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Getting a Degree in Teaching English (TESOL)

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Earn a Degree in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL)

English is one of the most widely used languages in the world. The fields of science, commerce, aviation, and education (among others) all require a strong knowledge of the English language. If you have ever struggled learning a second language, you can understand what non-native English speakers go through on their quest to learn, understand, and use English on a daily basis.

An education in TESOL enables individuals to work with second language learners in the United States or work internationally teaching English. Both industrialized and developing countries often require their students to learn English as a second language in school. Refugees and immigrants to English speaking countries will need to learn and refine their English language skills as they establish themselves in their new homeland. There is thus a considerable demand for qualified teachers of English, both in the United States and abroad. The majority of TESOL jobs will be offered in educational settings including primary, secondary, and postsecondary schools. Yet, there are also a wide variety of jobs in nontraditional educational settings such as corporate trainings, nonprofit organizations, and government-sponsored programs.

TESOL Certification

A TESOL certification can be earned independently or in conjunction with a degree seeking program. Earning a certificate independently from a degree seeking program can typically be accomplished in one year or less. Earning a degree in TESOL will open up a wide range of teaching and employment opportunities above and beyond what is available with a standalone certification. Pay also significantly increases with the addition of a degree and increases even further with an advanced degree.

TESOL degrees are offered at the associate, bachelor’s, and master’s levels. Online only programs are common. TESOL degrees offered in conjunction with state teacher preparation programs are also readily available.

Associate Degree in TESOL

Often offered as an Associate of Arts degree, an Associate Degree in TESOL prepares students for teaching communicative English language. This introductory degree in TESOL explores linguistic, grammatical, and pedagogical studies of language development and teaching English to non-native speakers.

Please note that programs may refer to their TESOL degree by a variety of acronyms such as:

  • TESOL: Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages
  • ELL: English Language Learners
  • SLA:Second Language Acquisition
  • TEFL: Teaching English as a Foreign Language
  • TESL: Teaching English as a Second Language
  • ENL: English as a ​New ​Language
  • ESL: English as a Second Language
  • ESOL:English to Speakers of Other Languages
  • ELA:English Language Acquisition

Bachelor’s Degree in TESOL

While earning an undergraduate degree in TESOL, students will learn to proficiently teach grammar, pronunciation, and context to English language learners. Students will explore ways to adapt English language instruction to a variety of institutional, situational, cultural, and student-specific contexts.

Jobs with a Bachelor’s in TESOL

Adult TESOL teacher

Instructs adults in basic skills, such as reading and speaking English. Adult TESOL teachers also help students earn their high school equivalent diploma. Instructing adults in TESOL usually does not require a state teacher certification. Median Annual Salary: $54,000.

Elementary TESOL teacher

Instructs young students in basic subjects in order to prepare them for future schooling. Most public school districts will require a state teacher certification (provisional or otherwise) in addition to a TESOL degree or certification. Median Annual Salary: $59,000.

Master’s Degree in TESOL

Take your education to the next level by earning a graduate degree in TESOL! Students will delve in depth into the linguistic, grammatical, and pedagogical studies of language development and teaching English to non-native speakers. Master’s degree programs often have a specialty focus such as a particular native language population or teaching specific student populations (such as primary, secondary, or post-secondary students).

Jobs with a Master’s in TESOL

Training specialist

Plans and administers programs that improve the language skills and general knowledge of their employees. Median Annual Salary: $61,000.

Postsecondary teacher

Instructs college students in TESOL classes. Median Annual Salary: $80,000.

GI Bill Approved Colleges with Degrees in TESOL

Ready to get started on a degree Teaching English to Speakers to Other Languages? Check out these great programs, some of which may available at our partner schools.

Biola University

Offers a Master of Arts in TESOL as a traditional, campus-based program and a fully online MA in TESOL. A graduate certificate in TESOL can be acquired after completing the first year of the M.A. in TESOL, in conjunction with another master’s program, or on its own as a stand-alone program. Biola University participates in the Yellow Ribbon program.

Buena Vista University

Offers an online graduate endorsement for TESOL. This graduate certificate for TESOL is intended to enhance the skills of K-12 educators who hold a degree and teaching license. Buena Vista University participates in the Yellow Ribbon program.

Cairn University

Offers a Bachelor of Arts in TESOL. Cairn University participates in the Yellow Ribbon program.

Kansas State University Online

Offers a fully online Master of Science in Curriculum and Instruction with an English as a Second Language Concentration. A campus-based degree is offered for a Master of Arts in Second Language Acquisition/Teaching English as a Foreign Language. K State participates in the Yellow Ribbon program.

Multnomah University

Offers an online Master of Arts in TESOL. Multnomah also offers a Dual Master of Arts in TESOL and Global Development & Justice. The Dual MA is offered both in-person and online. Multnomah University participates in the Yellow Ribbon program.

University of Central Florida

Offers a Master of Arts in TESOL. UCF also offers a PhD in Education with a specialty in TESOL. The University of Central Florida participates in the Yellow Ribbon program.


All statistics and calculations from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. For more information click here.





About the author

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Born in SoCal yet raised Tampa, Florida - Leah earned her undergraduate BA in Liberal Studies from the University of Central Florida. Leah earned her MA in the MALAS at San Diego State University, while also completing a graduate teaching certificate in English for Secondary Education. An avid traveler, she has visited more than 60 countries. With the birth of her son Spencer in 2012, Leah embarked on her biggest adventure (yet) as parent and Coast Guard wife.