Why This Matters


    The number of English language learners (ELLs) in U.S. schools has been steadily increasing since 2000. Currently, roughly 10% of public school students speak English as their second language.


    The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that there will be an average of 5,100 job openings for adult basic/secondary education and ESL teachers each year from 2020 to 2030.


    Students with a master’s in English language learning can also qualify for jobs teaching English overseas, writing ESL teaching materials, or directing TESOL programs for schools or agencies.

Our Research

There are different types of degrees in English language learning, including Master of Arts in Teaching (MAT), Master of Education (MEd), Master of Science (MS), and Master of Arts (MA). Although they have different pedagogical approaches, all will prepare you for a career in teaching English as a second language.

As part of our quality standards, we only review programs offered by schools with regional accreditation. Many of the programs on our list are also accredited through the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP).

We included programs that are delivered online, on-campus, and in hybrid or blended formats.

Once we narrowed our list of programs, we evaluated them on the basis of cost, course strength, reputation, faculty, and flexibility. Each program received an Intelligent Score on a scale of 0 to 100. For a more extensive explanation, check out Our Ranking Methodology.

  • 82 hours to write this article
  • 133 universities and colleges we assessed
  • 415 education programs we compared

The Top 53 Master’s in English Language Learning Programs

Best Online Master's in English Language Learning Degree Programs
loader Image

What You Should Know About This Degree

To be an ESOL teacher in U.S. public schools, you need an ESOL endorsement or certification, which is typically added on to the basic state-issued teacher’s license. Earning a master’s degree in English language learning is one way to obtain this endorsement. However, individuals who have a teacher’s license may be able to complete a shorter certification program. Your career goals and educational background will determine whether you should complete a full master’s degree or a certification program. Endorsement regulations vary by state; be sure to review your state’s endorsement requirements and select a program that fulfills them.

Having proficiency in another language is beneficial to ESOL teachers; some programs even require fluency in another language as an admissions qualification. In the U.S., Spanish, Arabic, and Chinese are the most common primary languages of ELL students in public schools.

Graduation rates are increasing in the U.S., meaning many ELL students are learning English during primary or secondary school. This is leading to a decline in the need for adult ESOL teachers. Employment in this field is expected to decline by five percent by 2026. Job prospects for individuals teaching ESOL at the adult level will be best for those with prior teaching experience who are willing to take part-time positions.

What’s Next?

Here are some questions to ask when researching Master’s in English Language Learning programs:

  • Am I eligible for this program? Some programs require students to already have their teaching license as well as teaching experience. If you are using your master’s as an entry into the teaching profession, make sure you select a program with less stringent admissions requirements. Other programs may seek applicants who can demonstrate proficiency in a foreign language.
  • Does the program have experiential learning requirements? Teaching is a hands-on profession. Many programs, even those that offer coursework online, may have experiential learning requirements like student teaching or a practicum. Find out what, if any, field experiences are required by the program and in what type of setting you can complete these requirements.

During your research phase, also find out what the program’s application requirements and deadlines are. Start gathering your application materials well ahead of the submission deadlines to ensure that everything is completed in a timely manner. Now is also the time to consider how you are financing your master’s degree. Explore your options for financial aid, scholarships, and assistantships. If you are currently employed, find out if you qualify for tuition assistance from your employer.