Career Info for Teaching English As a Second Language

Sep 17, 2019

This article aims to help you decide if you might be interested in a career as a teacher of English as a second language. You will learn details about the minimum requirements for entering the profession, including obtaining an ESL teaching certificate. Teaching English as a second language can be rewarding for someone with a high degree of cultural sensitivity, and knack for teaching.

Essential Information

Teachers of English as a second language have several options. They can work with adults in community classes or language schools, or they can teach school-age children. Demonstrating a respect for diverse cultures and having the ability to create lessons tailored to individual needs can help prospective ESL teachers become successful in the field. A job teaching ESL typically requires at least a bachelor's degree in English, linguistics, cultural studies or a related area. Individuals who wish to teach students in a public school must obtain a bachelor's degree in education or a relevant field and complete the required work to earn an ESL teaching certificate.

Required Education Bachelor's degree
Other Requirements State licensing to teach in a public school
Projected Job Growth (2018-2028)* 10% decline for all adult literacy and high school equivalency diploma teachers
Median Salary (2018)* $53,630 for all adult literacy and high school equivalency diploma teachers

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

Teaching English as a Second Language Career Information

Teachers of English as a second language instruct those for whom English is not a native tongue. ESL teachers spend their days helping students learn to properly speak, read and write the English language. Their ultimate goal is to help students build firm foundations in English.

Educational Requirements

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, ESL teachers must hold at least a bachelor's degree if they wish to teach adult education classes or classes within a private language school ( Aspiring teachers who desire to work in a foreign country are often required to hold a bachelor's degree as well. According to Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) association, candidates who do not possess a bachelor's degree may have a difficult time receiving work permits to teach English in foreign countries (

In addition to a bachelor's degree, a prospective ESL teacher who wishes to teach children in U.S. public schools must also earn a teaching certificate. ESL teaching certificate programs are usually completed after students receive their undergraduate degrees in their major field of study. This may include courses in linguistics and second-language acquisition theory.

Besides a formal education, many states also require ESL teachers to be licensed. Requirements and types of licenses vary between states; however, applicants may receive a license if they possess a teaching certificate and a bachelor's degree.

Job Duties

ESL teachers must have the ability to relate to students from diverse cultural backgrounds. They plan lessons designed to help students develop English conversational skills. They also work with their students to help them develop into effective readers and writers of the English language. Since each of their students is unique, teachers must possess the ability to shape lessons to the needs of each student in their classroom.

In summary, teaching English as a second language involves instructing students whose first language is not English, and requires a minimum of a bachelor's degree. Job decline in the field is projected to be 10% between 2018-2028, according to the BLS (

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