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Is a Minor in TESOL worth it, or should I just get a certificate?

Ryan J

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  • Added on: January 11th, 2007
My school offers a minor in TESOL and it looks like a really good program. However, as far as job prospects go, would it make any difference if I had this or just a run-of-the-mill TESOL/TEFL certificate?

Also, if I got the minor then it looks like I could reduce the requirements for an MA in TESOL down to about a semester of graduate study. My understanding is that an MA in TESOL would allow me to teach at the university level abroad; is that correct? Does it have any benefit for someone not teaching at a university?

Thanks for your help--I really appreciate it.

TedKarma

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  • Added on: January 11th, 2007
If you think that teaching EFL overseas might be a life-long career for you, an MATESOL is the way to go. The TESOL minor might be worth trying just to get some idea of what it is all about.

Teaching at a university is not 100% of what it is all about - but the university/college setting tends to get you far more vacation time, far better working conditions/wages/benefits, and a lifestyle that will not rapidly burn you out.

Without the MA, it is off to language schools, many of them dodgy, low wages, MAYBE one or two weeks paid vacation per year, sometimes six or seven work days per week, and the list goes on and on.

At the unversity level a four-week certificate would not carry much (if any) weight - your MA would do the heavy lifting for you.

Away from the university setting, your MA would more likely qualify you (and/or make you more competitive) for some of the better corporate teaching positions, teacher-training, and other jobs that would help you avoid the language school treadmill.

Nothing against language school teaching, mind you. It is fine for a year or two but quite a burnout if you intend to stay in the occupation.
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Guy Courchesne

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  • Added on: January 12th, 2007
Ted, that's for Asia, right? In Latin America, your advice is good for the long haul, but let me add that university teaching here pays about the same as private school teaching, or language school teaching. Unis offer prestige and long term career goals, but not a lot of money I'm afraid. Teaching 'business English' is where the money flows in LA.
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TedKarma

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  • Added on: January 13th, 2007
Hi Guy,

I don't know about your part of the world. But, in Asia, it tends to look as if the language school scene and the university positions have similar levels of wages - but in reality they don't.

My last university job in Korea had a base wage comparable to a language school job. But that was for 12 hours a week, compared to thirty. By the time I worked the usual eighteen to twenty hours per week, my wages were significantly more with my "overtime" payments. (and then that was 18 or 20 compared to 30) My guess is that this might also be true where you are?

Similarly in Thailand, in fact, university wages are below most school salaries. However, the number of hours is quite low and opportunity for additional very-well-paying extra work is significant.

So, just depends on how you think about it.

Even when I worked in Saudi Arabia, the base wage appeared to be nothing special. But, with a bit of overtime work, you could just about double your wages.

How is it on your side of the world?
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Haci Richard

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  • Added on: January 13th, 2007
quote:
Originally posted by TedKarma:
Without the MA, it is off to language schools, many of them dodgy, low wages, MAYBE one or two weeks paid vacation per year, sometimes six or seven work days per week, and the list goes on and on.

At the unversity level a four-week certificate would not carry much (if any) weight - your MA would do the heavy lifting for you.

Nothing against language school teaching, mind you. It is fine for a year or two but quite a burnout if you intend to stay in the occupation.


I concur with what TedKarma says. The language school scene is fun for a while, but does burn you out. Promotion tends to mean a lot more work for a little more pay.

One benefit of getting the MA is that it will entitle you to teach at a uni if you ever decide to go home. The pay difference between unis and language schools in New York is tremendous. An adjunct instructor at the City University starts at $58.14 per hour (and for some reason, they seem to pay for more hours than you actually teach, bringing the real rate up to over $70) while your average language school gig will get you $15-20. Okay, you get fewer hours, but at least in the case of CUNY, after two semesters even part-timers get good health insurance. Also, since the hourly rate is 3-4 times that of language schools, you can get by on fewer.

Outside of the salary issue, I must say the atmosphere at a college is just better. The students are more highly motivated, stick around longer, and simply aren't a bunch of rich kids on vacation using the language school as a tool to get their parents to pay for everything. Maybe it's just my old hippy, egalitarian bent on things, but I do find it more rewarding to teach Bangladeshi and Albanian immigrants than French and German tourists.

Finally, after having spent a huge chunk of my life as a university student in one way or another, there is something pretty cool about having a faculty ID and access to the faculty restrooms, etc...
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Guy Courchesne

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  • Added on: January 13th, 2007
Howdy Ted,

If it only it were so in Latin America...while there are very good uni jobs to be found that rate high on both pay and benefits, most don't make a distinction between teaching hours, overtime, and prep time. Flat salary that might look good on paper until you actually add up all the time on campus.

Quite a number of universities and private high schools simply outsource the English department to language schools...seems to be a growing trend here.

There's still no question when taking the long view though, as Haci notes.
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Ryan J

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  • Added on: January 13th, 2007
So what I'm understanding is that employers won't care if I get a 4-week TESOL certificate or an undergrad minor in TESOL; however, if I want to do this as a career then I should hands-down get an MA in TESOL.

Would you suggest going straight from undergrad to an MA in TESOL, or going to a place like Korea and getting a year or two of experience first? If I went straight for an MA then I suppose I wouldn't have to get back into "school mode." Also, some people have commented that when they did an MA after teaching for a while they felt like they were relearning a lot that they had picked up while working. On the other hand, I would hate to invest a year into an MA just to go out into the field and realize that this isn't the career for me.

What do you think?

Haci Richard

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  • Added on: January 14th, 2007
I'd recommend going out and giving teaching before doing the MA. An MA can be a lot of work, and if you find out you don't like teaching, you've spent a lot of time, money and effort for no good reason. You could go somewhere that pays well, like Korea or Japan, and do a distance learning MA part-time from there.

There are a couple of other reasons for doing this. The first one is purely financial -- you can start earning and paying off student loans before getting further in debt. You're not going to get rich teaching! Another is that what you're studying in the MA will be more relevant if you've got a bit of teaching under your belt. Also, if you do your MA in a distance learning program, your research will involve real students, not guinea pigs taking free English courses with the understanding that they'll be taught by students.

If you do the distance learning route, make sure you have access to a decent university library otherwise you'll end up spending a ton on books you'll never look at again. Any reasonably well-funded one with an English teaching program will do. In Hiroshima, where I did my MA through a British university, the private women's university in town let me use their library free of charge. There is another option involving distance learning. David English House , the language school I worked at for five years in Hiroshima, gives teachers a sizeable discount if they do their MA through the University of Birmingham. (I didn't take advantage of this, but others have.)
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KateL57

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  • Added on: January 14th, 2007
I think all of the teachers who have responded before me here also have more experience than me - so I have a question for them:

in general, not just connected to Ryan's comment because his situation is maybe not so typical, do you think in countries where they ask for a certificate, a minor in TESOL would necessarily take the place of a certificate that includes teaching practice?

In Korea, which is where many EFL teachers end up, no certificate or degree in ESL/EFL is required, so it's not really a question there...but in other places?

In Ryan's case, because is considering an MA, it makes sense for him to do the minor (and while I'm a language school teacher (perhaps because of that!) I can concur that university jobs are in fact probaby better).

I'm not trying to imply that a four week intensive tefl course is better than a minor in tesol...but I did a celta before I started teaching and it is, I think, quite relevant to language school teaching - and if that is where you're going to start out, it's not a bad background to have. And I suppose tesol minors vary from school to school...so it might depend on the program?
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