ESL / TESOL Masters, Doctorates, & PhD Degree Programs Online

What Are Online TESOL Graduate Programs?

Online TESOL graduate programs combine courses in applied linguistics with pedagogy, classroom techniques, and education research to empower teachers to help their students thrive in an English-speaking society. Online ESL degree programs may vary widely, from those aimed at new teachers with little or no education experience, to higher level programs to help experienced teachers build on their existing expertise. This variety, combined with the convenient online format, may help teachers find the flexibility and personalization they need to make their education work without compromising a busy schedule.

Online TESOL Graduate Programs

Basics of Online ESL and TESOL Graduate Programs

The TESOL field encompasses a wide variety of classroom settings and student populations. Each of these might be the focus of different online TESOL graduate programs or courses. Understanding the differences between each type might help you to narrow down the programs you really want. Watch out for the following terms when reviewing potential online ESL degree programs and curricula.
  • TESL, which means Teaching English as a Second Language, refers to teaching students whose first language may not be English, but who live in a community or country, like the United States, where English is the primary language. TESL typically refers to the K-12 range in particular, though this may vary in some areas.
  • TEFL means Teaching English as a Foreign Language. While similar to TESL, this category specifically refers to learners of English who live in communities where the primary language is not English (for example, teaching English in France or Japan). This could be in an international school setting, an international university setting, an organization, or even an international corporation.
  • ESOL, which stands for English to Speakers of Other Languages, is sometimes used interchangeably with TESL. It concerns teaching English to students who live in English-speaking communities but speak another language at home. Unlike TESL, this term usually refers to classes outside the K-12 range, such as adult learners in a community college or night school setting. Some people prefer using this term because it more directly includes language learners who speak more than one language other than English. Again, this may vary by program and geographic area.
In addition to the categories above, some online TESOL programs might focus on the needs of specific age groups or grade levels, communities, or levels of fluency. So if you’re particularly interested on working with certain types of students, it’s possible you might find an online program tailored to the needs of that population. That may vary on a case-by-case basis, so for more information about your options, reach out to the school in question.

What To Expect In Online TESOL Programs

Online TESOL graduate programs bring advanced study of language education to your compatible computer, laptop, or device. You could complete your courses from anywhere an accessible internet connection. Why is this an advantage? For one, being a teacher means having a hectic schedule. Between your work in the classroom, your work after school, meetings, grading, professional development… getting to a physical classroom every week could be a challenge. Earning your ESL degree online, you could work wherever is most convenient for you. Plus, you gain exposure to the online classroom. This could be beneficial should you wish to teach online courses yourself. Exactly how your selected online TESOL program accomplishes this might vary by program or even by course. Some ask students to log on at set times, while others simply ask assignments be completed by a given deadline. For more information on how a school schedules online courses, follow up with them.

Offline Requirements in Online TESOL Graduate Programs

Another consideration when selecting graduate online TESOL programs is whether there might be offline program requirements. This could include things like observing a classroom in the field, or student teaching. This may be a particularly important consideration if you’re looking for a program for new teachers, which helps you meet requirements for becoming licensed. If you do need to complete these kinds of in-person requirements, in some cases, the school might schedule this on your behalf or assist you in this process. In other cases, you might bear more responsibility for finding and scheduling these opportunities. For more information about offline requirements of online programs, and how they’re handled, reach out the online ESL program you’re looking at for details.

Types of Online ESL Degrees

When choosing between online TESOL programs, spend some time thinking about your goals in earning that degree. Programs may be designed for current and aspiring educators at a variety of experience levels. What’s more, they may be designed broadly, aiming to support ESL education in a variety of communities, or may focus more narrowly on the needs of a specific population or type of student. Additionally, you might consider the type of TESOL education that most interests you. Are you most interested in leading a classroom, or providing push-in support to help language learners thrive in their other classes? Maybe you’d prefer to learn about teaching English in a foreign setting. Each of these goals may be reflected in different TESOL grad programs. Finally, think about the type of degree you might want to earn. Online ESL degree programs may be offered at the certificate, masters and doctoral level. Within each of these categories, programs might award any of several degree or certificate types. Each of these may tell you something about the program and its values.

Popular Online TESOL Graduate Programs

ProgramInstitutionDegree Awarded
MA in Curriculum & Instruction – English as a Second Language (ESL) or Bilingual EducationArizona State UniversityMA
Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL)Mercy CollegeMA
Master of Arts in TESOL Anaheim UniversityMA
Teaching English to Speakers of Other LanguagesSaint Michael's CollegeMA
Ph.D. in Educational Psychology – Bilingual EducationTexas A&M UniversityPhD
Master of Science in Education with specialization in TESOLNova Southeastern UniversityMS
Doctor of Education – English Language LearningNorthcentral UniversityN/A
M.A. in Teaching English to Speakers of Other LanguagesGrand Canyon UniversityMA
TESOL Post Master's CertificateNotre Dame of Maryland UniversityN/A
Master of Arts in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL)Campbellsville UniversityN/A
Master of Arts in Linguistics: Teaching English as a Second LanguageLiberty University OnlineMA
M.Ed. in Teaching English as a Second Language (TESOL) – K-12 TrackRegent UniversityN/A

Masters in TESOL Online Programs

Online ESL Masters programs, at their most basic level, could be sorted into two categories: those designed for new teachers, and those that aim to build on existing classroom experience and subject expertise. The former would likely aim to include many of the basic requirements for teacher certification, and cover general instructional topics including those specific to TESOL. MA in TESOL online programs designed for educators who already have a certification and experience, meanwhile, might develop those language education skills further. Or they might explore a new area, such as conducting research or leadership roles. In those cases, some programs might even require a certain amount of experience in a language classroom as a prerequisite for admission. Within these categories, a few different types of masters degrees might be available.
  • Online MAT in TESOL programs (Master of Arts in Teaching) are generally classroom-oriented, focusing on instructional topics like pedagogy, assessment, and language instruction strategies. These programs tend to be designed for those who intend to or already work in the classroom setting and want to expand their skill set to be more effective teachers.
  • TESOL M.Ed. programs online may have a lot in common with M.A.T. programs. However, these programs might have a slightly different perspective, instead focusing on studying education more broadly. For example, classes may look at TESOL at an administrative level within a school or district, preparing students to apply research to make an ELL program more effective.
  • Online Master of Science in TESOL (MS in TESOL) programs often have elements in common with Master of Education programs. They tend to be variable, focusing on either classroom skills, administrative, or language education research practices, depending on the particular school.
Remember, while this may be a good starting point in choosing an online masters ESL program, the specifics may vary from program to program. That makes it important to follow up with your preferred schools for details about how it is enacted there.

Earn Your Doctorate in ESL or TESOL Online

Online ESL Doctoral programs, like other education-related doctorates, may come in a few particular varieties: those focused on leadership and administration, and those focused on expanding the body of research on TESOL and language acquisition in general. The two most common types of doctorates awarded by TESOL programs include the following.
  • Online Doctor of Education in TESOL (EdD): Generally, these tend to focus on working in the field in TESOL, in a classroom or administrative role.
  • Online PhD in TESOL: Often, PhD programs are more academic and might focus on applied linguistics and conducting research.
The type you choose could have a big impact on your experience. Leadership focused programs tend to be mostly online, which may be especially helpful for dedicated professionals who teach or currently occupy administrative roles. Online learning could allow them to continue working while they study, and even rely on that experience to later inform instruction in online courses. Research-oriented doctorates, meanwhile, could differ considerably. In some cases, a few program elements may yet require campus visits. This could include things like conducting your own research, or presenting and defending a dissertation. However, a wide variety of online TESOL doctorate programs may be available and many could diverge from the descriptions above. Therefore conduct your own research to find a perfect match for you.

Online TESOL Graduate Certificate Programs

Those who want to deepen their expertise in the field at the graduate level, but are not currently ready to commit to a full online ESL degree, might want to pursue an online TESOL certificate. These may allow you to expand your knowledge in a shorter period of time. Graduate certificates require fewer courses than degrees and often concentrate on a specific topic, or build toward a specific goal. For example, some TESL certificates might act as teaching endorsements. Others could be used to enhance the teaching skills and education somebody has already earned. These might focus on TESOL pedagogy, or the unique challenges faced by a certain type of student, such as ones from a specific language or cultural background. Online TESOL graduate certificates could be a great fit for a few types of students.
  • Non-TESOL teachers who want to learn more about teaching in that area
  • TESOL teachers who want to develop a certain skill or knowledge area to better their practice
  • Leaders and decision-makers who want to understand TESOL more
This, of course, is not an exhaustive list, but it’s an example of different ways an online graduate certificate in TESOL could serve you. Graduate certificates in TESOL might be offered at the masters or post-masters level. For more information reach out to the programs you’re thinking about applying to.

ESL & TESOL Career Informationi

TESOL could be a broad career path within the field of education. After all, English language learners come from all walks of life! ESL instructional skills could apply in a variety of classrooms, from early childhood through high school, in every subject area. Beyond that, how the school administers language instruction may vary on a case by case basis. For example, some TESOL instructors might provide support to students in concert with special education services, while others might conduct formal language classes.
Top States for Employment for Foreign Language and Literature Teachers, Postsecondary
StateEmploymentAnnual Mean Wage
New York3,360$70,820

Bureau of Labor Statistics

Top Salary Metro Areas in the United States: Foreign Language and Literature Teachers, Postsecondary
Metro AreaAnnual Mean SalaryEmployment
Riverside-San Bernardino-Ontario, CA$97,050170
San Diego-Carlsbad, CA$84,010240
Miami-Fort Lauderdale-West Palm Beach, FL$82,850240
Providence-Warwick, RI-MA$78,220150
Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater, FL$77,63070

Bureau of Labor Statistics

Additionally, some states may require a specific certification or endorsement in order to teach in this capacity. Others may simply require demonstration of expertise through education or experience. For more information on the specific requirements that may apply to you, reach out to individual online TESOL graduate programs, or to the organization responsible for issuing and maintaining teaching licenses in your state.


Top 42 Online Graduate Schools with Online TESOL Masters Programs

  • Northcentral University

  • Grand Canyon University

  • Notre Dame of Maryland University

  • Campbellsville University

  • Liberty University Online

  • Regent University

  • Arizona State University

  • Mercy College

  • Anaheim University

  • Saint Michael's College

  • Texas A&M University

  • Nova Southeastern University