ece top online masters esl tesol degree programs 01

According to information provided at the TESOL International Convention, there are 1.5 billion English language learners in the world.  Teachers who teach English to students who speak other languages find work in a variety of academic, translation, or community support roles. Unlike teachers of the academic discipline, these teachers are specially trained in linguistics, managing diverse classrooms.  They teach English to students who already know other languages.  They also support students as they transition into what is often a new culture.

Most TESOL online masters programs require between 30 and 36 credit hours as well as (often) a capstone and in-classroom practicum. Most online TESOL master’s programs require two years of study, though many below have flexibility-enhancing components that can lower the time until graduation for select or particularly motivated students. ESL and TESOL teachers are in practically every public school in America and at every education level. ESL teachers are also employed in large numbers overseas, offering a chance to explore new parts of the world and sometimes larger paychecks than their US counterparts. Check out our methodology and 10 best ESL and TESOL masters online below!

  • Affordability (1/3): the average graduate tuition rate provided by the National Center for Education Statistics
  • Flexibility (1/3): the number of flexibility-granting components of the program, including different specializations, prior experience credit, accelerated courses, ability to take synchronous or asynchronous coursework, and more.
  • Academic Prestige (1/3): the accreditation status of a university, as well as accolades from other prominent ranking sites and educational organizations.

1.) The University of Missouri – Columbia, Missouri

missouri 1 e1480099828941Online TESOL Master’s Program


Average Graduate Student Tuition Rate: $10,447/year in-state and $28,605/year out-of-state

Student to Faculty Ratio: 18:1

The University of Missouri (Mizzou) is a public land-grant university located in Columbia, Missouri. The university has a long and esteemed lineage including the prestige of being the first university founded west of the Mississippi River (in 1839). Over 300 degree programs are offered through the university, which is the flagship of the University of Missouri system. The university includes a school of medicine, veterinary medicine, engineering, agriculture, and law all on the same campus.  This distinction is only seen in six public universities in the nation.

Other notable distinctions of the school include its status as the only university in the country to run a network (NBC) affiliate station, as well as being home to the nation’s largest reactor house at a university. Students who have the opportunity to spend time on campus can enjoy visiting buildings on the National Register of Historic Places. Centered around the Francis Quadrangle, the University is divided into ‘red’ and ‘white’ campuses. The Red campus consists of historic buildings comprised of older brick architecture.  The White Campus is comprised of newer buildings. Both portions of the campus are surrounded by a well-maintained botanical garden.

The University of Missouri offers close to 50 fully online degrees and certifications.  A large portion of offerings are in the field of education. Mizzou offers an online Master of Education in learning, teaching, and curriculum with an emphasis on teaching English to speakers of other languages.  This fully online master’s in TESOL is comprised of 33 required credit hours. Students without necessary prerequisites may elect to take up to 9 post-baccalaureate preparatory credit hours while applying. All participants in the program are required to complete a practicum, which may be taken close to wherever online students are physically located.

Students can tailor their education through the choice of electives including teaching ESL/EFL to adult learners and teaching English grammar and pronunciation.  Graduates are prepared for exciting career opportunities working as:

  • English language instructors
  • Language program administrators
  • Language testers
  • Writers for educational materials

Most students can complete the TESOL program in just two years by taking two courses per semester.

2.) Concordia University Nebraska – Seward, Nebraska

concordia e1480099858932Online Master of Education TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages)


Average Graduate Student Tuition Rate: $7,650/year

Student to Faculty Ratio: 14:1

Concordia University Nebraska is a private university located in Seward, Nebraska. The University is a member of the 10-school Concordia University System, known for its Lutheran heritage.  The Concordia system is also known for its wide range of online programming. Concordia offers degrees in over 50 subject areas at the undergraduate and graduate levels.  Their holistic programming focuses on technical matters within a discipline and on fostering leadership and participation in a diverse and complex society. Besides their unique Christian and leadership-centered curricula, the university is also known as one of the most affordable private universities in America (23rd to be exact), as measured by MONEY Magazine. On average, incoming undergraduate students receive an average of $24,991 in institutional grants and scholarships.

Concordia University Nebraska offers one of the top TESOL masters programs in the country.  The fully online master’s program in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages offered by CU Nebraska requires students to take 36 credit hours. The program is accredited by the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education.  The TESOL program ranks highly on two metrics: academic prestige and flexibility. Flexibility-enhancing components of the program include the self-paced aspect of the degree and accelerated 8-week courses. For students electing to take courses at a typical pace, time-until-degree comes in at 24 months. Students may also pursue a fast-track option that allows them to graduate in as little as 18 months.  Students who have already earned their MEd can earn an ESL endorsement in just 10 months.

Students in the TESOL program learn how to connect with diverse populations by studying:

  • theory
  • culture
  • linguistics

Like other comparable TESOL programs, students are required to complete a 45-hour practicum in or around their hometown before graduation. Students close enough to CU Nebraska’s home campus can also elect to pursue a hybrid option for a slight tuition drop.

Graduates are prepared to teach K-12 students and adult learners in the US and abroad.

3.) Capella University – Minneapolis, Minnesota

capella logo horizontal RGBOnline Master of Science in Education English Language Learning and Teaching


Average Graduate Student Tuition Rate: $14,826/year

Student to Faculty Ratio: 32:1

Capella University is a for-profit university with a main campus in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The university offers its courses of study online. Capella has over 38,000 online students from all 50 states and over 60 other countries. A majority of students are online graduate students, with 47% of total students studying at the master’s level and 20% enrolled in doctoral programs. Particularly with the relative scarcity of online doctoral programs, Capella’s offerings at the doctoral level are phenomenal. Capella’s focus on online education has enabled the university to tailor its online programming to non-traditional students. The average student is 38 years old, has worked for several years, and takes courses primarily online. Capella University is regionally accredited (the highest accrediting standard) by the Higher Learning Commission.

Capella University’s fully online Masters of Science in Education in English Language Learning and Teaching is one of the most flexible online TESOL masters programs we surveyed. Start dates are available year-round, and classes are accelerated in a quarterly schedule. Quarters are three-month segments followed by 3 weeks off, allowing students to build their coursework into their busy lives.

One of the nicest parts of Capella’s online experience is the clarity of expectations found in all of its courses. All courses are divided into ten weekly subsections.  Students are aware of course expectations as far as what will be graded and what they should accomplish in each week of the class. Most students take one to two classes per quarter, though some students may elect to accelerate their study even further by taking a third.

The program includes a practical, relevant curriculum designed for licensed P-12 teachers who want the skills needed to teach an English Language Learner (ELL).  Course offerings include:

  • Applied Linguistics
  • Strategies for Eliminating the Achievement Gap for English Language Learners
  • Culture, Society, and Language

Graduates are prepared to work in a variety of employment settings including K-12 public and private schools.  Popular job titles include:

  • Teacher of English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL)
  • Adjunct or part-time faculty of education courses
  • Adult basic education teacher

4.) Grand Canyon University – Phoenix, Arizona

grand_canyonMaster’s in TESOL Online Program


Average Graduate Student Tuition Rate: $10,655/year

Student to Faculty Ratio: 20:1

Grand Canyon University is a for-profit, Christian research university with a primary campus located in Phoenix, Arizona. The University is home to some 103,000 students, with over two-thirds taking courses primarily online. Degrees are offered at the bachelor’s through doctoral levels. Grand Canyon University has historically been a not-for-profit university, where the university competed in Division 1 Athletics (something the school has continued, making it the only for-profit university to compete at this level). The university is also the first for-profit Christian university in the United States. GCU is designated a medium research presence university.

The fully online Master of Arts in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages program from Grand Canyon University is offered through the College of Education.  This online TESOL masters requires 32 credit hours for completion. Grand Canyon’s program is one of the most flexible of the programs surveyed.  They offer a generous transfer policy of up to 12 credits or almost a third of the program.

Courses are offered in accelerated 6-week terms and students can choose from several yearly start dates.  Courses cover areas like:

  • Fundamentals of linguistics and language acquisition theories
  • Literacy development through multicultural literature
  • Culturally responsive curriculum, instructional methods, and materials

While the program is online, it is also hands-on.  The online master’s in TESOL requires a longer in-person practicum than most programs require (60 clock hours of in-person experience). Practicums may be taken at a location close to where students reside.

The online master’s in TESOL is built for already licensed teachers who are looking to expand their expertise, though does not confer licensure itself. The TESOL program is a particularly good choice for licensed teachers looking for extra flexibility and a Christian-centered educational environment.

5.) University of Nebraska – Kearney, Nebraska

nebraskaOnline Master’s in Curriculum and Instruction with a concentration in English as a Second Language (ESL)


Average Graduate Student Tuition Rate: $6,216/year in-state and $13,656/year out-of-state

Student to Faculty Ratio: 13:1

The University of Nebraska at Kearney is part of the University of Nebraska System.  The University of Nebraska System consists of four unique campuses including an academic medical center. While UNK focuses on undergraduate education, they also offer a variety of master’s degree programs.  The endorsement program in English as a Second Language is offered primarily by the University of Nebraska at Kearney. UNK was established in 1905 and in 1921 changed its name to reflect its present purpose as a teacher’s college. Today the University is home to some 6,200 students and is known for its e-learning opportunities. UNK is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

UNK offers one of the top ESL masters programs in the country.  This 36-credit hour program is designed to prepare existing teachers with the knowledge they need to develop and assess curriculum for English language learners.  Students will become leaders in language education as they gain:

  • knowledge and skills in designing and evaluating school curriculum
  • recognized credentials for career advancement
  • valuable expertise in language acquisition and classroom instruction

While students are required to submit coursework by certain times, most courses do not require students to be logged on for any particular class time (asynchronous learning).

The program is incredibly affordable.  Financial aid and scholarships are available to help students save money.  Discounts are available for members of the military and veterans.

6.) American College of Education – Indianapolis, Indiana

american_college_of_educationMEd in Teaching English Learners


Average Graduate Student Tuition Rate: $5,640/year

Student to Faculty Ratio: 6:1

The American College of Education is a for-profit education college based in Indianapolis, Indiana. The university offers master’s, doctoral, and specialist degrees. Founded in just 2005, ACE provides high-quality online education degrees.  In 2006, ACE earned regional accreditation through the Higher Learning Commission through 2025. In line with regional accrediting standards, ACE aims to promote several important values — particularly for online education.  These include:

  • accountability procedures
  • affordability measures
  • accessibility
  • tech support
  • support for diversity
  • ethically minded policies
  • procedures for crafting regular innovation

In line with these accountability and tracking measures, ACE reports well on a variety of important metrics. These metrics include an 84% retention rate, as well as an average 18-month or less graduation rate for a whopping 76% of master’s candidates.  ACE is also ranked third in the nation according to the National Center for Education Statistics for the most master’s degrees conferred in education.  ACE has over 80 online degree programs with students from all 50 states and 70+ countries.   Their most popular online degrees include educational leadership and curriculum & instruction.

The American College of Education confers more Masters in ESL than any other university in America. Two major perks of the program include its affordability as well as its quality reporting on outcomes.

The fully online Masters of Education in Teaching English Learners requires 31 credit hours for completion.  TESOL online masters course offerings include:

  • Methods and Materials for Teaching Bilingual Education
  • Linguistics for TESOL
  • Applied Linguistics

All online master’s degree students complete a required capstone project that shows their mastery of a subcategory of ESL education. The program is aligned with the standards and expectations of the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards, a nonpartisan, nonprofit providing voluntary standards of excellence that schools and teachers may choose to uphold.

7.) Liberty University – Lynchburg, Virginia

liberty_universityOnline Master’s Degree in Linguistics – Teaching English as a Second Language


Average Graduate Student Tuition Rate: $7,893/year

Student to Faculty Ratio: 17:1

Liberty University is a private, non-profit Christian College with a home campus in Lynchburg, Virginia. While the university’s on-campus offerings are also extensive (LU has over 15,000 traditional students), the university is known as one of the largest online degree-providing universities in the world. Particularly, LU’s 115,000+ online students make it the largest Christian University in the world. LU’s growth over the last decade has been spectacular, largely due to an aggressive expansion of faculty and online offerings.

From 2006 to the present, the University’s endowment has increased tenfold, raising the total worth of the university to over $1.7 billion. As expected from a large doctoral research university, Liberty offers a massive range of courses of study: over 500 in-person and 247 online. Particularly for students looking for a quality, tried and tested, Christian online educational setting, Liberty University is one of the best in the business.

The fully online master’s in linguistics- teaching English as a second language places highly in our ranking due to academic quality as well as flexibility-enhancing components. LU offers a wide range of flexibility-enhancing components to all students, which include:

  • the opportunity to accelerate time-until-degree through brief in-person “intensives”
  • a lenient transfer policy
  • credits for life experience related to a given academic field

This second language acquisition master’s degree program requires 36 credit hours, of which half of the credits may be transferred in. Degree completion plans may be viewed at their website here which provides a map for potential students to look at the required and optional coursework for the degree.  Course offerings include:

  • Second Language Acquisition
  • Methods and Materials for TESL
  • Introduction to TESL

Students can complete this master in TESOL online in about 18 months.

8.) Regent University – Virginia Beach, Virginia

regent_universityMEd in Teaching English as a Second Language (TESOL)


Average Graduate Student Tuition Rate: $16,028/year

Student to Faculty Ratio: 21:1

Regent University is a private, Christian research university with a main campus located in Virginia Beach, Virginia. Home to some 10,000+ students, the university is known for its wide range of online offerings.  They are also known for their Christian Right ideology.  Regent University has been called the ‘Harvard of the Christian Right’. Particularly for such a young university (the university was founded in 1977), the university boasts a long list of successful alumni, including several politicians as well as notable educators.  Regent is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, Commission on Colleges.

Regent offers an online masters degree in TESOL for teachers whose passion is teaching English to second language learners from diverse cultures.  The online TESOL program is taught from a Christian worldview.  Students will develop an understanding of:

  • linguistics
  • second language acquisition
  • intercultural/cross-cultural education

Both degrees require 33 credit hours for graduation and are offered at the same tuition rate. Course offerings include:

  • Teaching English as a Second or Foreign Language to Adults
  • First and Second Language Acquisition
  • Teaching English Language Learners Reading and Writing in the Content Areas

Graduates are ready for a variety of exciting career opportunities including:

  • ESL/EFL Teacher
  • ESL/EFL Administrator
  • Teacher/Administrator in International Context
  • Missionary

9.) Western Governor’s University – Salt Lake City, Utah

western_governors_uniMaster of Arts English Language Learning ESL or ELL, Prek-12


Average Graduate Student Tuition Rate: $7,765/year

Student to Faculty Ratio: 41:1

Western Governors University is a 100% online college founded by the governors of 19 states and led by the governors of Colorado, Utah, and Wyoming. The main administrative offices are located in Salt Lake City, but all classes are conducted online. The Teacher’s College was founded with funds from the U.S. Department of Education.

Western Governors employs a unique competency-based educational method. This competency-based method allows for students to test out-of-course content they already have experience in or mastery of.  This enhances the potential time-until-degree and efficiency for students. With over 150,000 online students, the university is one of the largest in the United States. The university employs over 4,300 academic staff, many with terminal degrees in their fields.

With the university’s focus on online education, educational quality is correspondingly impressive. WGU was ranked as the #1 best value in teacher education by the National Council on Teacher Quality. Other votes of confidence in the university’s unique teaching method and offerings include the backing of WGU satellite campuses in several states by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.   Western Governors University is accredited by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities.

The fully online master’s degree in English Language Learning or English as a Second Language offered by WGU requires students to complete 11 courses.  The average time until degree for WGU’s program is 2 years. As with many reputable ELL degrees, WGU’s program requires a fieldwork component for graduation. This component requires a minimum of 15 hours of observation in school ELL settings at the primary and secondary levels.

Courses are available anytime, anywhere.  Students can take their exams whenever they feel ready and move on to new course material as soon as they demonstrate competency.  Course offerings include:

  • Theories of Second Language Acquisition and Grammar
  • Assessment Theory and Practice
  • Professional Role of the ELL Teacher

For more detailed information on course offerings and WGU’s innovative competency-based education model, check out their very thorough degree guide here.

10.) Kennesaw State University – Kennesaw, Georgia

kennesawMEd in TESOL Online


Average Graduate Student Tuition Rate: $5,328/year in-state and $19,188/year out-of-state

Student to Faculty Ratio: 22:1

Kennesaw State University is a public research university located in Kennesaw, Georgia. The university is a member of the University of Georgia system.  They offer courses at their home campus, at four other university system locations, as well as online. Home to some 42,000+ students, the university is the third largest in Georgia and one of the 50 largest in the United States. While 3/4ths of the students at KSU are local (from the surrounding counties), the school is also quite diverse, with 9% of the student body coming from some 136 countries worldwide. Over 80 degrees are available through the university, with many offered entirely online.  Kennesaw is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, Commission on Colleges.

Kennesaw offers one of the best TESOL masters programs in the southern US.  The fully online Masters of Education in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages degree offered by KSU requires 36 credit hours for graduation. The degree is structured to take 6 semesters (two years) for completion, with students working through courses beginning each summer and continuing with the same cohort through the entire process. Coursework may be offered synchronously or asynchronously, adapting to student learning styles as well as increasing flexibility for busy adult students.  Courses cover areas like:

  • literacy instruction for English Language Learners (ELL)
  • teacher inquiry and research in TESOL
  • curriculum development

One noteworthy fact about KSU’s program is that it is for experienced general education teachers. While students with undergraduate degrees not in education are eligible to apply for MAT programs through KSU, the M.Ed. program is for already established teachers to increase their knowledge and skill set.

Applicants should submit transcripts along with a personal statement and resume.  Other materials required for an admission decision include two letters of recommendation and an online graduate application.

Related Rankings: