Is an MA TESOL a good investment or an expensive luxury? #ELTCHAT summary 24/08/11

A PLN for ELT Professionals

Is an MA TESOL a good investment or an expensive luxury? #ELTCHAT summary 24/08/11

This summary was contributed by Ty Kendall – @TyKendall (Twitter) and was originally posted on his blog and reproduced here with his permission. Thank you Ty! 


Chat topic: Is an MA in TESOL a good investment or an expensive luxury?


After the false start caused by the previous week’s twitter/tweetdeck technical problems, we were finally able to have this chat about the real value of an MATESOL in our profession.

The participants were divided between those with an MA TESOL and those without, so there was insight from both sides…

I have tried to be a bit more “global” in this summary, as sometimes the chats can get a bit euro-centric.


Advantages of an MA TESOL aka Why do one?


  • Career value (in adult education in Australia).
  • Keeping up with the competition (especially when applying for new positions)
  • Advised/suggested/coerced by DOS/management.
  • Increased potential for advancement / better salary.
  • It’s an investment in your own P.D.
  • For many people, an MA provided grounding, orientation, direction, inspiration.
  • Opportunities for further reflection, growth.
  • Can open more doors than a DELTA, more possibilities.
  • In the U.K it is expected in some contexts to have, or be working towards your MA / DELTA at some point in your career.


Disadvantages of an MA TESOL aka Why not to do one?


  • Can be repetitive, a mere revision for those who have BA equivalent TESOL qualifications.
  • DELTA still has more prestige than MA in many teaching contexts.
  • Some MAs are still largely theoretical (depending on location). More practice needed (in this respect DELTA has the edge).
  • The issue of university prestige (snobbery?) rears its ugly head. An MA at University “A” being perceived as worth less, less respected than an MA at University “B” (another problem which DELTA avoids).
  • MAs perceived as leading to mostly academic careers (not necessarily true however).
  • May just be a validation of what you can already do. Must have pure motives to justify the cost in time/money etc.

Image from


Other Questions (and answers):


Q:            Does doing MA TESOL by distance or part time affect the outcome?

A:            “I did half f2f and the rest distance, made no difference to me” (cioccas).


Q:            Which is MA TESOL or DELTA?

A:            “It depends on what the teacher needs…I don’t think it is a matter of ‘betterness’” (EveWeb)


Opposing opinions:


“Having the MA didn’t make me a better teacher but it led beyond the classroom…” (OUPELTGlobal)


“Having the MA DID make me a better teacher and teacher educator” (Marisa_C).


Here is a selection of some of the comments:


“Don’t have one personally, would be interested to know if any career value as is expensive to get one” (efl101)

“Having experienced one, I am more to the luxury option, really”. (Zwrzi).

“Before an MA I understood teaching. After the MA I understood learning.” (gknightbkk).

“In government institutions, higher ed and further ed – an MA is an advantage in Australia” (cioccas).

“I found that an MA complemented my experience in teaching it also confirmed my intention to make a career in teaching” (ELTExperiences).

“An MA also refines one’s insights into how to do research” (AnaCristinaPrts).

“In Venezuela, having an MA doesn’t guarantee we are going to obtain a higher position or salary. It’s more focused on PD” (EveWeb).

“How many MAs have teaching practice?…it was assumed we had experience” (PatrickAndrews).

“I’’m a CELTA tutor, as I have DELTA, but can only work at a Uni cos I have an MA. Maybe the answer is to have both” (warnhopepark).


Tentative Conclusion


It seems that the answer to the question “Is MA TESOL a good investment or an expensive luxury?” is relative. It depends on many variables:

  • What the teacher wants for themselves, for their own P.D, for their future career.
  • What part of the world you live in.

Judging by the comments of the chatters, an MA is practically salivated over in Asia (Japan, Korea). Or at the very least highly desired…In the Middle East (Israel) the government even encourage you with assistance, whereas in Venezuela, having an MA is not much help at all, as it doesn’t necessarily equate to better prospects or any increase in money.

The DELTA is the only alternative for many teachers, as it is far cheaper and a credible option, but this suffers from a lack of recognition in some countries, such as Israel (naomishema) and is often seen as inferior to an MA in many contexts.

Both the MA TESOL and DELTA have advantages and disadvantages and both have their uses. Essentially the MA TESOL will be a good investment for the career TESOL teacher who wants a solid validation of their skills, but it will also inevitably be perceived as a luxury for those who already have DELTA or any tertiary qualification in ESOL/teaching. With University fees constantly increasing, I fear it will always be EXPENSIVE either way! So it can be both an expensive investment as well as an expensive luxury. Another debate looms: are teachers being priced out of their own professional development… for the future!


New to ELTchat?


If you have never participated in an #ELTchat discussion, these take place twice a day every Wednesday on Twitter at 12pm GMT and 9pm GMT.  Over 400 educators participate in this discussion by just adding #eltchat to their tweets. For tips on participating in the discussion, please check out this video, Using Tweetdeck for Hashtag Discussions!


What do you think? Leave a comment!


3 Responses

  1. Huw Jarivs says:

    In an ideal world it shouldn’t be the Dip. or an MA but both, with the MA coming some time after the Dip. The dissertation stage of an MA offers students the chance to “investigate practice” and in exceptional cases to then go on and publish their work.

  2. Eric Roth says:

    This quick primer concisely summarizes the principal arguments on both sides in a nuanced, fair manner.

    May I suggest, however, that numbers add precision. For instance, if university A charges $25,000 a year and University B “only” charges $10,000 a year, it’s fair to expect the far more expensive MATESOL degree to lead to greater career opportunities. Therefore, I can’t share the author’s egalitarian impulse in worrying about perceptions that some programs are “perceived” to be better than other programs. Cost counts – and financial burdens of acquiring a MA degree remain a very reasonable concern for thousands of current and future teachers. Bottomline: it behooves MA programs to make sure that their programs actually lead to increased opportunities that their glossy brochures promise.

    Or so it seems to me.

  3. Ty Kendall says:

    I have to disagree with the previous comment.
    Whilst usually I agree with the axiom “you get what you pay for”. In this instance, it doesn’t hold true…not in the U.K context anyway.
    Since I live in the U.K at the moment, my “egalitarian” impulse was informed by the situation here.

    The price of higher education in the U.K is pretty fixed and uniform across the board. Whilst you’d pay £9000 at Cambridge or Oxford, you’d still pay roughly the same at Warwick or Portsmouth.

    There are no vast monetary differences, the most divergent you might expect is a couple of hundred pounds, but definitely not in the thousands.

    The situation here is that of perceived “good” universities, and those of a “lesser” presitgious value. It all stems from the ridiculously outdated class system and in my opinion is a blight on our society.
    But the truth of the matter is, a 2:2 from Cambridge is probably more highly valued than a 1st from Birmingham. Money (in the respect of how much you pay to study there) isn’t an issue, since they are pretty much the same. It’s all about centuries old notions of “betterness” and tradition, which I wish people would snap out of!
    It’s accepted by every student in this country that WHERE you studied matters as much as WHAT you studied, or WHAT classification your degree is.

    Whilst it may be true in America that the more expensive course will open doors for you in your career, over here, it is the more prestigious course( i.e. university ) that will open doors.

    “Prestigious” usually equating with older, more established universities. Therefore Oxford/Cambridge and the Russell group of universities. All other universities then forming a hierarchy from the “worthy” to the “worthless”.

    (The term “worthless” may be offensive to some, but it is certainly not an overstatement, when you have politicians talking about “mickey mouse universities and courses”).

    So I think it is just a case of US > UK differences.
    Not that I agree with a system whereby the more expensive is necessarily “better” either. It’s just as bad in my opinion.

Comments are closed.