ESL Teacher Career Resource

English as a Second Language (ESL) teachers are those education professionals who work closely with students whose native language is other than English. They help these students to become more fluent in English and to develop their reading, writing and speech skills in the language.

Our world is becoming increasingly globalized, which makes ESL teachers very important in helping students to communicate across cultural boundaries and to function in areas where English is the primary language. These teachers can be found at every age and educational level, and work for a wide variety of educational institutions. Learn about becoming an ESL teacher and the importance, responsibilities and requirements of the job.

What Is an ESL Teacher?

An ESL teacher instructs students in English as a second language. They are also called ELL, or English language learner teachers. They use a variety of approaches including basic syntax and grammar as well as whole language learning and real-world context to help students grasp how the English language works.

Find schools and get information on the program that’s
right for you.
(It’s fast and free!)


English is a very complex language, one of the most difficult to learn, and as such, these teachers have to be creative, patient, culturally sensitive and adaptable to the changing needs of a diverse student population. ESL teachers also have to serve in a mentoring and advisory capacity to those who are just establishing themselves in a new place.

Job Responsibilities of ESL Teachers

ESL teachers, like all teachers, must plan and deliver curriculum content which focuses on the strengths and progress of their students. They must assess student needs and plan their courses accordingly. They must issue tests to determine student skills and talents, file reports, attend meetings and collaborate with other educational and administrative staff. In today’s educational environment a solid grasp of current technology is also vital to the profession.

ESL teachers require patience, understanding and adaptability. Every student learns and processes information differently, and it’s up to the teacher to adapt to these needs and shift teaching strategies accordingly.

Discover teacher certification and education programs that are a match for you!

Any teaching job requires a great deal of dedication, and this is no different. The teacher will spend off-hours grading papers, communicating with parents and administrators, planning lessons, attending meetings and even chaperoning school events. The exact activities of a teacher can change from day to day and will vary based on whether you teach elementary school, middle school, high school or in a postsecondary or adult learning institute.

Becoming an ESL Teacher

Each state has its individual requirements to follow a path to becoming a teacher. You’ll at minimum need a bachelor’s degree in education, plus courses in teaching English as a Second Language. You will also need to complete a student teaching classroom internship. For many teachers, pursuing a Master’s in teaching or education is an ideal path, as it will increase your marketability and skills.

Your state will have standard certification and licensure testing that you’ll need to complete, and it’s likely you’ll have to gain an ESL or ELL endorsement in your state as well. Once you are licensed, you can expect to earn between $54,550 and $57,200 on average, according to the BLS.

If this sounds like an exciting and rewarding career for you, check out your state’s requirements and get started on the road to teaching English as a Second Language today!