Choosing the Right MA TESOL Program

by Andrea
(Amman, Jordan)

Question I've read that teaching in the Middle East often requires an MA TESOL and that online degrees are not accepted by some employers. I'd appreciate further advice on what programs are most desirable. I'm deciding between a state college - San Francisco State University - where the tuition is $4000 per semester and Columbia University where it's $16,000 per semester. What advantages would the second school offer and which would you choose?


Answer Teaching English in the Middle East doesn't necessarily require an MA TESOL. If you have good experience, a TEFL diploma can be enough. If you wish to work at university level, then you will need an MA (usually in TESOL or applied linguistics).

I explain the difference between the two in the article MA TESOL

I've never attended these universities, and I can only make general comments. You need to study the specific details (course content etc) yourself. However, I believe that both choices would work.

The choice really depends on how much money you have, or are prepared to spend, and how you see your future career developing.

If money is tight, then the choice is obvious. Even if it isn't, then there's a lot to be said for saving money. You would save a significant amount of money by attending San Francisco State University, and while it doesn't have the prestige of Colombia, but it's not a bad university either.

If you hope to have a career as a classroom teacher of EFL, then I really don't think it will make any difference which university you choose. The employer will be more interested in you and what you gained from whichever course you choose. Your experience will be of more interest than any academic qualification.

If you hope to take a PhD TESOL and embark on a career as an academic researcher, then Colombia might be better, but San Francisco State University would still remain a reasonable choice. If you do have plans for an academic career - as opposed to being a classroom teacher - then teaching in the Middle East is not a good choice. You would be too busy teaching, and it's unlikely that many universities in the region would give you the time away from teaching that you would need to complete your research, let alone the time off to attend international conferences.

You don't mention whether you have experience, but you should be aware that many master's programs require teaching experience for acceptance onto their courses. Most universities in Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States also require three years post MA teaching experience.

Colombia University is more famous, and has more famous alumni, including heads of state. President Obama for one. If you were planning to go into politics, then I would say choose Colombia, but for TESOL I don't think it matters.




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