MA in Teaching English as a Second Language (MATESL)

The MATESL degree is intended to prepare candidates to be professional leaders in the many roles that teachers play: classroom instructor, peer coordinator, teacher prepareration, curriculum and materials developer, program administrator, etc. To this end, the curriculum is designed to provide candidates with an understanding of the structure of the English language, a familiarity with the dominant theories of language learning/teaching, insights into how language proficiency is best developed in different individuals, and practical approaches and experiences that are central to the development of candidates as teachers of English as an international language.

While the general orientation of instruction is toward practical matters, courses also have a significant theoretical component and give attention to relevant research. Students and faculty share the responsibility to integrate theory and practice as effectively as possible. Candidates can expect to become familiar with publications in the field and to be stimulated to keep abreast of recent professional literature, especially discussions concerning teaching methodologies, review of teaching materials, and other matters of pedagogical concern.

General Degree Requirements

The program of study leading to the MATESL degree requires candidates to complete a minimum of 40 hours with a grade point average (GPA) of 3.00 or higher (B or better). Twelve of the forty hours must be taken from 500-level courses (that is, graduate only). These forty hours may include up to eight hours of thesis credit (EIL 599).

Applicants must satisfy prerequisites for entry into the program. All applicants for admission to the MATESL Program must have taken a college level introduction to linguistics and must have at least two years of a foreign language. In addition, applicants must have also taken a basic course in language teaching methods and materials. These prerequisites may be satisfied by courses taken after becoming a student at the university, if necessary; however, credit for courses taken to satisfy curriculum prerequisites does not count toward the 40 hours necessary for the MATESL degree itself.

EIL Courses

See here for EIL Courses.

Financial Aid

See here for the financial aid application forms  (new MATESL applicants need not use these forms; all others please use them).

Nearly all of the UIUC MATESL students are the beneficiaries of some form of financial aid for at least part of the time they spend working on their degree. Most degree candidates with native or native-like competence in English receive appointments as graduate assistants teaching English in the ESL Service Courses or in the Intensive English Institute  for at least one academic year. In addition, there are a limited number of library and laboratory assistantships open to MATESL students from overseas; the assistantships offered nonnative English speakers require proof of near-native English speaking ability. If you are a non-native applicant for a teaching job in ESL, you must present a TOEFL Speaking Score (or an equivalent score in IELTS) of 26 (or greater) for full consideration. 

Assistantships, which normally range from 25% to 50% appointments, bring the recipient a monthly stipend together with a waiver of the university tuition costs and of part of the fees. University fellowship funds and some research assistantships with DEIL faculty are also sometimes available and can provide additional opportunities for financial assistance for exceptional MATESL candidates.

There is a separate financial aid application process for each academic term. Fall and Summer applications are processed together, usually in March or April of each year. Spring applications are processed typically on October or November of the previous year. Please check back at this webpage from time to time, to see if new financial aid forms are posted for a forthcoming semester.

All newly admitted MATESL students are automatically considered for financial aid for their first semester of study. There is no separate financial aid application system as part of the admission application. After arrival, all MATESL students must re-apply for financial aid each semester, regardless of any guarantee of longer-term awards (e.g., in the admission letter). This re-application allows MATESL students to indicate if they wish to teach a different class.

The Department welcomes applicants from other campus degree programs.

Comprehensive Examination

See here for Comprehensive Examination

MATESL Thesis Option

For information pertaining to the MATESL Graduate Program Thesis Option, please refer to the links below:

Specialization in Writing Studies

Within the pedagogical and research tracks, candidates may choose to use their elective units to develop a Specialization in Writing Studies (SWS), an option approved jointly by Linguistics and the Center for Writing Studies (CWS). The requirements for such a specialization are the following:

Course Requirements

  1. ENGL 505/C&I 563 Writing Studies I
  2. ENGL 506/C&I 564 Writing Studies II
  3. EIL 445 Second Lang Reading and Writing

Research/Elective Requirements

  1. Candidates who qualify for and choose to write a master's thesis under MATESL guidelines (See Master's Thesis document)
    • must include on their thesis committee, as thesis director, a MATESL faculty member affiliated with CWS;
    • must focus the thesis on a topic related to pedagogy, administrative problems, or research on a writing-related topic in the context of second language research. Students may develop and test instructional materials, design and evaluate an administrative procedure or program, or design and conduct a research project;
    • must prepare a formal proposal describing the research, to be submitted to a MATESL faculty member affiliated with CWS for approval at least six weeks prior to the start of the project;
    • must deposit the Master’s Thesis in the Writing Studies Office within two weeks of completion; and
    • must complete all requirements stated in the Master's Thesis document
  2. Candidates who do not write a master's thesis may choose one of the following two options:

    Option A: take one additional non-MATESL course in Writing Studies, chosen from the list approved by CWS and DEIL for the specialization in Writing Studies (see page 2 for this list)

    Option B: conduct a Master’s Project by completing a four-hour EIL 591 independent study under the direction of a MATESL faculty member affiliated with CWS. The EIL 591 independent study must result in a Master’s Project that, when completed, would be deposited in the Writing Studies Office within two weeks of its completion. The Master's Project must be related to pedagogy, administrative problems, or research on a writing-related topic in the context of second language research. Students may develop and test instructional materials, design and evaluate an administrative procedure or program, or design and conduct a research project.

List of elective courses approved by CWS and Linguistics for the specialization in Writing Studies:

(* = recommended by Linguistics)

English Department

  • ENGL 481* Comp Theory & Practice
  • ENGL 482* Writing Technologies
  • ENGL 583* Topics Writ Pedagogy & Design
  • ENGL 584* Topics Discourse and Writing
  • ENGL 593 Prof Seminar College Tchg (Business & Technical Writing; First-Year Rhetoric)
  • BTW 490 Special Topics Prof Writing

Speech Communication

  • SPCM 529 Seminar Communication Theory
  • SPCM 538 Seminar Rhetorical Theory


  • CI 507 Prob Trends in Spec Fields
  • (old C & I 460) Research and Trends of the Language Arts Curriculum
  • CI 561* Theory Prac in Child Comp
  • CI 562 Ling and the School Curr
  • EPSY 457 Computer Use in Education
  • EPSY 562* Literace Across Cultures

Graduate School of Library and Information Science

  • LIS 491 Literacy in the Info Age
  • LIS 590 Advanced Problems in LIS
  • LIS 590 Advanced Problems in LIS

Women’s Studies

  • GWS 550 Fem Theories Humanities
  • GWS 570 Fem Research Soc Sci
  • GWS 432 Gender and Language


See Curriculum

Frequently Asked Questions(FAQs)

For schedule and application information, please see this page.


MATESL program applicants must have completed a Bachelor's degree; an undergraduate major in linguistics, English, a foreign language, or education is generally recommended though other majors are also acceptable. Applicants must present a grade point average of at least 3.0 (on a 4.0 scale) for the last 60 semester hours of undergraduate work. All nonnative speakers of English entering the MA program must also have a score of 100 or higher on the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL iBT). These scores are required for all nonnative English speakers entering the MATESL program regardless of where they did their undergraduate work.

Also, upon arrival on campus for their first semester's work, nonnative speakers of English must take the UIUC English as a Second Language Placement Test (EPT). The results of this test will determine whether the particular student will have to take one or more English language courses in addition to the other MATESL courses required for the MATESL degree. And finally, because what constitutes good writing tends to vary from culture to culture, most international students in the MATESL program are required to take a course in advanced composition; the only exception will be a student who has managed to pass a proficiency test offered on the first two days of class.

In addition to the above requirements, ALL applicants to the MATESL program must have had two years of a foreign language or have become proficient in a second language in some other way. Furthermore, they must have taken an introduction to Linguistics. These prerequisites must be met prior to, or as soon as possible after the student's arrival on campus. Work done in meeting these prerequisites does not, of course, count toward the credits required for the degree itself.

MATESL Application

Students may enter MATESL program in Fall semester only. The Department of Linguistics does not accept applications for off-cycle admissions for Spring or Summer semesters.

Applications for admission and financial aid and all supporting information for new students must be received no later than January 7, 2019 at 11:00 PM Central Time. To view or print the application click the appropriate link below: