Earning a Master's in TESOL and ESL Online

What You’ll Learn & What You Can Do After Graduation

Should I Pursue a Master's in TESOL or ESL Online?

Teachers of English to speakers of other languages (TESOL) and English as a second language (ESL) master's programs online are ideal for professionals who teach English, work with large groups of nonnative English speakers, or want to teach abroad. These programs combine language and pedagogical training to give learners knowledge of grammar, phonetics, curriculum development, and instruction.

A master's degree in TESOL or ESL enhances professional opportunities, giving learners access to positions at vocational and technical schools, colleges, and universities. Business professionals who want to expand their English language competencies while working in the United States and abroad similarly enjoy the opportunity to advance their careers while pursuing a TESOL or ESL degree.

What's the Difference Between TESOL and ESL Programs?

TESOL and ESL teachers share similar backgrounds and functions. TESOL is a general term that refers to teachers who provide non-English speakers language instruction, while ESL refers to teachers that work in places where English is not the primary language. As an umbrella term, TESOL includes individuals who teach English as a foreign language (EFL), teach English to speakers of other languages (ESOL), and teach English as a second language (ESL).

Employment Outlook for Master's in TESOL and ESL Graduates

Master's in TESOL and ESL Salary

TESOL and ESL master's programs online provide lucrative employment opportunities for education and training professionals. TESOL and ESL teachers enjoy comfortable salaries in rural and urban areas of the United States. Education and training professionals, including TESOL and ESL instructors, earn the highest annual mean wages along the East Coast.

Throughout their careers, ESL instructors receive consistent salaries, offering stability for professionals in the field. TESOL and ESL instructors with advanced language skills and knowledge can advance to administrative and managerial roles, enhancing their earning potential.

Top Paying States for Education, Training, and Librarian Professionals, Including TESOL and ESL Teachers

State Employment Annual Mean Wage
District of Columbia 34,020 $78,810
New York 684,450 $67,470
Massachusetts 242,160 $66,430
Connecticut 118,370 $64,810
Alaska 21,860 $63,780
United States 7,993,200 $55,470

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

Pay by Experience Level for ESL Teachers

  • Entry-Level (0-5 Years):
    $39,000
  • Mid-Career (5-10 Years):
    $40,000
  • Experienced (10-20 Years):
    $45,000
  • Late-Career (20+ Years):
    $52,000

Source: PayScale

Master's in TESOL and ESL Careers

Master's programs in TESOL and ESL expand career opportunities in elementary, middle, and high schools; colleges and universities; and the business sector. TESOL and ESL teachers instruct children and adults using communication skills, pedagogical tools, and advanced language understanding.

Students gain language skills and instructional abilities applicable to individual and group settings, allowing TESOL and ESL teachers to work independently or within an institution or company.

ESL Teacher

Annual Median Salary: $41,345

Projected Growth Rate: N/A

ESL teachers educate nonnative English speakers in English grammar, vocabulary, syntax, and pronunciation. These teachers also provide information on culture, history, and customs, offering context to support language instruction. ESL teachers develop curricula, give lectures, grade assignments, and conduct assessments. They may work with children or adults, adjusting content and techniques as appropriate.

High School Equivalency Diploma Teacher

Annual Median Salary: $52,100

Projected Growth Rate: -5%

High school equivalency diploma teachers work with adult learners as they earn secondary education credentials. They often emphasize English language instruction, especially when working with large groups of nonnative English speakers. With a master's degree, these teachers gain advanced competencies in language and instruction, enhancing earning potential and professional opportunities at colleges and universities or in the private sector.

Reading Specialist

Annual Median Salary: $50,654

Projected Growth Rate: N/A

Reading specialists focus on helping elementary, middle, and secondary students build reading skills. They may work with students individually to identify reading challenges or observe classrooms to enhance teacher instruction. Reading specialists develop reading curricula for individuals and groups, coach colleagues to use reading techniques and tools, and collect data on student literacy.

Instructional Coordinator

Annual Median Salary: $63,750

Projected Growth Rate: 11%

Instructional coordinators develop, implement, monitor, and adapt curricula and teaching practices. They offer seminars, workshops, and trainings to teachers and colleagues on teaching techniques and curriculum content. Instructional coordinators also assess educational materials, including textbooks, activities, and assessments. They may introduce new technologies, collect research data, or specialize in specific programs, like ESL.

Curriculum Director

Annual Median Salary: $73,742

Projected Growth Rate: 11%

Curriculum directors work with schools and school districts to develop and implement educational standards and guidelines. They collect data; stay current in educational trends and research; and work with administrators and teachers to articulate educational goals, outcomes, and strategies. They also serve as a resource for teachers, create manuals and handbooks, assist in professional development, and assess curricula efficacy.

Sources: Bureau of Labor Statstics / PayScale

What Can I Expect From an Online Master's in TESOL and ESL Program?

TESOL and ESL master's programs online vary by school and program, but learners generally complete coursework to advance language knowledge and instructional skills. Through classes on pedagogical theory, English syntax and grammar, and teaching tools and techniques, master's in TESOL and ESL programs develop comprehensive competencies in the discipline.

Curriculum for an Online Master's Degree in TESOL and ESL

Foundations of Linguistics

This course teaches the theories and methodologies of linguistics while exploring the nature and semantics of language, human communication practices, and language acquisition. Foundations of linguistics classes also explore the uses of language at all stages of human development. Students assess the nature of meaning, social factors in language development, and the evolution of the English language.

Second Language Acquisition

Second language acquisition coursework assesses the relationship between primary and secondary language learning. Learners study the differences among languages and how to assess, analyze, and understand second language acquisition in the context of a student's primary language. Coursework also explores theories of teaching a second language while exploring personality factors, socioeconomic elements, and psycholinguistic barriers to second language acquisition.

English Grammar for TESOL

English grammar classes for TESOL provide students with expertise in grammar rules while offering tools and techniques for teaching those rules to others. Coursework offers examples of common errors students make when learning English grammar and provides practical teaching techniques for addressing those mistakes. Students also assess English grammar usage in various contexts, including speaking and writing.

TESOL Research

TESOL research classes introduce students to research theories, techniques, and tools. Learners apply that knowledge to teaching English to nonnative speakers, developing competencies in data collection and analysis. TESOL research coursework prepares learners for research and capstone coursework in their master's program and for future careers.

Multicultural Education

Coursework in multicultural education explores the interaction of individuals from different cultures, focusing on the roles of cultural pluralism, bilingual education, and separatism in intellectual development. Multicultural education classes also explore legal issues, biases, and stereotypes associated with culture. Students may participate in field or case study activities during multicultural education courses.

Certifications and Licenses a Master's in TESOL and ESL Prepares For

  • American TESOL Institute TESOL Certification: Certification through the American TESOL Institute offers learners the fundamentals of teaching English to nonnative speakers. Students compare and contrast theories and techniques for teaching ESL, develop lesson plans and curricula, and gain communication skills applicable to multicultural settings. The certification provides optional teacher placement and ongoing continuing education support.

  • State Certification/Licensure: Requirements for TESOL and ESL teachers vary by state. Most states require TESOL and ESL instructors to hold an undergraduate degree and education certification prior to or with ESL credentials. Students should check their state's requirements for initial certification, continuing education, and recertification guidelines.

Professional Organizations and Resources

Students and graduates of master's in TESOL and ESL online programs benefit from the networking opportunities and career development resources professional organizations provide. Professional organizations allow TESOL and ESL instructors to collaborate and connect with colleagues, exchanging research information and teaching techniques. Additional benefits include webinars, discussion forums, publications, and newsletters.

  • TESOL International Association: This association offers TESOL professionals access to development programs, interest groups, publications, and advocacy resources. It seeks to strengthen knowledge and skills among the TESOL community through an extensive resource center and global network. Members gain access to professional learning opportunities, the TESOL Convention and English Language Expo, and discounted pricing on online courses.

  • National Association for Bilingual Education: Established in 1975, NABE advocates for equality and equity in bilingual education. It promotes academic excellence through conferences, symposia, publications, and its Equity Institute. WIth 20 state affiliates and four industry partners, NABE's more than 5,000 members enjoy access to the association's community forum, research journals, and weekly newsletter.

  • International Association of Teachers of English as a Foreign Language: Founded in 1967, IATEFL hosts an annual conference, provides scholarships and awards, and offers information on job opportunities. Special interest groups, web events, and associate programs enhance member knowledge and skills, enabling professionals to exchange ideas, grow their competencies, and communicate with English language teachers worldwide.

  • TESOL International Association: Resources at TESOL include virtual seminars, online courses, an online career center, and access to scholarships and grants. Instructional resources allow teachers to exchange research and pedagogical tools while deepening their knowledge and skills in ESL teaching.

  • National Network for English Language Learning: NNELL supports educators who advocate for and participate in early language teaching and learning. NNELL provides publication and career service resources for English language instructors and parents. It also sponsors a summer institute for colleagues to exchange ideas and enhance language learning proficiencies.

  • American TESOL Institute: The American TESOL Institute provides job placement and career assistance information for TESOL. Upon completion of the American TESOL Institute's certification program, students become eligible for job placement and career assistance.