M.A. in TESL/ Applied Linguistics



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. The program consists of 30 credits.



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

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.engl.iastate.edu/english-placement-test/).

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);

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

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).


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.
  • 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. Teaching assistantships in Spanish are available for students in this area of specialization. Applicants wishing to be considered for a teaching assistantship in Spanish should indicate their interest in their letter of application.
  • 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 PhD by providing an in-depth foundation in one area beyond the basics of TESL/applied linguistics including an MA thesis, the specializations prepare students to pursue their interests in teaching and research.


Curriculum for TESL/Applied Linguistics

(30 credits minimum)

    • English Grammar (ENGL/LING 220 or the equivalent, or pass ENGL/LING 220 test-out)
    • Introduction to Linguistics (ENGL/LING 219, ENGL/LING 511 or the equivalent)
    • Introduction to Computers in Applied Linguistics (ENGL/LING 510 or the equivalent)

(3 credits – ENGL/LING 511 or ENGL/LING 510 – can be counted towards the specialization credits of the degree, but can be counted only once each if double specializing)


Linguistic Analysis and Interpretation

  • ENGL/LING 514: Sociolinguistics
  • ENGL/LING 537: Corpus Approaches to Grammatical Analysis

Applied Aspects of Second Language Acquisition

  • ENGL/LING 512: Second Language Acquisition
  • ENGL/LING 518: TESL Methods and Materials
  • ENGL/LING 519: Second Language Assessment
  • ENGL/LING 588: Supervised Practice Teaching in Teaching English as a Second Language or ENGL 500 Proseminar: Teaching Multimodal Composition, or 3.0 credits of SpCm 513: Proseminar: Teaching Fundamentals of Public Speaking

(Students who do not count ENGL/LING 511 or ENGL/LING 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
  • ENGL/LING 526: Computer-Assisted Language Learning
  • Other relevant elective

Language Assessment

  • ENGL/LING 527: Discourse Analysis
  • ENGL/LING 513: Language Assessment Practicum
  • Other relevant elective

English for Specific Purposes (ESP)

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


  • ENGL/LING 524: Literacy: Issues and Methods for Nonnative Speakers of English
  • Two courses taken with prior approval from the student’s advisor/ major professor and chosen from relevant electives in literacy (see below).

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

    • ENGL/LING 503: Theory and Research in Composition
    • ENGL/LING 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 appropriate electives, two of which must be from English Department graduate literature course offerings.

Teaching English to L1 Spanish Learners

  • Three appropriate courses with a significant component relevant to research into and/or the teaching of learners of English whose first language (L1) is Spanish.

Suggested courses for the Teaching English to L1 Spanish Learners specialization outside the English Department include:

    • SPAN 554: Intro to Spanish-English Interpretation
    • SPAN 563X: Hispanic Dialectology
    • SPAN 545: Seminar on the Literatures and Cultures of Latin America

Corpus and Computational Linguistics

  • Three appropriate courses with a significant component relevant to either corpus-based analyses of language or the computational analysis of language.

Suggested courses for the Corpus and Computational Linguistics specialization inside the English Department include:

    • ENGL/LING 516: Methods of Formal Linguistics Analysis
    • ENGL/LING 520: Computational Analysis of English
    • ENGL/LING 527: Discourse Analysis

Suggested courses for the Corpus and Computational Linguistics specialization outside the English Department include:

    • Any courses in Human Computer Interaction (HCI)

Open Option

(no declared area of specialization)

  • Three appropriate electives approved by the POS committee

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

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


Application Information

MA applicants must have completed a Bachelor’s degree, or its equivalent, prior to their first semester in the program. Minimum scores for M.A. applicants who are nonnative speakers of  English: 100 TOEFL iBT/ 600 TOEFL PBT/ 7.0 IELTS/ 63 PTE

Application Process

Before you apply for admission to the program read the detailed information on the MA in TESL/AL section of the English Department Graduate Program of Study Manual.

Application Deadline: January 5 (Summer and Fall entry)