ESL (English Second Language): Adult Education for ESL Teachers

Jan 02, 2019

An education or certification in English as a second language could land you a job teaching in a school, college, university, or even overseas. The educational requirements for these jobs vary. Read on to find out what kinds of ESL programs are available and to get career prospect information.

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Those wishing to become ESL teachers have several avenues for becoming qualified in this form of education. Learn about different certificates and degrees for ESL teachers and what to expect from them.

Program Information

There are a variety of educational paths in ESL teaching, and your desired career determines the type of credential you'll need. For example, you'll need to become certified as a teacher to teach ESL to elementary or secondary school students, while a bachelor's degree can suffice for teaching adult learners. A graduate degree is needed to teach ESL at the college level, while you might only need to complete a short certificate program to teach students abroad. Some of these programs can even be completed online. Knowledge of a foreign language is often helpful and is required for a graduate program.

Programs At a Glance

Teaching Certificate

  • These programs last 1 year and require a bachelor's degree in any field.
  • On-campus attendance is required.

TESOL Certificate

  • These programs take between 1 and 4 months to complete.
  • A bachelor's degree in any field is required to take these on-campus and online programs.

TEFL Certificate

  • It takes 1 month to complete these on-campus and online programs
  • Students must have a bachelor's degree in any field to enroll.

TESOL Master's Degree

  • This degree takes 2 years to complete and can be taken online and on-campus.
  • A bachelor's degree in any field, undergrad courses in 1 foreign language, and a teaching license are required to enroll.

Teaching Elementary or Secondary School Students

In order to teach ESL at the elementary, middle, or high school level, you will need a background in education sufficient to earn teacher certification in your state and additional coursework in the area of second language learning (as well as some coursework in bilingualism and biculturalism) in order to earn endorsement in ESL.

There are bachelor's degree programs available that help students with teacher certification for a particular grade level, such as early childhood education or elementary education. Students in these programs take professional education courses in subject areas like mathematics, science, social studies, language arts, student assessment, reading instruction, and second language teaching. Some ESL concentration requirements may include courses in special education, diversity, children's literature, second language literacy, language acquisition, and the structure of the English language. Student teaching is also required.

Teaching Adult Learners

To teach ESL at the adult education level you should have at least a bachelor's degree in Teaching English as a Second Language (TESL) or Teaching English for Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL). You could also hold a bachelor's in English, linguistics, or a related subject with a TESL certificate. Common course topics in degrees relevant to ESL teaching include teaching methodology, pronunciation, speaking, grammar, and cross-cultural communication.

Teaching College or University Students

ESL instructors at the college or university level will need at least a master's degree in TESL or TESOL, although a PhD is preferred for instruction at an advanced level. Such instruction might occur when working with students from other countries whose English may be fluent but who may be struggling with terminology particular to the subject they are studying. Some schools offer ESOL master's programs with a concentration in adult education, and online study is possible.

Students in a master's program often complete field experiences and study topics that include TESOL pedagogy, ESL instruction, assessment, literacy, linguistics, reading, and multicultural education. PhD programs usually require that students know a second language themselves. Courses in a PhD program may include quantitative and qualitative research, ESL studies, curriculum design, world English, and language testing.

Teaching Abroad

If you think you would like to travel the world, a TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) or TESOL certificate will allow you to do just that. You can even study abroad to receive your internationally recognized TEFL or TESOL certificate. Programs are offered in such locations as the Philippines, India, Thailand, Vietnam, France, Spain, Italy, Argentina, and Costa Rica. You can earn your certificate, and then stay in-country (or travel to a new one) to start your new career right away.

Career Information

Overall, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) expects ESL teachers at the elementary school, middle school, and high school levels to have decent job prospects between 2014 and 2024. This is because of a large number of current teachers nearing retirement. The BLS expects K-12 teachers in general to have about 6% job growth. Additionally, the BLS expects adult literacy and high school equivalency diploma teachers to have about average 7% job growth.

According to data from April 2017 on, most elementary teachers with ESL certification earned between $33,952 and $67,900 a year, while most middle school teachers made between $35,106 and $63,267. ESL teachers in general typically made between $24,721 and $60,953 a year.

ESL teachers have many options for earning their education, with several degrees and certificates at the undergraduate and graduate levels depending on their career goals. All teachers must be state certified to teach in a public school.

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