Career as an ESOL teacher

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Sharon Ross teaches English to people who speak another language (ESOL teacher) – and that could be anything from Portuguese to Urdu. She has worked in colleges, community centres and prisons, helping people to communicate.

How would you outline your career as an ESOL teacher?

I teach English to mixed groups of people from a variety of other countries – they all have differing levels of understanding. Although I am teaching English, I can use my other language skills to communicate as well.

What is your daily routine?

Lessons might be two or three hours long and I may have two of these in a day. When you're not teaching, there is preparation, research on the internet, marking, putting students through exams and discussions with colleagues about new teaching methods and materials.

What hours do you work?

I usually start around 8.30am and might finish at 4.45pm. I have worked both full and part time and there's a real shortage of teachers, so there are opportunities to do both.

How do you make use of your languages?

Obviously, you are teaching English and need to communicate to the students in that language as much as possible. However, I speak German, French and have a smattering of Italian and this helps when I need to explain something particularly difficult to some students.

What's your working environment like?

In prisons, I worked in classrooms as well as in the workshops. In colleges, I am more likely to be in a classroom. There is a lot of outreach involved with teaching these groups.

Who do you work with?

The students and, in colleges, there are often lots of staff to talk with. In prisons, though, you might be the only teacher, so it can be more isolated.

What special skills or qualities do you need for a career as an ESOL teacher?

You have to have a sound knowledge of your own language and its grammar. You also need to be flexible and willing to learn new teaching ideas.

Why did you choose this career as an ESOL teacher?

I have always been interested in languages and I really wanted to teach. I taught German for a while and English as a Foreign Language (EFL), and am fascinated by how different it is to teach the language to speakers of other languages.

What training have you done?

I did A levels, mainly in languages, and then a Degree in German. After that, I completed a postgraduate qualification in German. I started working for a language company involved in teaching and then decided I wanted to involved in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) full time. I have also done a City & Guilds teacher training course, TEFL and ESOL qualifications and am studying for a Masters in Applied Linguistics.

Do you use any tools or equipment?

I try to use computers in my teaching and I sue a laptop for diagnostic assessments of my students. We use a lot of objects like menus, newspapers and magazines, I also use a tape recorder with headsets.

What do you like about your career as an ESOL teacher?

I like the students. ESOL learners are really motivated because they might want to live in the UK or get a job and it's important to them to learn English. I also like that every lesson is different.

ESOL teacher related jobs












  • Further education lecturer.
  • Higher education lecturer.
  • Learning mentor.
  • School teacher.
  • Special educational needs teacher.
  • Teaching assistant/learning support assistant.

Salary of an ESOL teacher

  • Salary for working in a commercial language school may start at £13,000 rising to £24,000 in a management role.
  • Teachers in colleges of further education earn from around £16,030 to £35,460 (£17,792 to £36,500 in universities and higher education colleges.)
  • If you work abroad in overseas commercial language schools, salaries vary widely, depending on the country and the size of school – as low as £6,000 in Italy for instance.

How to become an ESOL teacher

  • There are no set entry qualifications to teaching English in commercial language schools, but many teachers have degrees.
  • Colleges of further and higher education and universities also prefer teachers to hole a degree and a TESOL qualification.
  • TESOL qualifications include CELTA (Cambridge Certificate in English Language Teaching to Adults) or CELTYL (Cambridge Certificate in English Language Teaching to Young Learners) for those who want to specialise in teaching young learners and the Trinity College Certificate in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages.
  • Many institutions will ask for a recognised teaching certificate.

Modified: 16 June 2013

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