FAQs | Applied Linguistics and the Teaching of English to Speakers of Other Languages | Arts and Humanities

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Teachers College, Columbia University
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Frequently Asked Questions

Admissions & Applications

The GRE is ONLY required if you are applying to enter our M.A. PK-12 Initial Certification program from fall 2016 onward.

For all of our program degrees, we only accept applications for students planning to begin in the fall semester.

You need at least two letters of reference for your application.

If you have an M.A. in TESOL, applied linguistics or a related field, you are eligible for the Ed.D. program. If you directly apply for the Ed.D., there are two possible outcomes for acceptance. After reviewing your application, our faculty may admit you directly into the Ed.D. program, or they may decide to reorient you towards the Ed.M. program. The Ed.M. can be considered a stepping stone to the Ed.D., and many of our M.A. graduates go through the Ed.M. program before moving on to the Ed.D. Moreover, the coursework for the Ed.M. will prepare you for the Ed.D., and if you apply for the Ed.D. later and are accepted, you can transfer your Ed.M. credits into the Ed.D. program.

If you are applying for the Ed.M. or Ed.D programs, an academic writing sample is required.

No. Our M.A. students come from a wide range of disciplines and have diverse academic interests. However, for individuals applying for the Ed.M. and Ed.D. degrees, you must have a prior degree in TESOL, linguistics, applied linguistics, or a related field.

It is not a requirement to be proficient in another language. It is, however, recommended that applicants have had language learning experiences.

Please note that our policy differs slightly from the college policy. Our policy is that all non-native English speakers who did not go to junior high school, high school, and university consecutively at an English-medium school in an English-speaking country must take the TOEFL iBT or IELTS. These test scores, including sub-scores, must meet our minimum scoring criteria found under "Application Requirementsunder the "Admissions" section on the horizontal menu. The scores must also be less than two years old.

If you meet the TOEFL iBT or IELTS minimum requirements in all sections as a result of two different exam attempts, your application will be considered for admission. The Office of Admissions will combine your test scores provided you have met the minimum score requirement in all sections.

Please note that, with the exception of matriculating students who have completed either the TESOL Certificate or the TCSOL Certificate programs at Teachers College, we do not accept transfer of coursework credits at the M.A. level.

If you did complete the either the TESOL or TCSOL Certificate program, you can transfer up to 6 credits toward an M.A. degree. Those matriculating into the M.A. TESOL General or Applied Linguistics programs can transfer 6 credits: three credits toward an elective requirement and three credits toward the A&HL 4077 TESOL Classroom Practices requirement. Those matriculating into the M.A. TESOL K-12 program can transfer 3 credits toward an elective requirement.

Ed.M. students may transfer up to 30 points from previous graduate study at an accredited institution. Ed.D. students may transfer up to 45 points from previous graduate study at an accredited institution and up to 60 credits from an Ed.M. program at Teachers College. Transfer of credits must be approved by your advisor and cannot be processed by the Registrar until after you have started your program.

Program, Degree & Track Characteristics

Connecting Theory with Practice

The coursework for all of our degree levels allows students to build a uniquely strong theoretical foundation in relevant areas such as language acquisition, second language assessment, and language use. Students at the M.A. level are able to connect this theory with practice through their practica, student teaching assignments that are an integral part of each M.A. curriculum. While enrolled in a practicum, students spend a minimum of six hours per week (12 hours/week in the summer) in teaching and observation time, in addition to accompanying seminars, planning time, and critiquing sessions. For the M.A. TESOL General and Applied Linguistics students, student teaching is done in our on-site lab school, the Teachers College's Community Language Program (CLP). A distinctly unique feature of the program, the CLP provides English and foreign language instruction to adult learners of diverse nationalities in the local community while also functioning as a pedagogical laboratory for faculty and students in TESOL and Applied Linguistics. Students in the M.A. TESOL K-12 track fulfill their student teaching requirement at a wide variety of local New York City public schools.  

Participating in a Community of Scholars

Together, our program’s students and faculty form a tight-knit community of scholars. A small student-to-instructor ratio allows for an individualized and personalized academic experience. Students are able to meet one-on-one with faculty in office hours and attend seminar-style courses where students and instructors engage in collaborative academic discussions. Students may also interact with their instructors and peers in a number of other academic contexts outside the classroom, including at local and international conferences hosted by the program. The program’s biggest annual event is the Applied Linguistics and Language Education (APPLE) Lecture Series. Then, members of the AL/TESOL program who are interested in research on human interaction organize and attend the Language and Social Interaction Working Group (LANSI) Conference, which is held at TC very fall. Other academic events the program has hosted include the TC/ETS forum on Second Language Assessment, the TC CU Roundtable on Learning-Oriented Assessment, for those interested in language assessment, and Celebration of Teaching, for those interested in TESOL for PK-12. To balance out a program calendar rich with opportunities to interact on an intellectual level, the student-run AL/TESOL Roundtable Organization also holds a number of social events throughout the year.

Engaging in Professional Development

The smaller size of the program also affords students many opportunities to take leadership roles in a number of academic groups and activities. AL and TESOL students may organize conferences, hold an office our student-led Roundtable Organization, or sit on the editorial committee of our Web Journal. Our students are encouraged to pursue professional development by presenting their work in various platforms sponsored by the AL and TESOL program or elsewhere at TC. Students graduating from all of our degree programs enter the worlds of teaching or research well-prepared as a result of the academic foundation and professional development opportunities unique to the program.

The AL/TESOL program also co-sponsors a certificate program in Teaching Chinese to Speakers of Other Languages (TCSOL). The only fast-track program of its kind in the world, our TCSOL Certificate Program is taught by a world-class team of experts and offers a cutting-edge curriculum designed to meet the needs of a whole host of audiences - career changers, (applied) linguistics including TESOL graduates and current students at all degree levels, pre-service and in-service teachers, and university faculty. For our Mandarin-speaking students at all degree levels (M.A., Ed.M., and Ed.D.), this presents a unique venue and avenue to supplement their skills and prospects.

Accessing Extensive Academic Resources

As part of Columbia University, our students have access to 19 libraries, as well as a number of centers and labs that house specialized technology, materials, and archives. The Gottesman Libraries, located at Teachers College, have a broad collection of books and materials relevant to AL and TESOL courses and research areas. In addition, our students have access to a full range of instructional and research support services including films, video and audio recording equipment, and multimedia facilities.

The TESOL General and Applied Linguistics M.A. programs share a number of fundamental courses, but TESOL General students take two teaching practica, while AL students take one practicum and a course in Research Literacy. In other words, the TESOL General track is more focused on pedagogy and practice, and the AL track is more focused on theory and research.

As for the difference between the TESOL General and Applied Linguistics track and the TESOL PK-12 track, the PK-12 curriculum also has several of the same classes as a foundation. However, there are some key differences. Where students in the TESOL General and AL tracks complete 36 credits, students in the PK-12 track complete 41 credits. Some of the distinct course requirements for the PK-12 track are two semesters of fieldwork in year one, during which students observe classrooms in NYC public schools. Also, where the TESOL General and AL tracks prepare our candidates to teach adults, the PK-12 track focuses on teaching children and adolescents. Alumni of the General and AL tracks may go on to teach in higher education, in private language school settings, or obtain other positions in relevant institutions. The PK-12 curriculum leads to initial New York State teacher certification, so these alumni typically go on to teach in public schools in New York State or elsewhere in the U.S. To view the curriculum for any of the tracks, please visit here to access the program sheets.

*Please note that students who are non-U.S. citizens may be interested in working with younger students and may pursue initial certification through the PK-12 track. However, individuals are required to have a U.S. social security number before a teaching certificate can be issued. Moreover, to obtain Permanent and Professional certification in the U.S. public school system, United States citizenship or permanent residence status is required. Therefore, international students may choose to pursue the TESOL General track or the Applied Linguistics track and, if they are interested in working with younger students, they may elect to take some coursework related to teaching children (i.e. elementary level students) and/or adolescents (i.e. middle and high school level students).More information about certification requirements can be found on the New York State Department of Education and the Office of Teacher Education websites.

To sum up, the biggest difference between the PK-12 track and the other two M.A. tracks is the student population our candidates work with, which is also tied to the types of contexts our alumni choose to work in after graduation.

It depends on how many classes you choose to take each semester. Full time students can complete the M.A. in 2 years.

The number of students pursuing their M.A. degrees in the TESOL and Applied Linguistics programs varies each year, and generally ranges from 150-200 students. At least one-third come from outside the United States.

Due to the nature of our program, students are expected to attend classes held at Teachers College, Columbia University. While some distance workshops and out-of-program (breadth) requirements can be taken online, it is impossible to complete the program online.

The defining difference between the M.A. and Ed.M. degrees is that the M.A. requires between 36-41 credits (depending on your concentration) and the Ed.M. requires 60 credits. The Ed.M. may be used as a stepping stone to future doctoral studies in applied linguistics or TESOL, or it may serve as continued professional development. The extended curriculum enables students to complete more coursework and to do some research related to the academic areas of Second Language Assessment, Second Language Acquisition, Language Use, TESOL, and PK-12 TESOL.

The AL & TESOL Program offers one doctoral-level degree, a Doctor of Education (Ed.D.). This 90-credit degree prepares graduates for careers in teaching and research in Language Use, Second Language Acquisition and Second Language Assessment.

Doctoral students have four types of requirements: concentration requirements; elective and breadth course requirements; research methods and statistics requirements; and doctoral candidacy requirements. Doctoral preparation involves three successive stages: 1) competence in qualitative and quantitative research literature and methods; 2) identification of a dissertation topic; and 3) presentation of a prospectus. Graduates from the Ed.D. program go on to a number of different careers, including tenure-track faculty positions in higher education, positions with testing companies, and a host of other fascinating career paths in relevant fields.

Funding & Employment Opportunities

Students can apply for financial aid during the application process. All students are eligible to apply for scholarship, so all applicants are encouraged to complete the scholarship section of the admissions application. Please click here to review a list of scholarships. All students who apply within the priority deadlines for admissions are considered for financial aid, so it is strongly recommended that you apply no later than the priority deadline—usually in January. Students may also apply for other types of financial assistance. Please visit the Office of Financial Aid to learn more. Once matriculated, continuing students (i.e., in 2nd year or beyond) are invited to re-apply for scholarship each year through the program.

There are also a limited number of Research and Teaching Assistantships and Fellowships across the college that pay a salary and provide tuition exemptions points. Find more information about these positions here. Also, qualified and experienced AL and TESOL students may be invited to teach as a Master Teacher in the Community Language Program, and these individuals receive a salary and tuition exemption points. Please note that international students cannot work in their first semester, and are limited to work 20 hours per week when employed.

Some students do work part-time, and there are very rare cases in which a student works full-time while they complete their degree program. It is recommended that students become familiar with their workload and the demands of the program prior to committing to a rigorous employment schedule. Jobs with flexible schedules are typically more compatible with a work/study lifestyle as program classes may be held anywhere between 10am and 9pm during the week.

For students who are completing the M.A. TESOL PK-12 program, it is important to note that there are requirements (fieldwork in fall and spring of year one, and supervised student teaching in fall and spring of year two) that will constrain job possibilities. First year TESOL PK-12 students are required to fulfill 50 hours of classroom observation both in the fall and spring semesters. These hours must be accumulated during the regular NYC public school day. During the second year teacher candidates are required to log 220 hours of in school experience each semester. These hours include to specific number of required teaching hours.

There are a number of opportunities for employment on campus. Students who receive work study as part of their financial aid package may find positions working in academic or support offices, with professors, or in a few other capacities. Work study jobs are typically posted on the Human Resources website, however students may also ask about positions in relevant departments as well. The AL and TESOL program collects resumes each fall from students interested in employment, and every year a small number of students are employed as work studies or in other positions working with faculty within the program. Please note that international students are not eligible to receive work study funds.

There are also a limited number of Research and Teaching Assistantships and Fellowships across the college that pay a salary and provide tuition exemptions points. These are positions that Ed.M., and especially Ed.D., students are qualified for. Find more information about these positions here. Finally, qualified and experienced AL and TESOL students may be invited to teach as a Master Teacher in the Community Language Program, and these individuals receive a salary and tuition exemption points. Please note that international students cannot work in their first semester, and are limited to work 20 hours per week when employed.

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