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Master of Arts (MA in Education): ESL Degree Overview

A Master of Arts in English as a Second Language (ESL) program is designed to help working, degreed professionals and students prepare to teach ESL. Explore program details and requirements, as well as employment outlook.

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Essential Information

Some colleges offer ESL programs with titles like 'Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages' (TESOL) or 'Teaching English as a Foreign Language' (TEFL). In addition to coursework, a thesis or a special project may be required of students. Programs might culminate with written and oral examinations. Individuals who earn such a degree may be eligible for ESL certification or licensure. Students will need to have qualifying GRE scores and have completed a bachelor's degree program to enter a master's degree program in ESL, though a particular undergraduate major may not be required.


A Master of Arts in English as a Second Language

Students can learn to test, evaluate and develop curriculum for ESL studies. They might also develop strategies for working with individuals of all age groups. Coursework can focus on instructional methods and teach students to create lesson plans and bulletin boards for ESL classrooms. Furthermore, students in master's degree programs can learn to work with individuals from all countries, including those who have lived in the U.S. for years or those who are new to the country. The program may focus on language systems, cultures, learning styles and technology. Courses may cover topics like:

  • Sociolinguistics
  • Phonetics
  • Phonology
  • Second language acquisition
  • Literacy skills and grammar
  • Language and culture

Popular Career Options

A graduate who earns an M.A. in ESL may be qualified to work or teach overseas and in the U.S. in corporate or academic settings. They could find work as:

  • Instructional coordinators
  • Educational administrators
  • ESL educators

Employment Outlook and Salary Information

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment for instructional coordinators could increase by 7% during the 2014-2024 decade, while principals in elementary, middle and high schools could see 6% percent growth in employment. The BLS predicted 7% percent growth for GED and adult literacy teachers as well, a group that includes ESL teachers.

The median annual salary for instructional coordinators was $62,270, the BLS reported in May 2015. That same BLS report indicated that education administrators earned $90,410, and adult literacy and GED instructors earned $50,280 in median wages.

Continuing Education and Certification Information

Graduates of master's degree programs in ESL can become qualified to teach by passing state examinations for teaching certification. Some states may not require certification of ESL teachers for adults. Beyond the master's degree level, students can earn doctoral degrees in ESL and foreign language studies, which could lead to career opportunities in research or academia.

A Master of Arts in English as a Second Language prepares students to work with populations from diverse backgrounds and languages as educators, administrators and coordinators. Positive job growth is expected in the field, and advanced degrees and certifications are available.

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