 Academic Strength 68%
#18 #18 Sam Houston State University Annual Tuition $7,401 Academic Strength 62%
#19 #19 McDaniel College Annual Tuition $8,820 Academic Strength 67%
#20 #20 University of South Alabama Annual Tuition $7,500 Academic Strength 62%
#21 #21 University of Southern Mississippi Annual Tuition $8,007 Academic Strength 63%
#22 #22 Marshall University Annual Tuition $6,583 Academic Strength 58%
#23 #23 University of Louisiana-Monroe Annual Tuition $9,000 Academic Strength 66%
#24 #24 Eastern New Mexico University-Main Campus Annual Tuition $7,044 Academic Strength 58%
#25 #25 University of Southern Maine Annual Tuition $8,010 Academic Strength 61%
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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 a 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.

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Online Associate's Degrees in ESL

An online associate degree in ESL can help offer students many opportunities for the future, but students will often transfer to a four-year college to gain bachelor's degrees upon finishing their associate degree. Requiring 60 credits, it usually takes two years of full-time study to complete an associate degree in the ESL program. A personal essay, ACT (American College Test) or SAT (Scholastic Aptitude Test) scores, as well as other documents, might also be required. In order to be eligible for admission to an associate 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. The curriculum often consists of classes focused on linguistics, grammar, pedagogy and language patterns analyzation.

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Online Bachelor's Degrees in ESL

A bachelor's degree is the minimum amount of education needed in order to become a certified ESL teacher. Those interested in this career can attend a bachelor's program that is specifically aimed at at training students to become ESL teachers, or they can earn a bachelor's in Education or a subject area such as English and then pursue an ESL certificate once they have graduated. Students in an education-focused bachelor's degree will usually have to complete supervised student teaching. A bachelor's degree will take around four years to complete around 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.

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Online Master's in ESL

Online master's degree programs 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. 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.

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 usually be required. After earning a master's degree, graduates will be qualified to work 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.

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Online Doctoral Degrees in ESL

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. The length of time it takes to earn a doctorate will vary, but students should expect to spend at least three to four years on their studies. 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.

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.

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Online Certificates in ESL

There are many online options available to those looking to earn a certificate in teaching English as a second language. An online ESL teaching certificate program can be found at various universities, and most are available at the graduate-level. 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. 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.

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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.

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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.


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