ESL Teacher: Job Description and Salary Information

Learn about the education and preparation needed to become a teacher of English as a Second Language (ESL). Get a quick view of the requirements as well as details about degree programs, job duties and licensure to find out if this is the career for you.

Essential Information

Teachers who specialize in ESL, or English as a Second Language, instruct students who are native speakers of other languages. ESL teachers can work in English-speaking countries helping immigrants understand their new language or in other countries as foreign language teachers. Some teach children in public or private schools, while others work with adult learners. All need at least a bachelor's degree, and other licensure may be required as well.

Required Education Bachelor's or master's degree, preferably in teaching English as a Second Language, or a graduate certificate in this field
Other Requirements State license required to teach K-12 students in a public school; some states call for certificates or licenses to teach adult education
Projected Job Growth (2012-2022)9% for adult literacy and high school equivalency diploma teachers*
Median Salary $41,806 (2014)**

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), **

ESL Teacher Job Description

ESL teachers can work at the elementary, secondary and post-secondary levels or as adult education instructors providing English instruction to classes or individual students. ESL teachers may require extra training to learn the special needs of adult and child learners.

ESL teachers may develop a curriculum that takes an overall approach to English study or they may focus on a specific aspect of language use, such as life skills, literacy, or vocational and workplace English. Both approaches involve teaching students basic English skills, such as listening, reading, writing and speaking.

Classroom work can consist of rote pronunciation techniques, quizzes, textbooks, videos and computer lessons. Teachers often combine basic studies with real-life interactions involving language use in different situations, such as shopping, schooling, job hunting or working with English-speaking coworkers.

Most ESL teachers may be required to be fluent in another language besides English, in order to communicate with their students. ESL teachers need to be knowledgeable of their students' culture and recognize differences that may affect a student's ability to acclimate to a English-speaking environment.

Salary Information

Many ESL teachers work on a part-time basis and receive hourly wages. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the 2013 median wage for adult education teachers, including teachers of English as a Second Language, was $24.57 an hour. Full-time adult education teachers earned a median salary of $51,110 in 2013. reported in 2014 that the median salary for teachers of English for speakers of other languages was $41,806.

Job opportunities for ESL teachers were expected to increase by 9% between 2012 and 2022. This is due to a projected increase in the number of immigrants entering the United States and the continued growth in global commerce (

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