What Is an ESOL Teacher?

Learn about the job duties of ESOL teachers, and find out what level of education and certification is needed to work in this career. Additionally, explore where you can find job opportunities for ESOL teachers. Schools offering Teaching & Learning degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Training Do ESOL Teachers Need?

At a minimum, most states require you to have a bachelor's degree to become an ESOL teacher. However, most college and university programs for ESOL teachers are post-baccalaureate certificate and master's degree programs. A bachelor's degree is the basic admission standard for these programs, and some require you major in teacher education. Many schools also prefer that you to be fluent in one or more foreign languages prior to enrolling. You can usually complete a certificate program in a year or less, and a master's degree program generally takes about two years.

Programs for ESOL teachers provide you with a base of education theory and practical experience interacting with, assessing and instructing students who understand little or no English. In the process, you'll integrate the techniques that work best for you and develop your own presentation style. Topics you'll commonly encounter in certificate and degree programs include theories of language acquisition, ESOL teaching methods, English syntax, phonology and curriculum design.

Where Could I Work?

Many positions are available at 2-year and 4-year postsecondary schools, elementary and secondary schools and non-profit organizations. You could also consider working as a private tutor. Some programs, usually at the master's degree level, allow you to participate in overseas internships that you might be able to extend into permanent employment.

In 2008, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that approximately 96,000 people worked as adult literacy and redial education teachers, including ESOL teachers (www.bls.gov). The BLS anticipated an increase of 15% in employment in the field between 2008 and 2018. A rising immigrant population during the period was expected to create especially strong demand for ESOL teachers.

What Duties Will I Have?

You'll primarily help non-English speakers acquire the ability to speak, read and write in English. Like teachers of any other subject, you'll create lesson plans, lead classroom sessions, assign homework and give tests. Your specific subject matter would generally include vocabulary, spelling, verb conjugation, grammar and pronunciation. You'll also help students learn to understand American culture and assist them with finding job placement, healthcare and access to vocational training or college.

There are likely to be small variations in your duties depending on your work setting. For example, if you're a private tutor you might need to devote more effort to assessing the language capabilities and learning needs of individual clients. If you teach for a nonprofit organization, you could have to tailor your lesson plan to the training needs specific to the organization. At an elementary, secondary or postsecondary school, you might have to attend faculty meetings.

Will I Need a Teaching License?

Depending on where you work, you could need to obtain a teaching license with a special ESOL endorsement issued by your state. Usually, if you work in public service or academia, you'll need some form of licensure. You'll be required to hold at least a bachelor's degree and complete some educational training, though specific state requirements vary. You'll usually need to pass the PRAXIS test for your teaching license, and some states require that you take additional testing to teach non-English students.

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