So, you’re thinking about doing an MA No.2: Choosing a course

This is the long overdue second in a series of posts about applying for and studying for an MA in TESOL. If you haven’t read the first post, you might like to start there: So, you're thinking about doing an MA, No. 1

Which university?

A quick Google search for ‘MA TESOL’ or ‘MA TESOL Distance Learning’ will bring up a whole host of hits. How can you go about about narrowing the list down? Here are my main tips:
  1. Be as specific as possible in your search. Do you want to do a general TESOL MA or a course which focuses on a field such as young learners or EdTech? There are courses out there to cater for many different strands of language teaching so narrowing down your search early on can help.
  2. Get recommendations. Do you know anyone who has done/is doing an MA? Ask about the university they did it with and the other universities they applied to. Don’t know anyone like that? Put the question out to your wider PLN! Ask on your blog, tweet it – we all know the power of our PLNs for coming up with the answers you need. On Twitter, you’ll find many past and present MA students and plenty of MA lecturers and course directors as well. Once you have a list of suggestions, search for those universities specifically.
  3. Check out the universities. It may sound obvious but it’s better to be safe than sorry. Do a little research on the university itself and their TESOL related programmes. Is it well established? Well known? Well respected? It’s also worth seeking out comments on the distance programmes. Are they well organised and well supported? These factors will be key to a successful and rewarding course of study.

Before you apply…

After narrowing down your choices, there are a few important points to check out before starting the application process:
  1. What are the entry requirements? These will change from university to university. Some may expect a certain number of years of teaching experience (usually two but maybe more) and some may specify that it is recent experience. It’s also worth checking what academic qualifications are required. Most will require a bachelors degree and a CELTA. The DELTA is not normally required but it may count as credit towards your Masters and allow you to skip the introductory modules (even if it does, I would still recommend doing them as it’s all part of the learning experience ;)).
  2. How long will it take? There are 2 and 3 year programmes out there (some with the option to extend your studies over a period up to 5 years) so it’s important to decide which one will be better for you. The 2 year courses will be over sooner but will involve a more intense workload, especially at dissertation time. Personally, I chose a course which runs for 3 years as my teaching job and my family keep me pretty busy!
  3. How much will it cost? Tuition fees also vary from institution to institution and may change further depending on whether you are classed as an international student or not. Some courses can be very expensive while others are more affordable. It’s worth sitting down and budgeting the whole thing before going ahead. It’s also worth checking out if your current employer might be interested in chipping in to this investment in your professional development!
  4. Are there any onsite components? Some courses may require you to attend some classes in a person while other will be offered 100% by distance. No use applying to a university on the other side of the world if you are then asked to travel there a couple of times a year!

When applying…

Once the decision is made, make sure you pay attention to the following things:
  1. Allow plenty of time to apply. You may be asked for references and these may take time to organise, as was the case for me. Plus, the sooner an application is submitted, the sooner your prospective university will see it.
  2. Have you completed the application correctly? Nothing worse than being refused or returned because something is missing or filled in incorrectly.
  3. Emphasise what you want to learn from the course. Most likely, you will be asked to write some kind of statement about why you want to do the course. While describing your experience in the relevant field helps, it is most important to focus on what you want to gain from the course. I had very little experience of using technology in class before starting my MA so I stressed how I wanted to build on my existing experience, advance myself and help move my school forward by learning more about it.
I hope that’s been useful. Next time, I’ll be looking at what to do once you’ve been accepted and you are ready to start.


  1. Hi David,

    Very useful thanks


  2. Glad you found it useful Leahn :)

  3. Just wondering whether you would recommend the Machester MA programme you are doing, and if, having started yours, you have heard of any other good ones...?



  4. Hi Sarah,

    The Manchester MA programme is very good. They have been running a distance programme for a very long time so the necessary support systems are all well established. The academic staff are well-known and respected in the world of ELT as well.

    One factor that swayed me towards Manchester was the length of the programme. It's 3 years when most other distance MAs are 2 - cramming everything into 2 years would have been too much I think!


  5. Thank you so much for getting back to me so quickly.

    I first considered the course because it came recommended by my Delta tutor. Since then, someone else has suggested Media-assisted Language Teaching (MALT) at Brighton University and I was just wondering if you have heard anything about this course...

    I was also wondering - my academic background is in development (of countries etc.) and I was just wondering how much room I would have to incorporate this interest into the Manchester programme.

    Once again, thank you, and sorry to trouble you with more questions.



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