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ELL Instructor: Job Description and Requirements

Instructors of English Language Learners (ELLs) are tasked with creatively integrating language acquisition into their standard curriculum. Where and how ELL or English as a second language (ESL) instructors teach, largely depends on the age and education level of their students. As the number of ELLs continues to grow, many post-secondary institutions provide graduate degree or certification programs to ELL instructors.

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ELL Instructor Job Description

ELL and ESL instructors or teachers of English to speakers of other languages (TESOL) play a unique role in the education system. They are expected to have a firm grasp on the English language and effective pedagogy as well as an understanding of linguistics, language acquisition and different cultures.

ELL educators may teach a variety of subjects or specialize in one subject area. They may infuse practical applications of English into math and science lessons or job skills courses.

ELL instructors are expected to identify what works best to ensure each student's success. ELL teachers often employ innovative strategies, such as charades or other activities, into their curricula. These strategies aid students in their conversational, problem solving and critical thinking skills.

Most teachers, including ELL instructors, work over 40 hours a week; the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports (www.bls.gov). Kindergarten and adult education ELL teachers often work part-time.

Elementary through High School Education

Elementary school instructors often teach one class multiple subjects, such as reading, math, science and social studies or one subject, like art or music, to many classes and incorporate ELL concepts into their daily curriculum. Middle school and high school instructors teach specific courses and provide students with a more in depth look into the subjects introduced in elementary school while implementing ELL concepts into course syllabi.

Teachers at the kindergarten through middle school levels are expected to have a 17% increase in demand between 2010 and 2020, while those at the high school level can expect a seven percent rise in opportunities over that time period, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). The median salaries for elementary through high school teachers in 2012 were between $53,400 and $55,050, based on data from the BLS.

Adult Education

Adult educators provide students with the tools to communicate in English through speech, reading, writing and listening. Educators of adult ELLs are equipped with the knowledge to help students navigate society from the grocery store to the job market. Adult ELL educators may need to understand naturalization and citizenship concerns, as well as have knowledge of community resources.

The BLS reports employment prospects for adult literacy and GED teachers, including those who teach English language learners, will expand by 15% during the 2010-2020 decade. As of May 2012, the median salary in this profession was $48,590, as reported by the BLS.

Education and Licensing Requirements for ELL Instructors

ELL instructors at the elementary through high school levels are generally licensed teachers. Teachers normally graduate from a 4-year program with a bachelor's degree in education and then earn a teacher's license. Some states have alternative licensing programs for graduates in majors other than education who are interested in teaching.

Adult ESL educators should have a minimum of a bachelor's degree, while some adult education programs prefer graduates with a master's degree.

Prospective instructors will likely have college coursework in applicable technology, multiculturalism, professionalism, class preparation and assessment, grammar and language theory.


Licensing is required for all teachers, unless teaching in a private school, and is also necessary for adult educators, especially those working in local or state programs. Licensure generally requires finishing an accepted teacher training program and earning a bachelor's degree. Licensing requirements differ from state to state.

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Other Schools:

  • School locations:
    • Pennsylvania (1 campus)
    Areas of study you may find at University of Pennsylvania include:
      • Graduate: Doctorate, First Professional Degree, Master
      • Post Degree Certificate: First Professional Certificate, Post Master's Certificate, Postbaccalaureate Certificate
      • Undergraduate: Associate, Bachelor
    • Education
      • Counseling and Guidance
      • Curriculum and Instruction
      • Educational Administration and Supervision
      • Educational Evaluation and Research
      • ESL Teaching
      • Philosophical Foundations of Education
      • Teacher Education for Specific Levels and Methods
        • Teacher Education, Multiple Levels
        • Teaching, Elementary
        • Teaching, High School
        • Teaching, Young Children
      • Teacher Education for Specific Subject Areas
  • School locations:
    • Rhode Island (1 campus)
    Areas of study you may find at Brown University include:
      • Graduate: First Professional Degree, Master
      • Undergraduate: Bachelor
    • Education
      • Educational Administration and Supervision
      • ESL Teaching
      • Teacher Education for Specific Levels and Methods
        • Teaching, Elementary
      • Teacher Education for Specific Subject Areas

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Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics