Note: We mainly use the term TEFL on these pages but in most cases the terms TESOL/TESL could equally well be used.

Frequently Asked Questions

MA in TESOL Courses

What is the difference between an MA in TESOL, an MA in TEFL and an MA in ELT?
ELT is a catchall term that covers teaching English as a foreign/second/additional language in all kinds of situations, e.g. classes of teenagers in Spain, summer schools in London, and people who want to settle in an English-speaking country such as refugees and immigrants (sometimes known as TESL). In America, TESOL is usually used to mean the same as ELT, although as the last group is the largest in the US it is often biased towards people who want to settle there. TEFL is a slightly more specific term that includes people who need English in their own country or for travel or study abroad. In practice, though, MAs in ELT and MAs in TEFL tend to be similar. An MA in TESOL might also be similar or may perhaps have more of an emphasis on people who want to settle in an English-speaking country.

Should I take an MA in Linguistics/Applied Linguistics or one in TESOL?
Unless you are particularly interested in the theory or think that you might teach another language, it is better to take one that is more specific to English teaching. There are also ones which combine the two, e.g. MA in ELT and Applied Linguistics.

Is it better to take an MA face-to-face or online?
If you have the option, it is better to do an MA face-to-face. Because there are so many dodgy online MA providers (theology schools and the like), some schools and countries will not accept any online MAs.

How can I choose which MA to take?
The most important thing is to choose a course with high entry requirements. For example if you have a lot of experience and a very high or first language level of English, you don’t want to be studying on a course that is full of people with no experience and/or limited English language skills. The second most important thing is name recognition, but this will depend on the country that you are in. Try looking at the faculty lists on the websites of local universities and see what universities their MAs came from. Especially if this will be a pre-experience MA, you could also look for one with observed and graded teaching practice.

Is it better to do an MA in the country that I am in or a distance one through a university in an English-speaking country?
It mainly depends on what will be more appreciated by local employers. For example, is there a local institution that will impress employers, or do they have a snobbish attitude to all local universities? Also, if you later move away from that country will employers still recognize and value your MA? The next thing to consider is your own preferred ways of learning and your motivation. Will you need to discuss the matters face-to-face to remember them and need someone to check up on you to keep you motivated, or will you work better at your own pace? The other factors are cost, travel time and wanting to study with people who are in a similar situation to yourself (e.g. not lots of 23 year old pre-experience teachers or lots of local primary school teachers).  

Is it more worthwhile to take a diploma or an MA?
If you want to work in a university, you will need an MA sooner or later. For language schools, some (e.g. the British Council) prefer a diploma to an MA with no observed teaching practice. The other option is to take a full-time MA that has a diploma as part of the course, or to take a diploma that can be used as credit for a future MA.

Is it better to do a general MA in TESOL or a more specialist one?
If you are sure that your future job will be associated with the topics in a more specialist MA (e.g. Materials Development, Young Learners or ESP), it is probably better to take one that is at least partly specific to that subject - as long as it doesn't limit your future career choices too much.

Should I take an MA or a TEFL certificate before my first teaching job?
The most important thing is observed teaching practice. If your pre-experience MA doesn’t include that, you will probably need to take a certificate as well to get a job in a decent school. In fact, some MAs include a CELTA as part of the course. If your course does include observed teaching practice, getting an MA early in your career will be a good way of getting into university jobs after just a couple of years of working. For employment in private language schools, you will need to clearly explain on your CV that your MA was not all theory and meets or exceeds all the requirements of a typical TEFL certificate course.

I already have an MA in TESOL. Why do employers keep asking me for a CELTA?
Did your MA have at least six hours of observed and graded teaching practice? If so, that is quite rare for Masters courses and you will need to explain that to prospective employers. If not, many MA TESOL-qualified teachers have found a 4-week practical TEFL course stimulating and useful, and you should also be able to aim for the (rare) A and B grades when you take one.

I already have an MA in another subject. Is it worth taking one in TESOL as well?
It can be, but not until you have taught for at least two or three years.

Is it possible to get on a Masters course without a first degree?
Sometimes, if you have teaching qualifications and considerable experience. Beware of courses that stress the low entry requirements, though.

How can I find a distance MA that will be accepted by employers?
It should be through a well-known and well-respected university that also has a face-to-face course. The university being well known for TESOL and having famous names associated with it also wouldn’t hurt.

How can I spot a dodgy MA?
Typical danger signs include “universities” based in small obscure countries, MAs offered through or in association with TEFL course providers (rather than just through a university), and low entry requirements.