ESL Instructor Career Info, Duties and Responsibilities

Learn about the education and preparation needed to become an ESL instructor. Get a quick view of the requirements as well as details about degree programs, job duties and certification to find out if this is the career for you.

View popular schools

English as a Second Language (ESL) instructors are expected to improve the reading, writing and speaking skills of the increasing population of global newcomers across the nation. ESL teachers are regular faculty members who do lesson plans like any other teacher. The difference is meeting the needs of a group of students of varying cultures and different levels of English skills.

Essential Information

ESL instructors specialize in teaching English as a Second Language or English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL). ESL instructors typically teach classes in elementary schools, high schools, colleges and universities. Most states require individuals pursuing an ESL instructor career to hold a bachelor's degree in ESL, education or a related field.

Required Education Varies by state; bachelor's degree is the standard
Other Requirements Certification and student teaching requirements vary by state
Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)* 7% for all adult literacy and high school equivalency diploma teachers, including ESL or ESOL teachers
Median Salary (2015)* $50,280 for all adult basic and secondary education and literacy teachers and instructors, including ESL or ESOL teachers

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)

Find schools that offer these popular programs

  • Bilingual and Multilingual Teacher Education
  • Multicultural Education
  • Native American Teacher Education

Career Information for ESL Instructors

Job opportunities for ESL instructors are increasing due to the rising numbers of immigrants, especially in large cities, who want to learn English to improve job prospects and quality of life. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the number of employed adult literacy and remedial education teachers may grow 7% between 2014 and 2024. In May 2015, adult basic and secondary education and literacy teachers and instructors earned median hourly pay of $24.17, which equals $50,280 per year. This category of teachers includes ESL instructors as well as teachers who help students prepare for the GED.

Job Duties

ESL instructors create lesson plans to teach non-native speakers to read, write and speak English. They help students learn English grammar, pronunciation and conversational skills. Many ESL instructors also prepare classroom and community activities in addition to arranging field trips, which allow students to learn English in real life contexts. College ESL instructors develop students' abilities to read textbooks and write essays in English.

Job Responsibilities

Most ESL instructors teach in elementary schools, high schools, public and private colleges, adult education programs, vocational schools and community education programs. Other ESL instructors work as private tutors. The primary job responsibility of an ESL instructor is to improve the English reading, writing and speaking skills of students of diverse ages and backgrounds. ESL instructors must tailor their lessons for students whose native languages and English-speaking abilities are varied.

Education Requirements

Each state has varying education requirements for ESL instructors. These stipulations also vary depending on whether instructors will be teaching adults or children, credit or non-credit classes and in public or private schools. Most states require prospective ESL instructors to hold at least a bachelor's degree in teaching English as a second language, education or teaching. Some states also require ESL instructors to hold a master's degree. Degree programs don't require applicants to speak a second language, but it can be an advantage in gaining admittance and completing coursework.

Certification Requirements

Though every state has different ESL teaching certification requirements, most require prospective instructors to pass a series of exams that test ESL teaching methods. Some states mandate specific college coursework, such as teaching methods and linguistics, or require that candidates learn a second language. In most states candidates must complete a student teaching experience.

For those with a bachelor's degree and a background in languages, a career as an English as a Second Language instructor may be your calling. Licensure may demand another year of study or a master's degree in ESL, but demand is high for the education position, and the pay and benefits are steady and strong for those in the field.

Next: View Schools

What is your highest level of education?

Some College
Complete your degree or find the graduate program that's right for you.
High School Diploma
Explore schools that offer bachelor and associate degrees.
Still in High School
Earn your diploma or GED. Plan your undergraduate education.

Schools you may like:

Popular Schools

The listings below may include sponsored content but are popular choices among our users.

Find your perfect school

What is your highest level of education?