What is an Ed.D. in TESOL or Bilingual Education?
Ed.D. programs in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL), English as a Second Language (ESL), English as a Foreign Language (EFL), English Language Arts (ELA), and Bilingual Education are aimed at experienced TESOL teacher educators who want to move up the career ladder, as well as education professionals who create, supervise, and assess TESOL programs.
You may wish to earn an Ed.D. in TESOL or Bilingual Education in order to:
- Work in TESOL administration or curriculum development
- Become a Professor of TESOL in a college or university
- Learn how to train TESOL & bilingual educators
- Apply research in applied linguistics to real-world scenarios
- Become an agent of change in your current setting
Graduates of Ed.D. programs in TESOL often work in public and private schools, higher education settings, and community & government agencies, both in the U.S. and abroad.
Types of Doctorate in TESOL Programs
Ed.D. in TESOL & Related Fields
Think of TESOL as a highly specific field representing the meeting point between applied linguistics and curriculum & instruction. Within our listings, you’ll find a wide variety of programs in this field, including doctorates that focus on:
- Applied Linguistics: Some Ed.D. programs in TESOL place a great deal of emphasis on linguistic theory & strategies. Programs like Columbia University’s Ed.D. in Applied Linguistics and TESOL, the University of Pennsylvania’s Ed.D. in Educational Linguistics, and Hofstra University’s Ed.D. in Teaching and Learning – Applied Linguistics tackle linguistic principles and methodologies that can be easily adapted to the teaching of languages other than English.
- English Instruction: Other Ed.D. programs in TESOL choose to address the practicalities of English instruction. For instance, Columbia University’s Ed.D. in the Teaching of English, Northcentral University’s Online Ed.D. in English as a Second Language, and the University of Central Florida’s Ed.D. in Curriculum and Instruction – English Language Arts focus on applied TESOL, with less attention given to the linguistics principles that undergird it.
- Curriculum & Instruction: As you might expect, TESOL is a relatively common subspecialty within the Ed.D. in Curriculum and Instruction. Even programs specifically dedicated to TESOL tend to include a strong curriculum design component.
Alternative Ed.D. in TESOL Terms
- TESOL: The term TESOL, meaning “Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages,” began to become the industry standard in the United States after the TESOL International Organization was founded in 1966. Other popular terms include TESL (“Teaching English as a Second Language”) and TEFL (“Teaching English as a Foreign Language”).
- Bilingual Education: Bilingual education usually refers to teaching students in their native language (e.g. English) in conjunction with a second language. Bilingual educators employ differing levels of these two languages depending on curricula requirements & teaching models.
- ESL/EFL: ESL (“English as a Second Language”) and EFL (“English as a Foreign Language”) refer to the field from a student-centered perspective. Strictly speaking, ESL teachers work in English-speaking countries with students whose first language is not English. EFL educators teach English outside of the United States in areas where English is not the primary language.
- ELA: ELA stands for “English Language Arts.” This term—popularized within Common Core standards—is used to refer to English usage, acquisition, and literary study, regardless of whether or not the student is a native English speaker and regardless of whether the study of the field is basic (as in the case of an introductory ESL course) or advanced (as in the case of a Ph.D. in English).
Ph.D. vs. Ed.D. in TESOL or Bilingual Education
An Ed.D. in TESOL or Bilingual Education is a good choice for TESOL educators who are interested in administrative, leadership, and curriculum development jobs within the field. Ed.D. programs emphasize problems of practice and real-world learning.
In general, a Ph.D. is regarded as a more competitive credential than an Ed.D. for tenure-track academic positions. This could make a Ph.D. in Applied Linguistics and/or TESOL a better fit for educators looking at college-level positions.
However, there are few caveats to these statements:
- Ed.D. programs in TESOL tend to be more research-driven and Ph.D.-like than Ed.D. programs in other educational specialties. This could mitigate the perception that an Ed.D. in TESOL is a less rigorous research degree than a Ph.D. in the same field.
- The international TESOL market is growing. Most of the new teacher educator & administrative jobs in this field are opening up in international campuses overseas, where diverse degree nomenclature is the norm. This means that, in many cases, stereotypes about the relative research intensity of a Ph.D. versus that of an Ed.D. may not be relevant.
- The TESOL/ESL market is one of the few U.S. education sectors that’s actually expected to shrink in the years ahead. That being the case, it’s possible that open U.S. tenure-track TESOL teacher educator positions might become difficult to obtain in general, regardless of the type of terminal degree you have.
There’s a lot to consider before deciding between a Ph.D. and Ed.D., so head over to our guide (here) to learn more about which option is best for you.
Earning an Ed.D. in TESOL or Bilingual Education
- Master’s Degree: Applicants to an Ed.D. in TESOL are expected to hold a master’s degree in TESOL, education, or applied linguistics. A master’s degree in English or M.F.A. in Writing may be allowed on a special-case basis if the curriculum focuses to an unusual degree on applied linguistics and English language instruction, but these exceptions are rare and may still necessitate bridge coursework.
- Work Experience: Some universities have a minimum requirement (e.g. 3+ years of teaching); some don’t. But they will all be reviewing your résumé for evidence of relevant professional experience.
- Minimum GPA: Most Ed.D. programs in TESOL require a minimum 3.0 GPA. High-flying Colleges of Education may ask for a GPA of 3.25-3.5.
- Additional Requirements: Doctoral students may also be expected to submit GRE or MAT scores, an admissions essay, an academic writing sample, 2-4 letters of recommendation, and/or a résumé. Foreign nationals whose native language is not English will often have to submit a TOEFL or IELTS score.
The easiest way to learn about coursework is to visit the curriculum links in our listings. Ed.D. programs in TESOL tend to be highly technical in nature, and more specialized than Ed.D. programs in other fields. Even Alliant International University’s Ed.D. in TESOL, which emphasizes practical elements of the field and does not advertise itself as a program in applied linguistics, still includes coursework in:
- Language acquisition
- Specialized linguistic disciplines
Beyond the realm of applied linguistics, you can expect a heavy dose of coursework in curriculum and instruction. For example, in addition to linguistics work, Texas A&M University Kingsville’s Ed.D. in Bilingual Education includes credits in:
- Classroom Work (e.g. Management Systems for Instruction, Clinical Supervision of Instruction, Evaluation of Instruction)
- Methodologies (e.g. Teaching English as a Second Language, Teaching Spanish Language Skills, Teaching English Reading, Teaching Subject Matter in Spanish)
- Cultural Studies (e.g. History of the Mexican-American/Sociology of the Mexican-American/Literature of the Mexican-American)
Finally, all Ed.D. programs in TESOL will include research coursework to prepare you for the dissertation or capstone.
TESOL Internship & Fieldwork
The emphasis on academic research within the TESOL specialty means that internships and fieldwork requirements are relatively light. Wayne State’s Ed.D. in English Education, which limits the fieldwork requirement to a single 3-hour supervisory practicum, is fairly typical in this respect.
Every Ed.D. in our program database with a major in TESOL requires a traditional dissertation. In most other fields, Ed.D. programs are available that include a capstone project or project portfolio in lieu of a dissertation. In the highly specialized, theory-driven field of TESOL, no such alternatives are available.
A few Ed.D. programs in other fields that offer a specialization track in TESOL allow students to pursue a capstone project rather than a dissertation.
Online Ed.D. in TESOL Programs
Are Ed.D. in TESOL Programs Offered Online?
You’ll find a few Online Ed.D. programs in TESOL & Bilingual Education in our listings. We’ve flagged them with an “Offered Online” marker. They are rare!
Do Online Ed.D. in TESOL Programs Contain Residencies?
It depends on the program. For example, the University of West Georgia’s online Ed.D. in School Improvement – TESOL contains a single summer residency over the course of the entire program. In contrast, Northcentral University’s Ed.D. in English Language Learning is 100% online, with no on-campus requirements.
Ed.D. in TESOL Jobs
An education doctorate in TESOL will set you up for leadership & teacher training positions in the field. Common job titles for graduates include:
- TESOL Program Director
- TESOL Education/Linguistics Faculty
- TESOL Training Specialist/Consultant
- TESOL Curriculum Specialist
- TESOL Educational Technology Specialist
- Bilingual/ESL/EFL Program Coordinator
- TESOL Researcher
Keep in mind that TESOL is a growing international field. Many TESOL and ESL educators work overseas, often in lucrative administrative & teaching positions.
Ed.D. in TESOL Salary
The BLS monitors employment numbers & wage data for Adult Basic Education, Adult Secondary Education, and English as a Second Language Instructors, Postsecondary Education Teachers, and Instructional Coordinators. These three categories will provide you with low-end salary numbers, but they don’t deal with specific job titles.
For that, we suggest you choose a preferred job title (e.g. TESOL Assistant Professor) and compare data from common salary sites (e.g. Glassdoor, Payscale, Indeed, ZipRecruiter, etc.). If you’re interested in overseas jobs, you’ll need to dig a little deeper. Countries in the Middle East (e.g. UAE, Oman, Kuwait) and East Asia (e.g. Japan, Taiwan, South Korea) tend to offer higher salaries overall.
Is an Ed.D. in TESOL or Bilingual Education Worth It?
TESOL is not currently a fast-growing field in the United States, and the shrinking number of positions that do exist here are likely to become more competitive over the coming years. This could make an Ed.D. essential to your career’s long-term survival in a way that it might not be in most other fields. A terminal degree also positions you well to train ESL educators in growing overseas markets like China, South Korea, and the UAE.
If you’re thinking of pursuing a faculty position at a college or a university, we recommend you discuss your options with your mentors. Traditionally, a Ph.D. has been the favored qualification for academic roles. When we looked at job openings for TESOL professors, we found that some universities explicitly asked for a Ph.D. and others were happy to consider the Ph.D. or Ed.D. So you’ll have to make a decision about which path to take.
TESOL & Bilingual Education Resources
- Center for Adult English Language Acquisition (CAELA): This research-driven organization promotes the teaching and acquisition of English as a second language in the United States.
- International Association of Teachers of English as a Foreign Language (IATEFL): IATEFL provides networking opportunities and a job board for TESOL/ESL educators working in what is increasingly becoming a global field.
- National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE): NCTE works to promote the teaching of English as a second language in the United States, from pre-K through college.
- TEFL.net: This online resource portal links to job postings, events, online courses, and discussion forums relevant to TESOL/ESL educators in the United States and abroad.
- TESOL International Association: This organization works to promote and preserve TESOL/ESL instruction in the United States while helping to broaden career, research, and networking opportunities overseas.