Monday, March 24, 2014

How to Teach ESL in the US or Abroad

Many students want to experience the world--and get paid by teaching ESL.  
by Ann Abbott

[This post is about how to prepare and find a job teaching English abroad. You might also be interested in reading my post about what to do once you actually get the job and have to start teaching.]

Students often ask me how they can live and work abroad. After a pivotal study-abroad experience they want to return to that country. Or explore a new country. They love languages. They love other cultures. They don't want to step right from college into a "traditional" job.

Here's the latest request for information I received:
"I am looking into getting certification to teach English to non-English speaking students. Do you know what certification is needed to be able to teach ESL here in the states and what is required to live and teach English abroad? Is it the TEFL? I am looking into the CELTA, too. There is also a certificate call the TESOL, too. I did a web search, but there seems to be a lot of mis-information out there, too."
Because this semester I have been working closely with a lovely group of professionals from Illinois' Intensive English Institute, I knew exactly who to ask. I forwarded the question to them, and one of those colleagues (Jim) mailed back this response:
"I think it all depends on where your friend wants to teach ESL. For example in the US in an intensive English program like the IEI you would most likely have to have a MATESOL degree. However, for smaller language schools and some community colleges a bachelor’s degree in anything might be enough. I taught at a community college in the Chicago suburbs and my BS in science qualified me. In order to teach ESL in a public school you would need a teaching license and an ESL endorsement. However, many public schools will allow you to teach ESL as long as you have a teaching licenses and are working towards an ESL endorsement.
"To teach outside of the U.S. I think it varies even more. I worked at small language schools in Ecuador and Bolivia where the only requirement being a native English speaker. However, those jobs don’t pay very well and are typically not very organized. Many of the teachers that I worked with in Ecuador and Bolivia had either a TEFL or CELTA certificate. This was over 10 years ago so I don’t know how much that has all changed. From what I have heard, jobs at universities abroad and at larger language schools usually at least require a CELTA or TEFL and in many cases at MATESL degree."
First, I want to say that it is normal to have difficulty knowing exactly what to ask when you are exploring options that are unfamiliar to you. So asking the experts can help you refine your questions and your own follow-up research.

I want to thank Jim for his speedy, complete and helpful response. I also want to leave you with some other resources around this question.
  • My former student Hanna Solecka describes how she found a job teaching English in Spain. 

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