The Best Online Bachelor’s in English as a Second Language (ESL) Programs

by TBS Staff

Updated October 19, 2022

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In 2015, the National Center for Education Statistics reported that nearly five million students in public schools were English language learners (ELLs), which is nearly 10% of the public school population. Furthermore, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security reports that approximately one million immigrants have become permanent U.S. residents every year since 2005. This population increase has lead to a need for ESL majors. A degree in teaching English as a second language helps candidates enter guidance careers.

The field’s diversity allows students to work with different age groups and in various work environments. For instance, a person who enjoys working with children can specialize in K–12 ESL education, while a person who prefers the outdoors can become an ESL summer camp manager.

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Online Bachelor’s in English Language Learning Degree Program Ranking Guidelines

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We selected the degree programs based on the quality of program and range of courses provided, as well as school awards, rankings, and reputation.

Our Methodology

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While specific criteria under consideration can vary by ranking, there are a few data points that we value most highly. They are affordability, academic quality, and online enrollment. Below, we break down our algorithm to help you understand what you're getting when you use one of our rankings.

  • Academics
  • Affordability
  • Online Enrollment

Data Sources

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The Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) is our primary source. Its data comes from annual surveys conducted by the U.S. Department of Education's National Center for Education Statistics (NCES). Every college, university, or technical school with access to federal financial aid must participate in these surveys, which include questions about enrollment, graduation rates, finances, and faculty qualifications. This is publicly available data, which you can access yourself through the College Navigator.

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Breakdown of Our Rankings Methodology

About Our Ranking Factors

Here at TBS, we value what you value: quality education, affordability, and the accessibility of online education. These factors guide all of our program rankings.

Each of these factors are further broken down into weighted subfactors. For example, retention rates are weighted more heavily than availability of program options because they are a better indicator of student success.

We chose the following factors for our rankings because of their influence on learning experiences and graduate outcomes. However, students should always balance our rankings against their personal priorities. For instance, a learner who needs a fully online program may prioritize online flexibility more than our rankings do. Our rankings are designed to help you make a decision — not to make a decision for you.

Academics - 75%

Affordability - 15%

Online Enrollment - 10%

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The Best Online Bachelor’s in English Language Learning Degree Programs

#1 The Best Online Bachelor’s in English as a Second Language (ESL) Programs

Concordia University, Nebraska

  • Seward, NE
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

Students looking to earn a flexible college degree should consider Concordia University, Nebraska's online BA in TESOL program. Undergraduates can pursue the degree in an online format at the private, nonprofit, four-year institution. Students looking for an English language learning-adjacent career can pursue study through the bachelor's in TESOL at their own pace.

Enrollees complete both foundational and advanced coursework, granting them the knowledge and skills needed to advance in the TESOL field. Enrollees also complete general education classes, gaining a well-rounded education. Enrollees can customize their studies by working with their academic advisor to choose electives, minors, and degree concentrations.

With a bachelor's degree, graduates increase their job opportunities and earning potential. According to the college, graduates earn a median salary of $36,700 six years after completing their degree. Prospective students can contact the program to learn more about admission requirements and financial aid opportunities.

Concordia University, Nebraska at a Glance:

Online Enrollment: 737

Total Online Programs: 33

Online Bachelor's Programs: 1

Admission Rate: 78%

Average Tuition
In-state
$32,890
Out-of-state
$32,890
Retention Rate
82%
Admission Rate
78%
Students Enrolled
2,703
Institution Type
Private
Percent Online Enrollment
27% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Higher Learning Commission

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Choosing a Online ESL Degree Program

Students pursuing a bachelor’s degree in ESL explore topics such as cultural diversity, grammar, teaching strategies, and learn to determine a non–native speakers level of understanding. Teachers need strong communication skills and a background in teaching theory. Students learn to assist ELLs in writing, reading, and speaking.

Departments offer concentrations that cater to career goals. For instance, future instructional coordinators may select a curriculum focus for an in–depth study of teaching strategies. Other students may choose teaching English as a foreign language concentration or an age–specific specialization.

Students should consider other academic fields that may assist in career endeavors. For example, an individual who wants to open an extracurricular ESL program for children can select an education bachelor’s program and minor in business.

Program details vary by requirements. For example, some schools may require learners to complete a student teaching component, which prepares students for teaching careers. Other programs involve capstone projects or research–heavy coursework. These factors should impact school choice. For instance, a candidate who wants to work at an ESL organization may find the student teaching component time–consuming and choose a program with a capstone project instead.

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What Else Can I Expect From an Online Bachelor’s in English Language Learning Program?

Each school has distinct curricula for an ESL bachelor’s degree. For instance, a bachelor’s in teaching ESL to K–12 learners includes coursework about children. While a program with a TEFL specialization includes classes on cultural diversity. Core ESL concepts will be a focus in programs, regardless of concentration.

Curriculum for an Online Bachelor’s Degree in English Language Learning

Second Language Acquisition (SLA)
These courses examine how candidates learn a foreign language. Students explore first language acquisition, and elements that make SLA more difficult, such as age. Graduates learn to teach English to non–native speakers.
Teaching English as a Second Language
Coursework includes theories in language acquisition, evaluating classroom needs, and guidelines for constructing lesson plans. This class prepares candidates for positions as ESL teachers and administrators.
Language Structure
Topics in this course include grammar, semantics, syntax, and the format of English sentences. These concepts provide insight into ESL teaching careers.
TESOL Curriculum
Students study theories, current research, and the best practices for assisting an ELL. Concepts, such as technology usage, may surface in coursework. ESL curriculum classes prepare candidates for careers as teachers and instructional coordinators.
Language and Culture
Candidates explore cultural concepts that impact language learning, including politics and social behaviors. Coursework prepares learners to teach ESL in multicultural schools, and oversee ESL programs.
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Careers with a Bachelor’s in English Language Learning

Studying English language learning can lead to diverse careers. For instance, children in K–12 settings or immigration may need English guidance. ESL assistance is also needed in classrooms or external organizations. Candidates can pursue distinct careers, including positions at bilingual daycares and ESL summer camps.

Adult Literacy and High School Equivalency Diploma Teachers
These educators prepare learners for diploma equivalency tests. Teachers need to be fluent in speaking, reading, and writing the language. Candidates with an ESL bachelor's degree learn to teach second language concepts to non-native speakers.
  • Median Annual Salary: $52,100
  • Projected Growth Rate: –5%
Kindergarten and Elementary School Teachers
Teachers educate young learners in subjects, such as mathematics and reading. Career responsibilities include building lesson plans, maintaining classroom regulations, and discussing academic accomplishments and weaknesses with parents. An ESL bachelor's degree prepares educators to work with ESL students and families.
  • Median Annual Salary: $56,900
  • Projected Growth Rate: 7%
Social and Community Service Managers
Managers of this caliber determine community needs and develop programs for current problems. These workers assess programs and develop strategies to improve an organization's influence. Earning a TESOL bachelor's degree online helps candidates perform these tasks for ESL groups.
  • Median Annual Salary: $64,100
  • Projected Growth Rate: 18%

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics


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