If you’ve chosen a career in ESL teaching, congratulations!
You’ll have one of the most rewarding jobs out there. You’ll enjoy going to work in the morning, and go to bed feeling immensely satisfied with what you’ve accomplished throughout the day. But, before you can start teaching and enjoying your work, you have to decide where you'll get your teacher's degree and what type of teacher certification you want to obtain.
ESL or TESOL?
What is the difference between ESL and TESOL?
ESL stands for English as a Second Language, and ESL teachers usually teach students who have moved or will move to English-speaking countries. Your job is to not only teach them the language, but also educate them on several aspects, like culture, customs, holiday traditions, etc…
TESOL stands for Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages. TESOL teachers usually teach English overseas in far-off locations in Asia, Europe, or Latin America.
If you wish to teach English overseas, you will most likely be required to have a bachelor’s degree in any discipline (not necessarily teaching as an online masters could work), as well as TESOL certification. There are countless schools that offer a variety of options, like for example 4-week programs, and they even help you find a teaching position abroad upon completion of the course.
If you’re not interested in teaching abroad, however, but do wish to become an ESL teacher, you still need a bachelor’s degree (preferably a teaching degree) and specific ESL training, in the form of a teacher degree or certificate program.
What will you be able to do with an ESL teacher degree?
You will be qualified to work as an ESL teacher, most often in classroom settings, but possibly in companies for in-house training. You will be able to apply for teaching positions in public high schools, community colleges, or ESL schools. Some teacher education programs qualify you to work in primary schools or adult education. Private tutoring is also a career option. In your teacher education program, you will learn things like teaching methodology, English literature, grammar, and linguistic standards, as well as how to select material and evaluate students, just to name a few.
- ESL teacher for primary schools
ESl teachers that teach children under 10 have the unique opportunity to teach students that are better-equipped to learn a second language. But you must also bear in mind that you must be very well-trained to tap into this potential and meet your young learners' needs. ESL teachers for primary levels are in high demand in areas of rapid growth, so job opportunities abound in this level of teaching.
- ESL teacher for adult learning
You may choose to teach foreigners who barely speak English, or don’t speak it at all. Once again, it is essential to have specialized training as these adult learners have different learning needs. It is absolutely essential to bear in mind that learning a second language may not be as simple and easy for them as it is for a young child, so teaching adults may be a somewhat more challenging. However, the main advantage of teaching adult learners is that there is little or no need for classroom discipline. It is also an area that happens to be witnessing rapid growth due to high levels of foreign immigration.
- ESL private tutoring
This is a tremendously popular choice with business executives who have relocated to an English-speaking country and need more tailor-made private lessons to learn faster. There may be also potential job offers from middle to upper class families who also prefer a more personalized learning, plus the comfort of having classes in their own home. As a private tutor you may work for a tutoring service or be self-employed.
Top Teacher Education Programs
- Grand Canyon University offers several online teacher education programs, including Master’s degrees in Teaching English and Teaching – Teacher Leadership, and three Bachelor’s degrees in Elementary Education - English, Secondary Education - English, and Early Childhood Education.
- The University of Phoenix offers both campus-based and online teacher training programs, including a Master of Arts in Education/Curriculum and Instruction – English as a Second Language, as well as a Bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education – English Language Arts.
- Ashford University provides you with the opportunity to obtain a teacher degree online with its Bachelor of Arts – English Language Learner Studies and its Master of Arts – Education: English Language Learner
- Walden University also offers online teacher training programs and teacher degrees that include a Master of Science in Education and a Bachelor’s degree in Instructional Design and Technology.
- Keiser University offers two online Master’s degrees: a Master of Science – Education and a Master of Science – Education: Teaching and Learning.
- Argosy University offers campus-based programs including a Master in Education Specialist in Teaching and Learning, Master of Arts in Education in Teaching and Learning, and a Master of Arts in Education in Adult Education and Training.
Make sure you consult each university's website for eligibility requirements; most require at least a high school diploma or completed GED, but others require you to be at least 22 or 24. If you sign up for an online program you must have a computer or laptop with a reliable and fast Internet connection.
So, if you wish to go back to school to get your teaching certificate or degree, you have plenty of options that allow you to do so in a way that is both comfortable and affordable.
Pursue a career in teaching ESL and you will be rewarded beyond your dreams, perhaps not financially, but with a wealth of experiences you’ll never forget.
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