Facebook pixel Everything You Need to Know About TESOL Programs - GSEP Blog | Pepperdine GSEP Skip to main content
Pepperdine | Graduate School of Education and Psychology

Everything You Need to Know About TESOL Programs

What is a TESOL program

If you want to teach English abroad or to non-native speakers in the United States, you'll need a TESOL certification. TESOL programs provide a deep dive into a culturally diverse and academically challenging environment of second language learning. They offer the chance to learn different teaching methods, grasp complex language acquisition concepts, and develop strategies for creating inclusive learning spaces. 

We'll tell you everything you need to know about TESOL certification, including common questions such as:

  • What is a TESOL program?
  • How do you get TESOL certified?
  • What are the benefits of a Master's in TESOL?
  • Where can you teach English as a second language?

What is TESOL?

TESOL stands for Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages. It is a field of education focused on teaching English to non-native speakers. It encompasses various teaching methods and strategies to help learners from diverse linguistic backgrounds develop their English language skills. TESOL professionals work with English language learners across diverse age groups and cultural backgrounds.

TESOL educators are trained to understand the challenges faced by non-native English speakers, from basic communication to academic proficiency in English. The field covers a wide array of instructional settings—ranging from local community centers and schools to international universities and corporate environments. The goal is to equip learners with the English language skills necessary for successful communication in everyday life, academic pursuits, and professional scenarios.

How to Get TESOL Certified

There are several ways to get certified to teach English as a second language. We'll share the process for obtaining TESOL certification alongside a MA in TESOL program:

  1. Obtain a bachelor's degree. You'll need a bachelor's degree in English, education, or a closely related field.
  2. Meet the basic admissions requirements for a Master's program. Admissions requirements for the MA in TESOL program at Pepperdine University include a bachelor's degree from an accredited institution, a letter of recommendation, a statement of purpose, and potentially a personal interview. There may be additional requirements for international students. 
  3. Complete the MA in TESOL program. During the program, you'll gain real-world experience teaching in multicultural and multilingual learning environments. The program at Pepperdine University culminates in a digital portfolio capstone experience which allows students to focus on either practice or scholarship/research.
  4. Receive your certification. Once you successfully complete the program, you will be awarded a Master's degree in TESOL, which certifies your qualification to teach English to non-native speakers.


Benefits of a Master's in TESOL

While a Master's degree in TESOL isn't a requirement, it can be a transformative step in your professional journey. This advanced degree program will give you additional in-depth knowledge in areas such as language theory, curriculum design, and pedagogical strategies that will set you up for a successful career in English language teaching.

Comprehensive Teacher Training

One of the biggest benefits of an MA in TESOL is the extensive teacher training you'll receive through advanced courses in second language acquisition, pedagogy, and linguistics. This in-depth training ensures that graduates are well-prepared to meet the diverse needs of English learners in various educational settings. The program's holistic approach not only enhances teaching effectiveness but also equips educators with the ability to design and adapt curricula to suit varying learning styles and contexts.

Hands-on Practice

Many TESOL degree programs, especially those offered by accredited institutions like Pepperdine University, include hands-on practice through teaching practicums. These opportunities allow students to apply their learning in real-world settings, enhancing their teaching practice and preparing them for the challenges of the classroom. This practical component helps the gap between theory and practice.

Opportunities in Higher Education and Specialized Programs

With a graduate degree, teachers have the opportunity to work in higher education institutions and specialized English language programs, providing opportunities for a successful career in academia. The degree also opens pathways to roles in international education programs, enabling graduates to work across global platforms and settings.

Qualification for Advanced Roles

A Master’s degree in TESOL is often a prerequisite for advanced teaching positions and roles in educational leadership or curriculum development. It signifies a high level of expertise and commitment to the field. Graduates are seen as candidates with enhanced capabilities, ready to take on leadership and specialist roles.

Career Flexibility and Consultancy Opportunities

Graduates who hold an advanced degree can explore additional career paths, including consultancy roles where they can advise educational institutions or language programs. This degree opens up various roles beyond traditional classroom teaching. It also offers the flexibility to work in other environments such as online teaching platforms, language camps, and private tutoring.

What You'll Learn in a TESOL Program

What is a TESOL program

Pepperdine University's MA in TESOL program provides a comprehensive and in-depth academic experience. The curriculum is designed to cover the most important areas of language education, ensuring that graduates are well-prepared for their teaching careers.

Language Analysis

Students engage in an in-depth study of the structures and mechanics of the English language. They learn to analyze and compare these structures with those of other languages, which is crucial for understanding the challenges faced by ESL/EFL learners. This knowledge is then applied in real-world contexts, enhancing lesson planning and practical application skills.

Language Acquisition

Students study the theories of language acquisition to understand how individuals learn a new language. The program places a strong emphasis on creating supportive and effective classroom environments that facilitate language learning. Students explore various language acquisition theories and learn to apply these theories in designing lessons and activities that promote language development.


Sociolinguistics explores the dynamic relationship between language and society. This module covers critical topics like language communities, language variation, multilingualism, and the impact of language policy on social justice. Understanding these aspects is key to developing culturally responsive teaching methods and curricula.

Virtual Learning

The virtual learning component prepares students for the evolving landscape of digital language education. It focuses on integrating technology in language teaching and learning, equipping students with skills to use various virtual tools and platforms for effective language instruction.

Curriculum Design

Students are trained to develop language courses tailored to the diverse needs of individual learners in various contexts. This module provides the opportunity for practical application in lesson planning, materials development, and assessment design, ensuring that students are capable of creating comprehensive and effective language learning programs.


The pedagogy module is central to the TESOL program, where students learn various instructional strategies and techniques for teaching English language skills. It emphasizes the integration of listening, speaking, reading, and writing skills in a supportive learning environment. Students engage in practice teaching, reflecting on their teaching methods and continuously refining their approaches to instruction.

Language Assessment

This course provides a foundation in the principles and practices of language assessment. Students learn to design and evaluate assessments that are fair, valid, and effective in measuring language proficiency. The module also covers the implications of assessment on language learners and instructors, highlighting the importance of assessments in language learning progress.

Ethics, Values, and Inclusion

Focusing on ethical leadership and cultural proficiency, this module addresses the moral and ethical aspects of language education. Students explore various cultural perspectives and learn to apply ethical frameworks in educational settings, ensuring inclusive and equitable teaching practices.

What Jobs Can You Get With a TESOL Degree?

You have a number of options for career paths with a TESOL degree, as well as many opportunities to work with diverse learning groups in various settings, both in the United States and internationally.

Here are some common jobs that TESOL graduates can pursue:

K-12 English Teacher

Many TESOL graduates choose to teach English to non-native speakers in public schools or private schools. This role involves creating engaging and effective lesson plans tailored to support the language development of students coming from a variety of backgrounds. K-12 English teachers play a crucial role in bridging language gaps and fostering an inclusive educational environment for all students.

Adult English Instructor

Another option is to provide adult education by teaching English at community colleges. Here, teachers provide much-needed language education to international students and immigrants, helping them integrate into new environments and pursue their academic and professional goals.

You can also teach in private language schools, which often offer more intensive language programs. These settings offer diverse teaching experiences and the opportunity to significantly impact adult students' language proficiency and confidence.

Private Tutor

As private tutors, TESOL teachers may offer personalized English language instruction to individuals seeking to improve their language skills. This role requires tailored lesson planning and the flexibility to adapt to the unique learning styles and objectives of each individual learner.

Corporate Trainer

Corporate trainers with a TESOL background develop and implement English language training programs for employees in corporate settings. This is particularly important in companies with a diverse workforce or those engaging in international business.

Curriculum Designer

Graduates who are more interested in working with curriculum can use their expertise to develop educational materials suited for a range of learning environments, including public and private schools, as well as online platforms. This role involves creating comprehensive and engaging content that caters to different learning needs and styles, contributing to effective language learning experiences.

College Professor

With a Master's degree or doctoral degree, TESOL teachers can pursue a career in higher education, teaching in colleges and universities. This role not only involves classroom teaching but also mentoring future TESOL educators and engaging in language education research, contributing to the advancement of the field.

TOEFL or IELTS Instructor

Specializing as a TOEFL or IELTS instructor, TESOL graduates prepare students for English proficiency exams. This is an important role, as success in these tests can open doors for non-native speakers seeking educational and professional opportunities in English-speaking environments.

TESOL Abroad

For those with a passion for travel and cultural exchange, a TESOL degree offers the opportunity to teach English in various settings across the world. This career path allows educators to immerse themselves in different cultures while making a significant impact through language teaching.

Frequently Asked Questions

How long does it take to get TESOL certified?

Completing a TESOL certification can vary depending on the type of program you choose. Basic certificate programs may take a few weeks to several months to complete. If you opt for a more comprehensive program like the Master of Arts in TESOL offered at Pepperdine University, the program can be completed in 11 months.

Do you have to speak a foreign language to teach English in another country?

Speaking a foreign language is not usually a requirement to teach English in another country. While knowing the local language can be beneficial for communication and cultural integration, many programs and schools around the world seek native or fluent English speakers to teach English and often provide support in learning the local language.

Is there a high demand for TESOL teachers?

Yes, there is a high demand for TESOL teachers both in the United States and abroad. With the increasing importance of English as a global language, there is a growing need for qualified English language educators in various educational settings, including public schools, private language schools, and international programs.

What is the average salary of a TESOL teacher?

The average salary of a TESOL teacher can vary widely based on factors such as location, type of employer, level of education, and experience. In the United States, salaries can range from moderate to competitive levels, especially in higher education institutions or specialized language programs. Abroad, salaries can be diverse, often depending on the country's cost of living and the type of institution.

Currently, the average annual salary for a TESOL teacher in the United States is $56,698. 

Take the First Step in Your TESOL Career Today

What is a TESOL program

Pepperdine University's Graduate School of Education and Psychology's MA in TESOL program is designed for both international and domestic students. It’s an intensive, full-time program that combines rigorous coursework with clinical practicum placements. The program culminates in a digital portfolio capstone, allowing students to focus on practice or research. This esteemed program equips students with the skills and knowledge to become critically engaged and socially aware educators.

Find out more about Pepperdine University's TESOL program by attending an upcoming information session.