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TESOL Job Outlook and Career Options

Learn about the education and preparation for teaching English to speakers of other languages (TESOL). 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.

TESOL, or teaching English as a second language, is a field of education where teachers work with students learning English. Aspiring TESOL teachers could pursue a bachelor's degree in the field, get their teacher's license and work in public schools. There are other paths for a TESOL career outside of working in the public school system.

Essential Information

With a certificate or master's degree in TESOL, as well as any necessary licensure, ESOL instructors should be prepared to work with men, women and children who have varied understandings of the English language. ESOL teachers are sought by schools with large non-English speaking populations, as well as programs that help adults improve their written and spoken English skills. A bachelor's degree is the minimum requirement for becoming an ESOL teacher, and those who teach children in public schools may have to meet additional requirements.

Required Education Bachelor's or master's degree, preferably in TESOL, or a graduate certificate in TESOL
Other Requirements State license required to teach K-12 students in a public school
Projected Job Growth (2014-2024) 7% for adult literacy and high school equivalency diploma teachers*
Median Salary $44,357 (2016)**

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

TESOL Job Outlook

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), career opportunities for those working in adult and remedial education, including ESOL teachers, were forecast to increase by 7%, which is about as fast as the average for the decade spanning 2014-2024. Greater demand for ESOL teachers was expected because of a growing number of men and women looking to learn the English language or improve their English skills, especially in areas of the United States with high immigrant populations.

Employment for elementary and middle school teachers in general was projected to rise at a higher-than-average rate during the same time period, according to BLS figures, while high school teachers were expected to see less growth. However, the need for ESOL teachers in particular was expected to be greater than average since the number of U.S. students who don't speak English was predicted to continue to grow.

TESOL Salary Information

ESOL teachers earned a median salary of $44,357 as of 2016, according to PayScale.com. The BLS reported a median salary of $50,280 in 2015 for those in the category of adult education and literacy instructors, which includes ESOL teachers.

TESOL Career Options

After completing their education, men and women who aspire to teach ESOL at the elementary, middle or secondary school level must earn a state license to be able to teach in public schools. Licensure generally is not required for those who want to work with adult English language learners.

While many people who pursue ESOL careers choose to become teachers, there also are opportunities available for those seeking jobs outside the traditional classroom. Available positions might include:

  • Director or administrative staff for an English as a second language (ESL) program
  • Developer of English language materials with a private company
  • Academic adviser with an educational institution
  • Government agency adviser
  • Private language arts tutor
  • Administrative or teaching staff at an English language center

Working as TESOL educator requires a minimum of a bachelor's degree, and licensure to teach in a public school. There are other career opportunities outside of teaching in schools with this qualification, including tutoring, administrative positions, and working for private institutions or companies. TESOL teachers may work with adults, children, or ages in between.


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