How Do I Become An ESL Teacher | Qualifications & Skills Needed

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An Article by contributor Gigi Wara.

If you are wondering how to become an ESL teacher, you probably already have a friendly demeanor, a strong grasp of the English language, and plenty of patience. ESL teaching is a rewarding career that allows teachers to help non-native English speakers become proficient in reading, writing, speaking, and listening in the English language.

How Do I Become an ESL Teacher?

Whether preparing for college or university studies or looking for a career change, teaching English as a second language is a rewarding career that embraces cultural differences. The following guide is meant to help those investigating their career options know how to become an English as a second language teacher either at home or abroad.

Job Description

ESL or ESOL teaching careers are rewarding careers in the education sector for teaching English to non-native speakers. ESL is an abbreviation for teaching English as a second language, and ESOL stands for teaching English to speakers of other languages. These teaching positions can be found in both the public and private sectors. In this position, teachers can teach a range of language learners from young children to grown adults how to be proficient in English.

Job salaries for ESOL teachers can vary based on experience, teaching placement, and the frequency of lessons instructed. Contracted positions average over $40,000 per year in earnings. However, instructors who rely on the small group or independent lessons can set their own rates. These rates can average from $20-$50 per hour as agreed upon with clientele.

ESL Teacher Qualifications

A bachelor’s degree in ESL teaching is not necessary to become an ESL teacher. However, there are additional qualifications needed to teach ESOL. Depending on whether you plan on staying in the United States or choose to seek employment from an international teaching agency will also determine if you need to obtain any additional credentials.

Typically, a bachelor’s degree in any field is required, and preference while hiring may be given to candidates who have experience in a field related to education. In addition to a bachelor’s degree, employers usually expect teachers to complete adequate training in ESL teaching (such as a TEFL certification) before becoming employed.

Normally, this means completing an ESOL certificate program. ESOL certificate programs can be completed at local universities or through accredited online institutions. The certificate on its own is usually the primary requirement needed to teach through a private organization.

However, to teach in public schools, a student teaching field experience must be successfully completed in order to gain a public school teaching certificate in addition to the necessary ESOL credentials.

How Long Does It Take to Become an ESL Teacher?

If you are wondering how long it takes to become an ESL teacher, this once again depends upon whether or not you plan on working in the public or private sector. ESOL programs can be completed in as little as six weeks of intensive courses through an accelerated program. However, many receive their teaching certificates gradually over several semesters of university courses. In some cases, private institutions that are actively seeking new hires can further expedite the training process, combining a salaried position with daily training sessions in the same experience.

In order to become an ESL teacher in a public school with no prior public school teaching experience, plan on at least a year of preparatory courses in addition to a semester of student teaching in order to adequately prepare for the job and receive the proper credentials for hire.

Teaching in the United States

Once you have obtained your ESOL certificate, you can then decide where you would like to teach. Many teachers choose to stay in the United States, seeking employment from public and private schools with high populations of non-native English speakers. As a salaried position, jobs are typically divided into elementary, middle, and high school teaching positions.

Private organizations may also seek ESL teachers in order to teach adults English. This is especially true of communities with high concentrations of immigrant populations. In areas where many non-native English speakers are present, it is also possible to advertise private English language learning tutoring sessions in local libraries and community centers in order to gain some additional clientele and increase your earnings.

Teaching Abroad

If you are curious about how to become an ESL teacher abroad, many organizations are available worldwide that are actively seeking new hires. To teach English abroad, you’ll need a bachelor’s degree in any subject/major, and an ESL teaching qualification (such as a TEFL certification) at the minimum

Always think carefully about what part of the world your teaching abilities could best serve. It is not essential, but it can help to have a knowledge of your target country’s primary spoken language in addition to cultural understanding in order to ensure a smooth transition to your teaching abroad position.

Although you are teaching English, many aspects about teaching abroad are about cultural exchange. Getting to know as much as you can about your destinations people, history, and cultural customs will certainly make you a stronger ESL teacher. Don’t forget that while living in another country, you can also advertise your services for independent and private lessons. This can be a great way to supplement your ESL teacher salary.

Gigi Wara is an inspired writer who loves writing about language and acquisition, career building and education-related stories in general. She frequently works with See TEFL, one of the most established and respected TEFL training courses in Asia.

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