M.A. in TESL/ Applied Linguistics


1. Overview

The MA in Teaching English as a Second Language/ Applied Linguistics is a two-year advanced degree covering teaching methods and research in English language teaching

Before you apply for admission to the program read the detailed information starting on page 46 of the English Department Graduate Program of Study Manual.


2. Requirements

The program of study (POS) consists of four types of requirements:

2.1. language requirement must be met through one of the following ways:

  • completion of the equivalent of one year of college-level study of a second language within the past five years, with a grade of B or higher
  • completion of the equivalent of one year of college-level study in a single language with a grade of B or higher, concurrent with working toward the degree
  • proficiency in a single language by means of an approved examination at a level equivalent to one year of college level study
  • clear evidence of a bilingual background
  • Nonnative Speakers of English must pass the English Placement Test (as a graduate student) unless the student is exempt (see http://apling.public.iastate.edu/ept.html).

2.2. prerequisites representing basics that all students should have before or early in their degree program (knowledge of linguistics, English grammar, and computer applications in the field);

2.3. required courses that teach the knowledge and skills that are fundamental to all work in TESL/applied linguistics; and

2.4. electives that can be chosen from a particular area of specialization to strengthen students understanding of one area (computer-assisted language learning, English for specific purposes, language assessment, literacy, or literature).


3. Areas of Specialization

  • The computer-assisted language learning (CALL) specialization prepares students to work as the CALL specialist in an ESL/EFL program, selecting and coordinating software resources, constructing computer-based language learning activities, and conducting staff development workshops on CALL.
  • The language assessment specialization prepares students to work as a test developer for a testing company or an assessment specialist for a language program.
  • The English for specific purposes (ESP) specialization prepares students to work in both academic and workplace settings where instruction needs to focus on a particular type (or register) of English. Students in this area would acquire the skills to assess context-specific language needs and to develop appropriate materials for learning and assessment.
  • The literacy specialization emphasizes the study of written language skills to teach in the public schools, community colleges, or abroad. A student following this program can also complete requirements for ESL certification for the state of Iowa and specialize in the teaching of reading and writing skills. Other opportunities include composition theory and practice, literary studies, and studying the application of reading theory to elementary or secondary public schools.
  • The literature specialization allows students with a background in English to strengthen the depth of their knowledge of literature as it relates to the teaching of ESL, thus preparing them to teach ESL through literature.

Additional Specializations planned to be offered in Fall 2015 (subject to approval):

  • The specialization in teaching English to L1 Spanish learners focuses on the linguistic and cultural differences encountered when teaching learners in Spanish speaking areas of the world.
  • The specialization in corpus and computational linguistics is aimed at students interested in the study of language using large databases of natural language use, and in writing programs for doing so.

In addition to particular job-related advantages, the specializations provide a strong foundation for students wishing to continue for a Ph.D. By providing an in-depth foundation in one area beyond the basics of TESL/applied linguistics including an M.A. thesis, the specializations prepare students to pursue their interests in teaching and research. Before you apply for admission to the program read the detailed information starting on page 46 of the English Department Graduate Program of Study Manual.


4. Curriculum for TESL/Applied Linguistics

(30 credits minimum)

    • English Grammar (English 220 or the equivalent)
    • Introduction to Linguistics (English 219, 511 or the equivalent)
    • Introduction to Computers in Applied Linguistics (English 510 or the equivalent)

(3 credits – English 511 or 510 – can be counted towards the specialization credits of the degree)


Linguistic Analysis and Interpretation

  • English 514: Sociolinguistics
  • English 537: Grammatical Analysis

Applied Aspects of Second Language Acquisition

  • English 512: Second Language Acquisition
  • English 518: TESL Methods and Materials
  • English 519: Second Language Assessment
  • English 588: Practicum in Teaching ESL or English 500 Proseminar: Teaching English Composition

(Students who do not count 511 or 510 towards their degree need to select another relevant elective chosen with the advice of the program of study committee; double specialization requires a minimum of 18 credits)

Computer-Assisted Language Learning (CALL)

  • an appropriate course in instructional technology
  • English/Linguistics 526: Computer-Assisted Language Learning
  • Other relevant elective

Language Assessment

  • English 527: Discourse Analysis
  • English 513: Language Assessment Practicum
  • Other relevant elective

English for Specific Purposes (ESP)

  • English 527: Discourse Analysis
  • English 528: English for Specific Purposes
  • Other relevant elective


  • English/Linguistics 524: Literacy: Issues and Methods for Nonnative Speakers of English
  • Two courses taken with prior approval from the student’s advisor/ major professor

Suggested courses for the Literacy specialization inside the English Department include:

  • English 503: Theory and Research in Composition
  • English/Linguistics 525: Methods in Teaching Listening and Speaking Skills to Nonnative Speakers of English
  • Any relevant graduate literature courses

Suggested courses for the Literacy specialization outside the English Department include

  • Curriculum and Instruction 554: Reading and Responding to Children’s Literature
  • Curriculum and Instruction 533: Educational Psychology
  • Any courses with a significant component relevant to research in and/or pedagogy in literacy

Literature in ESL

  • Three electives chosen from extensive offerings in literature

Open Option

(no declared area of specialization)

  • Three appropriate electives approved by the POS committee

4.4. INDEPENDENT RESEARCH= 3 CREDITS (only 3 credits count towards the degree)

  • English 699: Thesis or English 599: Creative Component on topic related to area of specialization


5. Application Information

M.A. applicants must have completed a Bachelor’s degree, or its equivalent, prior to their first semester in the program. Minimum TOEFL scores for M.A. applicants: 100 (IBT)/ 600 (PBT)/7.0 IELTS

Application Deadline: January 5 (Summer and Fall entry)
Before you apply for admission to the program read the detailed information starting on page 46 of the English Department Graduate Program of Study Manual.