Why Get a Masters in ESL/TESOL

With so many people from other countries wanting to come to America, it is not surprising that many want to learn English so they can succeed economically in this country. There is a strong and growing need for teachers of English as a second language (ESL/TESOL).

To take advantage of this need, you can obtain your master’s degree in ESL or TESOL. Earning this master’s degree is a great opportunity to develop the skills for a career that is showing a lot of growth. You also can have the opportunity if you choose to live in another country and teach English as a foreign language there.

By earning your master’s degree in ESL or TESOL, you will have the chance to work in these exciting jobs:

  • English as a second language teacher: Assist students whose native language is something other than English. You will teach them to comprehend, speak, read and write in English. You could be teaching students from the elementary level all the way up to adult students. This job also can involve coming up with new lesson plans and devising role playing scenarios and listening comprehension lessons.
  • Adult literacy and high school equivalency diploma teacher: These professionals often work to instruct adult students in reading, writing, math and speaking English. You may also help your students to earn their high school equivalency degree. Before you start to teach your students you will need to assess their level of English and their other educational skills. Once you know what their level of education is, you can then proceed to develop a teaching plan for them.
  • Kindergarten and elementary school teacher: These teachers prepare young students for their future education by teaching them subjects such as math and reading, as well as writing. You could also be the teacher for a class of young students whose first language is not English. You will be teaching the students very important educational concepts that will serve them all through their schooling years. It is likely that you will be teaching students up to the fourth or fifth grade. You may be working exclusively with students who are learning English, and could work with them individually or in groups.

Why Earn a Master’s in ESL or TESOL?

Many teachers and those interested in working in education earn their master’s degree in ESL or TESOL because of rising demand for English teachers.

According to the National Center for Education Statistics, children from K-12 who speak a language other than English in the home had risen to 21% by 2009.

This fact is reflected in the higher demand for ESL teachers as reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. It notes that employment for ESL teachers is expected to increase by 14% by 2024.  Some cities are showing a stronger demand for ESL teachers than other. According to a survey by the University of Southern California, the following cities are the best for ESL teachers:

  1. Nassau and Suffolk, New York: The salary for ESL teachers here is very high, with the median salary at $82,000. Also, you are only a train ride away from Manhattan, so you will have plenty of opportunities for more learning and sightseeing.
  2. Lawrence and Salem, Massachusetts: There have been big efforts in this area to make the state a great place for ESL teachers to work and live. Average salaries for these master’s degree holders is $77,500.
  3. Irvine, California: Salaries for experienced ESL teachers can range as high as $104,000.
  4. Modesto, California: Generally, you will do well as an ESL teacher in California. ESL teachers in this city earn a median salary of $73,000, and the highest salary is in the range of $92,000.

Admission Requirements

To earn your master’s degree in ESL or TESOL, you should plan to meet these admission requirements:

  • GRE scores may or may not be required.
  • Official transcript from your undergraduate work, reflecting a GPA of at least 2.5.
  • Updated resume
  • Teaching experience and valid teacher’s license is usually required
  • Writing samples
  • Three recommendations

Curriculum and Courses

The Master of Arts in Curriculum and Instruction: English as a Second Language program at Arizona State University will prepare you to teach people and students who are learning English in many settings, including schools in the US and also abroad. This program is suited for professionals with a range of experience, including new and experienced teachers, policy makers, administrators and community educators.

In this two year, online master of arts program, you will develop strategies to teach ESL skills in reading, writing and listening. You also will graduate from this program with a complete perspective of learners of English in the United States, as well as the current and past policy towards learners of English.

The program will teach you very specific English teaching skills as well as skills to assess learner proficiency and knowledge of the language.

Graduates of this program have been successful in finding good employment in many ESL and TESOL positions in Arizona, across the US and around the world. Graduated teachers have found jobs at Arizona State University, Arizona community colleges, Ohio State University, University of Michigan and the Defense Language Institute.

Featured Online Programs

Career Outcomes and Job Titles

You could have the following careers and job titles with your master’s degree in ESL or TESOL:

  • ESL or TESOL teacher
  • Teacher of English as a Foreign Language
  • Community education teacher
  • Curriculum specialist
  • Curriculum director
  • Adjunct faculty
  • Corporate educator

Job and Salary Outlook

  • English as a Second Language Teacher — The demand for ESL teachers is rising as the number of people who are coming to the US is increasing. It is very important to learn strong English language skills so that workers can earn higher level positions and make a higher salary. According to Payscale, the typical ESL teacher makes a median salary of $41,000, but with a master’s degree, you can earn as high as $69,000 according to their data.
  • Kindergarten or elementary school teacher — Employment in this profession will rise by 6% by 2024, but many experts believe that the demand for teachers with ESL skills could be higher than that in many parts of the US. The median salary in this profession is $51,600.
  • Adult Literacy and High School Equivalency Diploma Teacher — This profession will experience a 7% increase in job demand in the next several years. Employment growth is expected to rise as increasing immigration creates more need for adult literacy and ESL teachers. Median pay for these teachers is $50,200.

Scholarships and Grants


  • American Association of Applied Linguistics: The goal of this organization is to support professionals who work in linguistics and with those with language-related issues.
  • American Association of Intensive English Programs: This organization is the only one in the US that includes all types of intensive English programs or IEPs. This site is useful for those who want to learn where to study English in the US, and also teaching professionals who want up to date information about the profession.

Additional Resources