Career Information for a Degree in ESL Teaching

Jul 19, 2021

ESL teachers provide instruction to non-English speakers. ESL teachers can work as teachers, adult instructors or private tutors. Requirements vary for these three professions.

Essential Information

English as a second language (ESL) teachers help non-English speaking people achieve success in the U.S., where English is necessary for almost all employment, educational and civic situations. A degree program in ESL teaching instructs teachers in the methodology and theory of second-language learning, preparing them to assist their students in learning the English language. Possible careers for holders of these degrees include K-12 ESL teaching, adult ESL instruction and private ESL tutoring. Many job candidates for ESL teaching positions possess degrees in ESL teaching and are state certified and licensed in ESL education. This career might appeal to someone who is fascinated with linguistics, foreign languages and interacting with peoples from different countries and cultures.

Career Elementary and High School Teacher Adult Literacy & GED Teacher ESL Private Tutor
Education Requirements Bachelor's degree with state certification State certification required in certain states High School diploma or equivalent recommended
Projected Job Growth (2019-2029) 4% (elementary school), 4% (high school) -10% 10% (self-enrichment teachers)
Average Salary (May 2020) $61,170 (kindergarten), $65,420 (elementary), $67,340 (high school) $59,810 $47,930 (all self-enrichment teachers)

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Overview of a Degree in ESL Teaching

A degree in ESL teaching qualifies its holder to work in a variety of capacities as an ESL instructor, often in a classroom setting such as a community college or public high school. ESL teaching programs instruct future ESL teachers in subjects like instructional methodology, English grammar, linguistics, student assessment and second-language acquisition. These programs may also include coursework in cultural diversity. Depending on the degree program and area of specialization, graduates in ESL teaching may qualify to work as ESL teachers in public or private schools, adult education institutions or private tutoring environments.

ESL Teacher

All schools must meet the educational needs of the growing numbers of students for whom English is not a native language. Teachers with degrees in ESL and teaching certificates are trained to handle the challenges their students face during their school careers.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) expected a 4% growth in employment of kindergarten, elementary, and high school teachers in general from 2019-2029 ( Furthermore, in May 2020 the average salary for kindergarten teachers, elementary school teachers, and high school teachers was $61,170, $65,420, and $67,340 respectively, reported the BLS. The BLS emphasized the growing demand for ESL teachers to match the growing number of students who do not speak English. Job prospects for both elementary and high school teachers were expected to be best in rural areas and cities.

Adult ESL Instructor

Adult and remedial ESL instructors impart English-language skills to foreign learners who are older than high school age. Like K-12 ESL teachers, these instructors must have a strong knowledge of English language dynamics and structure, as well as class planning; however, adult ESL instruction typically involves little to no student assessment or classroom discipline. Students generally have varying cultural backgrounds, and teachers must be able to instruct students who speak an assortment of languages. Adult and remedial ESL teachers are often required to obtain licensure to teach in government programs.

Jobs for adult literacy and GED teachers were expected to decline by 10% from 2019-2029, according to the BLS. ESL teachers, especially, were expected to be in high demand in the coming years. This projection was an effect of the growing immigrant population. Adult basic and literacy teachers earned a mean yearly wage of $59,810 as of May 2020, reported the BLS.

ESL Private Tutor

Many ESL students, particularly adults and students with inflexible schedules, prefer to augment or replace classroom ESL instruction with private tutoring. ESL tutors work one on one or in small groups with English learners of varying ages, often meeting at students' homes or in locations like coffee shops, libraries or churches. Private tutors usually are self employed, although they may work for tutoring services companies, school districts or other organizations. Skills needed for ESL tutoring are much the same as for classroom instruction, but the intimate nature of private tutoring can allow for increased role-playing exercises and other speaking and comprehension drills.

The BLS predicted faster-than-average job growth for self-enrichment teachers, such as tutors, in the coming years. These professionals were expected to see a 10% increase in jobs from 2019-2029, an effect of the growing number of people looking to develop their language skills to become more hirable. Self-enrichment education teachers earned a mean salary of $47,930 per year as of May 2020, according to the BLS.

ESL teachers require a bachelor's degree as well as an ESL teaching certificate. In some states, ESL adult instructors need to gain certification. Typically, a high school diploma is required to work as an ESL private tutor.

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