Read About the Most Common ESL Jobs

Helping you choose the ESL job that’s right for you.

education-careers-esl-esl-jobsIf you have a passion for the English language and a desire to help non-native speakers use it to enrich their lives, a career in the growing ESL industry could be for you. Depending on your interests, lifestyle, level of education and professional certification, you can choose from a variety of ESL jobs if you’re interested in teaching English to non-native speakers.

If you want to improve the lives of English Language Learners (ELLs) and their families, find out which ESL jobs you may be interested in and what education you’ll need to get started on an ESL career today.

Elementary and Secondary School ESL Jobs

When students immigrate to America with their families and enter the public school system, they often need help learning English in order to succeed in their classes. Because of this, almost all school districts in the U.S. offer beginning, intermediate and advanced ESL classes to their students from elementary through high school. Many urban and suburban schools have impressive ESL offerings; however, the quality and quantity of these offerings depend on demand and funding.

Since younger children have been shown to pick up foreign languages with relative ease compared to their adult counterparts, working in an elementary or secondary school setting is especially rewarding.

The Primary ESL Job: ESL Teacher

Public school ESL teachers are classroom teachers that take groups of students for specified periods each week to work on understanding, speaking and writing the English language.

If you become an ESL teacher, your students may come from various countries and speak a variety of languages at home. With higher level students, you may spend more time working individually with students in regular classrooms, helping them integrate their language skills into the regular curriculum or observing their interactions and providing feedback on their progress. This is one ESL job for the truly committed.

To become an ESL teacher, start by completing your state’s requirements for a regular teaching certificate. (For certification requirements in your area, contact your state Department of Education.) Then, you will most likely need a certificate endorsement in ESL. Most ESL endorsement programs can be completed in under a year and ensure you can offer high quality instruction to your ELLs.

ESL Department Director

This is one of the highest level ESL jobs. Districts that offer a significant number of ESL classes often employ ESL department directors that oversee operations, planning, curriculum and employee development. This well-paid position offers a high level of responsibility and requires leadership and management skills as well as significant experience teaching ESL. Most department directors hold master’s degrees in at least one of the following fields or subjects:

  • educational leadership
  • TESL (Teaching English as a Second Language)
  • TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages)
  • bilingual education
  • linguistics

College and University ESL Jobs

For those who aspire to educate others to teach, ESL jobs at colleges and universities offer you an opportunity to inspire others while teaching them effective ESL teaching practices and classroom management.

Community College ESL Instructor

Community colleges often offer comprehensive ESL certification courses that constitute or lead to an ESL endorsement. If you are interested in teaching these classes, you will most likely need a bachelor’s or master’s degree with and ESL teaching experience.

University Professors: Teaching Teachers to Teach ESL

Because ESL professors often belong to other university or college departments such as linguistics, bilingual education or foreign languages, it’s not uncommon for these professors to come from a wide range of fields and specializations. ESL professors may teach and do research in their own departments in addition to their upper-level TESL (or TESOL) classes. Many come to ESL through their work in related fields, so there is no set path to this career.

If you are headed in this direction, you’ll need to first earn a doctoral degree and gain relevant experience by embarking on some of the other ESL jobs listed in this article.

Uncertified ESL Jobs

Of course, the higher learning path is not for everyone. If you are passionate about bilingual education but can’t commit to years of school and certification programs, the following ESL jobs are for you.

Teacher’s Aide

The availability of paid teacher’s aide ESL jobs in any given school will depend on the size of the ESL program; however, if you are willing to volunteer your time, you will find positions opening up wherever you look. This can be a great way to gain experience in the field and see if it’s a good fit for you.

ESL Tutor or Private Teacher

Many immigrants, adult and child alike, choose to complete or augment their English language learning at independent ESL schools or with private tutors.

That’s why ESL jobs are also found in the private sector. Since these private companies and language schools are largely unregulated by government, their tutors and ESL teachers seek education-level standards set by market competition instead of through state certification.

Independent ESL schools often offer evening and weekend classes and are a great option for ESL teachers who like to work in a structured atmosphere but are looking for part-time work. These teachers need to have ESL expertise, teaching experience and an ability to work with a variety of students.

Private tutors usually work with a single student or small group in a home or public place, such as a library or coffee shop. Other tutors work for agencies with offices where they can meet their clients regularly. Many ESL tutors are bilingual and share a common language with their students.

Adult ESL Instructor

Adults who immigrate to America often need English language instruction in order to master basic conversational skills that will help them function in society. Some adult literacy classes are offered at universities, but most are found at community centers or community colleges as part of their remedial education programs.

If you are interested in finding an ESL job at a community college, you will find differing requirements depending on the supply of ESL teachers in your area.

Often, a bachelor’s degree and experience with adult teaching are basic requirements, but completion of certification courses, familiarity with immigrant issues, and experience interacting with people from other cultures are also helpful qualifications.


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