How to become an English as a second language (ESL) teacher

ESL Teacher

An English as a second language (ESL) teacher works with students of all ages to help them learn and improve their English abilities. They can work in many settings, including schools, adult night classes, or online, and are in demand all over the world.

Teaching English as a second language is famous for being a popular temporary job for people wishing to work in a different country. However, it is also a great career option all over the world, in both English-speaking and non English speaking countries. 

In English-speaking countries, ESL (English as a second language) teachers work with both adults and children who are new to the country and are still learning the language. This can be done in a variety of settings, from special centres in state schools to language-specific schools, or even privately. Lessons will generally be taken in a small group or on a one on one basis.

In non English-speaking countries, ESL teachers may take lessons in schools, often with a large class of students. Most schools will have a designated English department. ESL teachers may also take adult lessons at language centres. English teachers in these settings are rarely expected to know the host country’s native language.

English teaching jobs can also be found online, and it is entirely possible to work full time as a remote English teacher through online platforms.

The duties of being an English teacher include: 

  • Making lesson plans for each class, adhering to guidelines that demonstrate the best way to teach English as a foreign language while doing so.
  • Taking the lessons; the English teacher is rarely expected to know the other language, so even beginners’ classes will be fully in English. 
  • Assessing each student’s abilities and progress throughout the lesson and during the entire course.
  • Writing reports for each student.
  • Online ESL teachers may need to market themselves through the platforms that they use.

English teaching without a degree is possible, but many programmes and countries do require at least an undergraduate qualification in any subject. Furthermore, all official teaching English jobs require a specific ESL qualification. TEFL is the most famous and offers a range of courses. These vary in length and content, but generally, the more advanced the course, the more possibilities a candidate will find. 

People who are wanting to take a career in English further should look at more advanced qualifications after acquiring a TEFL. CELTA is an intensive four week course, which is required by some schools and learning centres across the globe. For people who are wanting to become experts in ESL teaching, DELTA is a 9-12 month diploma that can be studied after CELTA.

With a DELTA qualification, English teachers can progress to more advanced roles in the industry, such as working as a head of department or training other English teachers.

As well as the relevant qualifications, English teachers should have some specific qualities and skills. It is important for all teachers to have patience, creativity, and be strict when necessary. However, English teachers should also be open minded, aware of other cultures, and be flexible with working styles and environments.


What degree is most commonly held by an ESL Teacher?

  • Bachelor of English Language and Linguistics
  • Bachelor of Arts - BA
  • Bachelor of English Literature (British and Commonwealth)
  • Bachelor of Education and Arts
  • Diploma of Education

Career Transportability across Countries

Transportability: High
English teaching is an exceptionally transportable career, especially for native speakers. Students all over the world need English teachers; and many schools and language institutions solely hire native speakers for these roles. Non-natives with the appropriate certifications should also find it relatively easy to secure an English teaching job in another country. The requirements and pay for English teaching jobs varies considerably across countries, but in particular places, the earnings can be very lucrative. Remote work is also very popular in this industry.

What is the Salary of an ESL Teacher?

Experience Average salary | year
English Language Intensive Courses for Overseas Students Educator / ESL Teacher 1-3 yrs $28,000 £31,200 $31,675
English Language Intensive Courses for Overseas Students Teacher 3 yrs + $42,600 £47,500 $48,198

What skills are needed to become an ESL Teacher?

  • Teaching
  • Public Speaking
  • Microsoft Office
  • Research
  • Customer Service
  • Social Media
  • Leadership
  • Curriculum Development
  • English
  • Tutoring
  • Microsoft Excel
  • Microsoft Word
  • Editing
  • Curriculum Design
  • Teamwork
  • PowerPoint
  • Management
  • Lesson Planning
  • Event Planning
  • Educational Leadership
  • Writing
  • Time Management
  • Classroom
  • Classroom Management
  • Higher Education

English Teacher Courses

English teachers should always be wanting to learn about new creative ways to engage their students; so those wondering how to become an English teacher should think about taking supplementary courses. At FutureLearn, we have everything from how to plan a great lesson to helping migrants in their new environment.
  • Teaching English Online

    Learn how to transfer your teaching skills to an online context and start teaching English online

  • Exploring the World of English Language Teaching

    Learn what teaching English as a foreign language TEFL involves Explore the opportunities to teach English abroad or at home

  • Teaching English: How to Plan a Great Lesson

    Discover new English teaching methods and learn how to create an effective English lesson plan with this online teaching course

  • Teaching English Online: China and Beyond

    Get the knowledge digital tools and ideas to start and transform your teachingcareer

Need even more evidence about why you should learn on FutureLearn?

We partner with over 170 world-class universities, institutions and industry leaders to create world-class courses to help you with your career. Whether you’re just starting out, wanting to deepen your knowledge or change direction, FutureLearn and our partners can help. These are just a few of our world-leading partners.