2020 Accredited Online ESL Teaching Programs

By OnlineU Staff | Updated September 4, 2020
Quick Facts
Accreditation: CEA
Average Tuition: $25,967
Average Salary: $58,657

Many online colleges and universities offer degrees in English as a Second Language (ESL) at the associate, bachelor's, master's, doctoral, and certificate levels. Many of these degrees lead to an ESL teaching certification, which allows people to teach English as a second language in schools or in organizations around the world. Below, we list accredited online schools offering ESL degrees. We also highlight the 17 best online master's in ESL programs, ranked based on their tuition costs and alumni salaries provided by PayScale.

When choosing an ESL program, prospective students should ensure the program is accredited. Students should look for schools that have both regional and programmatic accreditation to confirm they are receiving a quality education that will adequately prepare them for a career in the field.

Find an Online Degree:
OnlineU is supported by advertising. Schools that compensate us advertise via school search results and featured placements. This does not influence our college rankings or our content.

Most Popular Accredited Online Schools for ESL Degrees

Prospective students who visit our site are most interested in these schools.
Rank School Annual Tuition Recommend Rate
# 1 #1 University of Arizona $11,800 100% (2 reviews)
# 2 #2 University of South Florida Online $17,324 67% (3 reviews)
# 3 #3 Texas A&M University-College Station $37,495 67% (3 reviews)
# 4 #4 Texas Tech University $19,040 0% (3 reviews)
# 5 #5 University of Virginia $49,032 Add Review
# 6 #6 University of California - Berkeley $43,176 75% (4 reviews)
# 7 #7 Northeastern University $51,522 100% (3 reviews)
# 8 #8 Georgia State University $23,971 0% (1 review)
# 9 #9 University of North Dakota $20,759 67% (3 reviews)
# 10 #10 University of Kansas $27,358 100% (1 review)
# 11 #11 Drexel University $53,244 67% (6 reviews)
# 12 #12 Western Kentucky University $26,280 100% (1 review)
# 13 #13 University of Illinois Urbana - Champaign $31,664 100% (1 review)
# 14 #14 Columbia University in the City of New York $59,430 Add Review
# 15 #15 Western Carolina University $7,926 100% (3 reviews)
# 16 #16 Eastern New Mexico University-Main Campus $8,247 100% (4 reviews)
# 17 #17 University of Colorado Denver $25,771 100% (2 reviews)
# 18 #18 Auburn University $30,524 100% (2 reviews)
# 19 #19 University of Alabama at Birmingham $19,704 100% (1 review)
# 20 #20 Indiana Wesleyan University Online $9,816 41% (29 reviews)
# 21 #21 University of Massachusetts - Amherst $34,570 60% (5 reviews)
# 22 #22 University of Northern Colorado $21,786 0% (1 review)
# 23 #23 Lamar University $18,333 50% (14 reviews)
# 24 #24 University of Louisiana-Monroe $20,654 67% (3 reviews)
# 25 #25 Florida Atlantic University $17,276 67% (6 reviews)

Online ESL Degree Overview & Career Information

The training involved in becoming an ESL instructor depends on the academic level that the individual wishes to teach. To teach English as a second language at the elementary and secondary level requires the same certification that is required for any teacher- a minimum of a bachelor’s degree as well as state certification. To teach adult literacy and GED classes, one needs a bachelor's or master's degree, but not necessarily a certification. Doctoral degrees in ESL are also available, though this level is only required for those who want to teach at the university level or go into research.

Online Associate Degrees in ESL

An online associate degree in ESL can help offer students many opportunities for the future, but students will often transfer to a four-year college to gain bachelor's degrees upon finishing their associate degree. Requiring 60 credits, it usually takes two years of full-time study to complete an associate degree in the ESL program. A personal essay, ACT (American College Test) or SAT (Scholastic Aptitude Test) scores, as well as other documents, might also be required. In order to be eligible for admission to an associate in ESL program, applicants must present a high school transcript showing graduation details, and their admission may be affected by their high school GPA scores. The curriculum often consists of classes focused on linguistics, grammar, pedagogy and language patterns analyzation.

Online Bachelor's Degrees in ESL

A bachelor's degree is the minimum amount of education needed in order to become a certified ESL teacher. Those interested in this career can attend a bachelor's program that is specifically aimed at training students to become ESL teachers, or they can earn a bachelor's in Education or a subject area such as English and then pursue an ESL certificate once they have graduated. Students in an education-focused bachelor's degree will usually have to complete supervised student teaching. A bachelor's degree will take around four years to complete around 120 credit hours of study. Classes that a student might take during this program of study include Structure of the English Language, Intercultural Communication, Introduction to Linguistics, and Modern Grammar. In order to be admitted to a bachelor's program an applicant will need to have at least a high school diploma or GED.

Online Master's Degrees in ESL

A master's degree can be appropriate for aspiring teachers that have a non-education related undergraduate degree, or teachers who wish to gain more education in order to better serve their students. Programs typically take two years to complete, requiring 30 credits in coursework. To learn more about online master's programs in ESL, see our master's overview which includes a list of the best programs.

Online Doctoral Degrees in ESL

Depending on an individual's goals, an online doctoral degree in teaching ESL may be an appropriate option. A doctorate prepares students to work in leadership roles within the field of education, as well as careers teaching the next generation of educators at the university level, or conducting their own research. The length of time it takes to earn a doctorate will vary, but students should expect to spend at least three to four years on their studies. In order to be admitted to a doctoral program a student will need to have completed a master's degree in a similar field. Other typical requirements include letters of recommendation, work experience in the field, and a written statement going over the applicant's research goals.

This level of program will be made up of traditional coursework as well as performing research and writing a dissertation. Classes that a doctoral student might take include Interlanguage Pragmatics, Sociolinguistics and Language Teaching, Language Teacher Education, and Curriculum Design.

Online Certificates in ESL

There are many online options available to those looking to earn a certificate in teaching English as a second language. An online ESL teaching certificate program can be found at various universities, and most are available at the graduate-level. A certificate program will typically take a year or two to complete. Some schools allow students to complete this type of certificate while also working on a graduate degree in education.

A certificate by itself is not enough to qualify a graduate to gain teaching licensure but those with just a certificate may be able to find work teaching in private settings, like private language schools or businesses. Teachers who already have licensure may wish to earn this type of certificate in order to teach a wider variety of classes and students. Students will learn how to create lessons and develop the skills they need to effectively teach ESL learners of various ages how to speak, read, and write English.

Requirements for Becoming an ESL Teacher

As with any teaching profession, those who work as ESL teachers in the Pre-K through 12th grade setting will need to be licensed. Licensing varies from state to state, but usually an aspiring ESL teacher will need at least a bachelor's degree. They will also have to go through teacher training, either as part of their undergraduate program or during a master's or certification course, and student teaching will be required. A certification test will also likely be required.

ESL is also widely known as ELL (English Language Learners), so a student who is interested in teaching ESL will also find value in ELL programs. However, it should be noted that earning a degree in ESL and becoming a licensed ESL teacher is different from earning a Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) or similar certificate on its own. This type of certificate will qualify an individual to teach English overseas in private language institutes, but not in public schools in the United States. Program descriptions should be read carefully.

The Importance of Accreditation for ESL Programs

One thing to keep in mind when choosing a degree program is accreditation. One important type of accreditation is regional accreditation, which is the most highly regarded and most widely accepted accreditation for higher education institutions. Regional accreditation means that the school has been evaluated by an outside organization which has determined that the school meets certain educational standards. This type of accreditation is important for a variety of reasons, including that credits earned through that school will transfer to other schools and also that students will have access to federal financial aid.

Another important type of accreditation is programmatic accreditation. This is when an organization specializing in a particular subject accredits programs that teach that subject. For many years, NCATE, or the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education, was the main professional accreditation agency for education programs, along with The Teacher Education Accreditation Council (TEAC). As of July 1, 2013, NCATE and TEAC merged to form The Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP). CAEP uses a set of five Standards to evaluate programs, with criteria including the quality of the professors and the kinds of practical experiences, such as student teaching, that a student has access to. Those who wish to become an ESL teacher should find a program that has received programmatic accreditation from CAEP or NCATE, because this will give them assurance that they are receiving a quality education that will prepare them for their future careers.

This website offers school details to prospective students as an informational resource. The appearance of a school listing on this website should not be interpreted as an endorsement of the school by this site.