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CAREER GUIDE Master of Arts, English Language Learning

WGU degree programs correspond with careers that promise continued growth. WGU creates career growth.

Career guide: ELL teacher.

If teaching culturally diverse kids how to speak English sounds fulfilling, a career as an ELL/ESL teacher may be the perfect fit for you. The Master of Arts English Language Learning degree will help transform you into the educational leader that so many students depend on.

Your career goals are clear: you'd like to become an English Language Learning teacher and provide curricular leadership in your school system. You already know you enjoy teaching and you want to take your career to the next level. The proper education is the cornerstone of future success.

Job listing growth 2016–2026.

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Career opportunities.

Choosing to advance from a traditional academic teacher to an ELL/ESL teacher will give you the chance to meet the growing need for this type of educator, especially in urban settings. It'll also give you better salary opportunities.

Once you've completed the coursework for the Master of Arts in English Language Learning, you'll be able to:

Positions in the field.

  • Become a ELL or ESL teacher (PreK–12)
  • Be an expert curricula leader
  • Work in other school administrator capacities
“WGU is for people with real-world experience. A lot of the time, that real-world experience can really help you in your assignments and courses.” Lissete Rico
M.A. English Language Learning (PreK–12)

Job market forecast.

As more immigrant families come to the United States, the demand for ESL/ELL teachers who can teach kids English will continue to increase.

According to the National Center for Education Statistics, the percentage of ELL students in public schools has been steadily increasing since at least the 2004–2005 school year: That year 9.1% of American public school student were English language learners; in 2014–2015, it had increased to 9.4%. The percentage of ELL students in public schools is above 10% in the District of Columbia and seven other states: Alaska, California, Colorado, Illinois, Nevada, New Mexico, and Texas. This list shows that the need is nationwide, but particularly high in the West. Some 35 states saw an increase in ELL students in their public schools between 2004–2005 and 2014–2015.

As a highly qualified teacher with a Master of Arts in English Language Learning/English as a Second Language, the job market forecast looks bright.

Job growth 2016–2026.

Work environment.

Once you have a master's degree in ELL/ESL, you'll likely work in a K–12 public school. With the demand the way it is now, you have the option to work in a city, suburb, or rural town with high immigration rates, though the need is generally higher for school districts in more urbanized areas, such as cities and suburbs. Your job could be full-time or part-time, depending on school needs. The classroom will consist of students who are linguistically and culturally diverse. English language learners may include refugees, immigrants, American Indians, and migrants.

The size of your classroom will vary depending on student skill level and age.

Teachers who work in a K–12 school usually work a 10-month school year with two months off during the summer. Teachers who work in districts with year-round schedules often work 8 weeks in a row, followed by a one-week break, in addition to a 5-week winter break.

ELL/ESL teachers spend most of their time engaging with students, but they also develop and implement curriculum, assess the coursework, research, work with other educators, and grade papers.

Professional organizations.

If you’re thinking about becoming a science teacher, these professional organizations can help you plan, achieve, and advance a satisfying career.

Job search resources.

If you're ready to launch your career as a special education teacher, you'll need to be equipped with the right job search resources. These will help you jumpstart your search.

Salary stats.

According to Glassdoor, the average ESL teacher salary in the United States is $47,702. Geographic location and years of teaching experience will influence the salary of an ELL/ESL teacher. Because of the dire need for qualified ELL/ESL teachers, some schools offer generous bonus incentives. (Check with the schools in your area!)

Find ESL teacher salary by state at

Average salary of jobs with related titles.


Working with children who aren't native English speakers can be arduous, but teachers with drive, patience, and the right qualifications find the career to be very rewarding. As a traditional academic teacher making the switch to ESL or ELL teacher, you'll be tasked with instructing in a different setting than you're used to. You'll not only be teaching a language, but you'll be helping students develop cultural competency. The job requires addressing the language needs of each student and designing and implementing instruction that will help them with all of their academic endeavors.

The right schooling and preparation will prepare you for new teaching career. The accredited master's program you choose should be based on effective instruction as well as national and state standards. Be sure that the program content is consistent with the accountability intent of the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 and aligned with TESOL standards.

Your career’s next step: Earn a degree.

Ready to jump-start your career in teaching ELL? The next step could be earning your M.A. in English Language Learning. Accredited, competency-based WGU offers this degree online for at a surprisingly affordable flat-rate tuition. Flexible enough for a working adult’s schedule with the option to accelerate, your degree may be closer than you think!