High School ESL Instructor: Job Info & Career Requirements

Nov 18, 2020

Career Definition for High School ESL Instructors

High school ESL instructors create and implement lesson plans that can help students become fluent in spoken and written English. In particular, ESL teachers provide non-native learners with instruction in pronunciation, sentence structure, and conversational skills. Educational objectives include helping students transition into mainstream classes on a permanent basis and enhancing their participation in social activities. ESL instructors also work to prepare high school graduates for life in an English-speaking country, either in a college or university setting or in the professional world.

Education Bachelor's or master's in ESL or a related field
Job Duties Create and implement lesson plans, provide instruction to non-native learners
Median Salary (2019) $61,660 (all high school teachers)
Job Growth (2019-2029) 4% (all high school teachers)

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Required Education

High school ESL instructors usually hold a bachelor's degree and a state teaching certification or license. ESL certification is typically pursued separately. Certificate or master's degree programs in ESL, English Language Learning or English as a Foreign Language are available and can take up to two years to complete. Core coursework may include topics in the principles and practice of teaching English as a second language, world cultures, linguistics, and bilingualism. Although helpful, knowledge of a second language is not necessarily required.

Required Skills

High school instructors who work with non-native students should be patient and empathetic and have excellent organizational and time-management skills. Communication skills are key, especially when interacting with other teachers, administrators, or parents.

Employment and Salary Outlook

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that high school instructors in general are predicted to have an 4% growth in employment nationwide from 2019 to 2029. Opportunities will vary according to region, with the number of jobs declining in the Northeast and increasing across the South and West. According to the BLS, high school teachers in general earned a median annual wage of $61,660 in May 2019 (

Alternate Career Options

Similar career options in this field include:


Librarians who help patrons find books, information, and other digital or printed materials can specialize in a number of areas, including academic, public, and user services library work. Professional requirements include a Master of Library Science (MLS), which can typically be completed in two years or less; some school librarians many need a teaching certificate. As reported by the BLS, the number of job openings for librarians is expected to increase by 5%, or as fast as average, from 2019-2029; areas of growth include the South and West. In May 2019, librarians received a median yearly salary of $59,500.

Teacher Assistants

Teacher assistants provide classroom support for certified or licensed teachers, which may include reviewing lessons with students, either individually or in small groups. While high graduates may qualify for a position, school districts who benefit from Title 1 programs may only consider candidates with an associate degree or equivalent college experience. Through 2029, teacher assistants can expect an 4%, or as fast-as-average, growth in jobs, as reported by the BLS. In May 2019, a teacher assistant earned a median yearly salary of $27,920, also according to the BLS (

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