Online Masters in ESL Degree Programs

Learn more about studying to receive a master’s in ESL online. This master’s degree offers students the skills, theories, and knowledge of teaching English as a Second Language, or ESL. Review the salary expectations, degree requirements, and course options available for this exciting online program with this Campus Explorer guide.


What Is an Online Master’s in ESL Online?

A degree in ESL offers skills and theories of teaching English to English language learners. These skills include preparing lesson plans, leading classes, planning homework, and designing curriculum. A primary goal for teaching ESL is to equip students with the skills necessary to read, write, and communicate in English.

Many master’s degree programs in ESL require a bachelor’s degree before applying. Some require a degree in ESL or a related subject. In some cases, you may need to have teaching experience or experience in a second language.

Here are some courses you may take as part of your online ESL master’s degree:

  • Language production, theory, and acquisition
  • Lesson planning
  • ESL pedagogy
  • Assessment theory and practice
  • Research foundations

Some programs offer fully online options, while others require you to submit a teacher work sample as proof of in-person teaching experience. Unlike a bachelor’s degree, a master’s program allows you to focus on your specific learning goals as an ESL teacher or related professional.

Studying ESL in a master’s degree program helps you further your education and expertise as a teacher. It’s also a useful step toward becoming a professor in an English department. Some degree holders work as instructional coordinators to design curriculum and other resources for other teachers.

To prepare for your master’s degree, you typically need a teaching certificate and experience in education. Consider this career if you’re passionate about inspiring students and helping connect students with educational, professional, and cultural opportunities in English. Many ESL teaching positions are available in other countries, so a desire to travel can also help you in this career path.

How Much Does Master’s in ESL Online Cost?

According to the National Center for Education Statistics, the average annual tuition for a master’s degree was $19,300 in 2018-2019. Most master’s degree programs take between two and three years to complete, so expect to pay between $38,600 and $57,900 for a degree, on average. Online programs typically cost less than on-campus ones, so you may be able to receive your ESL master’s degree for $10,000-$20,000, according to U.S. News.

Average Salary for a Master’s in ESL Online

Master’s in ESL degree holders earn a median salary of about $53,000, according to PayScale in July 2021. There are a number of common careers associated with this degree, including ESL teachers, instructional coordinators, and education administrators.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, or BLS, adult basic and secondary education ESL teachers earned a 2020 median pay of approximately $55,400 per year. English teachers in postsecondary institutions received an annual median pay of about $69,000 in 2020.

Instructional coordinators earned around $67,000 in 2020, according to BLS. The median pay in 2020 for postsecondary education administrators was $97,500.

Many positions in ESL require additional experience or certifications. Typical ESL teaching positions require a valid teaching license in your state. Teaching internationally may require a license or certificate in your chosen country. Education administrators typically have five or more years of experience in education.

A master’s program may make you eligible for a raise in your current role. Even if you’re not seeking a new job, consider a master’s degree as the next step in your career.

What Is the Job Outlook for Master’s in ESL Online Degree Holders?

The number of ESL teachers in the United States is expected to decline by 10% between 2019 and 2029, according to BLS. Instructional coordinators are expected to increase in number by 6% in the same 10-year period, which is faster than the national average.

Courses in Master’s in ESL Online

Online programs in ESL dive into theory, pedagogy, and research aspects of the field. Prepare to take courses in these and other topics before earning your degree:

  • ESL pedagogy
  • Foundations of ESL
  • Structure of English language
  • Cultural competence
  • Research foundation
  • Lesson planning
  • Second language acquisition
  • Instruction methods and learning theory

Expect to submit a teacher work sample or complete another capstone project as part of your program. Online courses are typically self-paced, but some are offered on traditional semester or trimester timelines.

Look for a degree that’s designed to meet the minimum requirements for a license or endorsement in ESL. A license or endorsement may be required to apply for a position as an ESL teacher or related profession. If you already have a license, then use your master’s degree program as an opportunity to specialize in a particular aspect of your field and broaden your knowledge base.

FAQs on Master’s in ESL Online

Summary Information

  • Standard and accelerated online programs available
  • Popular concentrations include TESOL, ESL, and TEFL
  • Program can be completed fully or partially online
  • Typically takes 24-36 months to complete
  • Offers opportunities in the rewarding education industry
  • Some programs prepare graduates to sit for board exams for endorsement or licensure in ESL
  • Provides essential training for ESL teaching and instructional coordination
  • Can be completed in 24 months on a flexible schedule

  • A high number of scholarships are associated with this program
  • Can cost as little as $10,000
  • Costs are highly variable between schools

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