You are here: Frequently Asked Questions

Frequently Asked Questions

Please Note: The MA in TEFL program is currently suspended until further notice.


Knowledge of second language is recommended, but not required. It makes sense to have the experience of communicating in another language so that you personally understand how languages are structured and learned. You may find yourself teaching a classroom of students with a variety of language backgrounds; therefore, we teach you how to teach ESL without having to rely on students' native languages.

No background in linguistics is required or assumed. We'll teach you the linguistics you need.

You may take courses non-degree even if you have not completed the paperwork for one of our programs of study. Later those courses may be rolled into your credential program. We have rolling admissions, which means you can apply at any time. Fall semester usually begins on the last Monday in August and ends early to mid-December. Spring semester begins the second or third Monday in January and finishes up by mid-May. See American University's academic calendar for exact dates.

The Summer TESOL Institute consists of two seven-week sessions of classes. The courses are offered in a hybrid format and combine on-campus and online discussion. The classes meet once a week on campus from 5:30pm - 8:00pm and include online component using Blackboard. The first session runs from mid-May to the end of June and the second session runs from the first week of July to the third week in August.

Most of our courses are conveniently offered in the evenings. We do occasionally have afternoon, late evening, and weekend courses, but in most cases, the 3-credit courses meet from 5:30pm to 8:00pm. Our courses typically meet once a week for 2.5 hours in the Fall and Spring semesters. Summer courses are offered in a hybrid format and combine on-campus and online instruction. The classes meet once a week on campus from 5:30pm to 8:00pm and include online component using Blackboard. Visit our Courses and TESOL Summer Institute pages for more information.

Graduate Certificate in TESOL

It depends on how many courses you would like to take per semester. The minimum length of the Certificate program is 2 semesters. However, some students choose to take only one course per semester and stay in the Certificate program for up to five semesters. 


This program is designed to be completed in as few as five and half years. Bachelor's/Master's students must complete at least 18 in-residence credit hours at the graduate level after the bachelor's degree is earned and maintain continuous, sequential enrollment in both programs. 


This program is designed to be completed in four semesters of full-time enrollment. Students who choose to take courses full-time including in the summer, complete the program in 16 months, and students enrolled part-time stay in the program longer.


This program is designed to be finished in four to six semesters depending on course availability and arrangement of student teaching assignments.

For more information about the ESOL program, please visit the School of Education.

The MA in TESOL program requires completion of a Teaching Portfolio and Oral Comprehensive Exam during the last semester of the program.

Cost and Financial Aid

The TESOL Program offers a limited number of Merit Awards to outstanding MA in TESOL program applicants. Only full-time graduate students in residence at AU are eligible for a Merit Award. A full-time award covers tuition remission of up to six credit hours per semester and pays a stipend of $9,000 for the academic year. Recipients of full Merit Awards are required to work for the TESOL Program 20 hours a week. Partial Merit Awards are also available. To be eligible for a Merit Award, you must apply by February 1st of your entry year to begin that fall. Merit Awards are rarely available for students beginning in the spring semester, and none for those who start in the summer.

If you are not selected as a Merit Award recipient for the semester you wish to begin, there are effectively no other scholarships available from the University at this time. Merit Awards are available only to new Master's students.

For more information about other forms of financial aid visit the Office of Financial Aid website.

Simply check the "Yes" box on item 24 of the Graduate Application Form and you will automatically be eligible for any type of Merit Award you qualify for.

In the past four years, up to 4 students per year in the MA Program have received Merit Awards. The primary criterion for Merit Award selection is a candidate's academic accomplishments. These awards are highly competitive.

A full Merit Award usually covers tuition of up to twelve credit hours per academic year and pays a total of $9,000 stipend per academic year. At the same time, a full Merit Award is not sufficient to cover all of a student's expenses. Therefore, you will need supplemental resources to pay for books, food, housing, travel, and other incidental expenses.

Programs of Study

The TESOL program offers the following programs in TESOL: MA in TESOL, MA in TEFL online, BA/MA in TESOL, Graduate and Undergraduate Certificate in TESOL.

In these programs. you can prepare to teach adults in higher education, in professional settings, in adult education and adult literacy instruction environments typically oriented toward recent refugees and immigrants, and to children in ESL and EFL contexts. However, our TESOL programs do not provide certification to teach in K-12 settings in the U.S.

The School of Education (SOE) offers an MAT: ESOL degree in partnership with the TESOL program that provides K-12 teacher certification.

Graduate and Undergraduate Certificate in TESOL

You can think of the Graduate Certificate in TESOL like "half a master's degree." You can roll all your Certificate credits into the MA TESOL program if you decide to continue your graduate studies. The value of a TESOL Certificate often depends on what other educational background and experience you have. For example, someone with a K-12 certification in another discipline might only need a TESOL Certificate to begin teaching ESOL students; or someone with an international business background could supplement that with a TESOL Certificate and become a very successful Business English teacher.

Same applies to the Undergraduate TESOL Certificate, but courses completed at an undergraduate 4xx-level cannot be transferred towards the Master's degree. If you are an undergraduate student interested in pursuing an MA in TESOL, consider applying to our combined BA/MA in TESOL.

The TESOL Certificate is a very good credential for someone who is looking for a way to support themselves abroad, because it shows that not only are you a fluent speaker of English, but that you know your way around an ESL/EFL classroom, too. In the U.S., the Certificate is a very good credential for those in the field of Adult Education and often in private language schools that teach English. Please note that the Graduate Certificate in TESOL DOES NOT lead to K-12 certification.


This is the terminal teaching degree in our profession. Those with an MA in TESOL are qualified to teach English almost everywhere in the U.S. and abroad: in university intensive English programs, in community college programs, in private schools, and in adult education programs.

For international students, the MA in TESOL is often the best choice even if you plan to teach elementary, middle, or high school. The difference between the MA in TESOL and the MAT: ESOL is that the extra coursework in the MAT program satisfies K-12 certification standards required in the U.S. You do not need this certification to teach in schools outside the U.S. As far as preparing you to teach children, both programs offer very similar preparation.

Combined BA/MA in TESOL

Undergraduate students at American University in other programs of study may apply to the MA in TESOL program during their Junior year, and if accepted they can take six credits of TESOL coursework which can be applied to both their undergraduate and graduate degrees. This makes it possible to finish the MA in TESOL in three semesters. MA in TESOL can be done through the combined BA/MA in TESOL option.

MA in TEFL Online:

Please Note:
The MA in TEFL program is currently suspended until further notice.

The online MA in Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) program is designed specifically for students interested in teaching English as a Foreign Language (EFL) in secondary schools, universities, and private language schools outside of the United States.


If you want to teach in grades K-12 in public schools in the U.S., and you don't have teaching experience in that environment, this is the program you should consider. It satisfies all the District of Columbia coursework requirements for public school ESOL licensure (certification), and DC certification is recognized in more than 30 states. In addition to the MAT: ESOL coursework, you will also need to pass the PRAXIS exam, and may have to take additional undergraduate courses depending on your academic background and the jurisdiction you plan to be working in. For more information about the MAT: ESOL program visit the School of Education.

Get Language Help

Formerly the Center for Language Learning, the Center for Language Exploration, Acquisition & Research (CLEAR) provides tutoring and multimedia support for foreign language study.