English as a Second Language (ESL) Teacher Salary

Teaching English as a second language is a fairly lucrative occupation that can have a positive impact on most any given multilingual community. A common misconception about being an ESL instructor is to know how to speak, interpret, or translate other languages. This notion is a fallacy. Teaching English to non-native speakers requires that those who want to learn the language should have a basic understanding in terms of written and oral communication as well. This profession is not only lucrative; it’s a rewarding field that can help students achieve social and financial mobility. Facilitating good communication skills is vital, especially in today’s heavily trafficked information age, when being intelligible can result in collective success.

Salary Overview

Pay grades for ESL teachers will vary, depending upon location, experience, and degrees of certification. Grade levels are also a factor when determining salary. Teachers who want to work full time in Europe or Asia, for example, can average $36,000 annually, which often includes room and board. In the United States, especially in California and Texas, the average full time salary is in the area of $48, 000. For elementary school ESL teachers, annual salaries fall between $39,000 and $53,000. Middle school instructors can average between $43,000 and $53,000, while high school teachers can earn as much as $63,000 per year.*

Institutions of higher learning can turn out to be even more lucrative. Community college instructors who specialize in ESL can average $42,000, and the pay grade jumps significantly higher for university professors. The average annual pay is $73,000 per year, and senior professors are now making up to $98,000 annually.*

*According to the BLS, http://www.bls.gov/oco/

Job Description and Outlook

Teaching ESL classes for beginners is similar to teaching rudimentary level, grammar school English courses. Most instructors will start by assigning students a diagnostic paragraph that will not be graded. This diagnostic is for two resons: finding mistakes, but also as a collective measuring stick in terms of where to begin. Lesson plans are extremely important; however, diagnostic results may differ according to the Bell Curve, which may require a simpler approach at the onset. As the semester progresses, instructors will be able to implement assignments as they see fit. Visual aids will also come in handy, whether using overhead projectors, PowerPoint presentations, or interactive multimedia access, such as the internet.

All of these devices can be helpful additions in obtaining two primary objectives: understanding how to use the language in a textual manner, which includes grammar, punctuation, syntax, and diction. The second goal, which is of equal importance, is to know the difference between written and spoken English. Both objectives combined can help introductory ESL students advance to the next level without getting lost.

Advanced ESL courses involve a basic introduction to critical analysis via the short story, and in some cases students will be introduced to the novella. ESL teachers will assist their students in crafting a five paragraph essay based on the assigned material. Teachers may also give lectures, present educational videos, and prepare students for classes designed for native English speakers.

School districts usually operate on two different systems: the semester schedule, or year-round schooling, also known as the track system. Either way, instructors will be required to adhere to the 40-hour work week schedule. Benefits packages will vary as well.

Public schools in the United States are implementing more ESL programs because of the huge influx of non-native speakers. Prospects for ESL teachers are also continuing to grow, due to the global economy. The need for accurate communication skills in the English language is vital to the world of business as well. International phone calls involve having a decent command of the language, not to mention the effectiveness of emails written in English. ESL positions are available in the United States, Canada, The United Kingdom, The Middle East, China, Japan, and many other countries across the world.*

*According to the BLS, http://www.bls.gov/oco/

Training and Education Requirements

In the United States, having a Bachelor’s degree in English or Education is usually the first prerequisite. Also preferable is a minor in linguistics. In Some states, a Master’s degree is obligatory, yet each state has its own different employment policies. Licensure, or granting a license to practice a profession, is supplemental to the degree. Verifying licensure for ESL instructors is mandatory with the board of education in every state where applications will be submitted.


Training certification for ESL instructors will vary depending upon location. Teaching in Europe or Asia requires having a certificate in TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) or TESOL (Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages). Many accredited colleges for these certificates exist across the world, and can also be found on line.

Professional Associations

Here are just a few professional organizations that offer ESL teaching/training opportunities:

  • Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) is an International organization offering career positions.
  • International Association of Teachers of English as a Foreign Language (IATEFL) brokers ESL placement worldwide.
  • National Association of Bilingual Education provides teacher training.
  • International Association of Bilingual Education Providers specializes in the learning and teaching of languages.

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