English as a Second Language (ESL) Teachers


Employment Prospects


According to the U.S. Department of Labor, there are approximately 67,200 adult basic and secondary education teachers including those in literacy, such as ESL instructors. ESL teachers are needed at public and private schools, including parochial schools and vocational schools. Depending on the size of the school, its geographic location, and the number of students in need of assistance, some schools may hire teachers primarily as ESL instructors. Other schools may hire them to teach different subjects in addition to ESL classes. Larger cities and areas of refugee relocation and large immigrant populations provide the most ESL job opportunities. 

Some community-based and government assistance programs may hire ESL teachers. Many adult education teachers are self-employed and work on a contract basis for industries, community and junior colleges, universities, community organizations, job training centers, and religious organizations. Relocation services might also hire ESL teachers on a contract or part-time basis.

Overseas employers hire ESL teachers, usually for short-term assignments. Many people become ESL teachers because it allows them to earn a living while seeing the world and experiencing other cultures.

Starting Out

After completing the required certification program for the state in which they want to teach, ESL teachers can use their college career services office to find a teaching position. State departments of education also may have listings of job openings. Most major newspapers list available teaching positions in their classified ad sections. Prospective teachers can also apply directly to the principals or superintendents of the schools in which they would like to teach. Finally, substitute teaching can provide experience as well as possible job contacts.

Contacting schools or community assistance programs, as well as adult education programs, may provide some job opportunities. College professors might have job-hunting suggestions as well as helpful contacts in the field.

Advancement Prospects

Advancement into educational administrative positions or corporate or government training positions may be available for those instructors with advanced degrees.

Lateral moves are also common in school systems. For instance, an ESL teacher may transfer to a position as a counselor or choose to teach another subject. Other opportunities may be available within community- and government-based programs that assist refugees and immigrants.

Tips for Entry

Join the Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) International Association to access professional development programs, publications, and other resources.

TESOL offers a wealth of advice on becoming a ESL teacher at its Web site, http://www.tesol.org/enhance-your-career, as well as job listings at http://careers.tesol.org.

Read TESOL Journal and TESOL Quarterly (both available at http://www.tesol.org/read-and-publish) to learn more about ESL education.