College of Education and Human Development

Department of Curriculum and Instruction

Teaching english to speakers of other languages (TESOL) MA

Are you considering a career teaching English as a second or foreign language to adults? The MA in TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) is a professional degree that prepares you to teach English to adult speakers of other languages in accredited higher education institutions and in community settings. The MA in TESOL is an essential, required degree for most professional positions in the field of ESL in the U.S. and abroad.

The program offers a unique supervised teaching practicum in an intensive English program. This experience equips graduates to analyze language acquisition and to enter the field as a professional.

Quote from Michael Rich, MA in TESOL 2022

My growth as a teacher, my confidence, my approach to research-based instruction, have all taken massive leaps and bounds forward all thanks to the faculty and structure of this program.

Michael Rich, MA in TESOL 2022

About the program


The curriculum includes 31-34 credits of required coursework. Students must also pass a Language Proficiency Exam, and write and defend a final thesis (Plan A) or a qualifying paper (Plan B).

View the required courses in the graduate catalog under the TESOL subplan.

This program can be completed in two years of full-time study, or four semesters.

Career outlook

Our graduates have gone on to careers as university professors in accredited programs, instructional leaders, curriculum designers, and assessment specialists worldwide.

Some recent graduates of the MA in TESOL are employed in the following positions and institutions:

  • Faculty Associate, University of Madison-Wisconsin
  • Educational Technologist, Center for English Language and Orientation Programs at Boston University
  • Managing Research Scientist, Educational Testing Service
  • Online Projects Manager, English Language Programs, Georgetown University
  • English Learner and Migrant Education Specialist, Compliance Monitor, Minnesota Department of Education
  • Clinical Assessment Developer, Pearson Education
  • ESL Lecturer, University of North Carolina – Wilmington

Year #1


  • Foundations in second languages & cultures
  • Methods of teaching ESL in higher education
  • English grammar for ESL teachers


  • Advanced grammar for ESL teachers
  • Practicum in teaching ESL

Year #2


  • Analyzing learner language in SLA
  • Foreign language testing and assessment or
  • Assessing English learners


  • Complete thesis
  • Elective

    Martha Bigelow Martha Bigelow

    • Department Chair, Carmen Starkson Campbell Endowed Chair for Innovation in Teacher Development
    • she, her, hers
    • 612-624-7087

    My research interests span fields of education, applied linguistics, and cultural studies.

    Martha Bigelow

    Mary Hermes Mary Hermes

    Mary Hermes' research focuses on language revitalization and how it can connect people to the land and the planet. She explores different ways of knowing and being through feminist and indigenous lenses.

    Mary Hermes

    Kendall King Kendall King

    • Professor of Multilingual Education, Director of Graduate Studies
    • 612-625-3692

    Schools play a crucial role in determining the life trajectories of minoritized language students as well as the status of minoritized languages and the future of linguistic diversity.

    Kendall King
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    How to apply

      Application deadline and instructions

      Priority deadline: December 1

      You must have a complete application in by December 1 to be given consideration for funding through the Department, but we will consider applications on a rolling basis through May for the following academic year.

      Support is available in the form of:

      • Financial support through Teaching Assistantships in MELP, the Writing Center, or the undergraduate TESL program.
      • Fellowships such as FLAS

      Strong applicants demonstrate:

      • Evidence of interest in teaching English and second languages
      • Evidence of experience in the discipline
      • Strong writing skills and experience in language learning and linguistics
      • Bachelor's degree from an accredited U.S. institution or foreign equivalent; 3.00 GPA preferred

      Priority deadline: December 1
      See detailed admissions, tuition and funding information on the MA and PhD admissions page.

      Tuition and funding

      We have several funding options to support students full-time through program completion. Support is available in the form of:

      • Teaching Assistantships. The majority work as student teaching supervisors for MEd initial licensure students. Daytime availability, a teaching license, and teaching experience are required
      • Research Assistantships
      • Fellowships. Based on a departmental nomination process. You will be notified by the Director of Graduate Studies if you are being considered for a fellowship. Decisions are made by April 15.
      • Graduate students are also eligible to apply for fellowships and graduate assistantships through other University departments. Visit the University's employment page or fellowships through the Graduate School's Graduate Fellowship Office.
      • Find more detailed federal financial aid and graduate tuition information.

      Application requirements

      What we look for

      Admission to our master's of arts and doctoral programs are competitive and we look for candidates whose goals and interests align with the program’s research and scholarship. Program faculty make admissions decisions based on the candidate’s experience and research competencies, along with compatibility of research goals.

      Please look at our current faculty members’ research interests.

      Our masters and doctoral candidates display

      • Evidence of strong interest in research and in the development of research competencies
      • Evidence of substantial experience in the discipline
      • Strong writing skills
      • Bachelor's degree from an accredited U.S. institution or foreign equivalent

      Required application documents

      1. Unofficial transcripts.Upload your transcripts into the application system. Please include all transcripts from any institution you have attended, even if you did not earn a degree or certificate. Please do not mail your transcripts. Official transcripts are required only after you are admitted. Tips for uploading your transcript(s).
      2. Resume.
      3. CI Application Form. Upload in the graduate program additional materials section.
      4. Three letters of recommendation. Ask professors, employers, or supervisors to speak to your potential for successfully completing your degree; they will upload their letters directly into the online application.

      The GRE is being waived for those applicants applying for Fall 2024.

      Required written statements

      1. Personal statement.Upload to the Applicant Statements section of the online application. (Most statements are 1.5-3 pages, single spaced). Please trace how you became interested in research in this discipline, as well as what problems interest you the most and why. Be sure to speak to:
        1. Why you want to study in our department
        2. What strengths, expertise, and research experience would contribute to your success in our program
        3. Your professional goals for pursuing a research-focused degree
      2. Diversity statement.Upload to the Applicant Statements section of the online application. Identify the distinctive qualities, characteristics, and life experiences you would contribute to our community. You may wish to include examples that address your contribution to the diversity of the student body and illustrate your motivation to succeed by setting high standards for accomplishing intellectual and other goals, overcoming obstacles to achievement, and/or helping others to gain access to the resources necessary for success. (please do not exceed one page in length)
      3. Short writing sample.(Optional except for Literacy Education applicants). For example, an excerpt from a term paper or research paper for publication. No longer than five pages in English.
      4. Common Ground Consortium Fellowship. (Optional) The primary purpose of the CGC is to assist graduate programs in the College of Education and Human Development to recruit exceptional students with the distinct experience provided by HBCUs or similarly distinguishing contexts, provide these students with financial assistance support during their graduate studies, and assistance with career development and job placement afterwards. It offers a pipeline to excellence and an opportunity to diversify perspectives in the academy. If you wish to apply, submit a statement that describes how your participation as a CGC scholar would a) enhance your graduate student experience, b) prepare you for your chosen career, and c) benefit the public. Upload to graduate program additional materials section.

      Additional admissions information

      Application checklist

      Before applying online, go through the application checklist to ensure you have all the required materials. We are here to help! If you have questions, please contact the Graduate Studies Coordinator.

      If you are a returning Graduate School student, follow the Readmission guidelines. If you are a current Graduate School student and need to change your program, follow the Change of Status guidelines.

      Transfer credits

      MA students must complete at least 60 percent of their coursework (not including thesis credits) within our program. PhD students may transfer no more than 15 credits from an outside institution.

      A maximum of 12 graduate course credits taken as non-degree seeking or non-admitted status at the University of Minnesota can be transferred; this is counted separately from the maximum 60 percent or 15 non-UMN credits. For example, a PhD student could transfer a maximum of 27 credits (15 non-UMN and 12 non-degree from UMN).

      If you earned a MA at the UMN, please contact the Graduate Studies Coordinator to discuss transfer procedures. Thesis credits cannot be transferred.

      After you are admitted, you will work with your adviser to determine which credits may transfer.

      International applicants

      International applicants may also need:

      • An English translation of your transcripts, if the transcript is not in English. Please note: the Graduate School Admissions Office will not accept an evaluation of your international coursework by an outside agency such as ECE or WES; they only accept the original transcripts.
      • TOEFL/IELTS or MELAB. You may qualify for an exception if you have completed 16 semester or 24 quarter credits within the past 24 months in residence as a full-time student at an accredited institution of higher learning in the United States or other country where English is the official language (i.e. U.K, Canada). Score requirements and submission guidelines

      Request information

      We’re here to help. Simply complete one of these forms and a member of our department will be in touch