M.A. TESOL Prospective Student FAQs

Program Features

What are the strengths and advantages of the M.A. TESOL program at SF State in comparison to similar programs elsewhere?

Our program has a long, distinguished history and faculty with an outstanding reputation for leadership, professional scholarship, and service in TESOL. The SF State M.A. TESOL degree is widely recognized and respected around the world.

We are located in an exciting urban area, with chances to observe diverse ESL programs serving immigrants and international students. The program maintains vibrant relationships with ESL programs throughout the San Francisco Bay Area, including community colleges, adult schools, and community based programs, providing rich opportunities for practical experience and mentoring, and for grounding student projects in real teaching contexts that fit your interests and career goals.

The SF State Department of English offers excellent resources that can broaden and enrich your M.A. TESOL training, including a graduate programs in Linguistics and Composition Studies, as well as graduate teaching certificates available in Composition and Teaching Reading. The American Language Institute is a highly respected academic ESL institute that hires M.A. TESOL students, providing opportunities for additional training and professional experience.

Our program has a practical emphasis on teacher preparation. If you take advantage of the many opportunities to get practical experience and to build your skills, you will be well prepared for the job market when you graduate.

How long does it take to complete the M.A. degree?

Typically, the entire M.A. TESOL program, including the prerequisite courses taken during the first semester or two, takes 2 to 2 1/2 academic years (4 or 5 semesters excluding summers) to complete, and longer if you are a part-time student.

What kinds of students enroll in SF State’s M.A. TESOL program? Do most of them already have a background in linguistics and teaching experience?

Our program has all kinds of students, of diverse ages and backgrounds. Many have taught English abroad or in the U.S., and wish to obtain a M.A. to get a solid foundation in current theory and methodology in TESOL as well as to be competitive for the best ESL/EFL teaching jobs. Many others have no ESL/EFL teaching experience but are attracted to the field because they think they will enjoy working with people from diverse cultural backgrounds. Our program provides a rich variety of required and optional opportunities to gain practical classroom experience.

A number of our graduate students are in the process of switching careers, making transitions from fields such as law, business, and technology because they find language teaching more fulfilling.

A number of our students are international students from countries including Japan, Thailand, Korea, China, and Taiwan among others.

M.A. TESOL students have had a variety of undergraduate majors. Most begin the program needing some or all of the prerequisite courses.

How many students are currently in the M.A. program?

There are currently approximately 50 students enrolled at all stages of the program. Between 10 and 30 students begin the M.A. TESOL program each semester. Every year, around 20 students complete the program.

What is the average class size?

The average class size is around 20-35 students in upper division undergraduate (prerequisite) courses, 10-18 students in graduate seminars.

What are the faculty’s areas of expertise?

Currently, we have four faculty in TESOL and three faculty in linguistics, with diverse areas of expertise, including the sub-fields of linguistics, sociolinguistics, second language acquisition, methods for teaching oral skills, methods for teaching reading and writing skills, pedagogical grammar, conversation analysis, pragmatics, community-based ESL for immigrants, adult literacies, teaching English internationally, technology, curriculum development, and assessment. See faculty profiles.

Do you have a distance learning program?

No, not at the present time.

Does the M.A. TESOL program give attention to teaching children as well as adults?

Our program’s primary focus is on adults and adolescents. Some of our students are K-12 teachers in the US and a number of our international students teach EFL in K-12 contexts, but we do not offer teaching credential. Our program can complement training of K-12 teachers, we do not offer a credential program. The SF State College of Education offers credential programs.

What kinds of practical experience are included in the M.A. TESOL program?

Three M.A. TESOL courses require students to serve as Teaching Assistants (TAs), and we encourage our students to seek out additional TA experience above and beyond program requirements. The courses requiring practical experience. The courses that require TA or tutor experience are English 726 Practicum, English 653 (or 721) Pedagogical Grammar, and English 732 Seminar in Teaching Reading and Writing. In addition, English 733 Student Teaching requires working with a mentor teacher for a full semester as an assistant and student teacher.

English 726: Practicum

Practicum English 726 provides M.A. TESOL students with experience assisting in an ESL class either on campus or off campus. They attend the ESL class regularly and assist the teacher in a number of ways, such as responding to students‘ work, tutoring students, and preparing teaching materials. Tutoring without being part of a class cannot count for English 726.

English 653/721 Pedagogical Grammar

English 653 (Pedagogical Grammar) and 721 (Advanced Pedagogical Grammar) require students to work with ESL students on grammar. This requirement can be satisfied by tutoring at a campus tutoring center or by arranging with an ESL student to support work in their ESL studies. For more in depth experience, students may serve as a TA in a CMS grammar course (ENG 208 or 212). TA work in other ESL classes on or off campus may also work – please consult with your 653 or 721 instructor. For students who take English 653/721 and English 726 concurrently, serving as a TA in one ESL class can satisfy requirements for both M.A. TESOL courses.

English 732: TESOL Reading and Writing Skills

Students are required to serve as a TA in an ESL reading/composition course concurrently with their enrollment in English 732. English 732 instructors may have differing requirements for what those reading/writing classes need to be, so contact the instructor the instructor for specific recommendations. Students who choose to enroll in English 726 and 732 concurrently can use the ESL class for which they are serving as a TA for 732 as their placement for English 726 as well. Informational meetings are held every semester to assist students in finding TA placements for the following semester.

English 733: Student Teaching

Student teaching for English 733 involves working with a mentor teacher for a full semester acting as a teaching assistant and also teaching some lessons during the semester. Those who already have a teaching position (including instructors at the ALI) may use their own classes for English 733, but all others will need to arrange to work with a mentor teacher. Student teaching can be done in the CMS Program on campus or in a wide range of adult ESL classrooms in wider community. Please see the Practical Experience and Career Development page for more information on this process. There are information meetings each semester to help guide students in finding teaching placements.

How do I find other paid and volunteer TA, tutoring and teaching opportunities while in the program?

Various paid and volunteer positions provide opportunities to gain ESL teaching experience.

Training and teaching at the American Language Institute (ALI) (paid)

The American Language Institute (ALI) is an intensive English program for international students who plan to enter universities in the U.S. Classes meet for 5-6 hours a day, 4 days a week, during the fall, spring, and summer, and are held on campus. M.A. TESOL students who have completed (or are in the process of completing) English 731 may apply for training/teaching positions in the ALI internship program. (Students who are enrolled in English 730 may also be considered if they have had some teaching experience.) Applicants should be aware that the terms of the training program require that they maintain student status during the program, with a maximum load of 6 units. The positions are training positions and are not considered full time or permanent.

Twice a year, graduate students are invited to attend informational meetings to get advice and information about the application process. Applicants are hired for a 3-semester commitment (which includes one summer): an initial semester of an internship in an integrated-skills class under the supervision of a senior teacher and an academic coordinator, and 2 semesters of teaching under the supervision of an academic coordinator. Teachers are also required to participate in a variety of activities, including meetings, testing, orientation, and graduation, along with their teaching. During the first semester, interns receive a small stipend, and during the second and third semesters, they are compensated on the basis of teaching contact hours. Teachers are encouraged to stay at the ALI for at least one additional semester beyond the contract year in order to broaden their teaching experience and serve as a senior teacher.

Tutoring jobs (paid and volunteer)

M.A. TESOL students may get additional teaching experience by tutoring at the Learning Assistance Center (LAC) or Campus Academic Resource Program (CARP), which pay tutors, or the English Department’s English Tutoring Center, where you can volunteer and receive training. These are rich opportunities to get practical training and experience in teaching academic skills to diverse learners.

Assisting in the SF State Composition for Multilingual Students Program (volunteer)

CMS teachers welcome volunteer teaching assistants even when it is not part of an M.A. TESOL course requirement, and this is a great way to gain additional practical experience, build relationships with mentor teachers, and broaden the range of ESL classes you are familiar with. See above for information on applying to TA in CMS courses.

Coaching for Project SHINE (volunteer)

Students Helping in the Naturalization of Elders, or SHINE, is a community service learning program in which 200 student “coaches” from across disciplines at SF State and CCSF (City College of San Francisco) are placed in ESL classes each semester to help older immigrants develop language and literacy skills while also preparing for the citizenship test. Those who are interested in volunteering should visit the SHINE Website and follow the instructions and links for applying.

Teaching off campus (paid and volunteer positions)

Off campus, teaching jobs and volunteer opportunities are available in the San Francisco Bay Area. Announcements of such positions are announced through our M.A. TESOL e-mail distribution list. To find volunteer opportunities on your own, find a Volunteer Web site like VolunteerMatch, and type in “ESL” and your geographical locale. Our M.A. TESOL students have often volunteered in community-based ESL programs like Refugee Transitions, the Canal Alliance in San Rafael, and The English Center (ECIW) in Alameda.

Do you offer a TESOL Certificate?

SF State does not currently offer a TESOL Certificate, only an M.A. program. A Master’s degree is an in-depth academic program, providing a solid foundation in linguistics and in TESOL theory and research as well as in teaching methods. A TESOL Certificate program typically focuses on practical training and can be completed more quickly than an M.A.

A TESOL certificate may be adequate for teaching in some private language schools, some community-based adult programs, and some programs abroad (especially for younger learners). An M.A. degree is required to teach in the best universities abroad, and in community colleges, universities, and the top intensive English programs in the U.S. Many students find that a TESOL Certificate provides an excellent foundation for M.A. TESOL studies, though we do not require a certificate for admission to the M.A. Program

Acceptance and Pre-Enrollment

When can I find out if I have been accepted?

No application is processed until all required documents (including official transcripts of all previous course work and official TOEFL score if required) and the application fee have been received. For quickest possible processing, mail everything in one package to Admissions and in one package to the Department of English. When your files are complete, your application will be reviewed. 

Even when you apply early, acceptance notifications will usually come after the application deadline.

You can check online for the status of your application, and you may also call to check your status at (415) 338-7000. You will need to provide your identification (ID) number and a personal access code (PAC). The Web site gives first time users specific instructions for setting up their PAC number.

Do I need to have teaching experience in order to be accepted? If so, how can I get experience?

While teaching experience in English as a second or foreign language is desirable, we welcome applicants who bring a range of experience and a passion for English language education.

For those who want more experience before entering an M.A. program, we encourage volunteering in an ESL/EFL program in your community, or tutoring. Other ways to learn about the field before applying are attending professional conferences, observing ESL/EFL classes, and talking to teachers to find out about their work. 

I am a non-native speaker of English, and my TOEFL or IELTS score is below your minimum score. Can I be admitted conditionally?

If you do not meet the minimum TOEFL or IELTS requirement, you will not be admitted to the M.A. TESOL program. We do not offer conditional admission. Our experience is that graduate students with a level of English proficiency below our minimum TOEFL or IELTS score struggle a lot with the courses in our program. It is wiser to strengthen your English proficiency, oral communication and academic reading and writing skills, before beginning graduate studies – perhaps in an intensive ESL program in the U.S., such as the American Language Institute (ALI) at SF State. At the ALI you will have opportunities to prepare for and take the TOEFL, to improve lecture listening and note-taking, oral presentation, and academic reading and writing skills, and to become oriented to the American educational system.

May I take courses for the M.A. TESOL degree before I am admitted to the program?

You may take prerequisite courses (ENG 421 Structure of English, ENG 424 Phonology and Morphology, ENG 425 Language in Context, and ENG 426 Second Language Acquisition) and the foreign language course to be taken with English 426, before formal admission to the M.A. program, through the College of Extended Learning, only if there is space after matriculated students have registered and if the instructor permits you to add the course.

None of the 30 units of core graduate courses which count towards the M.A. may be taken BEFORE admission to the M.A. program

I have been admitted. Can I postpone enrollment?

Admission is reserved for the semester for which you were admitted. If you cannot enroll during that semester but wish to enroll in the future, you must reapply. You must submit a new application and fee (and for international students, a new financial statement). The Division of Graduate Studies keeps application documents for one year. Those who are re-applying should also inform our Department Graduate Secretary at english@sfsu.edu.

Costs and Financial Aid

What are the estimated costs?

The University Bulletin provides a listing of current fees including explanations of tuition and costs for international students.

Payments must be made to the Bursar before students can register for classes. 

Also see estimated living costs.

What kind of financial aid is available?

A few small English Department scholarships are offered every year, and the recently established TESOL Legacy scholarship provides some support for one student each year. However, our Department is not able to offer full-tuition scholarships, research assistantships, or teaching assistantships.

Since San Francisco State University is a public university and not a Ph.D.-granting research university, scholarship and assistantship aid is, in general, extremely limited, especially for international students. Various types of loans, work-study, and small scholarships are available. Information is available from the Office of Student Financial Aid.

Many of our graduate students support themselves by working off campus. Some, especially those with teaching experience, obtain part-time teaching jobs at language schools in the San Francisco area. Some work part time at on of the university tutoring centers.  Some work as teachers at the American Language Institute (ALI) on campus, which recruits applications from M.A. TESOL students and hires several every year.

The Graduate Division Fellowships Web page ("Financing your education") also lists fellowships.

International Students

What kind of assistance is available for international applicants and students?

The Office of International Programs (OIP) assists the University's many F-1 and J-1 visa international students and scholars in adjusting to life at SF State, the San Francisco Bay Area, and the United States. At the beginning of each semester, the OIP conducts extensive orientation programs for new international students. In addition, the office provides advice concerning immigration and visa matters, cultural adjustment, academic matters, personal and financial counseling, and employment regulations. It also conducts various workshops during the academic year on topics of special interest to international students and organizes a variety of social, cultural, educational, and recreational activities.

Information for prospective international students is provided in section for future international students in the online SF State Bulletin and the OIP page for future students.

OIP Location: Centennial Square Village, Building C (across from the Student Services Building)
Web site: https://oip.sfsu.edu

E-mail: oip@sfsu.edu
Phone: (415) 338-1293
Fax: (415) 338-6234

The Division of Graduate Studies also offers special advice and services for international students, including special staff to guide international applicants through the admissions process.

International Student Advising hours: Monday- Friday 2-4pm (or by appointment)
Telephone: (415) 405-4005
E-mail: intlgrad@sfsu.edu
Location: Administration Building, Room 250

Campus and City

Where is the campus located, and what is the campus like?

San Francisco State University is located in the southwest corner of San Francisco, one mile from the Pacific Ocean and 15 minutes from downtown San Francisco. SF State is located near Highway 1 and is easily accessible by bus and rail service on Muni, SamTrans, and BART public transportation systems.

You are welcome to come for a visit and take a campus tour. If you live too far away, you can take an online photo tour. Here’s a campus map, and here are directions to campus.

Where can I get information about on-campus and off-campus housing?

Contact the SF State Housing Office, and take a look at this SF State Housing Information Advice for Future Students.

Students wishing to live on campus should check out the University’s housing options early, and are strongly encouraged to fill out a housing application before being admitted to the University. Unfortunately, SF State cannot guarantee housing to newly admitted students. Applications are accepted on a first-come, first-served basis.

Is there child care available on campus?

San Francisco State University has two child care facilities on campus which are open to faculty, staff, and students, the Associated Students’ Early Childhood Education Center, and SF State Children's Campus  childcare center.

Entering the TESOL Profession

What kinds of employment can I get with a M.A. TESOL degree?

You can get a job teaching ESL to adults in intensive (pre-university) programs, community colleges, 4-year colleges/universities, community-based ESL programs, and workplace settings in the U.S., and in a variety of settings teaching English abroad. Related employment can also be found, e.g., as a materials writer or administrator.

Information on employment in TESOL is given at the TESOL organization’s Beginning a Career in TESOL Web page and at TESOL’s FAQs about Starting a Career in TESOL (pdf).

The CATESOL (California TESOL) provides a job bank and maintains information on minimum qualifications to teach ESL in various educational settings in California and Nevada, on the CATESOL Website.

What is the job market like now? What services do you offer your students for finding jobs?

In general, our our graduates are able to obtain ESL teaching jobs in the San Francisco Bay Area and elsewhere in the U.S. However, when economic conditions are difficult, so is the job market for teachers.

Throughout the country, most ESL teaching positions in community colleges and 4-year universities are part-time jobs. Teachers sometimes take on two or more part-time jobs in different programs, and work their way into full time positions over time.  A lot depends on how enterprising one is in terms of getting appropriate experience and making contacts.

Our courses require observing and working as a teaching assistant, which are good opportunities to get experience, learn about student populations and programs, and network with possible future employers. We encourage our students to gain practical experience in the kinds of teaching contexts where they plan to teach.  Teaching opportunities are regularly shared with our students via our e-mail distribution list.  In our final integrative seminar, some time is spent on preparing for the job search, and job search advice is available in periodic workshops and in one-on-one faculty advising.

Worldwide, excellent teaching jobs are available in Asia, Latin America, Eastern and Central Europe, and other locations. For more information, please see our Practical Experience and Career Development page. Our faculty, and our many alumni and contacts, in California and around the world, are a rich source of information about job openings.

Can I teach elementary, middle or high school ESL with a M.A. TESOL degree?

Not in public schools in the US.  The M.A. TESOL degree does not fulfill requirements for teacher credentialing for public schools in California. The College of Education has teacher credential programs.   Depending on your prior academic background and teaching experience, it may be possible to teach K-12 in private schools, which do not always require a teaching credential.