What is an ESL Instructor? Learn How to Become One!

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If you have recently become intrigued by the whole world of English language teaching, you may have heard of the term “ESL instructor.”

So, what is an ESL instructor, and is this a job that would be of interest to you?

ESL is a term which means English as a second language.

An ESL instructor, or ESL teacher, is one who teaches English as a second language. This means that your students are from a country where English is not their native tongue.

As an ESL instructor, you can teach English around the globe to adults and children. Some teachers decide they want to teach abroad or in a physical classroom in their home country, while others decide to teach online.

It’s a very meaningful role that can actually make a teacher quite a high income depending on where they intend to go in the world.


What is an ESL instructor?

An ESL instructor is someone who teaches English to students whose first language is not English.

The ESL teacher can give classes to beginner to advanced non-native students who wish to improve their English for academic performance, education, travel, work, everyday life, etc.

Students often called English language learners can be children, teenagers, or adults who seek to gain native-like fluency by attending classes in-person or online.

ESL instructors help students improve their listening, speaking, reading, and writing skills by teaching just using the English language. The instructors don’t have to know any other language to teach English.

The ESL instructor may wish to take on their own private students, work at an international school, public school, teach online, or teach abroad.

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The Role of The ESL Teacher

The ESL teacher may be expected to carry out a number of roles.

Besides instructing students, the ESL teacher may have to create lesson plans and provide assessments.

The teacher may be expected to give students formal feedback, in writing.

ESL teachers may also be expected to become competent in using technology in the classroom, such as the projector and computer.

Evening classes might be expected when teaching adults, which requires teachers to work outside regular school hours.

Some teachers may even teach at a language academy that requires them to conduct activities with the students outside of classes or bring them on tours at weekends.

esl teacher

ESL Teacher Requirements

There are a few things to know before you become an ESL teacher.

The great thing is, you don’t need any prior qualifications to get started. You don’t even need to be a native English speaker!

If you have a bachelor’s degree (in any subject), it can help you land jobs in certain countries. That being said, some countries don’t require you to have a degree. These countries include parts of Europe, Asia, and South America.

If you have an associate’s degree, you should be able to teach in more than 50 countries.

For example, I taught English in the UK and Spain before receiving my bachelor’s degree. I had also worked for two online ESL companies before I had even graduated from university.

But first, you have to get certified to teach English.

How Much Can I Earn as an ESL Teacher?

An ESL teacher salary really deviates, depending on the location the teacher decides to teach.

For example, if teachers decide to teach in Thailand, they might make about $1000 per month. If they decide to teach in China, teachers might be looking at $1700-$4300 per month. If teachers decide to teach in the UAE, they could earn from $3500 to $5500 per month.

Teachers in the United States are said to average $40,000 to $75,000 per year. A master’s degree can significantly increase your salary. Places with more international schools and with a high immigrant population have more teaching opportunities available.

If teachers want to teach online with a company that provides lesson plans for them, they could earn from $15-$25 per hour. Non-native English speakers generally earn less for online teaching roles ($10-$20 on average).

However, bear in mind that the monthly salary is not everything, as teachers also need to factor in the cost of living, teaching hours, and perks that come with the job. Some schools offer their teachers free or cheap accommodation, travel reimbursements, and health insurance.

How Do I Become an ESL Teacher?

You will need to get TEFL-certified before you can apply to teach anywhere. I received my TEFL certification from The TEFL Academy. You can check my TEFL Academy Review for more information about this level-5 qualification.

When you receive your TEFL-certification, you are free to apply to jobs that fit your criteria and expectations.

Many jobs abroad offer great pay and perks, such as free accommodation and flight reimbursements. Or some teachers choose to work at a language academy, a private, or public school where they live. Some other teachers even decide to teach online.

You can also choose to teach in-person or online, and some companies hire both degree and non-degree qualified teachers.

Skills of an ESL Teacher

ESL teachers must have a great deal of skills, such as communication, presentation, and organizational skills. Teachers need to adapt to students who have a wide variety of needs. Working with children requires patience and care.


Here are the names of some certifications you can apply for if you want to be an ESL instructor.

TEFL– Teach English as a Foreign Language

TESOL– Teach English to Speakers of Other Languages

TESL– Teach English as a Second Language.

These acronyms are used interchangeably when describing the courses, and they are more or less the same.

So which certification is best for you?

If you are looking to teach abroad, you should look to get a TEFL certificate at least a one-hundred hour certificate, like The TEFL Academy.

If you are looking to teach English online, you should look to get a TEFL or TESOL certificate like the previous one mentioned.

Online ESL positions aren’t very strict when it comes to your teaching certification. The companies usually provide lesson material and just need teachers to provide their teaching certification number to prove its validity. Therefore you could choose a popular course such as The International Open Academy.

If you are looking to teach in your home country, you could decide to apply for a TEFL, TESOL, or CELTA.

In Conclusion

What is an ESL instructor?

An ESL teacher plays an important role in helping students improve their fluency in the English language. They can teach in many countries abroad or even in their home country.

The ESL teacher’s salary can be very high but it varies depending on location. Many teachers can maintain a higher standard of living while still saving some money teaching abroad.

If you want to become an ESL instructor, you should try to complete a TEFL course. You don’t need any other qualifications to get started.

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I'm an Irish tutor and founder of TPR Teaching. I started teaching in 2016 and have since taught in the UK, Spain, and online.

I love learning new things about the English language and how to teach it better. I'm always trying to improve my knowledge, so I can better meet the needs of others!

I enjoy traveling, nature walks, and soaking up a new culture. Please share the posts if you find them helpful!

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