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ESL Teacher Job Description & Career Outlook

English as a second language teachers work with non-native speakers to help these students learn to speak, read and write in English. Often ESL teachers use a real-life context to help students, many of whom are immigrants, grasp the complexities of the language. ESL teachers must be adaptable, creative and sensitive to the cultural differences expected when working with students from foreign countries. Often, those who teach English as a second language act as mentors and advisors to students who are just getting established in a new environment.

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How to Become an ESL Teacher

ESL degree programs include classes in subjects dealing with the history of the English language, the way that the language has changed and is still changing, and strategies on how to teach the language to people whose first language is not English. Other ESL degree coursework includes teaching reading and comprehension skills, and operating within diverse cultures. ESL programs also instruct students on how to integrate teaching English with other subjects, such as science, mathematics, and history. It is necessary for ESL degree students to be able to develop their own curriculum, and they should expect to take classes on how to go about doing so. Earning an online ESL degree is another way to gain the experience needed to teach English as a second language. Online ESL degree programs provide a great deal of flexibility to those students who may want to study at home, from the comfort of a computer keyboard.

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ESL Teacher Requirements & Common Tasks

Most states require that ESL teachers have at the least a bachelor’s degree. Depending on the location, a master’s degree may also be a necessity. Education and training with a focus on teaching adults, linguistics or second-language acquisition is preferred by some employers. ESL teachers working with a government program may also need a license to pursue their specialty. ESL teachers work with adult students of varied ages and backgrounds. Some students were highly educated in their native country, others may have little formal education. A flexible teaching style that adapts to varied student needs is a valuable skill for an ESL teacher. Excellent communication skills are also important. Besides instructing students in English, ESL teachers must prepare their class lesson plans, complete any related paperwork, and stay abreast of updates in available teaching methods. Because of the increasing use of technology in the classroom, ESL teachers may need proficiency in computers and various applicable software programs.

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ESL Teacher Salary and Job Outlook

The 2008 median wage for ESL teachers was $22.26. The bottom ten percent earned less than $12.48 per hour, while the top ten percent saw earnings of more than $38.95 an hour. Many ESL teachers work part-time and receive no benefits. Full time teachers are often paid a salary and some receive benefits, especially those working for a government program or school system. Potential wages are directly affected by job location, training and experience, and available funding for ESL programs. The job outlook for the ESL specialty is bright throughout 2018, with a projected growth of 15%. Job opportunities are more likely in states with higher non-native English populations, such as New York, Florida, California and Texas. This may change as more immigrants settle in other states across the country.

ESL Degrees and Programs

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  • Master of Education: English as a Second Language (ESL)


  • M.S.Ed - Teaching English Language Learners(Grades K-12)
  • Ph.D. in Education - Mixed-Model - Global and Comparative Education
  • Ed.S. in Assessment Evaluation and Accountability - General Program
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  • English Second Language - Master of Education
  • English Second Language - PhD in Education
  • English Second Language - EdS
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  • M.Ed. in Curriculum & Instruction: English to Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) (K - Adult)
  • M.Ed. in Curriculum & Instruction: English Language Development
  • M.Ed. in Curriculum & Instruction: Social Studies
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  • M.Ed. Teaching & Learning: History
  • AA in Education (Non-Licensure)
  • CERT: Preschool
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Locations: Lynchburg

Frequently Asked Questions about Becoming an ESL Teacher

Question: What do I need to teach English abroad?

Answer: Requirements for teaching English abroad depend on the school hiring. Generally, they look for someone with a university degree, although it is not always necessary. Some employers like to see that you have TEFL or TESOL certification. You should also have some teaching experience and some knowledge of the language spoken in the country in which you hope to work.