5 Best Grad Schools with Online Doctorate in English Language Learning

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Updated: March 14, 2024, Reading time: 14 minutes

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The English language, the global language, is vital to our daily lives because it facilitates communication. The majority of writers and authors write in English because it is the only language most readers are familiar with, allowing them to express their thoughts and ideas most effectively. English is also frequently utilized in the literary and media sectors.

According to federal data, employment possibilities in education are growing at a roughly average rate compared to all occupational categories.


Doctorate degree programs in English Language Learning are designed for professionals seeking to develop their knowledge and expertise in teaching English to non-native speakers. While a doctorate is not required to teach English as a Second Language (ESL), earning one can significantly benefit those who want to work as postsecondary professors and researchers.

English language learning degree programs are typically found in education or linguistics departments within colleges and universities.

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The following Doctorates in English Language Learning were picked based on the following factors:

For full details on our doctoral program ranking process, please visit our Methodology page.

Grad School Center is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

Top 10 Online Doctoral Programs in English Language Learning

National University

National University

PhD in Education: English Language Learning Specialization

In partnership with National University of San Diego, National University offers an online PhD in Education that provides students with an English Language Learning Specialization. This 60-credit hour online doctoral degree program can be completed in as few as 34 months, assuming a student enrolls full-time, has transfer credits, and follows the suggested course sequencing.

Students can request additional credits to complete their dissertation, which should extend their learning to 8 years, following the SAP and Academic Maximum Time to Completion standards.

Students in the doctorate in English language learning online specialization will undergo courses such as Second Language Foundations, Teaching English Language Learners, Assessing Diverse Learners, Developing Curriculum for English Language Learners, Educating a Diversity of Learners, and Issues in ELL Education.

The program’s curriculum aims to train students for positions in academic fields related to English as a second language. During their final year of coursework, students will receive guidance in finding ELL teaching topics as the basis for their dissertation thesis and research plans.

Interested applicants should possess a post-baccalaureate master’s or doctoral degree from a regionally accredited college or university. International students can apply but will undergo an approved evaluation service to determine their degree’s credibility.

Anaheim University

Anaheim University

Doctor of Education: TESOL-Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages

Anaheim University’s online Doctor of Education in TESOL is one of the best degrees for professionals seeking to study advanced topics in second language acquisition and bilingual education theory. The program’s coursework, which can be earned in 3-4 years, can be completed entirely online with two four-day on-campus residencies.

While online courses are designed to offer maximum flexibility, online doctoral students must anticipate attending a few synchronous face-to-face virtual meetings weekly.

The required credit hours of coursework for Anaheim’s doctorate in TESOL greatly depends on the student’s interests and transfer credits, but on average, students must complete 76 units. Instructed Second Language Acquisition, Individual Learner Differences in Language Learning and Teaching, and Technology and Language Education are three of the 16 courses required to graduate.

Each live course lasts 90 minutes, wherein the professor will conduct the first hour, while the latter half-hour is devoted to student-directed debate.

Doctoral candidates must have a master’s degree in TESOL, Applied Linguistics, or any related field from an accredited institution. A license or certificate to teach is also necessary. Additional requirements include official transcripts, four years of relevant professional experience, three reference letters, and an outline of possible research ideas for the field.

St. John’s University

St. John’s University

PhD in Literacy: Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages Specialization

Students seeking to integrate faith into their academic coursework can enroll in the PhD in Literacy Education with a focus on TESOL at St. John’s University. This online doctorate degree aims to prepare students to meet the highest academic demands set by the International TESOL Association.

Online students will receive the same curriculum and opportunities as their on-campus peers, including networking, collaborative learning, and in-depth linguistic and cultural disparities analysis.

Faculty of SJU’s online Ph.D. degree are full-time, tenured professionals who have participated in cutting-edge TESOL research with local, national, and international teaching experiences.

Featured courses of this online program include Foundations of Literacy Development for First and Second Language Learners, Bilingual and Second Language Education, and Linguistics for English Language and Exceptional Learners Teachers. Online students will become a part of a collaborative and engaging online learning environment.

Master’s degrees in any field are accepted into this doctoral program as long as the degree was earned from a regionally accredited institution and has a 3.2 or higher GPA. Additional requirements include a resume or CV, two letters of recommendation, and official transcripts. Students must also have satisfactory MAT or GRE Analytical Writing Section scores.

American College of Education

American College of Education

Doctor of Education in Second Language Instruction

American College of Education’s online EdD in Second Language Instruction is a 64-credit doctorate that can be completed in 36 months of full-time commitment. The program aims to develop students’ skills as scholar-practitioners in the English as a Second Language field. Graduates emerge with the skills to become effective field leaders through the program’s cutting-edge curriculum, technology, and instructional strategies.

The program includes courses in Advanced Foundations for Second Language Learners, Applied Statistics, and Technology for Second Language Instruction. Furthermore, the program allows students to choose a secondary focus that closely aligns with their professional goals. Students can pursue courses focused on Instructional Technology, Higher Education, Literacy, Instructional Leadership, or Early Childhood Education, among others.

Students must have a master’s or doctoral-level degree with at least a 3.0 GPA. The program does not allow provisional admission, which means that students should meet all the admissions requirements to be considered for the program. Additional requirements include a current curriculum vitae and a goal statement.

University of Nevada, Reno


PhD in Education: English Language Learners

The online Ph.D. in Education at the University of Nevada, Reno, offers an English Language Learners concentration designed for students who want to help advance current research on how to support students learning English as their second language.

This degree program is part of an even bigger and more diverse PhD in Equity, Diversity, & Language Education stand. In addition to equipping students with knowledge about English as a Second Language, they’ll also gain an in-depth understanding of equity and diversity in various education fields.

While the program offers online courses, students in the Ph.D. program must attend two semesters of campus residency requirements. Students can request additional coursework in other specializations to broaden their knowledge of the current educational system. UNR offers limited Graduate Assistantships to students seeking financial assistance or practical experiences.

Interested applicants should submit official transcripts showing their undergraduate and graduate degree GPA. The accepted GPA is 3.0 and higher. You’ll also need to submit a resume or curriculum vitae, letters of recommendation, scholarly writing, and a Statement of Intent.

Career Paths for Doctor of English Language Learning Degrees Graduates

You can pursue several positions in teaching, language instruction, and curriculum development with an online degree in English Language Learning. A few of the most common career paths ELL doctorates pursue include:


Perhaps a doctorate graduate’s most common career path is postsecondary teaching and research. Earning a doctorate in English Language Learning qualifies you for a position as a college educator and researcher.

These career paths entail teaching and putting into practice English language learning methodologies, language assessment, and second language acquisition. You could also publish academic journals and papers that could help other professors and researchers in your field. 

According to BLS, postsecondary teachers earn an average of $80,840 yearly, while researchers earn $79,872.

Program Director/Coordinator

If you prefer to help create new and more effective curricula in colleges, universities, or language schools, you can apply for program director or coordinator positions. These experts are also responsible for the management of programs and teacher preparation, assuring the provision of high-quality English Language Learning instruction.

According to Zippia, these professionals earn an average annual salary of $80,664.

Educational Consultant

Educational consultants are among the most qualified professionals in the counseling industry. Using your doctoral-level knowledge and skills, you can offer direction and experience to academic institutions and help fulfill the requirements of English language learners.

You’re responsible for creating instructional materials, evaluating and improving programs, and planning workshops for professional development.

The average median annual salary of professionals in this position is $84,139.

Language Assessment Specialist

You can work as a language assessment specialist and contribute to designing, developing, and validating language tests for English language competency using your doctorate in English Language Learning. You’ll often partner with testing companies, educational institutions, or governmental agencies to create trustworthy and fair language evaluation systems. 

These professionals earn a median salary of $90,992 annually. 

Instructional Designer

Graduates in English language learning can find employment as instructional designers, developing effective and interesting online courses for language learners. Your goal will be to maximize the learning results of students learning the English language.

You’ll utilize your knowledge of building interactive language learning modules, integrating technology into language training, and using research-based pedagogical concepts.

Instructional designers earn an average of $80,143 per year. 

Professional Development Specialist

Experts in English Language Learning are frequently in demand due to their expertise in teacher preparation and professional development. As a professional development specialist, you may run workshops, seminars, and training sessions for instructors of foreign languages.

By taking on this responsibility, you can help instructors improve teaching methods and remain current with the most recent English language learning research.

The average median annual salary for this position is $68,459

International Education Administrator

To handle foreign education programs, many universities and educational institutions need personnel with experience in English Language Learning. As an administrator, you might manage English language programs, assist international students, and create cross-cultural communication projects.

According to the BLS, education administrators have an average median yearly salary of $89,130.

Textbook Author/Writer

Your expertise in English literature allows you to contribute to developing textbooks, instructional aids, and online resources for future English language learners. Utilizing your experience, you can write language textbooks individually or collaboratively. Alternatively, you can design educational resources that align with the latest ESL pedagogical guidelines.

Writers and authors are paid an average of $69,510 per year.

Do You Need To Be Bilingual When Applying for Doctoral Programs in English Language Learning?

Do You Need To Be Bilingual When Applying for Doctoral Programs in English Language Learning?

A common misconception is that English language learning doctoral programs require applicants to be proficient in a second/foreign language. While this is true for some programs, most ELL doctorates do not require students to be proficient in other languages. 

However, colleges and universities that require proficiency in other language/s often do not require students to have a certificate. The primary reason why some online programs prefer applicants with foreign language knowledge is to highlight the challenges of learning a new language and provide students with an opportunity to understand the process of language acquisition, particularly in relation to learning English.

Learning a foreign language is highly recommended if you aim to work for multinational corporations. Due to technological advancements, businesses can now easily reach international markets. As a result, several companies are hiring professionals who speak other languages to help them advertise their brands in different cultures. 

Common Courses of Doctorates in English Language Learning Degree Programs

Doctorates in English Language Learning degree programs are designed to offer students advanced knowledge for postsecondary teaching and academic research for effective English language instruction. Specific courses will vary, depending on the program’s curriculum. Here are some of the most common courses you can expect in an English Language Learning doctorate:

Second Language Acquisition

All English Language Learning doctorates must offer SLA as part of their foundational or core courses. This doctorate-level coursework equips students with advanced knowledge about theories and research and how they can relate it to teaching individuals to acquire a second language. Common topics of the program explore cognitive processes, language development, sociocultural factors, and input interaction in language learning.

Classroom Management in English Language Learning 

The principles and techniques for efficient classroom management in English Language Learning settings are covered in this course. It addresses issues including fostering collaboration, maintaining a good learning environment, controlling student conduct, and designing inclusive classrooms.

Cultural Issues in English Language Learning 

This course explores how language and culture interact in the context of English Language Learning. It looks at the cultural aspects of language learning, cross-cultural understanding, intercultural communication, and the difficulties and rewards of teaching English to people from different cultural backgrounds.

English Language Learning Methods and Approaches

This course helps students develop their abilities in creating an effective curriculum for English Language Learning classrooms. It covers speaking, listening, reading, and writing techniques and skills. Some programs integrate the use of technology in this course. 

English Language Learning Linguistics 

Students will receive doctorate-level knowledge of fundamental linguistic concepts relevant to the field. This course helps students explore how linguistic knowledge informs language instruction and allows teachers to address learners’ language needs.

Language Assessment and Evaluation

This course teaches students the principles and practices of language assessment and evaluation from an English language learning context. Topics cover validity and reliability, formative and summative assessment, test development, performance-based assessment, and assessing language proficiency.

Pedagogical Grammar

This course helps students gain an in-depth understanding of English grammar from a pedagogical standpoint, reviewing grammatical structures, rules, and patterns. It allows students to investigate the best grammar teaching methods in an ESL classroom.

Research Methodology 

EdDs and PhDs, while different, integrate research methodology courses in their curriculums. These courses help students explore various research methods used in English Language Learning. Methodology courses include topics of qualitative and quantitative research methodologies, gathering and analyzing data, and ethical issues.

Professional Development in English Language Learning 

This course aims to continue your professional development in English language learning. It examines issues, including associations for professionals, networking, gatherings, publications, and chances for further education and job improvement.

Online Doctorate in English Language Learning - fact

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the most common admission requirements for online English language learning doctorates? 

Applicants are expected to have a master’s degree in a relevant discipline, such as TESOL, Applied Linguistics, ELT, or Education. If English is not your first language, you should demonstrate a high level of proficiency, which can be proven through a high IELTS score. 

What are the professional organizations for online English language learning doctorate students?

Several professional organizations are available to online English language learning doctoral degree students and graduates, such as the National Association for Bilingual Education and the (TESOL) International Association.

Can I earn a doctor of English language learning online without a residency requirement?

Yes. Some online doctors of English language learning programs require an on-campus residency, while others do not. 

What are the various disciplines of English language learning?

ELL degree also integrates cultural learning into their curriculum because cultural references are crucial for language learning. Learning a language without comprehending the culture surrounding it is distasteful. English Language Learning doctorates include linguistics, literature, popular culture, pedagogy, and history.

Key Takeaways

Additional Information:

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