General Education

A Guide to Getting Your Bachelor’s Degree in English as a Second Language

A Guide to Getting Your Bachelor’s Degree in English as a Second Language
Image from
Rae Meghan profile
Rae Meghan May 23, 2019

One-third of the world’s population are learning English. So yeah, you could say the job market’s looking up.

Article continues here

Who Gets a Degree in Teaching English as a Second Language, and Why?

These days, over one-third of the world’s population is in the process of learning English. That’s over 2.5 billion people—a population so large, it would call for a classroom more than 20 thousand times the size of Michigan Stadium. Which means that English as a Second Language (ESL) teachers is a very viable resource for our world’s learners. College football referees, maybe not so much.

If you’re planning on pursuing a bachelor’s in ESL instruction, chances are you’re considering the possibilities of what you can do with your degree. While the specifics of your career as an ESL teacher can range over a variety of learning environments, one factor will remain constant: you’ll help non-native English speakers hone their language skills.

What Can You Do With an ESL Instruction Degree?

ESL teachers face many possibilities when thinking about where to take their careers.

  • In private schools, ESL instructors teach English language learners who opt for additional support outside of the day-to-day school curriculum. This kind of teaching is needed in private schools around the world and is in especially high demand in countries like Japan, China, and Saudi Arabia. In this path, an english degree would be a helpful alternative, as lessons tend to focus on conversational skills, grammar, and test taking preparation.
  • In public schools, ESL educators are often provided many benefits, including housing, health insurance, and paid time off. Native English speakers are needed in public school systems throughout Latin America, Asia, and the Middle East, as these countries have instituted various policies that require a knowledge of English due to their goals to be more competitive in the global job market.
  • In college and university settings, ESL teachers are needed for both liberal arts and master’s programs. The salaries behind these careers are much higher than those of other school settings, which makes these jobs far more competitive and likely to come with the requirement of a master’s degree. The benefits to teaching at a university are vast and include working fewer hours on average. In addition, you’ll find greater flexibility in your ESL curriculum.
  • __ESL instructors also teach courses for adults who are yearning for more versatility in a multilingual work setting, or high school students preparing for the IETLS to further their learning at a university.
  • Don't want to move? Teach online. Online platforms—like QKids, iTutorGroup, and English Hunt—are another option to consider when pursuing a career in ESL teaching. These sites typically hire native or fluent English speakers to cater to students as young as 4 while also providing plenty of options for adult english learners. Classes range from 25 to 50 minutes offer anywhere from $14 to $25 an hour.

Why Consider ESL Instruction at an International Public School?

Teaching at international public schools is an option to seriously consider, as the salaries for public schools abroad are typically higher than private schools.

Requirements for teaching at international public schools vary by country, but typically call for:

  1. A bachelor's degree. A bachelor’s degree and at least a year's worth of teaching experience.
  2. Passing your entrance exams. To begin a bachelor’s degree program, you’ll have to prepare for entrance exams to your intended teacher education program.

What to Expect From ESL Instruction Entrance Exams

ESL entrance exams test for proficiency in language and composition. Here, you’ll find a reading, writing, and listening section, which serve to place you in the most suitable educator preparation course of study.

The foremost element of these exams that you should be ready for is the grammar portion. It never hurts to brush up on your syntax skills, especially as they continue to evolve in academic settings. To be ready as ever, we recommend studying grammar books, checking out grammar websites, or simply reading literature.

How to Prepare for ESL Instruction Entrance Exams

Taking an online ESL course has proven to be beneficial in preparing students for entrance exams. These courses can help you review sentence structure, oral proficiency, and essay writing, all of which you’ll find on a placement test. Another perk? Online programs are also incredibly time-efficient and easy to use.

Prep courses for these exams can be found on a wide array of websites. Take College Board, for example, which offers web-based study app with practice tests as well as “learn as you go" tests. Free practice questions are also available on the College Board’s main site.

__Another reliable resource for entrance exam prep is Test Prep Online.__ Here, you’ll find a breakdown of what to expect from your English entrance test, which factors in its most frequently included elements like the writing skills placement and sentence correction section. The site also goes offers ample detail about the exam’s reading comprehension portion, including its call for students to interpret language and draw inferences to texts. Think of it as a one-stop as you prepare for your education in ESL.

What Else Do You Need to Know?

In addition to entrance exams, a bachelor’s degree in ESL comes with a number of required courses. Core classes must be taken before much focus is given to your ESL major, which typically include English, math, and history. It’s common for students pursuing an ESL degree to have concentrations in education, English, or writing.

Many students seek ESL certification major in education with a bilingual concentration. In this path, courses may include applied linguistics, special education, applied teaching methods, and intercultural communication.

We also highly recommended that you learn a second language during your time in a bachelor’s program. While it isn’t a definite requirement for becoming certified, foreign language skills is an important trait for any ESL professional. During your program, you’ll also be expected to spend time student teaching, tutoring, and volunteering.

As for the most important quality of an ESL professional, the most successful in the field have a fascination with the English language, as well as a curiosity of other cultures and people from all walks of life.

What Are the Top Schools For ESL Degrees?

One of the most important things to consider as you prepare for an English as a second language degree is where you’ll be receiving it. A lot of factors go into choosing the right college or university for your desired ESL program—from location to class size, to available clubs and organizations—and it’s crucial that you take the time to reflect on what you want to get out of your education.

Brigham Young University Hawaii

Brigham Young University Hawaii is one of the most prominent destinations for English as a second language studies. Not only does this school offer affordable average tuition, it's also located in Hawaii’s laid-back coastal region, where students are able to experience a truly multinational environment. It’s is a factor of the ESL experience you can expect, since you’ll see quite a bit of diversity while teaching English as a second language.

A full-time student at BYU Hawaii will pay about $14,000 per year on tuition, with each credit costing approximately $463. As for some admission background, the university has an admittance rate of about 27% and expects an average incoming GPA of 3.5. Its ESL curriculum is defined by the established TESOL program, which serves to best prepare for students in a rapidly expanding industry of education careers. The program utilizes TESOL coursework and experiential learning, and comes with an ultimate objective to serve the increasing need for ESL teachers around the world, specifically in terms of immigration and adult basic education.

Other esteemed ESL programs can be found at:

The typical annual cost for an ESL education ranges from anywhere between $6,000 to $40,000, depending on what your specific course of study requires. BYU Hawaii comes out on top for their low tuition, but plenty of other colleges throughout the country have affordable tuition as well. The University of Northern Iowa, for example, rounds out at a $24,275 tuition cost for out-of-state students, which includes housing and textbooks. For in-state residents, tuition is around $18,380.

Similarly, at Winona State University, out-of-state students can expect to pay around $24,932 per year for their ESL bachelor’s degree. Minnesota residents, on the other hand, pay around $19,009.

As for those tuition fees, there are plenty of scholarships that can help out financially throughout your time in higher education. For instance, Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts offers an English Communications Scholarship, which puts $1,500 towards your college degree. Students with a minimum 3.0 GPA and a minimum combined SAT Reasoning score of 1050 are eligible to apply for it.

Students at Bridgewater State University should look out for the Patricia Collins Amaral Memorial Fund scholarship, which offers $600 to a student who has a minimum 3.0 GPA and has demonstrated leadership in participating in campus organizations.

Of course, you are plenty of other options when considering financial aid. For example, the Teacher Education Assistance for College and Higher Education (TEACH) Grant is awarded to students who not only meet the basic criteria in terms of GPA and test scores, but also attend a TEACH certified school and take specific education courses.

TEACH provides up to $4,000 a year as a means of offering financial aid to students seeking degrees in education, specifically those who intend to teach for English learners. To be considered for this grant, you’ll need to fill out the FAFSAand meet the basic financial aid eligibility and academic requirements.

How Long Does It Take to Complete Your ESL Instruction Degree?

While working towards your career as an ESL teacher, you’ll need to consider time, effort, and commitment that undertaking a bachelor’s degree entails. Ultimately, it’s best to have your education completed in four years. This way, you’ll begin your career teaching English language learners as soon as possible.

With full-time study: 4-6 years

Typically, a bachelor’s degree takes about four to six years, which makes enrolling in college as a full-time student a solid frame for receiving your degree on the short end of that timeframe. A bachelor’s program averages about 120 credits, and completing about 12-15 credits per semester will land you on the right path to completing your ESL program (and be able to move on to a master’s sooner, if that’s in the cards).

Another advantage of being a full-time student is that there are more scholarships available to you than to part-time students, which takes some serious stress out of the financial aid process. Another thing that can balance the cost of college is the previously mentioned cap on tuition for full-time students. By not paying for your credits individually, you’ll be getting your money’s worth when it comes to your education.

Part-time study takes longer but, offers a more flexible schedule (like completing your degree online!)

As a part-time student, your road to pursuing a teaching career in English as a second language would only be that much longer. While it’s to pick a few classes that suit your schedule rather than five, this approach can lead to more time and more money spent in school. But there are also cases for it.

Benefits of Online ESL Degrees

For example, if you are working full-time while taking classes part-time, you’ll more easily be able to pay off loans and tuition, despite the fact that school may end up costing more in the long run. It’s also easier to get in-state residency as a part-time student, which can lead to in-state tuition. Typically, it’s more difficult to be accepted into a state school within your state when applying to go to school full-time.

One of the biggest decisions to make in the modern era of education is whether you’ll attend school online or in-person. As for the more flexible ESL degrees, you should consider online programs at Drexel University and Southwest Minnesota State University.

Online ESL programs typically have a curriculum designed to practice the four main learning domains that comprise the study teaching English to learners. The four domains are:

1. Listening, which requires students to pay attention to word patterns.

2. Speaking, which happens through practice and repetition.

3. Writing, in which students dissect sentence structure and vocabulary.

4. And reading.

These domains are applied in many ways, most commonly through learning a second language and exploring multicultural communication traditions. Having the flexibility to do this online is something coveted by many bachelor’s degree students, but it’s best for self-starting students who don’t need constant guidance.

Exams, certifications, the world.

Once you’ve obtained your bachelor’s in English as a second language, you’ll have plenty of opportunities to move onto a master’s degree program to further your education. You’ll also have the option to enroll in a certificate program for TESOL, an association that in recent years, has faced cuts in public spending.

Taking an ESL certification course prepares you to assess language and conversational skills, teach grammar, and provide students with basic English skills, all while you gain at least 120 hours of practical use.

TESOL: The Final Step

The final step after finishing your degree program is TESOL training and, from there, completing your TESOL certification exam.

Like the entrance exam of your bachelor's degree, the TESOL Exam also comes with four sections:

  1. Foundations of linguistics and learning are first, where you’ll be tested on your basic language and learning skills.
  2. Then, it’s on to planning and applying instruction, where you will be examined on how you manage your time in the classroom.
  3. This is followed by a language assessment that evaluates your method of testing students.
  4. It all wraps up with a survey of your readiness for the cultural and professional aspects of your career.

In preparing for this exam, it is important to study the methods of teaching ESL and find practical applications for your specific skill set in the classroom. Once you’ve successfully completed your TESOL exam, you will be eligible to be hired to work for ESL providers almost anywhere in the world.

Questions or feedback? Email