Saturday, September 8, 2012

Getting a Master's of Education in TESOL: is it really worth it?

My first job as an ESL teacher in Korea has helped me to secure more job employment than my Master's degree.

       Earning a master's degree program in Teaching English as a Second Language (TESOL) can open many doors to your future as an educator, but does all the hard work and student loan debt really pan out in our failing economy? This is the question that has been ringing in my mind as my last semester of graduate school begins. With such a tough job market that has proven tough for many graduates, the line between reality and our dreams can become easily blurred. Many students are now entering into master's programs simply because they couldn't find their desired job right out of undergrad. They are sucking their parents dry and taking on enormous student loan debts only to graduate and still be jobless because they have no valuable work experience.
       There are always jobs out there for ESL teachers at many local language academies anywhere in the U.S. They usually pay between $18-$25 per hour and will offer 25-35 hours per week.  Craigslist had a total of 4 job postings last week alone for ESL teachers at language academies in Downtown San Diego. These jobs will pay some of your bills and allow you to survive, but most of them offer no health insurance or benefits. In addition, most ESL teachers starting out in California are working at 2-3 different language academies because of the limited or varying hours. Working a split shift from 9 am to 1 pm and 4 pm to 9 pm is not unexpected for any local language school.
     ESL teachers with a master's degree have gone through intensive training as educators and will be able to apply for jobs at local universities and community colleges. However, they need plenty of experience first and so many young educators have to start out at language academies and then work their way up. Getting a salaried job at a local university right after receiving your master's is not going to happen. Most teachers work a minimum of 1-8 years as part time adjuncts at several community colleges and language academies before they ever get offered a full time faculty position with benefits. This makes my road towards becoming a full time ESL professional in California extremely difficult.
     My advice to anyone that wants to work full time as an ESL teacher in the university setting is to start teaching immediately at any school that will offer you a job. No matter how low the pay is, your experience as a teacher is invaluable. A master's degree in our society means nothing anymore. Many universities such as Miramar Community College will offer part time Instructional Assistant (I.A.) positions that will allow you to work as a teachers aid for 5-12 hours a week. Working alongside a full time faculty member allows you to get to know the university and the university to get to know you. This is my second semester as an I.A. at Miramar. Faculty member and Department Chair, Sheryl Gobble stated "the position is like a semester long job interview." This allows new teachers the opportunity to get their foot in the door for a part time adjunct position.
      The problem with my generation is that they all believe they will get  amazing salaried positions right out of college which is when they need to get their heads out of the sky and face the real world which is our lagging economy. Even worse, its easier to move abroad to Japan where an ESL teacher that holds a Master's degree can make $50,000 with six weeks paid vacation and a housing allowance making those that wish to stay in California feel torn and invaluable. The best thing you can do to achieve any dream job in this market is to work; and by working that means even at Mc Donald's or your neighborhood grocery store. There is an old fashion saying "it takes money to make money" and I believe it should read "it takes a job to get a job."
       So yes, in the long run getting a master's in TESOL is worth all of the hard work and high tuition costs if you are committed towards working and establishing yourself as a teacher over several years before getting a salaried position here in California. After gaining more experience in language academies and international contexts dream jobs at UCSD and local community colleges will be someday be attainable.

If you have any questions or comments about "Getting a Master's of Education in TESOL: is it really worth it?" please leave them in the comment box below or email them to 
  Creative Commons License  Gone Seoul Searching by Marie Webb is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License. Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at

12 개의 댓글:

J said...

Interesting post Marie! Do you think you will plan on staying in CA for a long time now, or would you like to teach abroad again? I think you can get a uni job in Korea with an MA. I taught in Korea too but am from the UK. When I moved back to London I wanted to continue to teach ESL. My experience abroad helped me get a job here, but we have the same problem. You can only get a few hours at each language school and it is not highly paid. I had to give up and do something else because I couldn't pay my rent on the low wage/low hours (rent in London is so expensive!). I would love to go back to doing it though!

Marie W said...

Hey J!

I'd like to stay in California for a while, however as I wrote its hard for a new teacher to afford daily living expenses and rent while working part time at several language academies. Its extremely tough in the job market to get hired as a part time adjunct and it could take years to become full time with benefits. Knowing people in the field is the best way to get hired in my opinion. I'm torn between going back abroad where I can make $50,000 with months of paid vacation and free rent. But to really establish yourself in the states you need to work your way very slowly up the ladder and eventually you will make it to a full time adjunct position. At this point I have no plans! I'm also toying with the idea of doing some work in Italy for a while. I never really got to understand my grandfathers roots, and I would love to go back to where his family lives and spend some time there. : )

Steph said...

Hi ! I just stumbled upon your blog while looking for info about life in Korea from a foreigner's perspective ! I must say that I agree with you about pretty much everything said in this post ... None of my friends understood why I'd rather spend my first year at uni interning like crazy instead of waiting for my second/third year or even after graduation.Living in a non-english speaking country I thought about getting TEFL or CELTA certification (ESL teaching is not my "field of study" but I want to keep my options open !)

Ah, by the way I have lived in Italy (Milan) all my life so I would be glad to help would you need any advice on ESL work in Italy :))

Sharon said...

Id love to know where you are finding those 50k uni gigs in Japan. From what I hear its super competitve and a saturated market. There are still good gigs in Korea. Im getting 20weeks vacay and made more than 50K here in Korea

Anonymous said...

Thanks for sharing this post. We have an excellent program available to help make learning English easier, graduate programs in TESOLwhich opens the door of new opportunities.

Unknown said...

A Masters in Education is a postgraduate degree sought by those who wish to teach or serve as administrators in schools. A master degree will build on the education received as an undergraduate and foster a greater understanding of the subject studied.

Sammy Girl said...

Marie, thanks for sharing your thoughts and experience on the topic. I'm also wondering if a masters in ESL is worth it. I have 12 credit hours and plan to go back in the fall, finishing by December 2014 hopefully. However, I'm not fresh out of college; I've been teaching middle school English language arts for several years now (this is my 8th year--only 6 weeks til summer), and I'm wondering if that will be helpful in getting community college or university level positions. What do you think?

=) Samantha

nancy john said...

 I appreciate language learning experiences. The fact that i read so much, and so profoundly, demonstrates the high level of your English. 

TOEFL Listening Tips

sara said...

after doing TESOL certification courses you can choose to teach English jobs in abroad with which you can explore and meet to the many people's and can explore different culture as well.

teaching challenge

globaltefl said...

TESOL is the best certification course for learning English and that will help you to become a good educator. Get the proper Tesol Certification Courses for learning English and to make English as career.

Wowbeauty said...

Excellent article! The insights on obtaining a Master's in Education in TESOL are valuable and informative. club in gwalior

Maria said...

Lovely blog thanks for taking the time to share this.

Post a Comment

We love comments!

Total Pageviews


Creative Commons License
Gone Seoul Searching by Marie Webb is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at
Twitter Delicious Facebook Digg Stumbleupon Favorites More

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...