Choosing the path to become an ESL teacher often depends on which grade level a professional instructor would like to lead. As the demand for English as a Second Language (ESL) learning increases around the world, instructors who are qualified to facilitate a class and help students of various ages and backgrounds with language acquisition.
Whether pursuing a career teaching the primary, secondary, collegiate, or post-graduate level in ESL instruction, the first step is to complete an undergraduate degree. Depending on the demographic a future ESL professional wants to work with, an undergraduate degree in English education, linguistics, or elementary education may be appropriate.
Many individuals considering a career as an ESL teacher will start with a bachelor’s degree in English. Courses that are likely to be completed include various literature classes, professional writing, technical writing, teaching writing, teaching reading, teaching literature, study of language, and advanced linguistics.
In most states, to be consider highly qualified to teach ESL in an elementary, middle, or high school, educators must also complete a graduate degree. More information on federal requirements to consider when choosing to become an ESL teacher can be found at the website for the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of English Language Acquisition.
Completion of a graduate degree is also usually a requirement to teach in most colleges and universities. Many businesses and other organizations that provide training, as well as private tutoring and education companies, will prefer for candidates to have earned a master’s degree in ESL or Teaching English as speakers of other languages (TESOL).
Common graduate degrees that qualify a teacher for ESL instruction include a Master of Education in ESL, a Master of Arts in English with a TESOL emphasis, or a Master of Arts in ESL teaching. Courses in a graduate degree program include bi-literacy development, assessment of ESL students, sociolinguistics, language acquisition, and ESL for diverse learning groups.
Certifications and Professional Development
A number of certifications and professional development opportunities are also available to assist future ESL instructors. Earning a certificate with an undergraduate degree that is not in education can, in some cases, also help a future teacher meet requirements for a position in the classroom. Certificates include the Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) Certificate, School for International Training TESOL Certificate, and the Cambridge UCLES CELTA, which is offered via the University of Cambridge.
Membership in professional associations is also beneficial for ESL educators who are entering into the field or for continued opportunities to remain highly qualified and meet any necessary state or federal requirements. The International Association of Teachers of English as a Foreign Language and TESOL International Association, for example, offer conferences, workshops, and materials for professional development and networking.
A background in English, linguistics, and teaching in combination with the appropriate undergraduate or graduate degrees, professional certifications, and training are essential to obtain the necessary requirements to pursue a career teaching the English language to speakers of other languages. Those who choose to become an ESL teacher are qualified to teach in the United States and around the world, meeting an ever-increasing demand for education professionals with this niche of knowledge and skill.