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Online TESOL Degree Programs & Schools

Online TESOL Degree Programs aim to help teachers help their students communicate. Programs look closely at the needs of English language learners. Courses aim to prepare

educators to help students flourish in an English-speaking community.

Some courses might examine the science of language acquisition. Others might focus on tried-and-true language instruction techniques for the classroom. Courses might even look at the needs of different educational roles in the field. That could range from classroom teaching to one-on-one support to administrative responsibilities. 

What Is TESOL?

TESOL stands for “Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages.” Its mission, just like the name implies, is to help new English speakers become more fluent. TESOL uses a unique teaching methodology to help build fluency in and out of the classroom.

In general, TESOL does not require the teacher to speak the student’s primary language. However, understanding and speaking other languages can be a strong asset. That's because it could help you communicate with your students more effectively.

TESOL might also focus on the needs of all different types of students. Classrooms and students could range early childhood to adulthood. They could also include multiple levels of fluency, and even special needs.

EDUCATION INDUSTRY INSIGHT
We asked teachers: What are the joys of becoming a ESL Teacher?

"You teach someone to express themselves; is like creating a new life into a new world. But as a teacher we learn the students' world as well.. Its amazing!"

Lidia Aviles - Online TESOL Degree
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- Lidia Aviles, & Educator and Writer

What to Know About TESOL

If you’re new to TESOL, you might have encountered a variety of new terms and acronyms. Each of these speak to the types of students and classrooms one might encounter. These terms tend to be used to describe the content, focus, and approach of various online TESOL degree programs. Here are a few major ones you might want to be familiar with.

  • ELL: This stands for “English Language Learners.” It refers to students still learning to speak English, especially in English-speaking schools. Some areas might also use the term ELL in place of “ESL.” In that case, it would refer to English learning classrooms, as well as language support services provided to students.
  • ESL: This means “English as a Second Language.” This term can sometimes refer to students learning English. More often, it refers to the language education services provided to ELL students. But despite its name, it doesn't just mean "second" language. It also extends to include students who speak more than two languages, who are learning English for the first time.
  • EFL: This stands for “English as a Foreign Language.” This unique specialization focuses on how to teach English in communities that don't speak English. A big example of this is English language classrooms in other countries. In many ways, EFL can overlap with other aspects of language education like ESL.
  • ESOL: English for Speakers of Other Languages is a broader category that could cover both ESL and EFL. This could sometimes be used to refer to English language education in general.

Online TESOL Degree & Certificates: Essential Information

Online TESOL degree and certificate programs may come in a variety of shapes and sizes. This could be driven by anything from the location of the program to the types of students they intend to court. In general, one solid way to differentiate is to look at who a program is designed for.

Some TESOL degree programs might aim for people with teaching experience. Others might aim to help those without a background in education. The type of student a program is aimed at could indicate some content differences.  For example, some might include general teaching skills and knowledge. Others might be more specific to language-education needs and assume students have a solid foundation.

Types of Online TESOL Degree Programs & Certificate Programs

Online TESOL degree programs could be offered in a few different ways. Here’s a brief run-down of what you might find.

  • Online Associate Degree in TESOL: Associate degree programs may look at things like how to provide group and one-on-one support to ELL students.
  • Online Bachelors in TESOL: To become a certified teacher across the United States, a bachelors degree tends to be required. As such, some bachelors in TESOL programs include some or all of the prerequisites for teacher certification in that state.
  • Online TESOL Masters Degree: TESOL masters programs look at language education at the graduate level. Some programs may be designed to support new teachers coming from different fields.  Others may focus on helping experienced teachers who are looking to expand their skill areas.
  • Online Doctorate in TESOL: These programs might take a variety of approaches. For example, one might look at performing and analyzing second language acquisition research. Another might focus on applying that research in the field to help students, classes, and schools.
  • Online TESOL Certificate: These could be offered at the undergraduate or graduate level. TESOL certificates tend to be shorter in terms of required credits, and might focus on a specific topic within TESOL. They could also in some cases double as educational endorsements on teaching licenses.

Online TESOL Degree Programs Field Experience

It’s possible that your online TESOL degree program might include some offline elements. This may especially be the case if your program includes certification requirements. Some examples of this might include observations, student teaching, internship, or practicum requirements. Those may be completed under the guidance of an experienced teacher in a real classroom.

These types of experiences aim to help students contextualize what they learn in the classroom. They also may be opportunities to enact strategies and knowledge in real-world situations. Some schools may help students organize these opportunities or do it on their behalf. Others might allow students to set them up themselves, at their convenience.

Additional Information

If you want to teach ESL classes in the United States, you might need to become licensed. The requirements for teaching certification may vary from state to state. Further requirements for becoming licensed as a language teacher may also vary. If you’re interested in becoming certified, you'll probably need to earn your bachelors degree.

You may also need a certain amount of field experience and other credentials. For more information on how to become a certified language teacher, follow up with your school. You might also reach out to the organization that issues licenses in your state.

Online TESOL Degree: Potential Career Info

If you aspire to work in TESOL, a variety of paths might be open to you. Options may depend on your level of education, experience, and non-degree credentials like teacher certification. You might work with language learners ranging from young children through adulthood, at any skill level.

This may also include special education. TESOL teachers could be responsible for providing small group or one-on-one support in concert with special education services. Others may be in charge of leading a language classroom.

Here are some example roles you might look into.

  • Teacher Assistantsi
  • Preschool Teachersii
  • Elementary, Middle, or High School Teachersiii
  • Adult Literacy and High School Equivalency Teachersiv
  • Postsecondary Teachersv
  • Special Educationvi

Specific requirements for each role may vary. For more information, follow up with your selected TESOL program.

Find Your Online ESL Teaching Degree Programs Today!

If you want to earn a degree or certificate in TESOL online, don’t wait any longer to find a program and get started! If you already have an idea the type of program you’re interested in, select the appropriate program level using the menu. Degree and certificate options range from associates to doctorate.

Then review your search results. When you find some programs you might want to attend, click on the Request Info button to get in touch!


[i] bls.gov/ooh/education-training-and-library/teacher-assistants.htm | [ii] bls.gov/ooh/education-training-and-library/preschool-teachers.htm | [iii] bls.gov/ooh/education-training-and-library/kindergarten-and-elementary-school-teachers.htm | bls.gov/ooh/education-training-and-library/middle-school-teachers.htm | bls.gov/ooh/education-training-and-library/high-school-teachers.htm | [iv] bls.gov/ooh/education-training-and-library/adult-literacy-and-ged-teachers.htm | [v] bls.gov/ooh/education-training-and-library/postsecondary-teachers.htm | [vi] bls.gov/ooh/education-training-and-library/special-education-teachers.htm