What ESL courses does UAB offer?
Go to the Courses webpage for course numbers, names, and descriptions.

What are the various programs and degrees in ESL Education that are available through UAB's School of Education? 

Master of Arts in Education/ESL with Class A certification for grades PK-12: Go to MA Degree & Certification.

  • Traditional Track – for teachers with B-level certification in any teaching field
  • Alternative Track (Alternative Masters Program/Fifth year) - for prospective teachers who have a GPA of at least 2.75 on their undergraduate degree
Master of Arts in Education/ESL without teaching certification (for teaching ESL to adult language learners)
  • MA-TESOL (formerly called the International/Adult track)
  • MA-TESOL plan of study for international students in the INTO UAB Pathway
Educational Specialist (EdS) in the following concentration: ESL or TESOL. Go to EdS Degree & Certification.

Can a student take ESL teacher education courses without pursuing a degree?

Go to Admission. Yes, non-degree seeking students can take up to four graduate courses (12 credit hours) without being admitted to a degree program and even without having the intention of eventually applying. NOTE: Only 12 hours taken with non-degree status can be included in a degree-seeking program. 

NOTE: The following questions are primarily targeted for domestic students. International students should follow the instructions in the MA-TESOL information packet for international students.

What do I need to do in order to be admitted to the UAB Graduate School?
Follow the step-by-step instructions on the Admission page. Students should apply as a degree-seeking student. They need a score of 388 (35 raw score) on the Miller Analogies Test (MAT) or 290 on the Graduate Record Exam (GRE), official copies of transcripts from all colleges/universities attended (even for just one course), 3 letters of recommendation, and a completed application form with $50 ($60 for international students).  If students wish to start taking classes before completing this admission process, they can apply for non-degree status. 

What program do I apply to?

  • Education-English as a Second Language Traditional (MAEd): for teachers who are certified to teach any subject in Alabama (this leads to Class A ESL certification from the ALSDE)
  • Education-English as a Second Language 5th Year, Alternative (i.e., 5th Year): for prospective ESL teachers of K-12 students (this leads to alternative Class A ESL certification from the ALSDE)
  • Education-English as a Second Language International/Adult (MAEd): for prospective ESL teachers of adult students (does not include certification to teach in Alabama schools)
  • Education-English as a Second Language (EdS): For teachers with Class A certification in ESL who wish to pursue an Educational Specialist degree and Class AA certification.

Can I start taking courses before being admitted to the degree program?
Yes. You can start taking courses as soon as you are granted non-degree student status. However, in order to do so, you will first need to meet with your ESL program advisor and request a course registration override. You must also submit a Non-Degree Acknowledgement form to the Graduate School.

Once I submit the non-degree application form, how long do I have to wait in order to start taking classes?
It usually takes only a few working days for you to be granted non-degree status and thus be eligible to take classes.

How long does it take to get admitted to the degree-seeking program?
After all required documents have arrived at the Graduate School, it usually takes 2-10 weeks for an application to be fully processed. UAB's goal is to process as soon as possible.

How do I know that I have been admitted to the right program, that of ESL?
You should periodically check your Graduate Application account webpage. This is where your admission letter from the Graduate School will be posted. This letter states your major as English as a Second Language. It also provides your residency status as in-state or out-of-state. If this information is incorrect, you should immediately contact your ESL program advisor and complete the form "Request for Change in Graduate Major in Education."

What is the lowest possible GPA for admission to UAB Graduate School?
The cumulative GPA on the transcript from the degree-issuing undergraduate institution cannot be lower than 2.75 (unrounded) under any circumstances for admission to the Alternative Master's Program. This regulation is set by the Alabama State Department of Education. Applicants with a 2.5 GPA can seek admission to the MA-TESOL.

Can I complete an MAEd/ESL even though I am not a certified teacher?
Yes. If you wish to become certified to teach ESL in grades K-12, you should pursue the Alternative Track (5th year)-- See the info packet on the Program Information page. If you wish to teach ESL to adults and/or teach EFL overseas, you should pursue the MA-TESOL Track.

What do I need to do if I plan to teach ESL to adults and/or overseas?
In order to teach adult ELLs or to teach ESL overseas, you need an MAEd/ESL but not K-12 certification.
See the MA-TESOL info packet on the Program Information page.


What tests do I need in order to be considered for admission to the Alternative Master's Program?
ETS Core Academic Skills test and the ESOL Praxis #5362 (score 149)

What tests do I need to take in order to be considered for admission to the MAEd's Traditional MA Track, the MA-TESOL, or the EdS?
Miller Analogies Test (MAT): 35+  (388+ scaled score)
Graduate Record Exam (GRE): 290+

I have already taken the MAT (or GRE). Can I use this score for admission to UAB?
Yes, if you took the test within 5 years prior to submitting your completed degree-seeking application and if you obtained an acceptable score. If you obtained an acceptable score more than 5 years ago and still have your score report, you should scan it and send it as an email attachment to the ESL program director and request a waiver to the 5-year limit.

How can I best prepare myself for the admission exams?
See the Exam Preparation webpage.


What does Alabama's State Department of Education require for teaching ESL?
MAEd in ESL (33 credit hours) if you have Class B Certification in any teaching field.
Alternative Masters Program in ESL ("5th year program") (44-47 credit hours) if you do not already have teacher certification.
Go to MA Degree & Certification for an overview and to Program Information for the Info Packets.

How long does it take to qualify for ESL certification?
The Master's degree takes from two to three years, depending on how many courses the student takes each semester. Many students study part-time, taking one course in fall and spring and two courses in the summer.

Can UAB alumni with ALSDE's ESL certification teach in another state?
Yes. However, in order to teach in another state, ALSDE-certifiied teachers must meet the state's reciprocity requirements for teacher certification or licensure.


What is required for the Internship/Practicum/Apprenticeship?
This depends on your MAEd/ESL program. See the information packets on the Program Information webpage for the MAEd program's Traditional track, Alternative track, and MA-TESOL track..

If I am a fulltime content area teacher, how can I accumulate the required hours of internship for certification?
Most of the fall and spring field experiences can be done when teaching English learners in your own classroom, or during your prep period in your school's ESL classroom, or with English learners after school, perhaps at a nearby school. Most of the internship hours at the other grade level can be done during the English Learner summer programs. More details will be provided by your ESL advisor.


Is the MAEd/ESL intended just for ESL teachers?
Go to MA Degree & Certification.
The Traditional Track of the MAEd/ESL is intended for content-area teachers as well as for ESL teachers at both the elementary and secondary levels.
The Alternative Track of the MAEd/ESL is intended for future ESL teachers at both the elementary and secondary levels.
The MA-TESOL Track is intended for current and future ESL teachers of adult language learners.

If I am a content area teacher, how would an MAEd/ESL help me?
The MAEd/ESL will help you work more effectively with the many English Learners that you will have in your classrooms now and in the future. Such knowledge and skills will also prove helpful in working with all students who need accommodations and differentiated instruction. This degree will also help teachers with career advancement.

When P-12 teachers earn an MAEd/ESL or EdS, they become eligible for a higher salary bracket, even if they remain as content-area teachers.

I have already completed some graduate coursework in education. Can I use any of these courses for my MAEd/ESL at UAB?
Any graduate course in education can count as an elective in the traditional MAEd program, if it was taken less than 5 years prior to completing the MAEd; if it was not taken to satisfy a previous certificate or degree; and if it has been approved by your ESL advisor.

Can I transfer a course from another institution?
If you are pursuing K-12 certification, all program courses must be taken at UAB. Electives can be taken at another institution.

What elective should I take to complete the 33 credit hours for my MAEd/ESL?
Many students have used EESL 650 "Strategies for Teaching Math & Science to ELLs" as their elective. New electives are EESL 641 and EESL 670. Other potential electives are EESL 617, EESL 627, EESL 637, EESL 647, and EESL 657 which help teachers be better prepared to work with older adolescents, with the parents of their ELLs, and with the greater community.  See the Traditional MA Info Packet on the Program Information page.

Does UAB offer an Ed.S. in ESL?
Go to Ed.S. Degree and Certification
Teachers with Alabama Class A certification in ESL may pursue Class AA certification in ESL through an EdS in Education.


Is any financial assistance available to help me pursue an MAEd, either with or without ESL certification?
Go to Paying for College.
Full-time students (i.e., 6 semester hours of graduate courses) might be eligible for financial aid if they have been admitted to a graduate degree program. Current and future P-12 teachers should also seek information from UAB's Financial Aid office about the TEACH grant for teaching high needs subjects (e.g., ESL) in high needs schools.

Is there anyone I can talk with about my goal of becoming an ESL teacher?
Yes, you should make an appointment by contacting Dr. Susan Spezzini, ESL Program Director, at 205-934-8357 or by email

Does UAB offer any ESL graduate courses that are designed to accommodate the needs of graduate students who live far away from Birmingham?
Go to Innovative Design.
Yes. UAB's ESL teacher education program features an innovative design with a distance-friendly delivery. Courses are delivered via totally online platforms, one week summer institutes, professional learning communities, Saturday instruction, and evening classes. However, depending on the courses in which they are enrolled, distance students will also be required to come to campus in the summer as well as a few times during the academic year.


Are there any ESL classes available for adult ELLs to improve their English?
Yes. Go to Community English Classes and also INTO UAB English Language Programs.


What are the options for parking close to the School of Education?
Go to Driving Directions & Parking.
Part-time students usually do not purchase parking decals, especially if their courses are all in the evening. Metered spaces can be found along 13th Street and 14th Street, between University Boulevard and 10th Avenue. Metered spaces are also available along 10th Avenue South. The parking meters are usually checked until 5:00 pm. Unmetered spaces are found further south.
Map of the Education Building

I don't know any languages other than English. Can I still become an effective ESL teacher?
Yes. Although it does help to be bilingual, monolingual educators can become very effective ESL teachers. Most ESL teachers in the United States do not speak another language.

I am confused by the many acronyms. What do they stand for?
See Acronyms under Teacher Resources.

Are there any laws governing the provision of accommodations for English language learners in schools?
Yes. Go to Laws and Court Cases under Teacher Resources.

Where do alumni teach?
About 90% of our alumni teach in Alabama. Some alumni teach in another state: California, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, and Virginia. And, others have been teaching in another country: Austria, Brazil, Bulgaria, Chile, China, Colombia, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Germany, Indonesia, Ivory Coast, Japan, Kenya, Lesotho, Macedonia, Mexico, Myanmar, New Zealand, Paraguay, Thailand, Tonga, United Kingdom, and Vietnam.