Read 5488 times

Teaching ESL in the USA
« on: February 18, 2014, 10:07:37 am »
I'm in the beginning stages of researching potential Masters in TESOL programs and I have a few questions...

What is required to teach ESL in a public K-12 school in America?  If I get the MA in TESOL, will I still need to get a teaching certificate from the state I want to work in?  What is the difference between a ESL teaching certificate and a regular teaching certificate (as in do I need both?  Or is the ESL cert an extension of the regular teaching cert?)

Is it worth going to a brick and mortar school for my masters?  In your experience, has it made a difference with potential employers whether you got it from physically attending a school or if you got it from an online program? What about getting a MA degree here in Korea or from another country (eg. England, Australia)? From wherever you received your MA degree (b&m, online, another country), did you feel satisfied from the knowledge and new perspective in teaching that you gained?  Or do you wish you had chosen another option in hindsight?

Would anyone be willing to share their personal experiences about teaching in the US?  Was it difficult finding a job?  What is the job market like for ESL teachers?  What kind of school did you teach in?  Where in the US?  How much did you earn?  What was the cost of living in the area you taught and did you earn enough to live comfortably while working there?  What were the ethnicities of your students?  If you taught in the US after teaching abroad in an Asian country, did you find that your employers looked favorably on that or did you feel that given our proximity to Spanish-speaking cultures they would have preferred someone with more experience with Latin American countries?

Finally, do you have any other advice or suggestions for someone who is preparing to begin a career in teaching ESL in America?

Thanks in advance to everyone who takes the time to respond!


Re: Teaching ESL in the USA
« Reply #1 on: February 18, 2014, 11:22:41 am »
My cousin is a middle school ESL teacher in the states. You need to be a licensed teacher to teach in public schools, at least where she is. She is licensed to teach both ESL and history.


  • Hoosier_Jedi
  • Expert Waygook

    • 857

    • April 08, 2011, 01:56:38 pm
    • Icheon
    more
Re: Teaching ESL in the USA
« Reply #2 on: February 18, 2014, 12:45:43 pm »
Yeah, as I understand it, public schools will want that teaching license. Without out you're pretty much SOL. I do believe there are sometimes exceptions, but good luck with that.

I'd say just take the exam. Though even if you pass schools might give you a sideways look if you have no formal teaching training.


Re: Teaching ESL in the USA
« Reply #3 on: February 18, 2014, 12:53:35 pm »
If your expertise is in a high-demand area then why not try a fellows program to get paid to teach/student loan deferment and go to classes to become certified.

tntpteachingfellows .org

I heard they are really hard to get into though, you need pretty much high GPA's from an Ivy League school.

 =============

Many M. in Ed. programs are accelerated (usually 3 semesters) and allow you to get (course) credit and get paid for teaching during the day and study at night.  However, you have 2 responibilities on your plate this way.
« Last Edit: February 18, 2014, 01:02:28 pm by matthews_world »


  • Ley_Druid
  • The Legend

    • 2465

    • February 17, 2011, 08:36:33 am
    • Shinan-Gun, Jeollanam-Do, South Korea
Re: Teaching ESL in the USA
« Reply #4 on: February 18, 2014, 12:55:30 pm »
My cousin is a middle school ESL teacher in the states. You need to be a licensed teacher to teach in public schools, at least where she is. She is licensed to teach both ESL and history.

Yep! A TESOL M.A. isn't generally going to get you far, especially in "blue" states, but it should work in Florida and Alabama, if I remember correctly. You still need a teaching license, and you probably should have a B.A. in Education. A Masters in education is better, in which case, you minor in ESL and then get licences as an ESL teacher.

TESOL is more for private schools or colleges, in which case, you'd still need more than that, in my opinion. I know some who teach ESL, but they are in no position to call it a career. They teach it as an instructor, not a teacher or professor, which means that they are paid by the class, and it isn't a whole heck of a lot.


  • Hoosier_Jedi
  • Expert Waygook

    • 857

    • April 08, 2011, 01:56:38 pm
    • Icheon
    more
Re: Teaching ESL in the USA
« Reply #5 on: February 18, 2014, 01:30:46 pm »
My cousin is a middle school ESL teacher in the states. You need to be a licensed teacher to teach in public schools, at least where she is. She is licensed to teach both ESL and history.

Yep! A TESOL M.A. isn't generally going to get you far, especially in "blue" states, but it should work in Florida and Alabama, if I remember correctly. You still need a teaching license, and you probably should have a B.A. in Education. A Masters in education is better, in which case, you minor in ESL and then get licences as an ESL teacher.

TESOL is more for private schools or colleges, in which case, you'd still need more than that, in my opinion. I know some who teach ESL, but they are in no position to call it a career. They teach it as an instructor, not a teacher or professor, which means that they are paid by the class, and it isn't a whole heck of a lot.

What if you have a CELTA? I've accepted to train for one and some people have said I should look into colleges once I have it.


  • Ley_Druid
  • The Legend

    • 2465

    • February 17, 2011, 08:36:33 am
    • Shinan-Gun, Jeollanam-Do, South Korea
Re: Teaching ESL in the USA
« Reply #6 on: February 18, 2014, 01:36:53 pm »
Honestly, I don't know anyone with a CELTA back home. I had some high school friends who are also ESL teachers in Seattle, but they either have a B.A. in Ed with a concentration in ESL or they are TESOL MAs who work at private academies like Kaplin or they work in community colleges.

I used to work very closely with the ESL department when I was an undergrad because I have always wanted to get into teaching, but everyone seems to have either been a professor, assistant professor, or they have over ten years of experience at the community college level before being accepted, in which case, they have authored some books or important information for the field. That was at the University of Washington.

CELTA is rather nice, but isn't it focused on younger students? I mean, not for "traditional academics"?


  • Hoosier_Jedi
  • Expert Waygook

    • 857

    • April 08, 2011, 01:56:38 pm
    • Icheon
    more
Re: Teaching ESL in the USA
« Reply #7 on: February 18, 2014, 02:55:11 pm »
Honestly, I don't know anyone with a CELTA back home. I had some high school friends who are also ESL teachers in Seattle, but they either have a B.A. in Ed with a concentration in ESL or they are TESOL MAs who work at private academies like Kaplin or they work in community colleges.

I used to work very closely with the ESL department when I was an undergrad because I have always wanted to get into teaching, but everyone seems to have either been a professor, assistant professor, or they have over ten years of experience at the community college level before being accepted, in which case, they have authored some books or important information for the field. That was at the University of Washington.

CELTA is rather nice, but isn't it focused on younger students? I mean, not for "traditional academics"?

CELTA does have an addition you can do that focuses on young learners. But I was told straight up that for my training I'd be working 100% with adults.


  • lisselou
  • Adventurer

    • 44

    • November 03, 2010, 09:23:10 am
    • Korea
Re: Teaching ESL in the USA
« Reply #8 on: February 18, 2014, 05:57:00 pm »
My cousin is a middle school ESL teacher in the states. You need to be a licensed teacher to teach in public schools, at least where she is. She is licensed to teach both ESL and history.

Yep! A TESOL M.A. isn't generally going to get you far, especially in "blue" states, but it should work in Florida and Alabama, if I remember correctly. You still need a teaching license, and you probably should have a B.A. in Education. A Masters in education is better, in which case, you minor in ESL and then get licences as an ESL teacher.

TESOL is more for private schools or colleges, in which case, you'd still need more than that, in my opinion. I know some who teach ESL, but they are in no position to call it a career. They teach it as an instructor, not a teacher or professor, which means that they are paid by the class, and it isn't a whole heck of a lot.

What if you have a CELTA? I've accepted to train for one and some people have said I should look into colleges once I have it.

My dad's cousin (first cousin once removed?) is a full professor at City University in NYC and has almost 20 years of experience in the ESL field. She did not know what CELTA was! It sounds like it's not really known in the USA.

I have asked her for a lot of advice over the years about pursuing a career and these are some links that she sent to me about some of the best MA TESOL programs:

Here's the Anaheim link

http://www.anaheim.edu/faqs-overview/graduate-school-of-education-faqs

And here's the Monterrey Institute

http://www.miis.edu/academics/programs/tesol

St Michael's in Vermont is a good program
http://www.smcvt.edu/Graduate-Programs/Academic-Programs/Teaching-English-to-Speakers-of-Other-Languages.aspx

Of course the former Experiment in International Living in Brattleboro VT is famous for being unconventional.  Now it's called SIT:

http://www.sit.edu/graduate/6720.htm



Re: Teaching ESL in the USA
« Reply #9 on: February 19, 2014, 09:29:33 am »
Thanks everyone for the replies!  Especially lisselou for providing those links~ After looking through them, I've decided that a Masters in International Education Management seems like a better option for me than a Masters in TESOL.  Never would have even considered it before!  Thanks again everyone!


  • MJHanson
  • Expert Waygook

    • 500

    • May 02, 2011, 09:42:58 am
    • Gyeonggi-do, South Korea
Re: Teaching ESL in the USA
« Reply #10 on: March 01, 2014, 11:44:18 pm »
I know this post is old, but I thought I'd add my two cents.

For public school, you will need a teaching license in ESL.  Even if you had an M.A. in TESOL, you'd still need a license.  Each state has different requirements for licensure.  Poor red states are usually a piece of cake.  Other states will require a year or two of education courses.  Be sure to earn your teaching license in the state you intend to teach in - they generally do not transfer well between states.  Licenses from states with stricter requirements will transfer easily to states with lax requirements, but not vice-versa of course. In high-need areas such as large cities and along the border, some districts may hire you on a probationary status as you complete your ESL teaching certification. 

In general, ESL is one of the best areas for public school teaching in terms of the job market.  Your experience in Korea will also look good on a teaching resume in the States. 

CELTAs mean nothing in the U.S.  The place where they matter most is in Europe, where language schools value them over other TEFL certificates.  CELTAs prepare you for teaching adults in a small language classroom.

Also, never do a master's or Ph.D. with your sights set on teaching at a university.  I know this sounds strange to hear.  But uni teaching positions in the States are extremely competitive.  Most university teaching positions these days are non-tenure track adjunct yearly contract jobs that pay by the class and usually have shitty benefits.  An M.A. will not qualify you for a stable uni teaching job.  Even Ph.D.s are fighting for non-tenure track gigs.  Of course it depends on the field. 


  • Artisis
  • Veteran

    • 233

    • August 21, 2013, 04:52:28 pm
    • South Korea
Re: Teaching ESL in the USA
« Reply #11 on: August 04, 2014, 01:30:44 pm »


Each state has different requirements for licensure. Be sure to earn your teaching license in the state you intend to teach in - they generally do not transfer well between states.  Licenses from states with stricter requirements will transfer easily to states with lax requirements, but not vice-versa of course. 


YES!!!!! I am a licensed teacher in the State of Oregon. I came here because if I started teaching in Oregon, I would be stuck in the state for the rest of my working life (I am too young for that!)

I can tell you the requirments for Oregon (which is more strict than other states in some ways). You need a Master's degree to qualify for a proper license. Your masters can be from any school (domestic or abroad) in any field. You ALSO need an Oregon teaching license (your credential). You can get a masters , come to Oregon, enroll in a 9 month credential course and be a licensed  teacher in your major area. If you want to teach in secondary school (middle, high), you need an endorsement area. This is what subject you will teach (english, history, math, science...) I believe ESL is an endorsement area (I am not sure).

For me, I went to a school where I could get a teaching endrosement for my major. I graduated with my BA in History and my teaching license for Middle and Highschool social studies. My license is valid for about 4 years. After that my license will expire. In order to renew, I need to enroll in a Master's program, complete education coursework or forfit my license.

If you have a MA in TESOL, I would look into the specific requirments for ESL assistants and teachers. They may have a different license.
For more information here is the website for the teaching commission
http://www.oregon.gov/TSPC/Pages/index.aspx

This is state specific. Every state will have their own licensing commission, requirements, and rules. Before you become a teacher in the US, think long and hard which state you want to teach in because it is difficult as hell to transfer and there are many negatives to doing so including your previous years teaching in another state will not be used for senority, your pension or to adjust your pay scale.


  • Hoosier_Jedi
  • Expert Waygook

    • 857

    • April 08, 2011, 01:56:38 pm
    • Icheon
    more
Re: Teaching ESL in the USA
« Reply #12 on: August 17, 2014, 03:17:05 am »
From what I understand, Oregon is an extreme example. It is easier to move between other states. But there are other tricky one's out there. A Google work will show you which states except licenses from state X.


Re: Teaching ESL in the USA
« Reply #13 on: March 22, 2015, 01:24:21 pm »
Given the awful pay in the field back home and in many other countries, wouldn't it be better to train for another field that pays well instead?