Taking an MA TEFL part-time distance learning

by Isabella Seeger

I have almost finished an online MA TEFL at the University of Birmingham and I think it was an excellent decision and a rewarding experience, notwithstanding the amount of work and expenses incurred.

Teaching full-time as an unqualified language teacher at a secondary school in Germany, I wished to acquire a university degree to become fully qualified. Being a single parent, there was no possibility to follow a university course in Germany without completely upsetting our lives, so a distance learning programme seemed a good alternative.

Obviously, planning time and money beforehand was crucial, and despite the financial burden I reduced teaching hours by 50% to be able to concentrate on my studies get through the course in the shortest time possible. You have to add the substantial course fees and the cost of books, and I think it only worked out because I was used to working independently and because I can be very self-disciplined if necessary.

The rewards for these hardships came in the shape of excellent tuition, personal interest in the topics and higher marks than expected, which again motivated me to go on when things became particularly difficult. At the start 30 months looked like an eternity, but after the first three modules everything went incredibly fast and I can hardly believe it is already over. I developed lasting friendships with fellow students, and a summer course at the university was an unforgettable experience.

Most of all, however, the MA opened my eyes to the fascination of doing research, which has changed my entire ambition of teaching at secondary level. Due to the MA, teaching at a university myself has now become an attainable goal, which would moreover enable me to continue my studies and perhaps take a PhD, too.

Comments for Taking an MA TEFL part-time distance learning

Click here to add your own comments

Mar 03, 2011
by: Mark (Admin)

Thanks for your story Isabella. Birmingham University was one of the universities I considered for my MA TEFL [I took my first master's degree there a long time ago], but I chose Exeter University in the end.

I think getting better qualified is a very good idea for anyone who stays in teaching for a long time. I've met many English teachers around the world who are now in their 40's or older, with a lot of experience, but few, or no qualifications. Now they are beginning to realize that they are stuck in the job - or at best in the country - they are in.

Oct 28, 2012
Advice needed
by: Diana

Hi everybody

Isabella,your story is really inspiring, i would like to take MA in TESOL online but i am not sure what university to choose. Any advice?

Thanks in advance

Oct 28, 2012
A difficult question to answer
by: Isabella

Dear Diana,

Having had only the Birmingham experience, it is really hard for me to say whether there are better options. I remember some students reporting their experience with other universities which pushed them to change. While I personally think the Birmingham programme is excellent, the cost has to be considered, too, which at my time was somewhere near the upper end of the range. On the other hand, completing the programme actually opened the door to university teaching for me - I teach at Bielefeld University in Germany now, and the Birmingham degree and the excellent course contents (among other criteria) were probably one good reason why I was taken on.

There is also the question of recognition of the degree, which depends on where you are going to teach. The public education systems of different countries may or may not recognise degrees from certain institutions, so this would be important to find out before you start.

My advice would be to compare the course descriptions of different universities offering distance programmes, as well as the fees. Quality of the programme would be my first priority; there are national and international rankings not only for universities but also for the individual faculties and departments with differentiated criteria such as quality of teaching, student satisfaction, etc. Another aspect would be to compare the distance programmes with the campus versions. Their contents should be essentially the same - in Birmingham they were virtually identical and the degree certificate does not even mention the fact that it is a distance programme.

The decision, after all, is yours, and let me add that whether you are successful or not does not depend on the university alone - in my experience success comes mainly with the clarity of your goal (the "what and why") and the effort you put into achieving it.

Good luck to your plans,


Oct 28, 2012
MA Applied Linguistics and TESOL
by: Mark (Admin)

I nearly took my masters at Leicester University. Their MA in Applied Linguistics and TESOL is 2.5 years (when taken as a distance degree) and it looked good to me. However, I have not personally studied there. I'm just throwing in another idea.

Click here to add your own comments

Join in and write your own page! It's easy to do. How? Simply click here to return to TESOL Certification.