With non-native English speakers regularly moving to the United States for better opportunities and an ongoing demand for English instruction around the globe, it is an excellent time to pursue a career as a teacher of English as a second language (ESL). It is never too late to become certified as an ESL teacher, and career opportunities abound in the public and private sectors.
What is ESL?
English is the most popular language spoken as a second language all over the globe. In the past, ESL teachers did most of the curriculum instruction (science, math, social studies, language arts) to groups of students that all spoke different languages. Since inclusion with native English speakers offers great benefits to students learning English, the teaching style changed so that today’s ESL teachers help students become more fluent in speaking English, preparing them to attend regular classes. Unlike foreign language teachers, ESL teachers may instruct groups of students that speak multiple languages, which offers unique challenges but rich diversity. ESL teachers instruct in English from beginning to advanced levels, with a focus on vocabulary, grammar and pronunciation.
For more information on what it means to be an ESL teacher, please visit our page for ESL teachers.
Demand for ESL Teachers
According to the U.S. Department of Education, most states have identified ESL — or English as a foreign language (EFL) — as a critical teaching shortage area. ESL teachers are needed in all grade levels in public and private schools, from preschool to adult. Besides the opportunities in the United States, many foreign countries actively recruit American teachers to instruct students to become fluent in English. There are opportunities in almost every region of the world, and some of the high demand areas include China, Japan, the Middle East, South Korea and Southeast Asia.
ESL Program Opportunities
Depending on whether you want to teach abroad or in the United States, the certification process varies. For any program, you should have a bachelor’s degree from an accredited institution. To teach abroad, you do not always need an ESL certificate, but it will certainly give you an advantage when applying for positions. For positions abroad, you can complete one of the TEFL courses, which range greatly in cost and duration. Dave’s ESL Cafe, an excellent resource for teachers and English learners, has information on different TEFL courses that are offered.
To teach in the United States, you need to go through the teacher certification process, which includes passing certification exams, fulfilling education requirements and applying for a state teaching license. ESL certification requirements vary from state to state, so you will want to check with your state’s department of education.
For more information on the certification process, please visit ESL Teacher Certification.
ESL Career Options
If you receive state certification for ESL, you can teach in grade levels from preschool to 12th grade. However, becoming an ESL teacher does not limit you to teaching in elementary and secondary schools. Explore some of the alternative options by following the links below.
- Adult ESL Education
- Applied Linguistics in TESOL
- Bilingual Education
- Computer-Assisted Language Learning
- Elementary ESL Education
- English as a Foreign Language
- English for Specific Purposes
- Higher ESL Education
- Intensive English Programs
- Intercultural Communication
- International Teaching Assistants
- Materials Writers
- Non-native English Speakers in TESOL
- Second Language Writing
Once you have entered this rewarding career, there are numerous Internet resources that offer teaching strategies, lesson plans and even job banks. Besides Dave’s ESL Cafe, there are ESL Party Land and English as a Second Language, which are all free resources.