Graduate program

Teaching of English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) M.A.

The M.A.TESOL degree qualifies its recipients to teach English to speakers of languages other than English. It is increasingly the degree of preference for employers both in the United States and abroad, where it is generally a requirement for university-level teaching.

Admission requirements

  1. Admission to graduate study at Portland State University.
  2. Admission to the M.A. TESOL program.  See the department website for application information (
  3. Proficiency in English if the student is not a native speaker of English and doesn't hold a valid B.A. degree or equivalent from an American university: a minimum TOEFL iBT score of 100 or IELTS 7.0 is required in order to be admitted.


Students must meet with an adviser regularly, starting in the first term of the program. A student’s entire program must be approved by the adviser.

In addition to the minimum graduate school requirements, students must have an adviser-approved program that meets the following criteria. (For those students who have completed the Certificate in TESL, certain adviser-approved courses will be used to substitute for some of the following requirements.)


Ling 390 Introduction to Linguistics or equivalent is a prerequisite to all courses except Ling 571. Students who have not taken an introductory linguistics course should complete Ling 390 before applying to the M.A. program or must take it as their first course.

Grammar Prerequisite: Students must (1) pass the departmental grammar test before admission or in their first term, or (2) pass Ling 392 Structure of English with a B or better in their first or second term.


Overview of Course Requirements

1.  Language Education/Applied Linguistics Theory Courses

20 credits

2.  Foundations in Language and Linguistic Theory Courses

16 credits

3.  Research  Courses and Culminating Experience Credits

12 credits

Total credits for MA TESOL degree

48 credits

1. Language Education/Applied Linguistics Theory Courses

Required Courses

Ling 538Second Language Acquisition


Ling 571Understanding the International Experience


Ling 577TESOL Methods I


Ling 578TESOL Methods II


As part of the TESOL Methods requirement, students must submit a portfolio documenting a minimum of 70 hours of practical experience.

4 credits from the following

Ling 509Community ESL Practicum


Ling 539Language Assessment


Ling 570Grammar for TESOL


Ling 572Teaching Pronunciation


Ling 573Computer Assisted Language Learning


Ling 575Curriculum Design and Materials Development in TESOL


Ling 576Corpus Linguistics in Language Teaching


2. Foundations in Language and Linguistic Theory Courses

Choose 4 credits from Linguistic Analysis

Linguistic Analysis
Ling 514Linguistic Pragmatics


Ling 515Linguistic Phonetics


Ling 516Discourse Analysis


Ling 520Historical and Comparative Linguistics


Choose 4 credits from the following courses:

Ling 511Syntax


Ling 512Phonology


Choose 8 credits from Language and Society and/or Language and the Mind

Language and Society
Ling 532Sociolinguistics


Ling 580Bilingualism


Ling 581World Englishes


Ling 582Pidgins and Creoles


Language and Mind
Ling 533Psycholinguistics


Ling 537First Language Acquisition


Ling 545Linguistics and Cognitive Science


3. Research Courses and Culminating Experience Credits

Research Courses
Ling 559Introduction to Graduate Study in Applied Linguistics


Ling 560Research Design for Applied Linguistics


Ling 561Research Methodology for Applied Linguistics


Culminating Experience Options
Ling thesis/project/exams


Total Credit Hours: 48

Culminating Experience:  In consultation with their adviser, students choose one of three options.

  • (1) Thesis. The thesis requires students to conduct an empirical analysis of data that they have gathered to answer a research question that deals with a specific aspect of TESOL or applied linguistics. Students in the Thesis option must take 6 credits of Ling 503 (Thesis).
  • (2) Project. The project addresses a practical problem in the field of TESOL or applied linguistics and presents a solution to it. Rather than an academic thesis, the project may, for example, be a curriculum plan for a specific course or teaching materials to supplement a textbook.  Students in the Project option must take 4 credits of Ling 507 (Seminar: Empirical Research Writing) and 2 credits of Ling 506 (Project).
  • (3) Comprehensive Exams. The written comprehensive examinations synthesize theoretical and practical knowledge covered in the program. Students in the Exam option must take 4 credits of Ling 507 (Seminar: Research Writing) and 2 credits of Ling 501 (Research: Comprehensive Exams).

The thesis, project, and comprehensive exams will conform to current departmental guidelines for details such as thesis proposal meetings, exam scoring, and formatting of the project. Thesis and project students make a final oral presentation about their work.

All courses need to be passed with a grade of “B” or better in order for them to count toward this degree. Ling 505 (Reading and Conference), Ling 507 (Seminar) and Ling 510 (Selected Topics) will count for Language Education/Applied Linguistic Theory, Foundations in Language/ Linguistic Theory, Language and Society/ Mind, or Research Design depending on course content, as determined by the instructor.

Additionally, the department requires at least two years’ study of a language in addition to the student’s native language or an equivalent level of proficiency. For non-native speakers of English, proficiency in English as described above fulfills this requirement. For native speakers of English, two years of college-level study of an additional language as documented by a transcript fulfills this requirement. Students who have not already had two years or the equivalent of an additional language at the college level can complete this graduation requirement while working on the M.A. (though doing so will lengthen the time to degree).

Persons interested in applying for the M.A. TESOL Program should write to the Department of Applied Linguistics or visit the department’s Web site for additional information. Monthly information sessions are held for prospective students living in the Portland area. Contact the department for details.