What Is an ESL Instructor?

Research what it takes to become an ESL instructor. Learn about job duties, necessary degrees, and licensure to find out if this is the career for you. Schools offering Teaching ESL degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What is an ESL Instructor?

ESL instructors help students or adult learners learn to write, speak, and understand English. They may work in elementary or high schools, colleges, or social assistance offices. ESL instructors are responsible for creating lessons plans tailored to the English level of students and assessing student progress. Some ESL teachers may focus on a particular type of English, like business or medical English, to help students prepare for careers. The table below provides career information, including degree options, job duties, and career outlook.

Degree Required Bachelor's or master's degree
Education Field of Study English, education, foreign language, linguistics
Licensure or Certification Licensure required in some states
Key Responsibilities Teach English-language learners English writing, speaking, and comprehension
Job Growth (2014-2024) 7% (all adult literacy and high school equivalency diploma teachers)*
Median Salary (2016) $40,173**

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, **PayScale.com

What Will I Do as an ESL Instructor?

As an ESL instructor, your job is to teach students beginning and intermediate levels of English as a second language. You may teach these students how to speak, understand, write and read in English, according to the Occupational Information Network (www.onetononline.org). In order to do this effectively, you must have strong oral and written communication skills, presentation and organizational skills. As with most teaching jobs, as an ESL instructor you may prepare a syllabus or daily lesson plans for each class or session based upon your students' needs. You may also assist other ESL teachers with selecting books or other instructional equipment as well as participate in workshops or conferences geared toward ESL instructors.

What Education Do I Need?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), most employers require applicants to have at least a bachelor's degree, while others insist upon a master's degree in TESL (teaching English as a second language) or English language learning. Your bachelor's degree may be in education or English, but you may also possess a bilingual concentration. Although it's not necessary to be fluent in a language other than English, familiarizing yourself with a second language may be beneficial since it may help your students understand the material more clearly. However, you must possess a teaching certificate before you can seek out employment.

Master's degree courses within TESL and English language learning programs may cover language production, grammar and linguistics. Some programs may also include a capstone project, thesis or practicum, allowing you to develop and present a portfolio showcasing key items you have learned throughout the program.

Where Can I Work?

Some employers may require that you have at least one year of experience teaching prior to hiring, according to job postings on Monster.com. The BLS states that you may be able to find employment with elementary and secondary schools, junior colleges, healthcare, and the state government (www.bls.gov). Other options include social service agencies or churches. You may also be able to find employment overseas working in school settings.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

Because your degree is likely in education, you could also work as an elementary or secondary teacher, possibly teaching English or another subject to K-12 students. Just like ESL instructors, K-12 teachers need a bachelor's for career entry and sometimes a master's. If you are interested in working with students one on one, you may want to pursue a career as a school and career counselor. These professionals help students discover what interests them to help them decide on a career and also help them solve personal problems. Counselors need a master's degree in school counseling as well as a state license or endorsement.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

  • 1. Degree Options:
The schools in the listing below are not free and may include sponsored content but are popular choices among our users. Tuition and costs will vary across programs and locations. Be sure to always request tuition information before starting a program.

Popular Schools

  1. 1
  2. 2
  3. Next »