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Join the World

The Master of Arts in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) will prepare you to begin or advance your career in teaching English as a second language or English as a foreign language in the US or abroad. With a communicative approach to language teaching and a focus on authentic teaching activities, our expert faculty will help you become a participating and contributing member of the TESOL profession.

Our program is designed to cater to a diverse student population by providing you the flexibility to fit an MA into your schedule and to customize your course of study to fit your needs. We offer both thesis and non-thesis options and a wide range of courses. You will enjoy a sense of community with your peers and with your professors, who are among the leading professionals in the field.

At AU, we put principles into practice, blending application and theory to produce world-class educators who exemplify the best in both TESOL theory and practice. Our faculty members use a combination of advanced academic knowledge and practical experience gained in the United States and abroad with students of all ages and proficiency levels to provide academically based, pragmatic guidance. The knowledge, skills, and experience gained in this program will build your confidence and competence as a teacher.

Teaching in the Classroom & Community

In this 36-credit program, you will develop a solid foundation in the teaching of English with a 27-credit core. You can choose to pursue the master’s thesis option, in which you will create your own original research project, or the non-thesis option, in which you will broaden your knowledge base with elective courses.

An AU TESOL education goes beyond the classroom. Our program combines theoretical foundations with experiential learning. Students observe courses, tutor and volunteer teach, plan lessons, design assessments, and develop curricula and materials for English language classes. Students gain practical, hands-on teaching experience through involvement with local ESL institutions, schools, or community-based volunteer teaching programs. In addition to reaching out to the community, we bring the TESOL community to you by hosting a variety of professional development events and conferences that are attended by students and professionals in the field.

You can complete the program on a full-time or part-time basis. Our flexibility and evening classes make the TESOL MA ideal for career-switchers and working professionals. See complete Admissions & Course Requirements.

Learn from Expert Faculty

Among the first in the United States to offer a TESOL master’s degree, our department has earned a reputation for expertise in adult education, higher education, and English as a foreign language. Our faculty members are respected leaders in the field, specializing in applied linguistics, second language acquisition, language teaching methods and teacher education, instructional design, and cross-cultural communication. They draw on their extensive and diverse teaching experiences, knowledge of contemporary research, and intercultural expertise to provide students with the academic and practical knowledge to become successful TESOL professionals.

A Community of Learning in a Global City

A truly global city, DC contains hundreds of embassies, cultural organizations, enclave communities, educational institutions, and advocacy organizations. The unparalleled intellectual and professional opportunities the capital city offers make AU an ideal place to live, learn, and make connections.

The AU TESOL program believes in the importance of creating a community of learners as well as connecting our students to the expanding ESL community in the DC metropolitan area. Our students gain practical, hands-on teaching experience and get a head start on their careers by working with local ESL institutions, schools, and community-based volunteer teaching programs. Through its professional development events, working relationships, and alumni network, our program has become an integral part of the ESL community in the DC metropolitan area.

A World of Opportunities

Our program prepares students for a wide variety of ESL/ EFL teaching and related careers, including teaching English as a second language in various post-secondary settings and English as a foreign language at all levels of English language education. Our alumni are teachers, program directors, curriculum developers, assessment specialists, and teacher educators who work in various language education institutes and programs.

This is the terminal teaching degree in our profession, but many of our graduates have gone on to PhD programs at prestigious universities all over the world.

With an MA in TESOL you will be qualified to teach English almost everywhere in the United States and abroad, including university intensive English programs, community colleges, private schools, and adult education programs. Students wishing to pursue licensure to teach K-12 in US public schools should consider the Master of Arts in Teaching ESOL program. However, the MA in TESOL is a good choice for those wishing to teach elementary, middle, or high school outside of the US.

Spring Workshop 2023Online
February 25, 2022, 9:00-Noon

Our spring online workshop is designed for TESOL students and English language instructors who have a range of experiences with flipped learning and would like to explore the use of technology for pre-instructional and in-class activities. Registration opens January 30.

Look Inside


Get a look inside the American University MA in TESOL Program: faculty, alumni, and students on what sets this program apart.

Video See more in our college Video Tour

Our Students

Students share a book.

The AU TESOL program aims to be more than just a graduate program, and believes in the importance of creating a community of learners connected to the expanding ESL community in the DC area. Traditionally, our program has had a significant number of mature students, including experienced ESL/EFL teachers adding credentials, or career switchers, including CIA trainers, former military officers, lawyers, business executives, and diplomats.

See more about our community in the TESOL Newsletter and Student Projects.

Alumna Spotlight

I credit this program for jump-starting my career in the field of TESOL.

While pursuing her MA, Mindy Corriher taught business English courses at the World Bank and the Inter-American Development Bank in downtown DC. She also worked as a graduate assistant in the School of Professional and Extended Studies’ intensive English Language and Training Academy (ELTA). After graduation, she became ELTA’s assistant director.


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.

Students pay tuition per credit hour. For up to date information on tuition costs, see Tuition and Fees.

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

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 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.

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 an online component. Visit our Courses and TESOL Summer Institute pages for more information.

TESOL stands for Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages, and is probably the most general of these terms. 

EFL stands for English as a Foreign Language (TEFL - Teaching English as a Foreign Language) and refers to teaching English in a place where it is not widely spoken and is a foreign language. 

ESL stands for English as a Second Language (TESL - Teaching English as a Second Language), and usually refers to teaching English to non-native English speakers in a country where English is widely spoken (like the U.S.). 

ESOL stands for English for Speakers of Other Languages and is usually used to refer to teaching ESL in schools (K-12) in the U.S. 

ELT stands for English Language Teaching.