RegisterSign In

How to Become an ESL Teacher

Dec 5, 2008 Jennifer Williamson, Distance Columnist | 0 Comments

Interested in teaching English as a Second Language? There are many possible routes you can take. Many people want the excitement of teaching overseas, while others prefer to build a career in the States.  No matter your career goals, here are a few tips for getting started as an ESL teacher.

First: Get Your Degree

It’s tough to find an ESL job that doesn’t require both a high school and a college degree.  Some programs look for candidates with a degree related to English or teaching English, but not all employers care what you majored in as long as you have a Bachelor’s degree. There are many Bachelor’s degrees that will complement a later career in teaching English as a second language.

A online degree in a foreign language is often a good choice.  If you are fluent in your students’ language, it will be easier for you to reach them.  Of course, you may find yourself teaching students who speak many different languages, and you never know where your career will take you.  Many ESL teachers have an interest in language and will try to learn their students’ language in their free time.

An online degree in education is another good choice for ESL teachers, and with some employers it’s required.  An education degree program will teach you education theory and practical techniques that will help you in any classroom. Some education degrees also lead to certification, which is necessary if you want to work in a U.S. public school.

Other degrees that can complement a career in ESL education include English Writing, anthropology, and international studies.

Second: Research Your Options

Once you have a Bachelor’s degree, you may need additional certification or schooling.  But the type you need depends on where you want to take your career.  Here are a few paths ESL teachers commonly take.

ESL teacher in a public school.  These teachers work in American public schools teaching English.  In these positions, you will most likely find a job in a community with a large immigrant population, and it could be in either an urban or a rural school district.  Spanish is the most common first language of immigrant students, but you may be teaching students who speak African languages, Albanian, French, or a mix of languages.  Depending on the needs of the community, ESL teachers can be found in all levels of public schools, from elementary to high school.

ESL teacher in a foreign country.
  There’s a large demand throughout the world for English language lessons—and as an ESL teacher, you’ll have plenty of opportunities to travel.  Most traveling ESL teachers work for American or British firms that run private English classes overseas, rather than working in the country’s public education system.  You may or may not need to know the language of the country you’ll be traveling to, and depending on your skill and experience you may teach adults or kids.

Professor at a U.S. or foreign college.  With an advanced degree, you can qualify for a teaching job at a community or private college in the U.S.  You may wind up teaching other aspiring ESL teachers or teaching English to an adult student base.  With an advanced degree, you may also qualify for more prestigious appointments in overseas firms as ESL department lead, head teacher or lecturer at foreign colleges.

Third: Get Your Certification or Advanced Online Degree

If you want to be an ESL teacher in American public schools, you will need the same online teaching certification required for all public schoolteachers.  Additional certifications vary by state, and you may need to earn a special certification in ESL as well.  Depending on your state’s regulations, you may also need to work toward your Master’s degree in Education - ESL Instruction.  A Master’s degree in TESOL will also qualify you for teaching positions in community colleges.

Many ESL teachers who work abroad earn either the CertTESOL or the CELTA certification.  These are offered worldwide through two British colleges: Trinity College London and the University of Cambridge. Both take about four to six weeks to complete full-time, and both are internationally recognized and common requirements for overseas teaching programs. 

Teaching English can be a fulfilling career, both in the States and in other countries.  With a Bachelor’s degree and the proper certification, a career as an ESL teacher is within your reach.

Video: What It's Like to Teach English in Japan




blog comments powered by Disqus