How to Become an ESL Teacher?

There are a lot of people out there that want to learn how to become an ESL teacher. ESL jobs are only getting more and more popular as the world’s population looks at learning English.

An ESL teacher has the responsibility of teaching English to students of all ages who are looking to understand the basic skills in the English language. Sometimes the classes can be specified in a certain environment so that the English skills are developed to be useful in that environment (for example: a doctor’s office).

Why be an ESL teacher?

There are so many perks to consider when looking at why to become an ESL teacher.

Firstly, there are a lot of perks in terms of teaching a language. You get to inspire minds and show them that learning English isn’t hard of scary. You get to be a supportive and encouraging person in a learner’s life to show them that everything that they try is worthwhile.

You’ll also find that being an ESL teacher helps you to learn about the world, too. You’ll learn about different cultures, different backgrounds, and some great people skills that will stay with you everywhere that you go in life.

So, the question then becomes: Why NOT be an ESL teacher?

An SL Teacher Job Description

One of the most important details about working as an ESL teacher is to understand what the job actually is. Regardless of where you teach or what kind of specific niche you are teaching in, ESL teachers are in school or academic institutions and are working to teach English as a second language.

How To Become an ESL Teacher An ESL Teacher Job Description

ESL positions can be with those who are preschool age and all the way up to older adults who are looking to understand English basics for a variety of reasons.

Using specific lessons plans, ESL teaches will guide students into understanding basic English grammar in both spoken and written cases, for the most part.

The complexity of the English lessons will depend on age and the level of English that ESL learners are hoping to achieve. ESL teachers are those who have English as their native language or who are fluent in the language at the least.

How to Become an ESL Teacher?

If you’re interested in becoming an ESL teacher, you’ll have to make sure that you have in place a few qualifications to make sure that you are going after the position with the right knowledge. While not everyone can be an ESL teacher, you’ll be happy to know that the requirements aren’t so impossible that only the elite get in. The whole goal of these is to make sure that ESL teachers can be valuable to students!

Obtain A Bachelor’s Degree

You’ll need some kind of bachelor degree in order to teach ESL. There’s no specific kind of degree to have, however. It could be a bachelor of arts, a bachelor of science or anything that you feel interested in. This shows that you can operate academically.

How To Become an ESL Teacher requirement bachelor

Obtain ESL Training

You’ll need to take some kind of ESL training. This is focused on the idea of understanding how to actually teach English as a second language. Since it is your native language (or close to it), understanding the technique and grammar is natural rather than an intellectual process. This is often done in a classroom setting or sometimes online. This will make sure that you know how to approach ESL learners and approaches that will make you an effective ESL teacher.

Obtain a License

While not all countries as well as states will have these, there are a few places where you are going to teach ESL that will require a license. This is, again, accompanied with education classes and seminars to make sure that you are going to have the groundwork to be an ESL teacher. These requirements as well as their amount of effort will vary depending on where you are looking to get your license from, as well as where you want to teach.

How To Become an ESL Teacher requirement license

Gain Reallife Experience via Internships

You’ll also need to get some sort of experience through internships or volunteer positions that are focused on teaching English and, ideally, ESL. Not only is this helpful to preparing you for the real position, it also offers you a dry run so that you can make sure you’re a good fit for the job itself.

Common Requirements for ESL Teachers

Now that you know the steps to becoming an ESL teacher, these are the hard and fast requirements that you’ll want to have in place before you even apply to be an ESL teacher. If you don’t have any of these, you’re going to want to wait and make sure that you’ve got all of them in place.


A Bachelor’s Degree

Regardless of what you decide to major in and minor in, and what kind of bachelor degree it is, this is required. Also do what you can to focus a lot in English topics and classes, as this can often help you get those more niche-specific jobs, especially at the University level.  Another avenue is to go with “teachable” majors, which are majors that are specifically taught in school (English Literature, History, Chemistry, etc).

TEFL/TESOL Certification

You’ll also need the TEFL or TESOL certification to qualify for most ESL teaching positions. Any ones that don’t require this may not be legitimate and should be avoided. This is basically a certification that will allow you to teach across international borders.  If you are looking to teach ESL in your own country, this may not be required.

Relevant Work Experience

This is usually required in some amount and for good reason. If you are looking at teaching English in something specific — high school humanities classes or University-level learners, you’ll want to have the work experience to back up your educational experience.  Since these often pay higher than more generic ESL positions, they’ll expect you to be able to practice what you preach, so’s to speak.

What Makes an Effective ESL Teacher?

Now that you know all about the requirements for an ESL teacher, it’s time to take a look at what characteristics that they are going to need for the best results as well as an enjoyable experience.


Language Skills

Most ESL teachers have a passion for language and for teaching it to new learners.  Because of the nature of the job, it’s a good idea to have some sort of language skills and passion for teaching them.

Computer Literacy

Unlike in Western cultures, computers are encouraged in Chinese classrooms. Between lesson planning and creating fun digital games and activities to work on, computer literacy is going to be important and crucial for success.

Adaptable Teaching Styles

Students are not all the same. You may need to teach different to different age groups, and come at a teaching strategy from a different point of view depending on cultural backgrounds. Be ready to shift as needed.

How To Become an ESL Teacher adaptable teaching style

Strong Communication Skills

You need to be able to communicate clearly and comfortably with students of all ages. This will be hard if you are not someone who communications clearly or comfortably. Interaction is critical.

Organization and Planning

Also unlike Western schools, Chinese schools are run smoothly and efficiently. You’ll need to be organized and well-versed to planning out lessons ahead of time. There is no such thing as “winging it” as an ESL teacher!

How To Become an ESL Teacher planning and organisation skills

Teach ESL in your home country

If you’re interested in teaching ESL but don’t want to travel, don’t worry, you can teach ESL in your home country and still have a rewarding experience from start to finish.

  • Bachelor degree

Just like anywhere that you might teach English in your own country, you often will require a bachelor’s degree in a related field.  This is to make sure that you are qualified in English and that you are comfortable teaching it.

  • Internships

From there, you will participate in teaching internships that will help further hone your skills and give you the support and feedback that you need to be the best teacher that you can be. Once you are ready, you’ll be licensed by the state or country, and be qualified to teach ESL.

  • Community or association

If you want to get better job prospects within your home country, it could be helpful to be part of a community or an association.  The more contacts you have within your local community, the better.

>> Best ESL Apps for Teachers

>> ESL Teacher Resume (Proven Templates)

>> ESL Interview Tips

Teach ESL Abroad


If you like what you’re hearing but what to consider the idea of seeing the world and teaching at the same time, say no more. You can look at teaching ESL abroad and enjoy the travel bug as well as the opportunity to teach to those who really want to make the most out of the experience.

The requirements for teaching do vary depending on your country of choice, but you’ll often find yourself in need of a complete bachelor’s degree (with no specification), as well as a TEFL certificate. This qualifies you for international teaching.

Once you have those two things, you can gain some teaching experience by enjoying an internship or volunteering in local schools. This will help you get a feel for teaching and make sure that you are comfortable when you really do start.

Lastly, you should also get a clean background check. Since you are working with children and teens a lot of the time, this is also required from most countries for everyone’s protection and comfort.

>> ESL Teacher Resume (Proven Templates)

>> ESL Interview Tips

Salary for teaching ESL abroad


Let’s be honest.

One of the most exciting things about being an ESL teacher abroad is the salary, so let’s take a look that. As you can imagine, the amount that you make will often depend on the country in which you are teaching. Here are a few examples of monthly salaries (USD) that you can expect:

  • China: $1 250-$2 850
  • Japan: $1 700-$3 500
  • Mexico: $500-$800
  • Qatar: $1 600-$4 000

These salaries would have to be able to pay for your monthly rental, food and other living expenses that you’ll encounter when you are looking at teaching abroad.

However, even with all of that in mind, you can often still shovel away upwards or $500 a month into savings. This is great when you want to travel, work and save money all at the same time.

–> Teaching English Abroad Salary: 8 Countries With The Most Demand

>> 10 Best Places to Teach English in Asia

Career Outlook


  • Global citizen

Another thing to consider is what teaching ESL will do for you as far as a career goes. When you look at this as a job in your future, you’ll become a global citizen.  You’ll be able to travel around the world and teach English to anyone who wants it. This is great for those that just want to travel their whole lives.

  • Start your own training school

You cal also use this experience to give you the launching point for your own training school. If you are someone who really wants to be an entrepreneur and use their experience to motivate other teachers and learners, ESL teaching is a great first step.

  • Become a senior teacher or executive

You can also use this experience to help you become a senior teacher and even take on higher, larger executive roles within the company.  For those that want a focus on stability in the workplace and a corporate home, this is great.

  • Transform into another career

Lastly, ESL teaching can be used as motivation to take on another career entirely. Examples include marketing, freelancing and anything else that involves dealing with people. The thing about teaching ESL is that you get comfortable in working with new people and working outside of your comfort zone.  Skills like that are critical no matter where you decide to go with your corporate life.

Make the most out of ESL teaching 

While it’s true that teaching ESL may not be for everyone, it’s hard to argue with the process that you see here. You get to enjoy new countries, new cultures (or teach ESL in your home country, if preferred), and earn money while you’re at it.

There are no restrictions in sight with something as exciting as teaching English. The goal, now, is to determine just how you are going to make it right for you and your life so that you can make the most out of what ESL teaching has to offer.

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