How Do I Become an ESL Teacher?

An image of an ESL icon for our FAQ on How Do I Become an ESL Teacher

how do i become an esl teacher Becoming an English as a Second Language (ESL) teacher is not as difficult as it may seem. ESL teachers often do not have to meet the same strict requirements as other educators, leaving several different paths open for someone to teach English as a second language. Below is a guide outlining the requirements for teaching ESL.

What Is ESL?

ESL stands for English as a Second Language. It is a specialized, but in-demand, area of education where teachers teach non-native English speakers. With more and more students around the world desiring to learn English, there is high demand for native speakers to teach English to non-native speakers. However, ESL is not limited to language learning classes. ESL encompasses classes in nearly every other subject, such as history, mathematics and science, which are taught in a way that best suits the students’ language ability.

Degree Requirements

For some positions, ESL teachers may need to have the same credentials as other educators. This often includes:
  • a degree in education
  • time spent student teaching
  • a license/certification from the state in which you want to teach
Requirements will vary depending on where you want to teach and in what grade levels. For example, elementary school teachers usually only need a bachelor’s degree. Postsecondary teachers will need a master’s degree or even a Ph.D. according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. For some jobs, you may not need a degree in education at all. If you are planning to teach ESL classes in a specific subject such as science, a degree in that field will be beneficial as well.


Another way you can become an ESL teacher is by earning a certificate. Typically, all you need is a bachelor’s degree and an ESL certification to go abroad and teach English. You will also likely need to be a native English speaker yourself, or at the very least, completely fluent. These certifications are offered by a number of institutions and can be obtained wholly online in some cases. As when looking into any degree or certificate program, evaluate:
  •  cost
  • the issuing institution’s accreditation
  • admission requirements and other factors
Your overseas employer or the program you go through will also have their own requirements, so be sure to see what credentials are typically needed where you want to go teach before you make any decisions.

Landing a Job

If you are looking for a job in the United States or your country of origin, the process will be much like applying for any other job. If you are planning to go overseas to teach English, landing a job can be a bit more complicated. There are quite a few organizations that hire foreign ESL teachers. Many of these specialize in a specific country, such as Japan or South Korea. You will typically have to submit a resume, proof of your ESL certification and go through the interview process. It is not always required that you speak much, if any, of the language commonly spoken in the country in which you will be teaching, but that ability is certainly useful. There’s no doubt that ESL is in high demand both at home and abroad. There are a number of ways you can become an ESL teacher and begin teaching language to students from all over the world. Related Resources:

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