Best Master’s in English Language Learning Degrees

Around 1.5 billion people around the world speak English, or about 1 in every 5 people. Because of this, there is always a demand for people with degrees in English Language Learning.

Best Masters in English Language Learning

What Is English Language Learning?

English Language Learning is a field primarily concerned with individuals who are unable to effectively learn or communicate in English. They often come from homes where English is not the primary language spoken or countries where English is not the native language.

Specialists help to prepare specialized or modified instruction for these individuals, through both English language courses and in academic subjects beyond English.

If you’re considering another degree, check out College Choice’s ranking of the Best Colleges and Universities.

How Much Money Can I Earn Working in English Language Learning?

English Language Learning professionals can pursue a number of different careers, primarily in middle school and secondary educational settings. They can work directly with students as teachers in the classroom, commanding a median salary of just under $60,000 and 8 percent project job growth in the next decade.

They may also choose to become administrators, who have a median salary above $94,000, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. They have a similar 8 percent job growth on the horizon, meaning another 20,000 job openings in the next ten years.

Why Choose A Master’s in English Language Learning?

Having the extra education and experience associated with graduate work also makes a candidate more competitive on the job market, in particular for those lucrative school administrator jobs.

Graduate students have the skills and hands-on experience to stand out and possibly command an above-average salary. The 75th percentile salary for school administrators is almost $120,000/year. Experience and education can get a candidate closer to this level.

What Are the 15 Best Master’s in English Language Learning?

College Choice considers a multitude of factors, including institutional success, student satisfaction, and return on investment, to develop rankings.

Institutional success combines metrics such as endowment, graduation rates and student-to-faculty ratios to measure each school’s ability to provide exemplary and practical education for each student. Student satisfaction measures how satisfied current and former students felt with the services and programs offered at each school. And finally return on investment looks at the fiscal benefits students are likely to receive from each school’s education, weighted against the costs of attendance, namely tuition and student loans.

In the end, we are confident that these are the 15 Best Master’s in English Language Learning Degrees.

2018 Ranking

See our rankings methodology page.


Stanford University

College Choice Score: 100

Average Net Price: $16,695

School Website


Stanford University is a private university located in Stanford, California. Stanford admitted its first student in 1891, and has since expanded to become one of the highest rated universities in the country. The school is divided between three traditional schools and four professional schools, which serve a student body of around 16,000 students. Stanford’s endowment is $24 billion and it has 2,200 academic staff members.

Program Features

Stanford University offers a Master of Arts degree in English. Students must complete at least nine courses (a minimum of 45 units) of graduate coursework. Students may pursue direct reading and research classes, in addition to courses such as:

  • Advanced Fiction Writing
  • Melville’s Moby Dick
  • Intro to Psychoanalysis as a Critical Method
  • Publication Workshop: The Article

Students with a minimum GPA of 3.7 in their undergraduate major are eligible to apply for a Coterminal Teaching Program offered with the School of Education, as part of the Stanford Teacher Education Program.


Those students choosing to pursue the STEP program and the CTP complete a special curriculum in English language, composition, and literature that prepares students for teaching at the public school level. The material and techniques are focused on the premise of teachers planning to pursue elementary and secondary English education.


Hamline University

College Choice Score: 93.41

Average Net Price: $22,676

School Website


Hamline University is a private, liberal arts college located in Saint Paul, Minnesota. Having offered collegiate courses starting in 1857, it is the oldest university in the state of Minnesota. It is affiliated with the United Methodist Church and has been noted for emphasizing service and social justice. Hamline has about 2,100 undergraduate students and 1,600 postgraduates.

Program Features

Hamline has a Master of Arts degree program in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages. Students choose between a concentration in teaching kids K-12 or in teaching adults. It is a 36 credit-hour program with 28 credits of core courses and 8 in the student’s chosen concentration area. Examples of courses include:

  • Advanced Linguistic Analysis
  • Phonetics and Phonology
  • Advanced Linguistic Analysis
  • Pedagogical Grammar and Discourse

Students pursuing the adult concentration may take a TEFL certification course.


The program is available on-campus, fully online, or in hybrid format (campus and online courses). Concentration courses for the K-12 option include Advocating for ELLs and ESL Methods, as well as Testing and Evaluation of English Language Learners. Alumni of Hamline are eligible for a 10 percent discount when they enroll in any program through the School of Education.


Webster University

College Choice Score: 90.17

Average Net Price: $24,717

School Website


Webster University is a non-profit university located in Webster Groves, Missouri. The school is non-denominational and offers degrees in liberals arts, fine arts, performing arts, teacher education, and business/management. Webster has around 14,000 total students, and 184 full-time academic staff. The school has an endowment of $111 million.

Program Features

Webster has a Master of Arts degree program in Teaching English as a Second Language. It is a 33 credit-hour degree program, and students have the option of choosing between a K-12 ELL Education emphasis or and ESL/EFL Education emphasis. Course options in the program include:

  • Curriculum Development in Second Language Classrooms
  • Language History, Planning, and Policy
  • Language and Culture
  • Second Language Acquisition

Elective course options will vary based on the emphasis that the student chooses. Twenty-four credit-hours are core courses and nine are from electives.


For admission to the program, applicants should have a minimum cumulative GPA of 2.5. They must also present a philosophical statement on teaching, concerning what kind of knowledge and values make a TOEFL teacher more effective. Native English speakers must also present a minimum level of foreign language proficiency.


Sam Houston State University

College Choice Score: 88.74

Average Net Price: $12,365

School Website


Sam Houston State University is a public university located in Huntsville, Texas. Sam Houston began as the Sam Houston Normal Institute in 1879, educating teachers for the state of Texas. It is the third oldest public university in the state of Texas. SHSU has more than 20,000 students and offers almost 70 different graduate degree programs.

Program Features

Sam Houston State offers a Master of Arts in English degree program. It is a 36 credit-hour program. Students may choose between a thesis or non-thesis track path through the degree, and take courses such as:

  • English Linguistics
  • Narrative Theory
  • Early & Middle English Lit
  • Creative Writing: Nonfiction

The thesis option is mostly for students who are planning on applying to further graduate study in English/PhD programs. Students may also pursue the non-thesis option to take on a secondary field of study.


There are start dates available for Fall, Spring, and Summer. Students have the option of electing a 12-hour minor during the program. Options for this minor include foreign languages, history, and education. These are namely designed to compliment the student’s research interests in the field of English.


American College of Education

College Choice Score: 86.36

Average Net Price: $8,990

School Website


The American College of Education is an online college based out of Indianapolis, Indiana. ACE was formally incorporated in 2005, before then purchasing the academic programming of Barat College. Their academic programs mainly focus on education, healthcare, and nursing. It offesr master’s, doctorate, and specialist degree programs, as well as bachelor’s degree completion programs and graduate level certificates.

Program Features

ACE offers a Master of Education degree in English as a Second Language and Bilingual Education. It is a 34-credit program, which includes courses like:

  • Diverse Learners
  • Standards-Driven Learning
  • Cross-Cultural Studies for Teaching ELLs
  • Linguistics for TESOL

Students do not need to complete an internship to graduate, but American offers internship courses for students whose state of residence requires them for certification. There is also a capstone course which students take during their final semester.


The program is not specifically designed to prepare students for licensure or certification in any state. Student can apply for Students-At-Large status after completing the M.Ed. degree, if they wish to continue and pursue an internship. The content of the program is aligned with the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards.


University of Maryland, Baltimore County

College Choice Score: 85.70

Average Net Price: $15,349

School Website


The University of Maryland-Baltimore County is a public university located primarily in Catonsville, Maryland. UMBC has 13,600 total students, most of which are undergraduates. It has 546 full-time academic staff members and an $81 million endowment. UMBC offers 48 different undergraduate majors and over 60 graduate programs.

Program Features

UMBC offers a Master of Arts degree in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages. It is designed to train prospective and experienced teachers of ESL and EFL. It is a four-course program, consisting of two core courses and two electives. Courses from the program include:

  • Human Learning and Cognition
  • The Grammar of American English for ESOL Teachers
  • Bilingualism
  • Teaching and Assessing Second Language Speaking and Listening

Students may complete the program by preparing a thesis based on original research they conduct, or by completing an ISD Project Seminar.


UMBC offers a non-certification internship and K-12 ESOL teaching experiences, which allow students to get firsthand experience at teaching English. Internships last from three to six months and can be done domestically or internationally. The UMBC ESOL program has internship agreements in Ecuador, Korea, Bolivia, and El Salvador.


Arkansas Tech University

College Choice Score: 82.73

Average Net Price: $10,887

School Website


Arkansas Tech University is a public university located in Russellville, Arkansas. The school started in 1910 as the Second District Agricultural School. ATU now has a student population of just under 10,000. The school began its first doctoral programs in 2015, and it also has a satellite campus in Ozark that offers mostly certificate and associate education.

Program Features

Arkansas Tech has a Master of Arts in English program, which is designed to prepare students for either doctoral-level study or careers in post-secondary teaching. It has a structured, four-course degree program that allows students to take courses recommended by the state of Arkansas for certification, including:

  • Second Language Acquisition
  • ESL Assessment
  • Teaching People of Other Cultures
  • Teaching English as a Second Language

In total the degree requires the completion of 30 semester-hours of study, with each course generally counting for three semester-hours.


Students must maintain a minimum GPA of 3.0 while in the program. To graduate students must complete all degree requirements within six years of beginning the program. At least 24 semester hours of study must be completed in residence at Arkansas Tech. Students have the option of preparing a Master’s Thesis in consultation with a faculty member from the department.


University of San Francisco

College Choice Score: 82.11

Average Net Price: $35,054

School Website


The University of San Francisco is a private university located in San Francisco, California. It is a Roman Catholic university, specifically affiliated with the Jesuit congregation. USF has around 1,200 full-time academic staff members and 11,000 total students. The school’s endowment is $342 million and the campus is located in close proximity to the Golden Gate Bridge.

Program Features

USF offers a Master of Arts in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages program. It is a 30 credit program, which includes foundations, methods, social and cultural studies, elective, and field project courses. Sample courses include:

  • Gender and Globalization
  • Critical Analysis of Urban Schooling
  • Language and Culture
  • Applied Linguistics

It is a practitioner-oriented degree program, which covers both the theory and practice of linguistics, as well as providing students the tools to be effective social justice language teachers.


Students who complete the master’s degree program can complete an additional five courses (15 credits) of work to earn a single/multiple teaching subject credential. These additional courses include Structure of American English and Preparation and Evaluation of TESOL Materials. It also requires the completion of a TESOL MA Thesis/Field Project, which can be completed jointly with the MA degree program.


Wilkes University

College Choice Score: 81.22

Average Net Price: $25,025

School Website


Wilkes University is a private university located in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvannia. Wilkes started as a satellite of campus of Bucknell University, before becoming an independent college in 1947 and a full university in 1990. The school has 157 full-time academic staff members and around 4,500 total students. Its endowment is $45 million.

Program Features

Wilkes has a Master of Science degree program in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages. The program is 48 credits and involves 16 courses, which include:

  • Approaches to Teaching Second Languages
  • Teaching the Four Skills: Reading, Writing, Listening, and Speaking
  • Second Language Acquisition
  • Sociolinguistics and Second Language Acquisition

Some courses included required field experience hours. Students who do not yet possess a level 1 or 2 instructional certification are eligible to receive a letter of endorsement after successful completion of the first five courses.


Students who graduate from the program and who have an Instructional Level 1 or 2 Certification will be prepared to serve as administrators in US K-12 public schools. For admission to the program, applicants must have a bachelor’s degree with at least a 3.0 GPA from an accredited institution. There is also a certificate program available, which requires fewer classes/credits.


Azusa Pacific University

College Choice Score: 78.58

Average Net Price: $28,506

School Website


Azusa Pacific University is a private university located in Azusa, California. It is an interdenominational, evangelical Christian university. Formerly known as the Pacific Bible College, the school now has almost 10,000 total students. The student population is split mostly evenly between undergraduates and graduates, with the most popular graduate programs offered at the Graduate School of Theology.

Program Features

Azusa Pacific offers a Master’s in English, which encourages an active conversation between Christianity and literature. It is a 30-unit program, which can be completed in as few as 12 months. Coursework for the program includes classes such as:

  • Literature and the Bible
  • American Literature Seminar
  • Writing for Religious Audiences
  • Writing Center Pedagogy and Practice

Overall the courses are divided into six units of core classes, 21 units of electives, and a three-credit thesis/portfolio course that comes at the end of the student’s course of study.


Students also have the option of attending the program part-time, which would mean an estimated completion time of around 24 months/two years. Admission to the program requires an official resume or statement of experience, along with a writing sample. Azusa is a Yellow Ribbon School, which helps to provide scholarships and financial aid to eligible veterans and military members.


Emporia State University

College Choice Score: 77.95

Average Net Price: $12,939

School Website


Emporia State University, simply referred to as Emporia State, is a public university located in Emporia, Kansas. Emporia was founded in March 1863 as the Kansas State Normal School, which helped to educate public school teachers. It is the third-oldest university in the State of Kansas, and has a student population of around 5,732.

Program Features

Emporia State offers a Master of Arts in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages. It is a 36-credit hour program, with a focus in the areas of applied linguistics. Some of the courses offered in program are:

  • TESOL Methodology
  • Language Assessment and Evaluation
  • Sociolinguistics
  • Computer-Assisted Language Learning in ESOL

Students may choose between a thesis or non-thesis degree plan. The thesis option is normally for those considering further academic study in English, in particular a doctoral program.


Applicants to the program must possess a bachelor’s degree from an accredited college or university. Students must also have no less than a 2.75 GPA in the last 60 semester hours of undergraduate study. Other required portions of the application include: a one-page essay career goal statement and an updated resume.


Concordia University, Nebraska

College Choice Score: 77.36

Average Net Price: $19,335

School Website


Concordia University-Nebraska is a private university located in Seward, Nebraska. The school has an affiliation with the Missouri Synod denomination of the Lutheran branch of Christianity. Concordia Nebraska is divided into three schools: the College of Arts and Sciences, the College of Education, and the College of Graduate Studies. It has over 2,300 total students.

Program Features

Concordia Nebraska has a Master of Education in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages. The 36-credit program can also prepare students to teach English as a Foreign Language internationally. There are twelve courses in the program, such as:

  • ESL/ELL Curriculum and Assessment
  • Language and Culture
  • Contemporary Thought in Education
  • Teaching ESL Writing

The program ends with a capstone course, which brings together all of the different subjects and themes covered throughout the program. Students generally pursue the degree one course at a time and can complete the requirements in 24 months.


Students are also required to complete a 45-hour practicum, which gets documented and verified through a portfolio process. K-12 Instructors who are seeking ESL certification must divide their hours between elementary and secondary settings, based on state requirements.


MidAmerica Nazarene University

College Choice Score: 76.13

Average Net Price: $18,414

School Website


MidAmerica Nazarene University is a liberal arts college located in Olathe, Kansas. The school was established in 1966 by the Church of Nazarene, originally named MidAmerica Nazarene College. it has around 1,800 students, which includes 580 postgraduates. MNU offers 40 undergraduate majors and seven graduate degrees in education and business.

Program Features

MidAmerica offers a Master of Education degree program. Students choose between specialized courses in two areas of interest: Reading Specialist or Technology-Enhanced Teaching. The program requires 33-35 credit-hours of study, in courses such as:

  • Ethical World Views for Educators
  • Teaching and Learning with Technology
  • Technology-Facilitated Assessment
  • Serving through Servant Leadership

The above courses are for the technology-enhanced specialization. Courses from the reading specialization include Corrective Reading and Diagnostic Literacy Practicum.


Classes meet in-person or online once a week. Depending on their enrollment status, students can complete the degree program in 18 months. The Reading Specialist specialization requires 35 credit-hours, while the Technology-Enhanced specialization requires 33. Applicants to the program should have a minimum GPA of 3.0.


Mercy College

College Choice Score: 74.30

Average Net Price: $16,060

School Website


Mercy College is a private university located in Dobbs Ferry, New York. Mercy College is a non-profit, private comprehensive university offering undergraduate, graduate, and doctoral degrees in five schools on four campuses: Dobbs Ferry, Manhattan, Bronx and Yorktown Heights, in New York. The university’s endowment is $225 million and it has a total student population of around 11,200. It has 928 full and part-time academic staff members.

Program Features

Mercy College has a Master of Science in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages program. It is a 33-36 credit hour program offered through Mercy’s School of Education. Sample courses from the program are as follows:

  • Teaching English as a Second Language
  • Teaching Writing/Writing Process
  • Education in Today’s Schools
  • Student Teaching Experience

Successful completion of the program leads to initial/professional certification. Track I is for people who are seeking their first teaching certificate. Track II is for people with an existing teaching certificate seeking to add TESOL certification. Track I candidates must complete a 15-week teaching experience. Track II candidates must complete 20 days of clinical practice experience.


Students are not required to have majored in education to apply to the program. Students must only have had a liberal arts major or to have completed a 30-credit sequence in a liberal arts content area. Initial candidates must pass the EAS, CST and EdTPA examinations to earn NYS certification.


Lipscomb University

College Choice Score: 73.97

Average Net Price: $23,426

School Website


Lipscomb University is a private, liberal arts university located in Nashville, TN. It is affiliated with the Churches of Christ. Lipscomb is home to 4,600 students, around 3,000 of whom are undergraduates. The university has two additional locations in Cool Springs, TN and Downtown Nashville. The primary campus is located in the neighborhood of Green Hills.

Program Features

Lipscomb has a Master of Education degree program in English Language Learning. Courses within the program are divided between core, leadership, and English language learning courses. Examples of these include:

  • Core: Orientation to M.Ed. program
  • Leadership: Communication and Community
  • ELL: Grammar for ELL Teachers
  • ELL: Theory and Practice in Second Language Acquisition

Students complete their ELL block of classes by taking a class entitled Action Research. In this class, students implement an action research proposal and test its effectiveness by applying the solution in a classroom/school setting.


Applicants to the program are required to submit official GRE or MAT scores. Students must also prepare a personal statement in response to a provided prompt, as well as two letters of recommendation (from either an academic or professional superior). Students considered for admission will be asked to attend an on-campus interview, at which time they will also need to present a photo ID.