If you’re trying to make a career out of teaching ESL or are looking to travel for a year with a ESL job, these tips on getting a good ESL job are just for you! I recently got this question from a reader:
I’d be happy to share my two kernels of knowledge! I feel incredibly lucky to have found a job that I genuinely enjoy (most days) and allows me to live almost anywhere I please. Here are a few of the things that I’ve learned after five years and five countries worth of teaching.
How to Find a Good Job Teaching ESL Abroad
When it comes to finding a job, you really have two options, lining something up ahead of time or going to your country of choice and finding something once you get there. Both options have their pros and cons. Lining something up ahead of time could mean free airfare, training, being met at the airport and job security. It can also mean being stuck in a job or town that you’re not too keen on. Finding something once you get there may equal higher pay, better benefits and a working environment that fits you. But it also means all the normal stress of finding a job – but in a foreign, non-English speaking city. Wicked stressful, dude.If this is your first time traveling in a non-English speaking country or teaching ESL, I would probably recommend trying to get something lined up before you go. Do some really in-depth research on your potential employers – check out expat online message boards and see what they have to say about the company and ask your school if you could chat with a few of their current employees. English school vary hugely so it’s really important to find one that’s right for you. There are approximately a gajillion ESL-job sites online; some of the best are esljobs.com, eslemployment.com and Dave’s ESL cafe.
Personally, I’ve taught English through UMM’s Eltap program in Brazil, A.C.L.E. in Italy, Carisma in Peru, HESS in Taiwan, Making Futures Happen Institute in New Zealand, and Hmong American Partnership here in the U.S.
How to Find a Good Job Teaching ESL At Home
Finding ESL jobs in an English-speaking country is understandably a bit harder than when you’re abroad, but it’s not impossible. You just need the right qualifications and need to know where to look.Required qualifications vary a lot depending on who and where you are teaching. Private language schools in areas with a population of wealthy ESL students will only require a B.A. and teaching experience. You can find schools like this in Sydney, London or New York. However, if you’re teaching in the public school system, at a university or at a non-profit you’ll probably need some sort of qualification – a teaching certificate, a TEFL or CELTA, or even an M.A. in TESOL.To target your job search, you should know that there are three main areas of ESL: private English schools, adult basic education for refugees and immigrants and teaching in the public school system. The latter two are probably the easiest to find jobs in.
Private English Schools are usually found in large, cosmopolitan cities. The students here are often wealthy, young and attend these schools as part of a gap year or to improve their English enough to gain acceptance into an American university. The pay at these schools is decent, but there is often little job security and you can be laid off if student numbers drop too low. The atmosphere at these schools is pretty laid back and the students are often quite fun, if not always particularly motivated, because they are essentially on vacation. You can find these many of these schools in Seattle, San Francisco, L.A., New York and Miami.
I currently work in Adult Basic Education for refugees and immigrants. Many countries offer support to refugees if they make steps towards integrating into their new culture – steps like job training or English classes. There is a bit more job security in these jobs because the schools are government funded and the students’ food stamps and subsidized housing are tied to their class attendance. The students are also incredibly motivated, respectful and thankful for all the help you give them, which is not always a common dynamic between students and teachers. The work can be a bit emotionally draining when you hear about the lives your students lead before they left their countries and the learning can be slow going as many refugees have never attended school before. You can find these jobs in any city with a sizable refugee or immigrant population; I would imagine there are heaps in Texas, California, New Mexico and Arizona.
It’s also possible to teach ESL in the public school system, though you’ll need a teaching certificate. These jobs are a bit harder to come by because most schools only need one or two ESL teachers for the entire student population. Also, children learn English so quickly, many school systems don’t even bother with ESL specialists for primary aged children. Six and seven year-olds can often become completely fluent in one school year, just from being immersed in English. However, these jobs do come with the other perks of public school teaching – three months off and tenure, so if you can find one (and keep it) you’ve gotten lucky.
Anybody else out there taught ESL? Any other advice for our teacher friend?