Master of Arts in Education: Online ESL Degree

Dec 04, 2019

Essential Information

Online Master of Arts (M.A.) in Education programs with a specialization in ESL are available at several schools. They may be offered entirely online or in hybrid formats.

Applicants must have a Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) degree, preferably in education. Some programs can provide the teacher training needed to help fulfill state certification requirements to work as a public school ESL teacher. However, these programs usually mandate that students complete observational experiences and supervised teaching sessions in person at an approved learning facility. Other programs require students to already hold teacher licensure before entering the master's degree program.

Students can perform educational research and learn about ESL teaching strategies, bilingual education, language acquisition, educational psychology and cultural diversity in the classroom.

M.A. in Education - ESL

Online M.A. programs are for teachers who wish to improve their skills and proficiency in working with English as a second language (ESL) students. Some of these programs may prepare students for teacher certification exams. It is expected that students enrolling in online Master of Arts programs for ESL education already hold a bachelor's degree, preferably in education.

Program Information and Requirements

Online ESL master's degree programs typically include 36 credit hours' worth of classes. Some are designed as accelerated programs that can be completed in a minimum of 18 months. In most cases, students can complete all required coursework online. Students engage with their professors, classmates and coursework through virtual classrooms that are accessed via the Web. Online components may include streaming video lectures, discussion boards and chat rooms.

Course Topics

The coursework in online Master of Arts ESL programs focuses on working with and relating to ESL students. Programs that prepare students for teaching certification exams also include courses on educational pedagogy, classroom management and other general topics within education. The following are examples of common courses required for online ESL master's degree programs.

ESL Methods

This type of class surveys different types of teaching methods, strategies and materials that can help teachers effectively work with non- or limited-English speakers. Concepts such as curriculum, current trends and theoretical aspects of ESL education may be covered as well.

Cultural Diversity

Diversity courses usually look at the role a student's culture plays in their education and language acquisition. Topics such as ethnic identity, prejudice, cultural assimilation and multicultural education values may be discussed.

Language Acquisition

Language courses explore the science behind how humans acquire both their native and foreign languages. Topics such as semantics, syntax, grammar, phonology and sentence structure may be discussed. Aspects of sociolinguistics and psycholinguistics may also come into play, along with how school settings affect language acquisition.

Career Information

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) does not provide data specifically for ESL instructors; however, its Adult Literacy and High School Equivalency Diploma Teachers career designation does include ESL instructors ( This career field, according to the BLS, is projected to decline by 10% between 2018 and 2028. Adult Basic and Secondary Education and Literacy Teachers and Instructors (including ESL instructors) made an average of $58,110 during 2018. The top-paying industries that employ ESL teachers are state government and information services.

Continuing Education Information

Students who enroll in an online M.A. in ESL program that provides credential preparation so they may become licensed to teach will need to contact their state's department of education to learn of its requirements for certification. This process usually requires getting fingerprinted and submitting to a background check. It may also include submitting verification of having successfully completed an accredited teacher preparation program and taking a state test, as well as the national certification exam. Teaching certification requires in-person student teaching and observation experiences that cannot be completed online.

Trained teachers who want to direct their careers toward ESL instruction can enroll in an online Master of Arts in Education program with a focus in the subject. In these programs, they can develop advanced bilingual instructional skills and increase their cultural sensitivity.

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