ESL Teacher: Job Description and Salary Information

Teachers that specialize in ESL, or teaching English as a second language, teach English to students who speak foreign languages, like Spanish, French, Japanese or Russian. They teach students how to speak, read and write in English and how to comprehend spoken English. ESL teachers can be found in English-speaking countries helping immigrants understand their new language or in non-English speaking countries working as English as a foreign language (EFL) teachers.

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ESL Teacher Job Description

ESL teachers can work at the elementary, secondary and post-secondary levels or as adult education instructors providing English instruction to classes or individual students. ESL teachers may require extra training to learn the special needs of adult and child learners.

ESL teachers may develop a curriculum that takes an overall approach to English study or they may focus on a specific aspect of language use, such as life skills, literacy, or vocational and workplace English. Both approaches involve teaching students basic English skills, such as listening, reading, writing and speaking.

Classroom work can consist of rote pronunciation techniques, quizzes, textbooks, videos and computer lessons. Teachers often combine basic studies with real-life interactions involving language use in different situations, such as shopping, schooling, job hunting or working with English-speaking coworkers.

Most ESL teachers may be required to be fluent in another language besides English, in order to communicate with their students. ESL teachers need to be knowledgeable of their students' culture and recognize differences that may affect a student's ability to acclimate to a English-speaking environment.

Salary Information

Many ESL teachers work on a part-time basis and receive hourly wages. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the 2008 median wage in this field was $22.26 an hour. Full-time ESL teachers earned a median salary of $49,830 in 2008.

Salaries vary greatly according to region. Locations with large immigrant populations often pay much more than states with lower needs for second language teachers. Annual state salary statistics compiled by the BLS in 2008 show the median salary in New York was $68,160 as opposed to $32,230 in Idaho. Cost of living and other factors may influence these regional variations.

Job opportunities for ESL teachers were expected to increase by 15% between 2008 and 2018. This large increase is due to a large projected increase in the number of immigrants entering the United States and the continued growth in global commerce (

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Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics