How to Choose a PhD in TESOL Degree + Online Option

In this article, we will discuss the PhD in TESOL (teaching of English as a second or foreign language) degree program, some of the subjects that are included, and why you may want to consider getting this degree as part of your efforts to push your career forward. This article will also present one example of a high quality PhD in TESOL program, which can be completed online.

What Is a PhD in TESOL?

Obtaining a PhD in TESOL degree provides the graduate an opportunity to pursue scholarship while learning more about multilingual education and language acquisition. It is designed for those who already have a lot of experience in certain fields, such as curriculum development, research, administration, supervision, or higher education teaching of English as a second language. This is a doctoral program that enables you to greatly advance your language knowledge and skills with a focus on educational foundations, research methodologies, intercultural communication, and second language pedagogy. As part of the program, you will be taking part in research to look at socially and linguistically diverse communities and environments, preparing you to work in bicultural, second language, or academic careers.

Some of the key subjects you will learn while undertaking the PhD in TESOL program are educational foundations; intercultural communication; how to implement new and different research methods; and English as a second language research, pedagogy, and acquisition. The program will include foundational content courses focusing on multi-literacy and multilingualism, emphasizing appreciation and respect for different cultures and languages.

Why Earn a PhD in TESOL?

Earning a PhD is an opportunity to take one of the wide variety of positions in institutions. For instance, you could become involved in teaching the next generation of teachers, or in conducting research on TESOL and other such fields. A this high degree, your job security will be enhanced. Furthermore, because you will be in a position of leadership, you can also enjoy a great deal of personal satisfaction and professional pride.

Once you have completed your PhD, a number of new career opportunities will become available. The most common positions are:

  • TESOL researcher in colleges and universities
  • TESOL teacher educator in colleges and universities
  • Curriculum developer, evaluator, or specialist

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, someone with a PhD in TESOL is classed as an English language and literature teacher, postsecondary. The median annual salary is $63,730 as of May 2016, but the top 10% of earners, which someone with a PhD is more likely to find themselves in, earn at least $130,890 per year.

You can expect to work for:

  • Government agencies
  • Schools, colleges, and universities (state, private, local, and international)
  • Nonprofit agencies
  • Business schools
  • Technical and trade schools

Online Option for PhD in TESOL

Northcentral Unversity

One popular online program for a PhD in TESOL is offered by Northcentral University (NCU). They have developed this program in response to the rise of global businesses, which has made knowing the English language more important than ever. Indeed, today’s classrooms are driven by a need to learn English, for adults who want to expand their careers, and even children. This degree program at NCU ensures that graduates have strong foundational skills in assessing the skills and needs of their students. Graduates would be able to create bilingual instruction methods for these students, and also for teachers of English as a Second Language. It is a research based degree and as such, graduates are respected researchers who create and teach successful programs that enable others to learn English, either professionally or to integrate into new, English-speaking communities.

NCU’s degree offers unmatched flexibility to its students. There are no scheduled lecture hours and no group assignments. Courses start afresh every week and include weekly assignments. Those enrolled in the program can schedule their lessons around their professional and personal obligations and schedule. The faculty are 100% of doctorate-level individuals. They function not just as faculty and educators, but also as mentors. Hence, despite the degree being delivered online, NCU still provides one to one engagement for each student. And being online, there is no need to compete for attention with others in the classroom. Rather, each student receives personalized mentoring.

The learning outcomes are to:

  • Develop knowledge of educational research, theory, and various instructional practices
  • Be able to communicate appropriately with diverse audiences, explaining educational practices, research, and theories
  • Develop solutions that are evidence-based and that address current societal, organizational, and educational issues
  • Analyze technology options, dispositions, and professional skills in order to educate and lead diverse groups
  • Conduct educational research that will further develop the existing body of knowledge in English as a second language

The courses that students have to take as part of the curriculum include:

  • Foundations of Doctoral Study in Education
  • Advanced Scholarly Writing
  • Scholarly Literature Review
  • Research Methods
  • Statistics
  • Advanced Qualitative Design and Measurement
  • Advanced Quantitative Design and Measurement
  • Doctoral Comprehensive Assessment
  • Components of the Dissertation
  • The Dissertation Proposal
  • Institutional Review Board and Data Collection
  • The Dissertation Manuscript and Defense
  • Instructional Practices
  • Cultural Diversity
  • Evaluation of Diverse Students
  • Bilingual Instructional Methods
  • Developing Curriculum for ESL Students
  • Second Language Foundations

Those who graduate with a PhD in TESOL can take on a wealth of different positions. It is quite common for graduates to move abroad, particularly to the Asian continent. This is because the economy is becoming increasingly global, and there is a particularly high demand for countries like Korea, China, and Japan to develop professionals who are proficient in English. This demand is rising exponentially but has not yet been properly researched. As a result, there is a huge demand not just for those who can teach English as a second language, but also for those who are able to develop programs that are culturally appropriate and, most importantly, that are effective.

Some of the roles that you could take on include:

  • Curriculum developer
  • ESL teacher
  • Applied linguist
  • ESL educator – teaching the teacher
  • ESL researcher


By earning a PhD in TESOL, you can accelerate your career in education. You could decide to work in academics or in research, or you could continue to deliver TESOL training itself should you want to. Either way, you will be equipped with the necessary skills and knowledge to become an expert and a leader in your field, greatly advancing the field of teaching English as a second or foreign language to those who need it the most.

Additional Resources


  • English Language and Literature Teachers, Postsecondary. (2017, Mar. 31). Retrieved from
  • PhD in English as a Second Language. (n.d.). Retrieved from