English as a Second Language—or ESL—refers to classes taught by teachers who are responsible for helping students learn how to read, write and speak English. Another popular acronym is TESOL, or teaching English to speakers of other languages. People who enroll in ESL classes are typically immigrants to the U.S. or other people who have a native language that is other than English.
The focus for ESL teachers is often to help students develop their practical vocabulary to help them in their jobs and daily living—or to help prep students for the citizenship exam. It’s important that ESL teachers be comfortable working and communicating with students from a variety of cultures, who may not share a common native language.
Some of the other duties for ESL teachers may include:
Planning and teaching lessons to help students meet their goal of learning English
Emphasizing skills like learning common phrases that can be used in the workplace
Evaluating strengths and weakness and monitoring student progress
Connecting students to community resources such as job placement services
ESL Career Options
The good news is that there are a wide variety of types of places where ESL teachers may pursue work, depending on your goals. For example, if you’d prefer the flexibility of working with students in an online environment, you could pursue a position with an online school. If you enjoy interacting with students in person, you may want to consider applying at public schools. More community-minded teachers may want to look into different community organizations in their area that offer ESL classes. There also may be opportunities to teach ESL at community or vocational colleges.
ESL Teacher Work Schedule
The work schedule for ESL teachers is really dependent on student needs. As such, classes are often held in the mornings or evenings when students are not at work—although there is more flexibility if you’re teaching online. Due to the schedule restrictions ESL teachers may often work part-time hours.
When it comes to the clients—as we mentioned above—students may be from a variety of different ages, backgrounds and nationalities. They are also likely to be highly motivated because they are attending the classes by choice. Because the client base is so diverse, it’s important that ESL teachers are patient when language barrier issues arise—and prepared to get really creative when it comes to communicating with students and creating lesson plans.
ESL Teacher Salary Potential
At this point you may be wondering about possible TESOL salary opportunities, should you choose to pursue this career path. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median annual salary for a similar occupation in this field (adult literacy and high school equivalency diploma teachers) was $48, 590 in May 20121. The top ten percent of people in this position earned more than $82,490, while the bottom ten percent earned less than $27,460i. The job outlook for this occupation is projected to grow by nine percent from 2012 to 20222. According to the BLS, this growth is predicted in part due to continued immigration to the U.S. and the resulting demand it will create.