2019 Best Master's in ESL Online Programs

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Combining high alumni salaries and affordability, these 15 schools offer the best online master's degree programs in English as a second language. Of these schools, four have annual tuition rates under $10,000. The #1 school on the list is The George Washington University, boasting a reported alumni salary of $91,400 and a low annual tuition of $14,620. At #14, Stephen F. Austin State University is the most affordable option, with an annual tuition of $7,056.

Alumni salaries were provided by PayScale. View our methodology for more details or learn more about SR Education Group.

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Rank School Annual Tuition Median Salary
#1 #1 The George Washington University $14,620 $91,400
#2 #2 Purdue University - Main Campus $13,000 $89,200
#3 #3 Mercy College $14,824 $89,000
#4 #4 Kansas State University $9,086 $68,600
#5 #5 University of South Florida - Main Campus $15,864 $67,300
#6 #6 Georgia State University $22,518 $66,600
#7 #7 University of Memphis $10,251 $64,700
#8 #8 Ball State University $9,240 $63,900
#9 #9 Arizona State University $8,925 $63,100
#10 #10 Lesley University $10,725 $62,800
#11 #11 Texas A&M University-College Station $20,422 $61,200
#12 #12 Liberty University $13,560 $59,800
#13 #13 Troy University $15,808 $59,100
#14 #14 Stephen F. Austin State University $7,056 $57,000
#15 #15 Middle Tennessee State University $12,036 $54,900
Salary data provided by Payscale Logo. Updated 2018.
  • Annual Tuition: $14,620
  • Median Salary: $91,400
  • School Type: Non-Profit
  • Accreditation: MSCHE
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The George Washington University offers courses to students from all 50 states and 130 countries. While most of its students study on-campus, many choose to take online classes. Its online programs span numerous disciplines including an NCATE-accredited Master of Arts in Special Education for Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Learners that leads to K-12 certification. One of only eight such programs in the United States, it is taught by experienced faculty using their own research. The program requires 33 credits, including a three-credit internship. 

  • Annual Tuition: $13,000
  • Median Salary: $89,200
  • School Type: Non-Profit
  • Accreditation: HLC
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Purdue University - Main Campus has a ratio of 1.3 students to each faculty member for its master's degree programs. Its online Master of Science in Education, Curriculum & Instruction has four tracks, one of which is English language learning. The program spans 18 months, and requires 30 credit hours for graduation. Classes are asynchronous, meaning students can log in at any time to do their coursework, but still need to complete their assignments on time. Applicants do not need a background in education to be accepted into the program.

  • Annual Tuition: $14,824
  • Median Salary: $89,000
  • School Type: Non-Profit
  • Accreditation: MSCHE
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Mercy College is a coeducational, nonsectarian school that offers 40 online programs, including a Master of Science in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL). This 100% online degree program offers two tracks, a 36-credit program that is designed for students getting their first teaching certificate, and a 33-credit program for students who have a New York State teaching certificate in another teaching area. Applicants are not required to have earned a prior degree in education – a liberal arts major or equivalent credits will suffice.

  • Annual Tuition: $9,086
  • Median Salary: $68,600
  • School Type: Non-Profit
  • Accreditation: HLC
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Founded in 1863 and now enrolling over 23,000 students annually, Kansas State University is a research university that boasts a 96% job placement rate for Master's degree students within six months of graduation. It offers online degree programs through its Global Campus, including a 31-credit master's degree in curriculum & instruction with an emphasis in English as a second language (ESL). K-State provides distance students with an orientation website as well as online access to an IT help desk, financial aid assistance and enrollment instructions.

  • Annual Tuition: $15,864
  • Median Salary: $67,300
  • School Type: Non-Profit
  • Accreditation: SACS COC
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University of South Florida - Main Campus is a regionally-accredited research institution attended by students from 145 different countries. Distance students can pursue its Master of Education, Curriculum & Instruction with a concentration in Teaching English Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) in a flexible, online format. This web-based program requires 33 credit hours for completion, including a comprehensive exam in the last semester. The three-hour exam includes seven questions, of which three must be answered, and is offered three times per year.

  • Annual Tuition: $22,518
  • Median Salary: $66,600
  • School Type: Non-Profit
  • Accreditation: SACS COC
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The Master of Arts in Teaching (M.A.T.) English to Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) is offered by Georgia State University in a 100% online format, making it ideal for working adults and distance learners. The 45 credit hour program requires four to five semesters to complete. Teaching internships, minimum grades and a presentation of a professional portfolio are required for graduation. Classes include methods of research in education, sociolinguistics, and theory and pedagogy in the study of literacy.

  • Annual Tuition: $10,251
  • Median Salary: $64,700
  • School Type: Non-Profit
  • Accreditation: SACS COC
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University of Memphis boasts 100 years of teaching experience; a reputation that makes its online degree programs very attractive to prospective graduate students. Among its many online offerings is the Master of Arts in English with a Concentration in ESL. This degree's curriculum consists of 11 classes, for a total of 33 credits. Students can take an additional five classes to obtain a certificate that will help develop additional expertise. Out-of-state students pay an eRate, as opposed to out-of-state tuition. No international application is required for foreign students taking this 100% online program.  

  • Annual Tuition: $9,240
  • Median Salary: $63,900
  • School Type: Non-Profit
  • Accreditation: HLC
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Ball State University uses the same faculty to teach on-campus, online, and hybrid courses; ensuring the integrity of its distance programs. Online students also benefit from Student Support Services, including access to academic advisors, peer mentoring, technology support and academic support services. Ball State's Master of Arts in Education in Elementary Education - English as a New Language, is a fully online program that offers graduates both a degree, and a certificate of early childhood program administration. This 30 credit program includes courses include school, family, and community partnerships, education in a diverse society, and infant and toddler education.

  • Annual Tuition: $8,925
  • Median Salary: $63,100
  • School Type: Non-Profit
  • Accreditation: HLC
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Arizona State University has a reputation for producing qualified graduates; a distinction that extends to its online programs as well. In addition to offering a reputable education, ASU Online offers classes without any out-of-state tuition costs. Both its Master's in English as a Second Language (ESL) and it's Master of Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (MTESOL) are online, 30 credit hour programs. Each degree requires 10 classes, scheduled over 7.5 week terms, with multiple start dates each year.

  • Annual Tuition: $10,725
  • Median Salary: $62,800
  • School Type: Non-Profit
  • Accreditation: NECHE
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Lesley University boasts twice as many graduate students as undergraduates, proving that it excels in graduate degree programs. With a tuition rate of just $10,725 per year, its two online master's programs in ESL offer an affordable option for graduate distance learners. Requirements for admission to these two programs include possessing a current teaching license, submitting a completed application, official transcripts, a personal statement, and two letters of recommendation. Neither degree requires GREs for admission. 

  • Annual Tuition: $20,422
  • Median Salary: $61,200
  • School Type: Non-Profit
  • Accreditation: SACS COC
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Texas A&M University-College Station, or "Aggieland" as it is commonly known, has an enrollment of over 64,000 students, and has been in the higher education business since 1876. A & M offers a comprehensive catalog of online degree programs, including two ESL online programs – a Master of Education in Curriculum and Instruction: English as a Second Language and a Master of Science in Curriculum and Instruction: English as a Second Language. The programs are 36 and 32 credit hours, respectively. An online tuition calculator assists online students with determining the cost of their degree. Distance students also have access to disability, multicultural, counseling and veteran's services.

  • Annual Tuition: $13,560
  • Median Salary: $59,800
  • School Type: Non-Profit
  • Accreditation: SACS COC and TRACS
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Liberty University was founded in 1971 and has an enrollment of over 100,00 students. Its 100% online Master of Arts degree in Teaching English as a Second Language (TESL) requires 30 credit hours and is usually completed in 18 to 24 months. Liberty is accredited by SACSCOC, has eight-week courses, and offers students the ability to transfer up to half of the credits needed from another university to graduate. The purpose of this degree is to train graduates to work domestically or internationally teaching English to people who need it in order to succeed.

  • Annual Tuition: $15,808
  • Median Salary: $59,100
  • School Type: Non-Profit
  • Accreditation: SACS COC
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Troy University offers distance students a fully online Master of Science in Second Language Instruction with a non-thesis option. This program has nine-week terms and five annual start dates. It is 31-33 credit hours in length and its required classes include introduction to linguistics, survey of sociolinguistics for second language teachers, and teaching language skills. Online support for distance learners includes tutoring, tech support, tutorials and orientation.

  • Annual Tuition: $7,056
  • Median Salary: $57,000
  • School Type: Non-Profit
  • Accreditation: SACS COC
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Stephen F. Austin State University is a 100% independent university with over 120 areas of study. Students balancing work, family obligations or location challenges can opt for it's fully online Master of Education - ESL/Bilingual or Master of Education with All-Level Professional Reading Specialist Certification - ESL/Bilingual programs. Online applicants follow the same application procedures as on-campus students, and must have basic computer proficiency as well as access to a computer and the internet. Online tutorials and direct phone/web assistance provide distance learners with all the technical guidance they will require.

  • Annual Tuition: $12,036
  • Median Salary: $54,900
  • School Type: Non-Profit
  • Accreditation: SACS COC
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Middle Tennessee State University offers over 300 academic programs, catering to students of all types. It has been offering online courses for 21 years. Through its MTSU Online portal it offers a Master of Education in Curriculum and Instruction - English as a Second Language, which is designed for working adults who need to complete schoolwork in their off-hours. This program is 33 credit hours and has an option for an add-on licensure endorsement in ESL. It is designed to prepare graduates to teach in a variety of academic settings.

Online Master's in ESL Overview

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 of 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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