How to Become an Adult ESL Teacher: Career Roadmap

Mar 04, 2020

Research the requirements to become an adult ESL teacher. Learn about the job description and duties, and read the step-by-step process to start a career in the adult education field.

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Becoming an Adult ESL Teacher

Adult ESL (English as a second language) teachers instruct non-English-speaking adults to read, write and speak in English. ESL educators are also referred to as teachers of English to speakers of other languages (TESOL).

These professionals can find work at community colleges, elementary schools, secondary schools, social service organizations and universities. Full-time work may not be available for these workers, and classes are often held during the evening or on the weekend to accommodate working students.

Career Requirements

Degree Level Bachelor's degree
Degree Field Education; adult education
Licensure/Certification Many states require teacher certification
Experience None; teaching experience preferred
Key Skills Patience; communication and instructional skills; cultural sensitivity; knowledge of educational software and common computer programs
Median Salary (2018)* $53,630 (for all adult basic and secondary education and literacy teachers)

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, O*NET Online.

Most adult ESL teachers will need a bachelor's degree in education or adult education and many states require teacher licensure. While there will be entry level positions in the field available, most employers prefer those with teaching experience. Key skills that adult ESL teachers need are patience, communication skills, instructional skills, cultural sensitivity, and knowledge about educational software and common computer programs. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, as of May 2018 the median salary for all adult basic and secondary education and literacy teachers, including adult ESL teachers, was $53,630.

Step 1: Acquire a Bachelor's Degree

Adult ESL teachers need to have at least a bachelor's degree to begin teaching. In educational programs, adult ESL teachers learn how to incorporate technology, principles of adult learning, and specific teaching techniques to instruct ESL students. ESL degree programs may also be known as ESOL, English for speakers of other languages or TESOL. While knowledge of other languages is useful, it is not a necessary requirement for teaching ESL.

Complete a student teaching experience. Most teacher education programs require candidates to complete an internship or student teaching experience.

Step 2: Attain State Licensure

Earning a state-issued license is a common requirement for this career when an individual is employed in a government-run program. Some states accept a public school teacher license, while other states have licenses geared towards adult education and adult ESL teaching. Typically, the requirements for obtaining an adult ESL teaching license include possessing a bachelor's degree from an accredited teaching program and passing an examination.

Gain work experience. Most employers prefer candidates who have previous teaching experience, so consider gaining some at a school. Keep in mind that not all private schools require their teachers to be state licensed.

Step 3: Consider Earning a Master's Degree

Many employers prefer adult ESL teachers to have master's degrees. Adult education master's degree programs prepare aspiring teachers to use effective instructional methods for adult learners and to work with students from diverse backgrounds. These programs also teach aspiring teachers how to develop new programs for adult ESL students. In some programs, prospective teachers may specialize in adult basic education, secondary education, or English as a second language (ESL). Earning a master's degree typically means an increase in salary for most teaching positions.

Participate in professional development opportunities. In order to keep up with the latest developments in the field and improve teaching methods, many adult literacy teachers take professional development courses. In these courses, teachers will review existing studies on adult ESL teaching methods, determine where there is new need and develop new approaches to confront these new needs.

Adult English as a Second Language (ESL) teachers need a bachelor's degree and a teaching license to get started. Having a master's degree or teaching experience may help getting jobs easier.

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