If you’re looking for a career where you can use your English language skills to improve the lives of others, becoming an ESL teacher could be for you. Not only does it allow you to work with English language learners and make a meaningful difference to their lives, it also opens the door to teaching and travelling worldwide.
So, if this sounds good to you, read on to find out how you can become an ESL teacher.
What is an ESL Teacher?
An ESL teacher is someone who specializes in teaching English as a Second Language to non-native speakers of English in an English-speaking country. ESL stands for English as a Second Language.
ESL teachers can teach students of all ages and levels with a focus on speaking, writing, reading, listening, grammar and vocabulary.
What is the Role of an ESL Teacher?
The role of the ESL teacher is to work with students to help improve their level of English and give them the confidence to communicate fluently and effectively with native English speakers.
This is particularly important for ESL students, because they will have often emigrated to an English-speaking country or moved there for an extended period for study.
When ESL students first arrive in an English-speaking country such as the U.S., aside from not knowing the language they may also experience significant differences to their own culture. This can sometimes manifest itself as culture shock.
ESL teachers therefore need to know how to teach English to beginners (as well as other levels) in order to help their students adapt as quickly as possible. Learning English and adapting to the culture is a key component of enabling ESL students to successfully integrate into their new country.
Consequently, in addition to teaching their students English, ESL teachers may help them adjust to their new culture by providing advice and guidance, or acting as a mentor. This can help the students assimilate into the culture and become accustomed to their new environment. If you’ve ever moved abroad without knowing the language, you’ll know how hard this can be.
What is ESL Teaching?
ESL teaching is the process of teaching English to speakers of other languages in an English speaking country. This can be done in a number of ways, but typically involves using specific methods and materials to help students improve their English language skills.
As an ESL teacher it is your responsibility to plan and deliver lessons suitable for the level of the English language learners that you teach.
ESL teaching typically involves working with students in small groups or one-on-one to help them improve their understanding and usage of the English language. In addition to working on language skills, ESL teachers also often teach about culture and help students adjust to living in an English-speaking country.
ESL teaching is therefore a highly rewarding profession, as it offers the opportunity to help others learn a new language and culture.
How to Become an ESL teacher
There are many different ways that people can become ESL teachers. Some people may already have a teaching degree and just need to get certified in ESL, while others may need to complete a teacher training program or do a TEFL course.
As a general rule of thumb you’ll need to complete the following steps:
1) Get a bachelor’s degree.
Although not required in ever country to teach students English, for many countries, schools and language institutions it is a prerequisite.
2) Get your TESL certification
If you’re interested in teaching English as a second language abroad, you’ll need to obtain an internationally recognized and accredited TESL certification.
These can come in different forms but either a TESL certification or TEFL certification should be fine. You’ll find that there are a number of options available and you can either complete your course online or in person.
3) Find suitable ESL jobs
You’ll need to be aware of the requirements of your target position/country before applying to jobs and this requires research. At the end of the day, you want to be applying to jobs that you are qualified to do.
Once you know the sort of positions you want to go for you can search online to find and apply to jobs.
4) Prepare to move abroad (if applicable)
If you’re looking at an ESL teaching job abroad it doesn’t hurt to prepare for the move. You’ll need to get your finances in order and you may need to prepare certain documents and get a visa. These 15 steps to help you prepare to move to another country should help.
Let’s take a look at what you need to become an ESL teacher in a bit more detail:
ESL Teacher Requirements
There are certain requirements that you need to meet in order to become an ESL teacher. The most important one is that you need to be a native English speaker or have an English level equivalent to that of a native speaker. This is because you need to be able to speak the language fluently in order to teach English as a second language effectively.
Depending upon where you teach you may also need to have a degree in education or a related field.
If you’re in the US all states require public school ESL teachers to have at least a bachelor’s degree and you must complete a state-approved teacher preparation program. You can find teacher certification information by state here.
ESL teachers in the US typically have a bachelor’s degree and are certified to teach English as a second language. Many ESL teachers also have a master’s degree or higher.
If you’re in the UK you’ll generally need a bachelor’s degree and to have completed at least a 120 hour TEFL course from an accredited institution.
Internationally, it’s safe to assume that you’ll need the following:
- A bachelor’s degree.
- An internationally recognized TESL certification or TEFL certification.
- Previous teaching experience is desirable but not always essential.
However, it is possible to find online English teaching jobs that don’t require a degree. Each country has its own unique set of requirements when it comes to teaching the English language.
Skills You Need to Teach English as a Second Language
ESL teachers need a variety of skills to be able to effectively teach their students English. If you are considering becoming an ESL teacher, there are a few things you should keep in mind.
First and foremost, you need to be able to speak English fluently and communicate well. You also need to remember that teaching English as a second language is very different from teaching it as a first language.
Students learning a second language may not be able to pick up on things as quickly as native speakers. As such, there are unique challenges that come with working with students who are not native English speakers. It can therefore be useful for prospective ESL teachers to have some experience working with non-native English speakers before they begin their careers.
In order to pursue a successful career as an ESL teacher it helps to possess the following skills:
Learning a new language can be difficult! It can be frustrating for both teachers and students when language barriers get in the way of communication. ESL teachers therefore must be patient and adaptable, as each student learns differently and at their own pace. Patience is also key in helping students feel more comfortable and confident in their abilities.
Any teacher must be able to create a supportive and welcoming environment in their classrooms.
Teachers need to be creative in order to come up with engaging and effective lesson plans that will capture their students’ attention and help them learn.
Strong classroom management skills are needed in order to help maintain classroom discipline and keep students on track and focused.
A good understanding of language acquisition
ESL teachers must have a deep understanding of language acquisition in order to effectively help their students. They should be able to assess their students’ progress and use strategies to check for understanding. If something isn’t working out, they need to be flexible and adjust their teaching methods accordingly.
Willingness to learn
It is important for prospective ESL teachers to be familiar with the culture and customs of the country or region where they will be teaching. This helps when it comes to building a bond with your students and understanding them.
Speaking of understanding, if you’re teaching English abroad, learning the native language of that country can go a long way.
However, you shouldn’t worry if you feel that you are lacking in some areas. There are a number of good teaching qualities that will help you on your journey and many of these can be improved upon with experience.
Finally, you should be prepared to have a lot of fun!
ESL Teaching Jobs
ESL teachers can find work in schools, universities, and language institutes around the world. You can also set up on your own and teach privately or teach English online. With an estimated 1.5 billion English language learners worldwide, there is no shortage of opportunities.
Ultimately, there are different types of ESL teaching jobs to suit the needs of every type of ESL student. Some students may need to learn English for academic purposes, while others may need to learn English for everyday conversation.
Academic ESL teachers help students who are attending college or university in an English-speaking country. They provide instruction in academic subjects such as writing, grammar, and literature.
Conversational ESL teachers help students who want to learn English for everyday conversation. They provide instruction in speaking and listening skills.
There are of course many other opportunities available, especially when you teach English abroad. You could find yourself preparing students for exams or teaching business English for example.
If you are interested in pursuing a career as an ESL teacher, there are many resources available online to help you get started. And if you’re still requiring an ESL certification you can find a TESL course or TEFL course here.
ESL Teacher Salary
As always, how much you can earn will depend upon where in the world you are working and the job specification.
ESL teacher salaries in the United States range from $20,000 to $85,000 per year depending on experience, education, and location. For example, an experienced ESL teacher working in New York City can expect to make significantly more than an inexperienced ESL teacher working in a small town.
In general, ESL teachers in the US make more money than their counterparts in other countries. The average salary for an ESL teacher in the US is around $60,000 per year according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics.
In the UK you can expect to make between £14,000 – £35,000 per year according to the National Careers Service.
In other countries salaries are usually adjusted to reflect the cost of living. However, in countries with a high demand or English teachers you can make a significant amount. You can check out this list of countries that pay the highest salary for teaching English abroad.
If teaching abroad or in the classroom doesn’t appeal, then you could also consider teaching English online. Once again, how much you can make depends upon where you work. However, you could expect to earn anywhere between $10 -$80/hour. For a full breakdown of what’s achievable online, check out these online English teaching jobs.
Benefits of Being an ESL teacher
ESL teachers can enjoy many benefits that come with the job. One of the biggest benefits is the salary. ESL teachers in the United States make an average of $60,000 per year. That is a good salary, especially when compared to other jobs that require similar levels of education and experience.
Another benefit of being an ESL teacher is the opportunity to travel. Many ESL teachers use their skills to travel to different countries and teach English to students there. This is a great way to see different parts of the world and learn about new cultures.
Finally, one of the best things about being an ESL teacher is the opportunity to have a flexible schedule. Many ESL teachers abroad only work part-time and if you’re freelance you’re in complete control. This allows you to have a lot of free time to do other things that you enjoy.
So, if this sounds appealing to you, why not get out there and start teaching ESL. There are a whole world of students waiting for you.
How is an ESL Teacher Different to an EFL teacher?
Although ESL teachers and EFL teachers both teach English language learners, and teach almost identical content, the two should not be confused.
As we already know, ESL teachers are responsible for teaching English to non-native speakers in an English-speaking country. An example of an ESL teacher would be someone who teaches English to Mexican students in the U.S.
Meanwhile, EFL (English as a foreign language) teachers are responsible for teaching English to non-native speakers in a non-English speaking country. For example, an EFL teacher would be someone who teaches English to students in Mexico.
Essentially, the main difference between being an ESL teacher and being an EFL teacher is the teaching environment. The former teaches English in an English-speaking country, whilst the latter teaches English in a non-English speaking country.
Are different skills required?
In terms of the skills required to be an ESL teacher and EFL teacher, both are arguably the same. The one key distinction is that an EFL teacher is more likely to share a common language with their students. For instance, if a Mexican person was to train as an EFL teacher and teach English in Mexico, they would share Spanish as a common language with their students. This can certainly make things easier to explain when teaching English to non-native speakers, especially if the students are beginners!
In contrast, an ESL teacher has to rely solely upon English to get their ideas and explanations across. As a result, ESL teacher training can have more of an emphasis on using repetition, demonstrations and pictures to teach the target language.
However, even if you’re an EFL teacher this should still all sound very familiar. That’s because although you may be able to speak a bit of your student’s native language you should try to avoid using it, and speak in English, if at all possible.
Ideally, lessons should always be conducted in English, even for beginners. This applies equally if you’re teaching ESL students or EFL students. The good news is that every reputable English teacher certification will train you on the necessary techniques for this.
It’s also why if you’ve obtained a a TESL certification you should be able to teach EFL, or if you’ve completed a certificate in TEFL you should be able to teach ESL.
What’s TESL and TEFL you ask? It’s quite simply teaching English as a second language (TESL) and teaching English as a foreign language (TEFL). All we’re doing is adding the word ‘teaching’ to the front of the existing definitions!
There are a lot of these types of acronyms in the English teaching world. For a more extensive list and to get a better understanding you can check out these TEFL acronyms.
ESL teacher FAQs
With a projected 2 billion English students worldwide it’s safe to say that ESL teachers are in high demand, especially in countries where English is not the primary language.
The number of people who are learning English as a second language (ESL) has increased dramatically in recent years, making the demand for ESL teachers higher than ever before. This demand is expected to continue to grow in the coming years.
Yes, you can teach ESL without a degree. However, most schools and organizations prefer to hire teachers with a degree in education or a related field. If you don’t have a degree some countries in central and South America don’t require one, as well as some online English teaching companies.
Yes, you can teach English as a second language without a TESL certification, but this is rare. The vast majority of companies and schools require one.
Furthermore, having a TESL or TEFL certification will give you the tools and knowledge you need to be a successful ESL teacher and open up more opportunities. So, if you want to get into ESL teaching, it’s in your best interest to get TESL certified. Start here.