Teach in ESL Schools and Programs

Start your ESL teaching career as a volunteer or overseas.

It isn't easy to get a full-time ESL teaching position at the college or university of choice, but opportunities abound to jump-start your ESL career and gain experience.

Even if you have a certificate to teach ESL, an undergraduate degree in world languages and literature, or a master's degree in linguistics, landing your first full-time teaching opportunity in the field of second-language instruction or ESL teaching will be fraught with challenges, not the least of which is securing the kind of experience that will make your resume stand out from countless others applying for the same limited number of positions in ESL schools.

To be sure, the perfect mix of academic credentials and real-world experience aimed at the right ESL schools and language programs will almost guarantee success, but the ESL teaching experience has to be present. Consider the following ideas:

Start Local & Volunteer

Visit your local elementary, middle, and high school and speak with the principal about opportunities to work in classrooms or after-school programs that will immediately put you in contact with second-language learners. ESL instructors often discover opportunities for working with parents of children who are themselves eager to improve their English speaking or writing skills.

Another chance to gain experience and benefit your community is to volunteer to tutor or teach ESL at a local library or community center. Often coordinated by community colleges and state universities, these volunteer opportunities can also provide an inside track into part-time and full-time paid positions. At the least, you will have the chance to earn letters of recommendation and collegial support as you develop your career.

Teach Overseas

Overseas ESL language teaching in an international language school - typically referred to as an EFL school - is still the best way to secure the kind of experience that will translate into full-time teaching positions. Talking with other ESL practitioners about your overseas teaching experience is short-hand for saying that you have the background necessary to teach ESL successfully.

However, one should think carefully about the kind of overseas program in which to teach. Many schools have students working solely on conversational English, while other ESL schools have teachers working on reading and writing as well. It is also important to consider where you want to teach, how long your teaching assignment might be, and who will be your colleagues during your overseas teaching experience.

There are many EFL programs, so you should be thoughtful and selective in your decision-making process.

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