The independent, trusted guide to online education for over 24 years!

ESL Teacher Jobs – Alternative Career Paths for ESL Teachers

esl teacher jobs child learns Chinese

Career opportunities abound for English as a Second Language (ESL) teachers. English is the single most widely spoken language around the world, with 1.5 billion speakers in total. However, many of these people have other languages as their primary languages, such as Chinese or Arabic. Thus, there’s always a demand for ESL teachers in America and around the globe. Not sure where to start your job search as an ESL teacher? Today, let’s look at some of the best ESL teacher jobs!

What is an ESL Teacher Job Duties?

ESL teachers perform a lot of important tasks in their day-to-day routines. Many of these are similar to the job requirements of standard teachers. Their job requirements include:

  • Preparing lesson plans
  • Completing required paperwork and grading homework
  • Mastering successful teaching methods and standards for their students
  • Using technology and computers to teach English to English language learners or ELLs
  • Conducting activities both during and after school
  • Meeting with parents and school faculty

The best ESL teachers are empathetic, knowledgeable, and patient. Learning any language is complex, and successful teachers know how to teach English to students without overwhelming them.

Steps to Land an ESL Teacher Job

Becoming an ESL teacher isn’t the same as becoming a teacher in another subject. The federal government takes ESL teaching very seriously. This is important since America now has many more citizens and children who speak English as a second language rather than a first language.

Furthermore, every state has its own ESL teacher certification requirements. This is similar to the state-specific teaching certification in licensure requirements. Generally, a teacher must meet the requirements for each state they plan to teach in if they seek employment at a public school.

If an ESL teacher wants to teach remotely to international students or tutor privately, they don’t always need certification.

Step 1—Earn a Degree

Firstly, aspiring ESL teachers must earn degrees. Many colleges offer in-person and online ESL teaching degrees. These are education degrees specifically tailored toward teaching students how to educate ESL learners.

However, other degrees may qualify one to be an ESL teacher, such as degrees in:

Suppose one does not earn an ESL teaching-specific degree. In that case, they may need to obtain certification to acquire public school jobs (see more below).

Generally, a bachelor’s degree is sufficient to acquire an ESL teaching position. A master's degree is even better and may qualify one for more competitive jobs, such as teaching positions at private schools. Master’s degrees also directly correlate with higher salaries in most cases. Therefore, if you want to earn more money as an ESL teacher, you should get a master’s degree in a related subject.

Step 2—Complete an Internship

Next, most ESL teaching students must complete an internship as part of their bachelor’s or graduate programs. Student teaching internships take place in ESL settings, such as ESL classrooms.

During these internships, students learn how to:

  • Teach English as a second language to learners
  • Communicate empathetically and properly
  • Help students who struggle catch up with the rest of the class

Each program requires a certain number of internship hours. The internship hours must occur under the supervision of a licensed or certified ESL teacher. This part of the program provides valuable experience that helps future ESL teachers do excellent jobs in their own classrooms.

Step 3—Take Licensure Tests

As mentioned, every state in the US has its own licensure tests. Students should look up their state’s teacher licensure requirements with an endorsement in ESL education. The approval is crucial since it marks the teacher as qualified to teach students English as a second language.

Licensure tests typically involve multiple-choice and written exams. They can be studied beforehand and taken multiple times. After passing the exam, teachers must take continuing education credits every one to two years, depending on state requirements. Teachers can complete their continuing education credits online. They ensure that ESL teachers stay up-to-date on teaching standards and methodologies. If an ESL teacher wants to move to a new state and teach English as a second language, they must take the licensure test for that state.

Step 4—Earn Certification (Optional)

What if a student already has a bachelor’s degree in English, teaching, or something else? In that case, they can usually apply for a certification from their state government. ESL certification requires the individual to take a test. Again, this test can be studied and prepared for.

There are two types of ESL certificate programs—undergraduate certificates and graduate certificates. Graduate-level certificates can be beneficial for some students. They provide credits that can apply toward a master’s degree.

Undergraduate certificates are between 15 and 18 credits long. They emphasize practical training or teaching methods for teaching English to English language learners. They’re best for professionals who don’t plan to earn a graduate degree but want to start teaching ESL soon.

Elementary English Teacher

Naturally, one common ESL teacher job is that of elementary English teachers. Elementary English teachers are even more crucial in this day and age. In America, for example, immigrants from Mexico and other countries need to learn English.

ESL teachers can help the children of these immigrants learn to communicate with their classmates and teachers. ESL classes are mandatory in many elementary schools. Hence, students learn how to communicate in more than one language at a young age.

Elementary English teachers may also be required to teach extra subjects. Most teachers in kindergarten and other beginning grades instruct in multiple subjects, such as math, English, and science. However, things may be different if an ESL teacher finds employment at a private school.

Regardless, elementary English teachers have meaningful and important work for society. To become an elementary English teacher, applicants must usually have a bachelor’s degree in English or education. Of course, an elementary English teacher must also be able to speak at least one other language reasonably well. In America, the most common second language is Spanish.
Unfortunately, elementary English teachers don’t get paid nearly as much as they should. Kindergarten and elementary school teachers earn approximately $61,000 per year.

Middle or High School English Teacher

ESL teachers can also become middle or high school English teachers. Middle or high school English teachers earn much higher salaries than elementary teachers. They teach students from grades 5 to 12, preparing them for college.

Middle and high school English teachers have important responsibilities and impart great benefits to their students if they teach well. These teachers prepare ESL students to navigate the English-speaking world confidently and professionally.

Unlike elementary school teachers, many middle and high school teachers exclusively teach English or English plus a related subject, like history. They are not usually required to teach math, science, or other STEM subjects.

Many middle or high school English teachers have higher job requirements. For example, many English teachers in high school have to speak a second language to communicate with ESL students. Furthermore, some of these teachers might be required to teach another language in addition to English. Again, this second language is most commonly Spanish. However, French, German, and Portuguese are also common languages to learn and teach.

The earning potential of these ESL teacher jobs is great. Middle school teachers usually earn around $61,000 per year. High school teachers earn approximately $62,000 per year, with the possibility of pay raises as they acquire experience.

College English Teacher

ESL teachers may also become professors and teach English in college. Some colleges, especially community colleges, offer ESL courses for students who don’t speak English fluently. Additionally, many colleges require students to become proficient in at least one additional language to acquire bachelor’s degrees.

These ESL teacher jobs earn higher salaries, greater respect, and extra perks. With enough time, ESL college teachers can earn tenure, effectively securing their professional futures.

College English teachers also benefit from the maturity of their students. College students are usually more focused, developed, and capable than elementary or high school students. Thus, many college English teachers find teaching ESL students more rewarding at this level.

However, ESL college teachers must have additional qualifications to earn these positions. ESL college teachers must have:

  • At least a bachelor’s degree in education or English. A master’s degree is even better, and some schools might require it
  • A good GPA from their prior college experience
  • Fluency in at least one language other than English
  • ESL certifications which can vary by state/college

College professors earn around $80,000 on average. Exact salaries depend on the university one works at, seniority level, tenure status, and more. Meanwhile, adult English as a second language teachers earn around $60,000 per year. These individuals might work at colleges or technical schools.

English Language Assistant

English language assistants are unique ESL teacher job with international job opportunities. In a nutshell, a language assistant is a trained and fully qualified native English speaker. They act as supporting educators to teachers in countries whose national languages are not English.

For example, imagine an English language assistant pursuing employment in Spain. They work with Spanish teachers at local schools and help the teacher educate students in English speaking and writing. However, note that language assistants are not the same as traditional teachers’ assistants.

TAs help teachers with a variety of organizational work. For example, they might do grading, help organize kids for school field trips, etc. English language assistants are fully qualified teaching professionals. They have just as much responsibility and authority as other teachers in classrooms.

There’s a downside to this career, however. Not all schools employ English language assistants. Therefore, many English language assistants have to select whatever positions are available to them, not necessarily with their dream employer.

Nonetheless, many English language assistants find the career rewarding both monetarily and personally. English language assistants help international students become more qualified and confident English speakers. They can sometimes find permanent employment at international schools, especially secondary schools or colleges. To become an English language assistant, candidates must:

  • Obtain a bachelor’s degree in English or, preferably, education
  • Be native speakers of English
  • Be fluent in at least one other language. This second language needs to be the national language of the country the assistant wishes to teach.

Furthermore, different countries have different requirements for their educators and assistants. It’s a good idea to check the requirements for English language assistants in a given country before planning a career there. Many English language assistants earn around $60,000 per year.

Online ESL Teacher

Online ESL teachers are fully qualified educators that leverage the trend toward remote work in online education. These professionals can work for school districts, private schools, or charter schools, depending on their qualifications and preferences.

Online ESL teachers:

  • Educate non-English-speaking students on how to read, write, and speak English fluently
  • Work with parents and other educators to develop and maintain an integrated curriculum
  • Assign homework and practices for students
  • Are fluent in at least one other language other than English

Technically, ESL teachers don’t have to have a degree in education to be online educators. There are lots of online English teaching services and companies to choose from. But the best services—with the best clients and pay rates—only hire the best educators.

Therefore, online ESL teachers should have a bachelor’s degree in education or English. Full fluency is also required to be an online ESL teacher.

Online ESL teachers frequently videoconference with their students or parents. It’s not uncommon to hold class lectures or meetings over video chat software.

Many online ESL teacher jobs benefit from flexible schedules. Depending on their company, the work might be full-time or only part-time. Because of this variability, online ESL teachers can also earn more or less money than traditionally employed educators. Online ESL teachers can earn anywhere from a high school teacher’s salary of about $62,000 a year to $80,000 a year or more.

Private Tutor

ESL teachers who prefer one-on-one teaching or educating high-quality students might find employment in private tutoring. Private tutors:

  • Are specially hired educators for either small groups of students or individual students for one-on-one education
  • Usually have very high qualifications, such as graduate degrees in their fields
  • Have some experience teaching students

Thus, only the best ESL teachers become private tutors for individuals or tutoring organizations. Some organizations connect ESL teachers to parents or groups of students. However, most private ESL tutors are hired directly by parents to educate their children. Private ESL tutors are essentially freelancers who offer their teaching skills in English fluency. They are usually employed by parents who want their children to navigate the English-speaking world easily and confidently.

Because this is a primarily freelance industry, more credentials usually mean higher pay. Most private tutors have master’s degrees in education or English at a minimum. Furthermore, the best ESL private tutors earn reputations that gradually lead them to more clients.

Naturally, private ESL tutors must be fluent in at least one other language (the language of their chosen clients). Again, the more languages one is fluent in, the better their career prospects in this field.

Many tutors earn around $40,000 a year to start. Remember, most of these professionals work part-time, at least at first. Hence, it can be a great side ESL teacher job. However, more well-known tutors could make much more than this.

Literary Translator

Another ESL teacher job is that of literary translators. Literary translators convert any type of literature into English. These literature types can include books, journal articles, short stories, poetry, and textbooks.
The primary job of the literary translator is to keep the voice, style, and meaning of the original work intact. This is most important for subjective literature, like novels. For example, a book publisher may hire a literary translator to translate a Chinese novelist’s words into English. The literary translator has a significant job since:

  • Their work affects how well the original author’s text is understood by English readers
  • Their work affects how well the novel might sell

Literary translators work with authors, publishing houses, and even textbook writers. In academia, literary translators frequently translate academic texts, like books or research papers, into other languages. This allows the findings of international researchers to reach English speakers around the globe.

In general, literary translators require a bachelor’s degree in English or a related field. Proficiency in at least two languages, of course, is also required. The more languages the job applicant knows, the better. Furthermore, many interpreters and translators gain experience as they go. The more experience they gain, the more lucrative positions they can land.

At the moment, there aren’t any universal certifications needed for literary translators. Most states have specific interpreting exams, though. If one wants to get a job in this field, one should get as many state certifications as possible. For instance, the American Translators Association offers certification exams in 29 language combinations. Each exam qualifies the test-taker to translate between two different languages.

Literary translators earn about $49,000 a year.


Alternatively, interpreting is an excellent ESL teacher job. Interpreters, also called translators, convert spoken or written information from one language into another. In this case, they translate language from a non-English language into English or vice versa.

Interpreters are essential professionals that work in a variety of settings. Interpreters can find employment at:

  • Schools for interpreting school announcements for ESL students
  • Hospitals to help medical personnel speak to individuals who don’t communicate in English or vice versa
  • Courtrooms, for the above reasons
  • Meeting rooms for businesses
  • Conference centers for companies or conventions

Interpreters have a lot of career potential available to them. For example, they can work for translation or interpretation companies. They might also work for individual companies and be the interpreter “on-call” for that organization. Other interpreters run their own agencies. They work for private clients on a job-by-job basis.

For many, one of the best benefits of interpreting is the ability to work remotely. Many interpreters don’t have to come into the office and can do all or most of their work online. This variable work schedule can be significant for those with families or other obligations.

Most interpreters require bachelor’s degrees in English, ESL teaching, or related fields. However, the most important requirement is native-level proficiency in English plus one more language.
According to the BLS, interpreters, and translators earn approximately $49,000 per year.

Start Your ESL Teacher Job Today!

As you can see, there are lots of top-tier jobs for ESL teachers like you. Whether you prefer to teach children, young professionals, or private students, there are multiple ways to earn money and credentials in your field.

Even better, earning your ESL certification or getting a degree to become an ESL teacher is also easier than ever. You can find great ESL or teaching programs online through GetEducated. Check out our list of online college programs today!

Browse Now

Search Over 1,600+ Schools with 30,000+ Degrees