Teaching English as a Second Language

If you love to travel to other countries, you may have thought about teaching English abroad. Maybe you’ve worked as a volunteer helping people learn English, or maybe you’ve taught English abroad as a way to fund your travels or get to know the local people better. I have done this, too; I started teaching English in the Czech Republic in 1996 as a way to pay for life as an expat. Even though I was terribly unprepared for the job, I realized that I loved teaching and analyzing language, and that precarious beginning ended up being a long-time career that I find very rewarding.

Despite the fact that I can teach abroad, I have chosen to teach in the United States, for now at least. As someone who has helped people learn English for 13 years, I would like to share tips and tidbits for anyone who might be considering teaching English as a second language, abroad or in the U.S.

Students from Vietnam, Peru, China, India, Mexico, Kazakhstan, Guatemala, Moldova, and Nicaragua in my Advanced Pronunciation class.

Let me begin by saying that I love my job. In fact, I think I have one of the best jobs out there! I teach ESL at Cosumnes River College, a progressive community college of about 15,000 students in Sacramento, California. My students need to learn English to live well in the U.S., and most of them are highly motivated and plan to study at the university. I taught ESL at University of Iowa and Ohio University, but I enjoy teaching at a community college much more. Like the other professors, I am respected as a valuable member of the teaching community and am given a lot of flexibility in my work. I can choose among about 24 different courses to teach. I can apply for sabbaticals when I want to mix things up. I can serve as department chair or work on innovative projects in technology or curriculum. I collaborate with professors from other departments. I am tenured. I get 4 months off a year. Most of all, I am fortunate enough to work with a wonderful, appreciative group of students every semester.

1) What are EFL and ESL? And TEFL and TESOL?

EFL = English as a Foreign Language. This applies to teaching English in a place where another language is the primary language. For example, if you teach English in Brazil, you teach EFL.

ESL = English as a Second Language. This is teaching English to people who are learning in an English-speaking environment and who will use both their native language and English in their daily lives. If you teach English to immigrants in England, you teach ESL.

TEFL and TESL are just the above acronyms with “Teaching” added to the beginning. e.g. TEFL = Teaching English as a Foreign Language

TESOL = Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages. This applies to the profession. For example, there is the TESOL professional organization that has conferences for ESL and EFL instructors. You can also get a degree in TESOL.

ESL students

2) Who are the students?

If you are teaching in the U.S., there are two main groups of students. The largest group is immigrants, most of whom are starting their lives over and learn English soon after arriving. As you can see in the above photo, many of them are young; their parents decided to immigrate and so the children are here, too, and are usually eager to go to school and get educated in the U.S.

The other main group is made up of “international students,” meaning students who have come to the U.S. temporarily, usually to learn English for a year or two before returning to their home countries. They usually study English at universities, but some study at community colleges because they are less expensive.

3) Where can you teach English as a Second Language?

When I was 23, I taught English in the Czech Republic at a variety of places: at a high school, at a language school, and for private groups. Some people who teach abroad also tutor and teach at elementary schools or colleges/universities.

In the U.S., you can teach in the K-12 public school system, at adult schools, at community colleges, and at universities. Universities usually offer both intensive language programs, where students of all levels come to learn English quickly, usually for several hours a day, and classes for international graduate students who need to improve their writing or speaking skills. Also, there is a small number of language schools in the U.S.

4) What kind of education do I need to teach ESL/EFL?

If you are planning to teach abroad, you usually need at least a TESOL certificate and a B.A. (the B.A. degree can be in any field).

In the U.S., the level of education required differs according to where you want to teach. If you hope to teach in the K-12 system, a teaching degree with a TESOL credential is usually the requirement. If you hope to teach at an adult school (these are common in California but are the first to go on the chopping block when funds are low), you usually need a B.A. in TESOL or a related field + a TESOL certificate. If you hope to teach at a community college or university, you need an M.A. in TESOL, Applied Linguistics, or a related field (my M.A. is in linguistics).

ESL teacher

An ESL teacher has to walk a fine line of bonding with her students while maintaining class standards and policies.

5) What makes a good ESL teacher?

ESL instructors are a diverse bunch, but all ESL teachers need to be sensitive to other cultures, understanding of students’ vulnerability, encouraging, patient, and organized. They need to know that teaching is not about them; it’s about the students, so the class should be focused on the students’ learning and producing, not on the teacher jabbering away. They also should be good at building community and empathizing with all kinds of people. Teaching language is not easy, so you should feel comfortable with English grammar and analyzing language to uncover its rules and patterns.

Have you taught English abroad or in the U.S.? Do you have any questions about teaching ESL/EFL?

59 Comments

  • Really great information here for people just starting out! Seems that many are confused by the basic terminology. Hopefully, they’ll see this and understand what these careers are all about.
    Lisa @chickybus recently posted..Capturing the Color: 5 #Travel #Photos from Off the Beaten Path #capturethecolour #photographyMy Profile

    • Jenna says:

      Very true–people always ask me what language I use in the classroom when they hear that I teach ESL…or they think I teach the basic vocabulary like we might learn in the first semester of Spanish. People usually don’t realize how academic ESL usually is.

  • George says:

    I’m going to teach in Japan this year an this was a good source of info. I look forward to having a long career in TEFL!
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    • Jenna says:

      That is exciting! I am thinking about doing a year of teaching in Japan in the future, possibly through the JET program. Teaching a homogeneous group of students like you will have in Japan presents other challenges…but everyone I know who has taught there loved it!

  • Cindy says:

    What a great post! Reading about your own experiences is so interesting, and your tips for those who might be considering this as a career are very helpful.

    • Trang says:

      Dear Cindy,
      I would like to invite you work for me a long time in my company.
      Job Description:
      – Teaching English for classes that are assigned with composing syllabus by-self and preparing lessons, ensuring bringing qualified lecturers
      – Taking part in all activities of classes according to Director’s requirement.
      – Implementing other assignments from Director of the Center
      – Salary: 1200 USD to 1500USD for per month. Teaching 20 hours to 25 hours per week.
      Working place: BLESSING INTERNATIONAL ENGLISH CENTRE – at one of three following working places:
      No.12 Tay Thanh Street, Quang Trung District, Hung Yen City
      Ban Yen Nhan Town, My Hao District, Hung Yen City
      Nhu Quynh Town, Van Lam District, Hung Yen City
      Minimum Qualification: Teaching English Certificate
      Experience: at least 3-month experience in teaching English
      Other requirement: Responsible, enthusiastic, hard-working and friendly
      Our company will give you free accommodation with fresh working and living environment (excluding costs of power, water, clean and so on). Our company has a friendly and professional working environment with well – equipped such as projectors, air conditioners, supporting you best to complete your assignments. We always create the best conditions for you to work.
      For more information, please contact with us:
      Ms Trang,
      Mobile Number: 0966 513 375
      Email address: millytrangblessing@gmail.com

  • Michi says:

    This is terrific information. 🙂 Thank you, I’ll refer to this post again soon. I’ve never had any trouble finding work in Spain without the TEFL or TESOL, but I’m looking into potential jobs in the U.K. at the moment and I’ve noticed that most require ESL and Celta, so I might have to sign up for a course or two…
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  • Michi says:

    P.S. I also sort of fell into teaching… I came to Spain on a contract, and I ended up absolutely loving my job, and have taught English as a second language ever since (for 5 years now). It’s pretty awesome that we can say: “I LOVE my job!” 🙂
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    • Jenna says:

      I agree that we are fortunate to say that we love our jobs. The students and the creativity/flexibility I have in my classes are so important to me. Reagaring our previous conversations, California is really in bad shape now because of the budget, and the largest community college in the state (the one in San Francisco) may even close due to not keeping its accreditation. The budget situation has been terrible for years but this school year is the worst (the expected bottom of the crisis). It’s very sad, but things are expected to get better soon, quickly in the propositions pass in November and within 5 years if not. I may have to move if things take that long, and I never imagined I would say that!

  • Haley says:

    Great read! I spent last year living in France, working as an assistant English teacher, and loved it! I got my TEFL certification this summer, and now I’m back in France again, trying to find a way to continue teaching English as a foreign language… unfortunately it seems that getting a work visa as an American proves to be difficult!
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    • Jenna says:

      Interesting to hear that it’s not easy to get a visa to work in the EU. I have been wondering that. I had no problem but that was a long time ago. I am hoping to teach in Portugal or Spain (or maybe somewhere else) in the next few years. Good luck with it! TEFL is a great profession 🙂

  • jenna! this post is perfect. i am definitely interested in teaching abroad at home point.

    i had dinner with a group of korean teachers the other night and we had a great time “teacher talking” about similarities and differences in elementary education. i learned so much and even gave some english phonics tips for them to try with their students.

    great fun!
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  • Sue says:

    I found your article interesting. I will be doing the CELTA certificate in October and am deciding on whether or not to apply for an MA in K-12 or an MA in Adult ESL. I enjoy teaching adults, having volunteered over the summer after I was laid off from my boring desk job. Yes, I am transitioning (I cannot go back to the desk jobs), but since I am a mid-career changer I have a lot of anxiety about this new career path and am trying to make the right decision. I am looking into fellowships for K-12, but really don’t want the stress of those programs. Do you have any insight to offer on this?

    • Jenna says:

      I find that teaching adults is very rewarding. There is a lot of flexibility–you can have a great diversity of students in one class. Also, with the constant changes to K-12 education in the U.S., ESL teaching in those grades is less secure (e.g. Romney’s ed plan favors immersion, which would likely result in less ESL in K-12). Another plus is that you can teach in universities overseas if you have an MA in TESOL. My husband is in the second (and last) year of his MA in TESOL program. Contact me with the contact form above if you’d like more advice.

  • Sue says:

    Thanks for your quick response. I’ve sent you an e-mail through the contact form.

  • Fiona says:

    Hi Jenna

    Nice job. I teach english at a pharmaceutical company in Bavaria, Germany. I like my job too but I find it sometimes exhausting too. I have also learned german and so I can explain the english words, sentences, meanings in german. I`m glad I too have had to learn a second language so I know what it`s like. It`s hard work and a real challenge,that`s for sure.

    All the best
    Fiona

    • Jenna says:

      Yes it is such a challenge! Good for you for learning German.

    • Trang says:

      Dear Fiona
      I am looking for English teacher for my centre.
      Job Description:
      – Teaching English for classes that are assigned with composing syllabus by-self and preparing lessons, ensuring bringing qualified lecturers
      – Taking part in all activities of classes according to Director’s requirement.
      – Implementing other assignments from Director of the Center
      – Salary: 1200 USD to 1500USD for per month. Teaching 20 hours to 25 hours per week.
      Working place: BLESSING INTERNATIONAL ENGLISH CENTRE – at one of three following working places:
      No.12 Tay Thanh Street, Quang Trung District, Hung Yen City
      Ban Yen Nhan Town, My Hao District, Hung Yen City
      Nhu Quynh Town, Van Lam District, Hung Yen City
      Minimum Qualification: Teaching English Certificate
      Experience: at least 3-month experience in teaching English
      Other requirement: Responsible, enthusiastic, hard-working and friendly
      Our company will give you free accommodation with fresh working and living environment (excluding costs of power, water, clean and so on). Our company has a friendly and professional working environment with well – equipped such as projectors, air conditioners, supporting you best to complete your assignments. We always create the best conditions for you to work.
      For more information, please contact with us:
      Ms Trang,
      Mobile Number: 0966 513 375
      Email address: millytrangblessing@gmail.com

  • Agnes says:

    Hi Jenna,

    I live in Singapore, is a qualified and experienced ESL teacher. I am currently looking for teaching positions in North America but I do not have a work visa. I am wondering if there will be schools that would hire someone like me and sponsor me for a work visa? Would you be able to point out where I can start looking? Much appreciated.

    • Jenna says:

      Hi Agnes, I’ve never heard of an American employer sponsoring a visa for someone to come and work. For instance, where I work, there are more qualified people than we have classes for, so it is very competitive for the teachers who are here. However, I am not sure if this is the case everywher, so best of luck and keep looking!

  • Barbara Balogh says:

    Very informative article here for people to understand the acronyms and the options open in teaching. I’ve been struggling for about four years now on whether to go to grad school and what to do. I’ve taught ESL to adults at community colleges for over 12 years. I have a TESL Certificate but my BA is not in education. I’ve struggled over the years not finding a way to be able to teach ESL more than part-time, so I’ve done other stuff during the day and taught at night. I haven’t been happy with the day jobs and only happy in ESL. I’m older (50s) and my dilemma has been whether to get a straight MAT in TESOL or one with licensure in K-12. I was an ESL TA in K-12 temporarily. I liked working with kids. Between the two, adults and kids, my preference is adults because it’s what I know and I relate well to adults. But, at my age, I think getting the licesnure might offer more security. I’d really like to discuss this further and would really like some input.

    • Jenna says:

      Hi Barbara,
      It seems that I missed responding to your comment before. I’ll try to be in touch via email.

      • Barbara Balogh says:

        Hi, Jenna,

        I never did hear back from you. You said you’d be in touch by e-mail. I check my spam regularly but there wasn’t anything there. I’d really like some input. I’ve been accepted again into the Master’s in TESOL at an Ohio university and have also been checking out a second Ohio university.

        Hope we can “chat.” I’m also on Skype, by the way.

        Barbara Balogh

  • Ace says:

    I would argue you have the absolute cushiest ESL (and EFL!) gig there is, though I’m not particularly a fan of Sacto. That said. to land that job seems to require connections and a lot of luck, fitting the mold, and winning the beauty contest so to speak because 90% of community college and uni jobs are adjunct jobs and pay hourly with no vacation pay, etc. Hardly worth getting a MA for! Anyway, I volunteered at a local CC for my MA TESOL practicum, and the students were a dream compared to what I had overseas. I’d love to go back to teaching a a CC, but the pay is terrible. Teaching overseas in Korea at one of the better gigs might get you the same amount of cushiness, but less pay. Teaching in the Gulf might get you similar pay and benefits, but the students are terrible and lazy, AND the jobs typically require in trade that you endure a lot of hardship.

    • Jenna says:

      I’m not particularly a fan of Sacto either, but it has been a good base for us because I have family here, it’s one of the more affordable places to live in CA, and the CC district here is fantastic to work for. And Sacto is a good base for ESL because of the huge immigrant population. I would disagree about what you said about what it takes to land a job like mine…feel free to email me (click on Work With Me in the menu bar above and then click Contact) if you’d like some info about that because I have worked on hiring committees for both full-time and part-time positions. I came into this position with no connections whatsoever (I was living and working in Ohio) but had done everything I could in my two years in Ohio to get a lot of experience in a variety of projects (curriculum, technology, attending and presenting at local and national conferences). You’re right that most of the CC and uni positions don’t pay well, but I’ve seen plenty of adjuncts move into full-time positions. Thanks for the info. about teaching in Korea and the Gulf; I have had thought about teaching abroad again but honestly love the diversity of students I get in the CC. Thanks for stopping by and commenting!

  • Alex says:

    Hi Jenna,

    I’m an EFL teacher in Spain at the moment! I’m going back to Sacramento for the summer and I wanted to ask you if it’s difficult to find summer EFL jobs or if you know anything about that! I have a B.A. in Spanish and a TESOL certificate. Thanks!

    Alex

    • Jenna says:

      Hi Alex,
      I am not sure about finding ESL teaching jobs in the summer. There is an ESL intensive program called ELI at Sac State, but I don’t know if they hire for the summers. I also don’t know about the minimum qualifications to teach there. I know that your education would not allow you to teach at the community college, but perhaps with your education, you could try adult school centers, Kaplan, or the ELI. Good luck! 🙂

  • Courtney says:

    Hi Jenna,
    Thank you for such well put together info on this. A year ago, I received my TEFL cert. Since then, I have been tutoring students through a refugee resettlement program in my city. Specifically, my students are from Ethiopia. I absolutely love it. Although, I don’t have many tools or resources provided, and I completely create my own curriculum and lesson plans (and I could use some guidance), I feel I can be a strong teacher with some more experience. My question is this: My intention has been to teach abroad, but I very much want to move back to the SF Bay Area sooner than later. Is it realistic that I can find a teaching job there with my experience (and BA in History/Sociology)? Or is it a sort of “right of passage” to teach abroad first? Thank you!
    Courtney

    • Jenna says:

      Hi Courtney,
      It totally depends on where you want to get a job. Do you want to teach in an adult ed. center? Their budgets were slashed during the recession, but they are starting to be funded again. They generally want a B.A. + ESL training (like your certificate), but I believe that there is some kind of credential needed as well. I don’t exactly know because I don’t work in Adult. Ed. You should try to contact an adult ed. center where you’d like to live and ask them what they look for. If you want to teach in a community college, you need a related M.A. degree. We generally don’t look for people who have taught abroad because we want people who have experience with the populations here. Best of luck! 🙂

  • Mary says:

    Hi, what’s the best advice you can give to someone starting out in wanting to teach English. I llive in ca I’m 26 and want to teach English, any advice would be awesome. Sometimes I don’t know if I’m going in the right direction as in which i should study in to be a really great English teacher. I hope to teach in Korea or Japan in the future.

    Mary.

    • Jenna says:

      Hi Mary, There are so many options, and it really depends on where you want to teach. If you want to teach abroad, look into TESOL certification programs. Keep in mind that you need to really love language and grammar and all that stuff to be an effective ESL/EFL teacher. If you get really serious about it and decide that you want to teach in the U.S. later, you should get an M.A. in TESOL or linguistics. I have no experience with the TESOL certification programs, so I can’t give you any advice about those.

  • David Brown says:

    Jenna,

    Thanks for your article. I am considering a career change, and I have been discussing with my counselor at the unemployment office about teaching ESL. He says that he did this for three years in Asia and loved it.

    I lived in Germany for 13 years and worked as a freelance telecommunications engineer. it was well paid, but it was a roller coaster ride. I would make great money, and then I would have no income at all. Now that I have moved back to the US, my tech contracting career has dried up. As I look back, I think my language skills – German and English – were a big asset for me in Europe.

    My counselor said that he would possibly be able to get me funding forsome certification for teaching ESL. I am wondering if this would be the right move for me.I love to travel and I am single. But I am concerned about ending up stranded in some far-off country.

    What would you say are the risks and rewards that I should consider? Would this be a good way to try outthe teaching profession? should I do really concerned about the money?

    • Jenna says:

      Hi David,

      This is a hard one. I love teaching ESL but haven’t done it overseas much. I don’t think I have enough information to talk about the rewards and risks. I don’t know a lot about the certification or what the job market is like overseas, but I do know some people who have taught in Europe and Asia recently. I think that if you love to travel, this might be a good choice for you. You mentioned trying out the teaching profession–you could probably do that right where you are by volunteering to teach an ESL classes for newcomers at a local church or through a local organization. You might want to look into something like this and google similar stories: http://travelingcanucks.com/2012/02/how-to-teach-english-overseas/ or http://holeinthedonut.com/2014/09/04/teaching-english-elanguest-school-malta/

  • Dana says:

    Do you have any advice on obtaining a TESOL certificate? Are they obtained through a community college or online? I have a MLA with a concentration in History and would like to work/travel in Europe and Asia Pacific eventually. I am seeking by dual U.S./Italian citizenship. I see a few online companies offering these courses but I want to enroll and obtain my education through a legitimate and reputable institution. Thank you for your advice.

    • Jenna says:

      Hi Dana,
      Unfortunately, I don’t know anything about TESOL certificates except that it’s harder to teach overseas without one (or a TESOL degree) nowadays. I would look into postgraduate coursework at universities first to see if they have TESOL certificates. Good luck!

  • Steve says:

    Hi Jenna,

    Thank you for sharing your experience. I’m glad to hear that you are so happy and passionate about what you do! I have taught EFL overseas for a few years, have enjoyed it very much, and recently got accepted to a couple of MA TESOL programs in California. I like teaching older students (university and adults) and I’m trying to decide if going the route of getting the MA in TESOL is a good idea, simply because of having heard that the current job market for teaching at community colleges is not as good as it may have been in the past. Do you have any advice or recommendations? Are many positions at community colleges adjunct positions at this point or are there full-time positions available? Do many people have to cobble together part-time teaching jobs to make a living? I would love to be able to teach full-time at the CC level but I’m just trying to figure out if it’s worth it to go to graduate school in this field at this time. Thanks for your help!

    • Jenna says:

      Hi Steve,

      really good questions! The job market in CA seems to be really turning around. There was a freeze in hiring in most places during the recession, but things have been changing quickly. The governor’s new budget has money for converting part-time teaching hours to full-time, so we expect that that and the general increase in funding mean that we will continue to grow, adding more part-time and full-time positions as we go. That being said, full-time positions in community colleges are still very, very competitive (although I can speak accurately only for what’s going on in my region). In my experience, getting good grades and impressing the faculty at the TESOL program, doing a good internship and getting some experience w/ students in the CCs, showing a true dedication to diversity and understanding who the students really are, and then being innovative and dedicated to state issues, technology, and other things beyond just what happens in the classroom are key to getting a good job here. Get back in touch when you come back to CA and I’ll see if I can help.

      • Steve says:

        Hi Jenna,

        Thank you so much for getting back to me so quickly and sorry about the delay in responding. I had tried to send you an email a few weeks ago via the contact form but I’m not sure if it went through.

        Your update on the state of funding and possible jobs turning from part-time to full-time is very encouraging. What you say about the full-time positions at community colleges being very competitive is what I have heard from others working or studying in the field, and even though that is to be expected, it still makes getting those jobs a bit more challenging. Thanks for all the good advice on what to do to make myself standout from other candidates. These are all important things to consider.

        I returned recently from Asia and am living in the Bay Area at the moment. Do you have any advice regarding possible leads or suggestions for places to get some experience teaching here in this area? Also, what about your advice for making TESOL a solid, stable career in the U.S.?

        Thanks so much for your help and please feel free to send me a personal message at the email address you have for me, if that is easier.

  • Alisa says:

    Hello Jenna, I loved your informative post about ESL teaching at the college level. I am graduating (tomorrow, in fact!) from Hunter College’s MA in TESOL for K-12 program in NYC. My husband and I are planning on moving to California. I was wondering do you know if it is acceptable to have an MA in TESOL (even if it’s K-12 licensed) if I should also like to apply to community college, university, or adult school jobs?

    Also, do you happen to know if there are positions at the K-12 levels for ESL teachers? I’m sorry for all the questions — just thought it would be helpful to ask someone who seems to know so much about ESL in CA. 🙂 Thanks so much in advance for any, any advice!

    • Jenna says:

      Hi Alisa,

      I don’t know about ESL jobs in K-12. The need here is HUGE, but I honestly don’t know enough about how schools handle it. I do know that some schools have ESL teachers, some do immersion…so it would probably be best to contact the district you want to live in to inquire further.
      Community colleges require an MA in TESOL but I haven’t heard of an MA in TESOL for K-12. I would assume it would be fine, but try to get some experience in a CC as soon as you can. You can always start out as a tutor or instructional assistant to get some experience with the students. One of the things we look for is people who understand the CC students and the immigrant populations. There are also short course programs (post-graduate, I believe) that are all about teaching in a CC. Another recommendation if your MA is heavily focused on K-12 but you want to teach adults.
      Let me know if you have other questions. It’s a wonderful field to be in! 🙂

      • Alisa says:

        Hello Jenna!

        Thank you so much! It’s good to hear that the need is huge. I truly appreciate your thoughtful and thorough response!

        It is truly a wonderful field to be in. I decided to go into it since I was an ESL student myself (I immigrated to the U.S. when I was 5).

        Keep doing what you’re doing! I love your blog!

  • Dear Jenna,

    I know I’m a couple years late on your post — but reading this has definitely struck a reaction. I’m currently teaching in South Korea at an elementary school. This is my first job abroad and I feel I’m am learning a lot, but also attempting to prepare for my future back home. I have always been a lover of languages. I’ve known Spanish and English growing up and studied 4 years of French in high school and 4 years of Italian in college. I even ventured to take two intensive courses of Russian one summer. I would love to be able to teach back home in California, but the general consensus is that it’s not worth it — there’s seems to be a lot of negative feedback when I look into teaching positions in California (where I’m from). Your post was the one bright light in the sea of darkness. I’m currently applying for a Masters in TEFL and would love to get any advice on any programs you may think are better to go through. I’ve always mentored my peers on English and writing, and it was only recently that I realized I could possibly make a career out of this. Any advice on this matter would be greatly appreciated. Thank you so much for sharing your experience.

    Warm Regards,

    Roxanne Rosales
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    • Jenna says:

      Hi Roxanne,

      It sounds like you need to get an M.A. and start teaching ESL here. I believe that teaching ESL in CA is highly rewarding and can, sometimes, lead to a good career. It depends on how much you’re willing to put into your M.A. and your teaching experience. Where will you be in CA? Maybe we should chat via email. You can contact me through the Contact form (see the menu above).

  • Selena says:

    Hi Jenna,

    This is a great brief and informative post. I was hoping I could as you a quick question! I just graduated with a BA in Philosophy, and I live in Texas. I am very interested in getting my TESOL certificate, but would I need more schooling considering that my Undergrad is in Philosophy? Right now I would look for work in Texas, but I just can’t tell where to start this entire process.

    Thanks so much! It’s lovely to see someone who loves their job so much that they want to bring other people to it!

    • Jenna says:

      Hi Selena,
      I don’t think your BA has anything relationship with your TESOL certificate, so as far as I know, you can get the certificate. It would help you to find a job if your BA had been in something related, but I was in a similar position as you–my BA was in art history, and I studied linguistics in grad school (completely different!).

  • What are some top countries that you’d recommend someone consider teaching in?
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  • Andrea says:

    Hi! Just came across your site…I recently got my CELTA, and am over in SE Asia…I would like to teach online…and have also considered getting my masters in order to get more work in the U.S. …but I’m 38, and I heard that it is difficult to get work in ESL when you’re older…any thoughts???

    • Jenna says:

      Hi Andrea,
      I haven’t heard that it’s hard to get work in ESL when you’re older. In my department, we have hired a few people in recent years. The oldest ones are in their 50s and the youngest one was about 36. I think it’s all about attitude and skill–it’s important to be enthusiastic and bright and use technology well.

  • sarah says:

    Hi, Jenna. For some reason I cannot find your contact form/email. I am wondering if teaching esl at a community college is a difficult/ nearly impossible job market? I have taught ESL abroad, and I love languages, so have considered doing an M.A. in linguistics (I did have linguistic courses as an undergrad, though my degree was in English.) My only hesitancy is (1) I already have two masters degrees, in general humanities and philosophy, so I’m skeptical about the whole “finding jobs at a community college” thing. (2) if I am going to do “more school,” at this point it makes sense for me not to start over. (3) my professors think I should do the phd in philosophy

    That said, in many ways I prefer teaching English as a second language.

    • Jenna says:

      Hi Sarah,

      You can email me at jennafrancisco73@gmail.com if you’d like. I redesigned my website, and the old contact form is not on here, but my email address is listed under “About Me” at the top of the page.
      It’s hard for me to say how the job market will be for new TESOL graduates, but in the area where I live, I don’t think it’s as hard to get jobs as a lot of people think. We love to hire new graduates who are competent, hard-working, and professional. They usually work as adjunct professors for a while, and the best ones get full-time, tenure-track positions when such job positions come up.
      Teaching ESL to adults is very rewarding, and much different from teaching other subjects to American students, but there are challenges in ESL as well. Let me know if you have other questions!

  • I want to know as to how I may become a teacher in the USA.

  • eleonora says:

    Dear Mrs Jenna,
    Thank you so much for this article it really put things into perspective. I am an English teacher (BA in TESOl and MA in Apllied Linguistics from Cyprus. I have 11 years experience in and was even a guest lecturer in colleges in Cyprus. I am currently looking for a University teaching position in the states. I went through the Fulbright foundation but fundings are low and most programs have been cut. I would appreciate any advice or info you could give me on how to approach this matter.
    Thank you in Advance for your time.
    Looking forward to your reply.
    regards,
    eleonora pitta

    • Jenna says:

      Hi ELeonora, I wish I had some good advice, but I honestly don’t know what the rules are for people who are outside the U.S. who wish to work in the U.S. As far as university positions go, I would start with temporary or internship-style positions that may help you get some experience here or a foot in the door and then see if that leads to something more permanent. Good luck!

  • ESL Speaking says:

    This is very informative. Aspirant and new ESL teachers are sure to find this helpful.

    • Jenna says:

      Thank you! I’ve gotten quite a few emails from aspiring ESL teachers about this post, actually, and I’m glad this information comes in handy for some.

  • Liz says:

    This post was very helpful! I’m looking into the possibilities of moving into TESOL work. My degrees are in anthropology and archaeology, but I haven’t been able to find much employment. I started looking into teaching English abroad and have become more and more interested in it. Do you think I would be able to get ESL jobs in the States with degrees in anthropology? While not language based, they have given me a lot of cultural experience.

    • Jenna says:

      Hi Liz,

      I think you’d need TESOL training to work in the field here in the U.S. The cultural understanding is important, for sure, but fundamental is an understanding of how language works and the ability to explain grammar rules, etc. I know anthropology does include some linguistics, so you might have had some exposure to that already.

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