Best Online Master’s in English Language Learning Programs

Rank School Name Ranking Score Relative Cost % Enrolled Online Location Description
1 University of Southern California 79.78 4/5 2% Los Angeles, CA

Located in Los Angeles, USC delivers a master's of arts in teaching English to speakers of other languages (TESOL) that interweaves theoretical underpinnings with practical fieldwork. The online program, designed for novice and experienced faculty, features coursework organized across four categories: foundations, teaching methods, language and literacy, and field experience/capstone portfolio. Field experience includes a teaching practicum for new teachers or a capstone project for veteran educators. Students begin fieldwork by tackling an ethnographic case study of an ESL (English as a Second Language) learner. The next term, candidates design and administer a classroom-based assessment and lead an English workshop for English language learners. In their final term, students undertake a professional development project.

Earning USC's master's in ESL online takes 15-20 months for full-time students or up to three years for part-time students. Program sessions begin in January, May, and September with applications accepted on a rolling basis. Applicants should have a bachelor's degree with a GPA above 3.0 and submit a completed application along with a $90 fee, three personal essays, a resume, and two letters of recommendation.

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2 Texas A & M University-College Station 65.82 3/5 3% College Station, TX

More bilingual education teachers graduate from Texas A&M University than anywhere else in the state. Located in College Station, A&M features a 36-credit bilingual education master's (of science or education) program covering theory, methodology, and application. Required courses include bilingual assessment and monitoring students, teacher action research in bilingual education, and techniques of research. The program also provides students with abundant fieldwork opportunities. To graduate with their ESL degree online, students must choose between a thesis and oral defense, or a comprehensive exam. At students' preference, classes may be 100% online or consist of a hybrid format that includes face-to-face meetings, video conferencing, and online content. Graduates leave the program prepared for the Bilingual Education Supplemental Exam.

Applicants should have at least a 3.0 GPA and submit letters of recommendation along with a personal biographical profile. A&M's admissions committee will consider other factors, including foreign language fluency, interpersonal skills, life and work experiences, and career goals. Application deadlines are October 15 and March 15 for spring and summer/fall admissions, respectively.

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3 University of Northern Iowa 60.12 3/5 18% Cedar Falls, IA

UNI's master's of arts in TESOL is designed for those who want to teach overseas or at community colleges, and for K-12 teachers who want to boost their employability. Throughout the program, students learn about cultural aspects of teaching language, linguistics, and common problems in English grammar.

UNI delivers its online courses through a combination of video conferencing using Adobe Connect and eLearning using the Blackboard learning management system. During the fall and spring semesters, the university structures courses in eight-week modules with sessions on Thursday evenings. Students progress through the curriculum in a cohort. Graduates find that UNI's master's in TESOL prepares them for a variety of ESL jobs. Currently, program graduates teach in more than 25 countries across five continents; others are U.S.-based K-12 teachers.

Prospective applicants should have a minimum 3.0 GPA, though a GPA as low as 2.76 may lead to provisional admission. Students can transfer graduate credits earned within the past seven years with a grade of B- or better. Unlike most ESL master's programs online, UNI's program has no entrance exam requirements.

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4 Dominican University 58.65 3/5 15% River Forest, IL

Located in River Forest, Illinois, Dominican offers an endorsement in English as a second language (ESL). The program, available entirely online, enables licensed or prospective teachers to obtain the endorsement they need to teach ESL. With the endorsement in hand, graduates can then opt to complete a master's degree in education in only a few additional semesters.

Throughout Dominican's program, students become familiar with assessment methods, linguistics and language development, and instruction materials. The endorsement requires students to complete 100 clock hours of experience working with ESL learners or three months at ESL teaching jobs. While the endorsement requires students to complete 18 semester credits, those with an Illinois teaching license and learning behavior specialist I endorsement may choose to instead pursue an ESL approval, which requires just 9 semester credits. Graduates with an approval can work with ESL learners who have an individualized education plan; graduates with an endorsement can work with anyone in the age range for which the endorsement was awarded. Students typically complete Dominican's endorsement program in three or four semesters.

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5 Hamline University 57.99 4/5 6% Saint Paul, MN

Based in St. Paul, Minnesota, Hamline's School of Education helps current and prospective teachers learn how to motivate students while assessing and developing their capabilities in reading, writing, speaking, and listening. The university's master of arts in TESOL degree is a fully online, 34-credit program designed for those with a passion for teaching ESL to migrant populations.The 28 prescribed credits include courses on applied phonetics and phonology, introduction to applied linguistics, and English teaching practices. Students must also enroll in six elective credits, and can choose among subjects like development of literacy skills, technology enhanced language learning, and advanced linguistic analysis.

Hamline's ESL master's online program begins in the fall term and takes five or six terms to complete. Transfer students can apply as many as six semester credits of graduate work from another institution toward the degree's elective requirements. To apply for the program, prospective students need to complete an online application and submit transcripts with at least a 3.0 GPA (2.5-2.9 for possible provisional admission), two recommendation letters, and a two-page essay describing their career goals.

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6 The New School 57.72 5/5 12% New York, NY

The New School, in New York City, offers a teacher training program that emphasizes social action and community improvement. Students can complete the New School's 30-credit master's of arts in TESOL entirely online and can choose to specialize in teaching or curriculum development. Course content addresses current political, social, and cultural issues with outreach programs involving multilingual families or victims of violence. Throughout the curriculum, students witness firsthand how learning English can empower underserved communities.

The New School's master's in ESL online requires students to complete 15 credits of core courses in addition to 15 credits of courses in their concentration. Core courses cover topics like language analysis and principles of language learning. Electives include teaching pronunciation and teaching young learners. The New School delivers its online courses in an asynchronous format.

Most part-time students earn their ESL degree online within 20 months, but full-time students can finish in as little as 15 months. Along with their application, prospective students should submit a 1,000-word statement of purpose, transcripts, resume, and recommendation letters. Applicants must also complete a personal interview before they can earn admission.

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7 Webster University 55.68 4/5 18% Saint Louis, MO

Webster features a master's of arts in teaching ESL wherein candidates study phonology, dialects, and language structure. Throughout the program, students develop a solid theoretical understanding of second language acquisition as it relates to curriculum development, methodology, and assessment. Students pursuing Webster's master's in ESL online can choose between two tracks: an adult education emphasis, which requires no prior teaching experience, or a K-12 English language learner education emphasis, which requires licensure. Each track consists of 33 credits with 24 required courses and nine elective credits.

To be eligible for admission to the program, applicants must have a minimum GPA of 2.5 and must submit transcripts along with an essay describing their teaching philosophy. Webster highly recommends two semesters of a foreign language with a "B" or better for native English speakers. Students must maintain a 3.0 GPA to graduate.

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8 University of Maryland-Baltimore County 55.16 3/5 4% Baltimore, MD

Like other online ESL master's degree programs, UMBC's master's of arts in TESOL program features an optional, substantial internship component for those seeking hands-on experience. In completing the required 36 credits, students can choose to complete a thesis, an internship/practicum, and/or add on K-12 ESOL certification. UMBC's noncertification, paid internships involve three to six months of teaching in the U.S. or abroad, where the university has internship agreements in Ecuador, Mexico, Bolivia, and Peru.

Distance learners at UMBC study at their own pace. Full-time students typically earn their degree within 18 months, while part-time students generally finish in 30 months. Those who choose to participate in an internship or add on K-12 ESOL certification might need an extra semester to complete the program. UMBC students can transfer up to six credits toward their master's in ESL online. Prospective students can take a few courses that count for credit once the student is admitted. The program's application deadlines are August 1 for the fall semester, January 1 for spring, and May 1 for the summer session.

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9 McDaniel College 54.22 3/5 0% Westminster, MD

Respect for diversity and individual language rights is an integral component of the master's of science in TESOL at McDaniel in Westminster, Maryland. The 36-credit program stresses collaboration in a global community, respect for multiculturalism, and synergy between research and practice in improving the teaching of ESL. Required courses explore linguistics, grammar, assessment of learners, methods of teaching reading, and principles of language acquisition. Core courses are available entirely online, and students can choose to complete electives online, in a hybrid format, or in person. McDaniel holds in-person class sessions in the evening, Monday through Thursday, and on Saturday mornings.

McDaniel accepts applications for this ESL degree online year-round, but advises students to submit them well before due dates for enrollment in fall, spring, and summer sessions. Admission requirements include prerequisite courses in cross-cultural studies and a foreign language. Those applicants who lack a teaching certificate will need additional prerequisites in education and reading methods, in addition to evidence of proficiency in K-12 science and math and a cumulative GPA of 2.75 or better.

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10 Canisius College 53.78 3/5 7% Buffalo, NY

A Jesuit school located in Buffalo, New York, Canisius delivers a fully online, 30-credit master's degree in TESOL with an optional track that prepares students for certification to teach ESL to K-12 grades in the state. Courses cover topics like measurement and statistics, adolescent literacy, and emergent literacy. The program includes a supervised fieldwork requirement, which students can fulfill anywhere in the U.S. or internationally.

Like nearly all ESL master's programs online, Canisius' program features a flexible schedule, with sessions that begin in January, May-June, and late August and no application deadlines. To be eligible for admission, applicants must have a 3.0 undergraduate GPA and submit a 300-word essay, test scores, two letters of recommendation, teaching certification, and 12 credits of a foreign language if they intend to pursue certification.

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11 Azusa Pacific University 52.92 4/5 18% Azusa, CA

Prospective and experienced teachers may be interested in APU's master of arts in TESOL. The program, which students can complete entirely online, in the field, or on campus, adopts a Christian perspective in preparing them to teach ESL to diverse populations in various environments. The field-based option allows students who secure a two-year teaching contract abroad to earn their degree while they teach. Students on this track, who benefit from a tuition discount, meet with faculty in person twice a year for two weeks of instruction in Chiang Mai, Thailand, or Azusa, California.

Courses in the program explore language learning through technology, acquisition of a second language, sociolinguistics, and second-language pedagogy, among other topics. Students progress through the curriculum as a cohort. Full-time students usually take two courses each session and finish in 18 months. Part-time students generally finish the program in about three years. To earn their ESL master's online at APU, all students must create an online portfolio that demonstrates their competencies in 15 areas.

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12 Western Governors University 51.58 3/5 100% Salt Lake City, UT

Located in Salt Lake City, Utah, WGU was one of the first institutions of higher learning in the nation to offer a competency-based learning model. In that vein, the university's online master's of arts in English language learning (ELL) allows students to progress through the program by demonstrating their knowledge on assessment tests. Candidates study subjects like curriculum development, design, and evaluation. Additionally, students complete more than 15 hours of field experience that includes supervised teaching at elementary and secondary levels. They must also write a research-based curriculum unit that demonstrates their instructional capabilities. Students work with faculty mentors to develop personalized degree plans that determine their pace through the program. Those who spend 15-20 hours a week on coursework can graduate in about two years.

WGU does not grant transfer credits for professional experience, but will consider previous coursework. Unlike with most ESL master's programs online, the university charges a flat tuition rate regardless of how many courses students take each term, so those who accelerate their studies save both time and money.

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13 Concordia University-Nebraska 51.49 3/5 15% Seward, NE

Seward, Nebraska's Concordia University delivers a 36-credit master's of education in TESOL. The program prepares students to teach ESL and ELL in environments outside the classroom, such as refugee and migrant centers, and is also appropriate for those seeking to teach English abroad. Throughout the program, students learn about key concepts, theories, and research associated with language acquisition and the ways culture affects language development. Courses cover topics like psychological foundations, curriculum and assessment, linguistics, culture, acquisition, and word study. Armed with this knowledge, graduates are able to build supportive learning environments for their students.

The program includes a 45-credit practicum requirement, fulfilled at various intervals. Students take twelve courses, one at a time, during eight-week terms and can finish their degree in 24 months. If they choose, students can accelerate the program by doubling their course load and earn their degree within 18 months. Unlike some ESL master's programs online, Concordia-Nebraska allows applicants to transfer up to 25% of their required credits from another institution. The university does not require GRE or GMAT test scores.

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14 Emporia State University 50.58 3/5 20% Emporia, KS

ESU's 36-credit master's of arts in TESOL explores topics like instructional methodologies, language assessment/evaluation, research methods, sociolinguistics, computer-assisted learning, and cross-cultural communication. The degree ranks among top ESL master's programs online partially because its curriculum is designed to ensure that graduates leave with an appreciation for the rich diversity of cultures in the United States.

Thesis and non-thesis candidates must complete core courses totaling 21 credits and electives totaling 12 credits, all with a minimum 3.0 GPA. To graduate, students must also pass the TESOL Content PRAXIS Exam with a grade of 138 or better. Prospective students need three references, a resume, statement of purpose and a minimum 2.75 GPA. In their admission essay, applicants must describe their own ESL methodology, reflecting on language, how it is acquired and how it can be taught.

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15 Wilkes University 50.55 4/5 14% Wilkes-Barre, PA

Located in Pennsylvania, Wilkes delivers a 30-credit master's of science in TESOL as one of 16 online master's degrees. The program prepares students for a range of education careers and qualifies graduates for ESL jobs in public or private schools, community colleges, universities, intensive English programs, and corporate English programs, in the U.S. and abroad. Students learn about the application of linguistic terminology, the role of intercultural communication, and modern research in listening, speaking, reading, and writing. A required course on computer-assisted language learning (CALL) asks students to demonstrate what they've learned by developing a CALL project for second language learners.

To apply, prospective students need a minimum 3.0 GPA and undergraduate transcripts, along with two letters of recommendation. Wilkes allows students to transfer up to six credits toward their degree, provided they were completed within the past six years with a grade of B or better. The university accepts applications on a rolling basis.

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16 Concordia University-Chicago 50.22 3/5 19% River Forest, IL

Concordia Chicago's online master's of arts in TESOL was developed for those who wish to acquire subject matter knowledge and practical skills essential for teaching English in the U.S. and abroad. The university's 30-credit program will prepare students to find ESL jobs in community organizations, intensive English programs, colleges, and private companies. Courses in curriculum planning, second language acquisition, and applied philology culminate in a capstone project and a seminar in reflective practice, each demonstrating the candidate's mastery of the material. Students can complete the program in 12 or 24 months, taking one eight-week course at a time.

To begin studies in the fall, spring, or summer semesters, prospective students should submit an online application along with a statement of educational goals, transcripts, and two letters of recommendation. To be considered for admission, applicants should have a minimum 2.85 GPA. Notably, Concordia Chicago guarantees that students without interruptions in their study will never be subject to any tuition increase.

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17 University of North Dakota 49.79 3/5 29% Grand Forks, ND

UND delivers a 35-credit master's in ELL education with an option to specialize in rural ELL/ESL education. Graduates are able to help ELL and ESL populations reach their full potential and advocate for them in schools and society. This part-time program is appropriate for certified teachers or noncertified professionals in related positions. Students learn from faculty who hold doctoral degrees and have backgrounds in the Peace Corps or teaching ESL to refugee, immigrant, and Native American populations. UND's two-year ESL master's online program requires 90 hours of supervised practicum experience in a K-12 public school. The university also advises students to attend an in-person seminar each semester.

Prospective students need a minimum 2.75 GPA, three letters of recommendation, an essay, and, for those not currently working, an issue-free criminal background check. The program has start dates in August and May. Online students pay the same tuition as in-state students, regardless of their state of residence.

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18 Asbury University 47.86 4/5 26% Wilmore, KY

Located in Wilmore, Kentucky, Asbury seeks to preserve its commitment to evangelical Christianity through its master's of arts in teaching ESL P-12. The part-time program is designed for those who already have teacher certification. The curriculum is ethically grounded in educational inquiry and professional competence, with a focus on Christian educational leadership. Students must complete coursework in subjects like intervention, instructional technologies, language sound systems, and grammatical structure. Candidates learn to assess student needs, analyze learning, and implement suitable interventions.

Asbury delivers its online courses in an asynchronous format using Adobe Connect. Open enrollment allows students to begin project-based, collaborative courses in the fall, spring, or summer. Each course lasts for seven weeks. Candidates need six semesters and a minimum 3.0 GPA to obtain their ESL degree online. Students can transfer nine semester hours of graduate-level credit with a B grade or better toward their degree. To be eligible for admission, applicants need a minimum 2.75 GPA, PRAXIS exam scores, transcripts, three references, proof of teaching licensure, and to complete an interview with the chair of Educational Specialties.

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19 Sam Houston State University 45.56 3/5 37% Huntsville, TX

With the motto, "The measure of a life is its service," SHSU tries to honor its historical roots through the academic excellence of its programs. The Huntsville, Texas-based institution boasts 50 master's programs, including an online master's of education in TESOL. The 30-credit program addresses language instruction theories and best practices. Students review the psychological, linguistic, cognitive, and sociocultural premises of language and literacy, and learn how to incorporate technology to enhance instruction. Required courses make up 12 credits and students choose another six courses that may include gaming and literacy, English for specific purposes, or building relationships with diverse families and children. SHSU provides flexibility for its distance learners, offering classes online and at night.

Students must maintain a minimum 3.0 GPA and complete their master's in ESL online within six years. SHSU allows students to transfer up to six credits (earned with a grade of B or better) toward their degree. Prospective students should submit a completed application along with a nonrefundable $45 fee, a writing sample, and two letters of recommendation.

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20 Kennesaw State University 45.36 3/5 27% Kennesaw, GA

Located in Georgia, Kennesaw prepares teachers to educate an increasingly diverse student population. The university's master's of education in TESOL program covers teaching strategies in reading and writing, collaborative practices, and curriculum development. Students can complete the 36-credit program, which is available entirely online, in five semesters. Sample courses include collaborative practices, which helps candidates build effective family, school, and community partnerships to facilitate research-based instruction. The program also boasts a field experience component, centered on developing and implementing a lesson plan.

Content delivery for this ESL degree online may be asynchronous or synchronous, with an average course load of three courses in each of the first two semesters and two courses in the remaining three semesters. Kennesaw allows students to transfer nine credits toward their degree. Applicants must submit an online application with a $60 fee, valid teaching certificate, transcripts, a personal statement, resume, and two recommendations by July 1.

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21 Mercy College 45.18 3/5 47% Dobbs Ferry, NY

At Mercy in Dobbs Ferry, New York, future teachers dedicate themselves to serving the needs of English language learners from diverse cultural backgrounds by earning a master's of science in TESOL on one of two tracks. Those seeking initial certification take the 136-credit track, where they undertake a 15-week, supervised student teaching experience. Those seeking professional certification take the 133-credit track, where they complete a 20-day clinical practice experience in a pre-K-12 ESL school setting. Students on either track take courses like linguistics and language development and modern English structure.

Full-time candidates in the ESL degree online program enroll in nine to 12 credits each semester; part-time candidates take three to six credits. Students must maintain a minimum 3.0 GPA to graduate. Applicants can transfer up to six credits for prior courses taken. Admission to either track requires 12 credits of college-level work in a language other than English, a developmental psychology course, and completion of an e-portfolio. The initial certification track also requires an undergraduate major in the sciences or liberal arts.

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22 Murray State University 43.63 3/5 24% Murray, KY

Murray's master's of arts in TESOL program features opportunities in graduate assistantships to help students gain invaluable experience. The part-time ESL master's online is designed for working professionals, offering course loads of one or two classes per term. Program content covers topics like applied linguistics and professional practices, testing and evaluation in second language teaching, and computer assisted language learning.

Distance learners are eligible for in-state tuition. All candidates must complete an internship, paid or unpaid, in the U.S. or abroad. Murray's 33-credit master's program takes 24 to 36 months to finish. Prospective students who are native speakers of English will need to have completed an undergraduate major in English or a modern foreign language and have at least 12 credits in one modern foreign language. Applicants submit a $40 fee with their online application and transcripts showing an undergraduate GPA of 3.0 or better.

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23 St John's University-New York 43.59 4/5 14% Queens, NY

Students enrolled in SJU's master's of science in TESOL embark on a research-centric journey toward becoming multicultural ESL educators. This 33-credit program provides teachers with advanced knowledge of K-12 instructional programs for students with different linguistic and sociocultural backgrounds. SJU's master's in TESOL features two tracks: one designed for students with New York state certification, and one for those without it. Each track includes nine credits in foundational courses, 18 credits in professional core courses, and three credits each in special education and technology.

Students may choose to apply for a graduate assistantship or university fellowship within SJU's Education Department. These positions are awarded based on academic merit, and the university expects applicants to have at least a 3.20 GPA. Students enrolled in SJU's ESL degree online share access to financial aid, library resources, career services, and even tuition rates with on-campus students. Applications should include a statement of goals, transcripts, and results of either the GRE, MAT, or PRAXIS Core exam.

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24 Biola University 42.76 5/5 7% La Mirada, CA

Located in La Mirada, California, Biola's master's of arts in TESOL may appeal to Christian teachers of ESL who want to enhance their current skills. The program, available entirely online, consists of nine credits in foundational courses like the Bible/theology, 23 credits from core courses, three credits of elective courses in the Bible/theology, and six credits of electives in TESOL.

For most students, Biola's program begins in the fall, with specified start and end dates for each course and weekly assignments that require interaction with classmates in an asynchronous format. Students generally complete Biola's program in two to five years. All students must take a writing proficiency exam and have a minimum 3.0 GPA to graduate. Prospective students should have at least one year of experience teaching ESL and identify themselves as evangelical Christians. While candidates aren't required to hold current ESL jobs, they do need access to an ESL class for purposes of observation. Distance learners in Biola's TESOL master's program automatically receive a one-third in tuition when registering for TESOL classes online.

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25 The University of Texas of the Permian Basin 40.06 2/5 74% Odessa, TX

Odessa's UTPB delivers an online master's of arts in bilingual or ESL education. The program's bilingual option prepares Spanish-speaking students to work as educators in a bilingual setting, covering topics like cultural diversity, philosophical perspectives on learning, and the politics of bilingual education. Successful completion of the program for those with a teaching certificate in Texas readies graduates to take the bilingual supplemental exam. Those who choose to pursue their ESL master's online learn how to teach students whose native language is not English. Students who complete this option can take the ESL supplemental test in Texas.

Sample required courses for both options include educational psychology, issues and advanced problems in ESL, and methods of teaching ESL. Courses last nearly eight weeks each, with six start dates throughout the year. Students can complete the 36-hour program in two years. Applicants should submit evidence of a bachelor's degree with a GPA of 3.0 or better, an essay describing their interest in the program, and two letters of recommendation.

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