Working in the field of Teacher of English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) allows teachers to work with non-native English speakers, both in the United States and abroad. Students from around the world are in need of great teachers. Whether you want to teach in America, or teach internationally, TESOL teachers are in high demand.

Fields in TESOL Education

If you’re interested in becoming a TESOL teacher, the first step is discovering the various certification options and career opportunities that the field has to offer.

ESL (English as a Second Language)
Teaching ESL occurs in countries where English is the dominant language. Students in ESL classrooms are commonly referred to as ELL or English Language Learners. Certification for ESL teachers varies on location.

TESOL (Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages)
TESOL teachers can teach English to ELL in U.S. schools, or may work abroad by teaching English to students to gain their English proficiency. Certification for TESOL teachers varies on location.

TEFL – Teaching English as a Foreign Language – This field is also often abbreviated as EFL or English as a Foreign Language. This field is most commonly associated with teaching internationally.

ESP – English for Specific Purposes – This field is most commonly associated with Adult ESL education, and is often taught at the university level.

TESOL/ESL Specializations – TESOL and ESL are unique in that they can qualify you to work with adults as well as children of all grade levels, depending on the specialization you choose. There are also focus areas like Materials Writing and Applied Linguistics to explore. Know your options!

International Teaching

Teaching international students will present new and exciting challenges, and is also highly rewarding. In addition to providing high-quality education to students in need, international teachers also learn new things about cultures, and subsequently, new things about themselves.

Prerequisite Coursework

Because many different schools offer Masters of Arts in Teaching programs, the prerequisite coursework prospective instructors must complete varies by institution. Still, regardless of which establishment a candidate chooses to attend, all programs have a similar minimum level of required coursework: Courses in linguistics, English literature, and the English language at a level of 300 or higher completed with a grade of B- or better are common prerequisites. A variety of specific courses on pedagogy may also be required before core courses can be taken.

Certification Reciprocity

Certification reciprocity is the acceptance of a license by a governing body other than the one that issued it. Think driver’s licenses in the U.S.: A driver’s license is issued by a particular state, but is accepted throughout the country.

Most states, and a few U.S. territories, have agreed to the National Association of State Directors of Teacher Education and Certification Interstate Contract, which ensures full or partial reciprocity between them. The teaching certificate reciprocity policies of each state can be found in detail on the certification reciprocity page.

Internationally speaking though, teaching certification reciprocity is especially important, as the flexibility to work anywhere in the world is one of the main drawing factors of becoming as a TESOL teacher.

Due to the differing policies of each nation’s department of education, international teaching certification reciprocity can be difficult to calculate in general terms–but there are ways to avoid “reciprocity holes”: A Masters of Arts in Teaching TESOL is internationally recognized, ensuring that graduates are eligible to instruct around the globe.