English As a Second Language Teaching Requirements

English as a Second Language (ESL) teachers require some formal education. Learn about the general education and teaching requirements as well as job duties and ESL certification information to see if this is the right career for you.

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There are many job opportunities available for anyone desiring to teach English as a second language. ESL teachers can find employment either domestically or internationally. A bachelor's degree and a certificate are usually enough to gain employment in local institutions or abroad.

Essential Information

Teachers of English as a Second Language (ESL) help students learn how to speak, read and write English. Most ESL teachers seek formal education as a teacher and supplement it with ESL coursework. A teaching certificate is needed in order to work in the public schools.

Required Education Varies by state; a minimum of a bachelor's degree in English language learning (ELL) or bilingual education and a teaching certificate
Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)* 7% (for adult literacy and high school equivalency diploma teachers)
Median Annual Salary (May 2015)** $50,280 (for adult basic and secondary education and literacy teachers and instructors)

Sources: *The United States Bureau of Labor Statistics & **O'Net OnLine

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Requirements for Teaching English as a Second Language

Individuals who wish to teach English as a Second Language (ESL) have many opportunities available in the United States and also overseas. Domestic and foreign elementary and secondary schools all have immigrant students who are not fluent in English. Many community centers offer ESL classes to adult immigrants.

General Education Requirements

English as a Second Language teaching qualifications vary from state to state but typically require that an individual has graduated from a bachelor's degree program in education. Depending on the college's offerings, programs may be available in ESL, English language learning (ELL) or bilingual education.

ESL courses teach students how to speak and communicate fluently in another language, to take cultural differences into account when developing a teaching style and lesson plans and to understand the physical and psychological aspects of language and communication. Specific courses in ESL programs include languages of the world, anthropology, voice and articulation, interpersonal communication, linguistics, language and society and methods of teaching.

Requirements for Teaching ESL in the U.S.

Individuals who are interested in teaching ESL can provide instruction to immigrant children and adults in local schools or colleges. They also work at community centers or offer one-on-one tutoring. ESL teachers at public schools will need to earn at least a bachelor's degree and meet state teaching requirements. Many states require ESL teachers to hold a special state teaching certificate in ESL.

Professional organizations such as TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) offer online education and testing ( that leads to a certificate as a Teacher of English as a Foreign Language (TEFL). For non-school or volunteer positions, a teaching degree or certificate is not always required; however, a degree or relevant experience may improve job prospects.

Requirements for Teaching ESL Abroad

People who want to teach ESL overseas must meet general teaching requirements in order to work in international schools. They also need to procure necessary visas or other papers in order to legally work in another country. Though certification from TESOL or another TEFL program is not required to work overseas, many teachers find that ESL certification makes it easier to find employment. Potential jobs are found with public schools, language training centers and private companies.

ESL teachers help adults and children learn English, and can choose what setting they want to work in, and if they want to travel overseas to teach. Specific certification is not a requirement but may help increase job opportunities for aspiring ESL teachers. Certification can be obtained through online or classroom programs.

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