October 17, 2008

Spotlight on Teaching English as a Second Language

Every Thursday, I spotlight a different career path. Given the job crunch that so many of us are experiencing, I’m doing my best to pick areas that are and will continue to be in high demand. Nothing can be 100 percent recession proof, but our Thursday spotlights are areas that still offer a lot of promise — even in these trying economic times.


This Thursday, the focus is on Teaching English as a Second Language (ESL). As far as recession-proof jobs, it doesn’t get much better than teaching, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.  ESL is a particularly promising field, given that:

  • 10 million immigrants have come to the United States since the year 2000
  • 1 in 4 people in California alone is currently learning English
  • 27 percent of all schools with bilingual/ESL teaching vacancies found them very difficult or impossible to fill, according to the National Center for Education Statistics http://nces.ed.gov/
  • From 1989 to 2000, the number of non-native English speakers in the United States grew by 104.7%, according to a survey performed by the National Clearinghouse for English Language Acquisition

What does an ESL teacher do?
ESL Teachers help non-native English speaking students to develop their English-speaking and writing skills. Along with teaching grammar and vocabulary, many ESL teachers also assist their students in acclimating to American culture.  ESL teachers may teach in elementary, junior high or high schools, or they may teach adults (typically at a local community college).

What education and certification is required to be an ESL teacher?
ESL teaching requirements vary from state-to-state. Various schools also have their own additional requirements.  Typically, an ESL teacher is required to hold:

  • Bachelor’s Degree in English or a related subject
  • Specialized coursework in Teaching English as a Second Language (TESL)
  • Specialization in bilingual, cross-cultural coursework
  • Teaching credential or certification

As a rule, most entry-level teaching jobs require a Bachelor’s degree plus a teaching certificate. If you wish to teach at a college or university, you will need to hold a minimum of a Master’s degree, even for an entry-level position.

What is the earning potential for an ESL teacher?
In 2004, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that K-12 ESL teachers earned a median salary of $41,400-$45,920. Some states even provide a financial bonus, like the $20,000 "signing" bonus in Massachusetts. Rutgers University in New Jersey recently advertised a full-time ESL teaching position for an 11-month work contract at $45,000/year.

Where can I learn more about ESL jobs?

Aside from the JobMonkey’s extensive Teaching English as a Second Language section, you might want to check out the following ESL sites:

By the way, if you’d rather travel abroad to do your teaching, opportunities should also be plentiful. 

  • English is the third most spoken language in the world, after Mandarin Chinese and Spanish (www.cia.gov)
  • 5% of the world’s 6.6 billion people are native English speakers
  • The British Council estimates that 1 billion are currently learning English as a second language
  • English is the international language for academics and the Internet

Stay tuned next week for more on how to land an ESL job abroad.


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