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How To Become An ESL Teacher In The United States 2020

How to become an ESL teacher in the United States 2020

Teaching English as a second language is a rewarding experience. To become an ESL teacher, you need to have extra patience as you’ll be dealing with ELL (English Language Learner) students who are learning a whole new language and culture for the first time. It will take patience and consistency to get your ELL students exactly where you want them to be in their English language journey. If you’re looking to teach ESL in public or private elementary schools or colleges, you’re going to need a degree and some training. If you’re looking to take the plunge into teaching ESL professionally, here are the things you have to do to become a professional ESL teacher.

A Degree

A bachelor’s degree is the minimum qualification a professional ESL teacher. A common degree among ESL aspiring teachers is in education, writing and teaching English as a foreign language. It is not always required for an ESL teacher to know a foreign language, although many ESL teachers are multilingual. Being multilingual is likely to give you an edge. It will better equip you to relate to the challenges a non-English speaking student faces. Although a master’s degree is not a prerequisite, it is also advised, especially for those who do not have a first degree in a related field. Having a master’s degree in ESL can better qualify you for a teaching license. Some of the best-known institutions for getting a bachelor’s or master’s degree in ESL offer online classes that you can take advantage of.

ESL Training

After completing your bachelor’s degree, to take you further in your journey to becoming an ESL teacher, you need to complete a training program for ESL. Certificate programs can help you learn the necessary skills required to teach ESL and qualify you for a license. During the training, you will be taught how to assess language skills, practice conversational skills, and teach grammar classes. Certificates can also be obtained online on some accredited ESL sites expressly set up to test teachers for English skills and give them a certificate when they pass the final test.

Teaching license

Every teacher needs a teaching license; ESL teachers are not excluded. An ESL teacher needs a teaching license to work professionally. Every state has different requirements, so before you begin, it is important to know what applies to your state of residence. Some common requirements include a bachelor’s degree and completion of an approved teacher training.


ESL teachers who already have experience are the most sought after. Experience is essential to help you sharpen your skills as an ESL teacher; empathy and patience are the keywords ESL teachers live by! To gain experience, you can simply start by volunteering in private teaching organizations and teaching online to understand the works and familiarize yourself with teaching ESL. Based on an article by Teacher Certification Degrees, job openings for ESL teachers may be more abundant in states with larger non-native English populations such as New York, Florida, California, and texas. So these locations should be considered if you’re looking to make a change.


If you’re thinking about leaving your home country to pursue a career in teaching ESL, know that most employers will help with the visa requirements, but many will leave you on your own if you want to apply for a visa. Keep in mind that there are many teachers in the US qualified to teach English as a Second Language.

Additional resources

Some associations you can be a part of to get all the latest developments about ESL as a career:

American Association for Applied Linguistics (AAAL): Professional society of scholars from more than 50 countries promoting defined approaches to language education.

National Association for Bilingual Education (NABE): A non-profit organization advocating for bilingual and multilingual students.

National Council for Teachers of English (NCTE): They are an organization that supports teachers and students through community and collaborations.

TESOL International Association: A large membership-driven association providing information and resources for professionals involved in teaching the English language to non-native speakers.

These are the steps to follow to become an ESL teacher in the United States. Teaching ELLs (English Language Learners) can be fulfilling and fun — you get to experience the diversity of cultures and help your students achieve goals in their lives.

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