M.A. TESOL Practical Experience and Career Development

The M.A. in TESOL prepares students for teaching in a variety of teaching and research positions.

Most graduates of the program obtain positions teaching in community colleges, 4-year colleges, or universities both in the US and abroad. Some graduates also join programs such as the US State Department’s English Language Fellows (ELF), Peace Corps, and Fulbright ETAs. Graduates also work in a variety of language teaching centers, educational programs, and fields related to communication.

Observing ESL Classes

Observing ESL classes, both on an off campus, is an important part of the M.A. TESOL Program. A number of M.A. TESOL courses require class observations, and students are encouraged to do extra observations on their own.

On campus, two programs which invite observations are the CMS (Composition for Multilingual Students) Program, which offers credit-bearing grammar and composition courses for matriculated University students who are non-native speakers of English, and the ALI (American Language Institute), an intensive pre-university program which prepares international students for the English language demands of American university work.

Students wishing to observe in the CMS Program should contact the instructor whose class they wish to attend directly. Students wishing to observe classes at the ALI should go to the ALI office (Humanities 101) to sign up for the observation.

Please see the list of off-campus ESL programs (pdf) that welcome observations by M.A. TESOL students.

Because instructors who allow observers to attend their classes are doing so as a courtesy to the M.A. TESOL program, it is important that observers follow the proper procedures in arranging observations, as well as the proper etiquette before, during, and after observing an ESL class.

Teaching Assistantships

Three M.A. TESOL courses either encourage or require students to serve as Teaching Assistants (TAs):

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. Co-requisite or prerequisite: English 730. Must be taken before English 733.

As part of their coursework for English 721, students are required to work with ESL students on their grammar as well as to do error analyses. Some English 721 students choose to serve as a TA in a CMS grammar course in conjunction with their work in 721. It is optional. The most highly recommended courses to TA for the 721 practical experience requirement are English 208 and English 212 in the CMS Program, but other ESL classes on or off campus can also offer M.A. TESOL students the opportunity to work with ESL students on their grammar.

A number of students choose to enroll in English 721and English 726 concurrently. In this case, the class that they TA in for 721 can also serve as their TA placement for 726.

All students enrolled in English 732 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 whose English 732 section you intend to enroll in 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.

At the midpoint of each semester, the English 733 (Student Teaching) Coordinator holds information meetings for those students who plan to take English 733 the following semester. At that meeting, the 733 coordinator talks about the process of arranging a student teaching placement and finding a mentor teacher. Those who already have a teaching position (including instructors at the American Language Institute) may use their own classes for English 733, but all others will need to arrange to work with a mentor teacher. We suggest that prospective student teachers start this process by contacting the coordinators of program that they might wish to work in. The Off-Campus Observation handout (pdf) includes contact information for many programs in the Bay Area.

The M.A. TESOL program is allied closely with the CMS (Composition for Multilingual Students) Program (formerly the ESL program) for matriculated undergraduate students, which serves as a type of teaching laboratory in which graduate students observe and assist.

While taking English 721 and English 732 (often as their English 726: Practicum placement), M.A. TESOL students have opportunities to work with experienced teachers in the CMS Program's grammar and composition classes. At the end of each semester students are invited to apply to serve as Teaching Assistants for the coming semester. Many of the CMS instructors at SF State first developed their interests in teaching academic skills to the University’s diverse multilingual student population (approximately 50-percent F-1 visa students and 50-percent immigrants) while working as teaching assistants in the CMS program.

There is no formal procedure to apply to be a TA in an ESL class off campus. Prospective TAs can start this process by contacting the coordinators of program that they might wish to work in. The Off-Campus Observation handout (pdf) includes contact information for many programs in the Bay Area. The instructor of the M.A. TESOL course (726, 653, 732) for which the student is arranging this TA position might also be able to make recommendations.

Further Teaching Experience

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

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 five to six hours a day, four 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 six 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. Eligible students can submit an application with a short statement of interest and the names of three references, preferably TESOL faculty. Interviews are then arranged with the permanent ALI staff members. During the fall, approximately five applicants are chosen for the spring. During the spring approximately 10 applicants are chosen: five for the summer and five for the fall.

Applicants are hired for a three-semester commitment (which always 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 two semesters of teaching under the supervision of an academic coordinator. During the second and third semesters, teachers usually teach one integrated-skills class, eight hours a week, but this schedule may vary. 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. 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 to broaden their teaching experience and serve as a senior teacher.

M.A. TESOL students may get additional teaching experience by tutoring by visiting the SF State Tutoring website. These are rich opportunities to get practical training and experience in teaching academic skills to diverse learners.

Students Helping in the Naturalization of Elders (SHINE) is a community service learning program in which 200 student “coaches” from across disciplines at SF State and 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.

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 list-serv.

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 volunteered in community-based ESL programs like Refugee Transitions and Canal Alliance in San Rafael.

M.A. TESOL Student Association

Getting involved is a great way to meet students in the program.

The M.A. TESOL Student Association holds social events throughout the year, including a mixer at the beginning of every semester, and other events such as brown bag lunches and off-campus get-togethers like pub nights. The Student Association is always looking for students to help organize events and to become officers. Getting involved is a great way to meet students in the program.

The M.A. TESOL Student Association also has a networking website (a secure site that is accessible only to SF State M.A. TESOL students, faculty and alumni). By joining, you can find lots of useful information and ideas about classes, work opportunities, upcoming events and so on. The site uses OrgSync, a platform provided by the SF State Associated Students. Members can:

  • People: Search for student association members or alumni
  • Communication - Discussions: Ask other members questions about their teaching experiences, using technology or a topic of your choice; buy and sell textbooks
  • Events: See a list of upcoming M.A. TESOL events
  • Files: M.A. TESOL course descriptions; find job opportunities from past SF State M.A. TESOL list-serv listings
  • Pages: Find links to job opportunities, M.A. TESOL program info, professional organizations, technology and other websites

To join

Go to the M.A. TESOL Org Sync page and sign in with your SF State ID.

Career Planning

A few tips on how to get started in the industry.

  1. Think about how you can get some practical teaching experience every semester, such as by volunteering for American Language Institute (ALI) Conversation Partner Program or Conversation Groups Program, by working as a tutor and/or Teaching Assistant on campus or by volunteering or working off campus.
  2. Consider how you can choose Group III courses wisely to expand your professional (and marketable) skills. For example, get some training in technology, think about getting the certificate in the Teaching of Post-Secondary Reading and/or certificate in the Teaching of Composition, to be able to combine teaching L1 composition/reading with ESL teaching. Contact one of the M.A. composition/reading faculty for advising. You might consider joining CRAFT, attending events like its Spring Career Night and get tips from graduate student peers in composition and reading. If you have a special interest in a future career in adult non-academic ESL, think about getting the certificate in Immigrant Literacies and/or the Adult Education Credential. Check with the Graduate College of Education to see if it is offering the Adult Education Credential, which is needed to teach ESL in adult schools administered through K - 12 school districts in California. (This credential is not needed for adult noncredit programs administered through a community college, like the program at City College of San Francisco.)
  3. We have archived notes from past M.A. TESOL career nights for advice from alumni on long-range planning for the future: Adult Non Credit ESL Teaching, EFL Teaching and Academic ESL Teaching.  Reach out if you'd like to review these.
  4. When you visit, observe and assist in ESL programs, you can often use the opportunity to learn about employment.
  5. Attend career information and networking events, and ask questions. We have archives of our Career Networking Questions from a past M.A. TESOL networking event. The M.A. TESOL Career Guide also provides information and tips for career preparation, with advice from our alumni. Reach out if you'd like to review these.
  6. Take advantage of the resources and services provided by our Student Involvement and Career Center.