How to Become an English as a Second Language (ESL) Teacher
Teachers who teach English to students whose first or primary language is other than English are known as ESL teachers (English as a Second Language teachers). They teach non-English speaking students about how to read, write, and speak in English fluently. Usually, ESL teachers focus on conversational and job-related skills based on real life situations and the lessons are designed to help them mingle with ease in an English speaking environment. Take note however that ESL teachers should not be confused with EFL teachers (English as a Foreign Language teacher) even when they are essentially the same. The difference lies only on where the English instruction takes place. If the non-English speaking student is in an English speaking country like the United States or Canada then the teacher is an ESL teacher. If the non-English speaking student is in a non-English speaking country then the teacher is said to be an EFL teacher. But, for purposes of this discussion we shall use the terms interchangeably.
Being good at speaking, writing, and reading the English language does not automatically qualify you as an ESL teacher. You need to undergo a TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) or also known as TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) certification program. But before you can enroll in any TEFL certification program, you need to find out if the country where you intend to teach English requires a degree before you can teach. There are countries where a degree is not required like China and Ecuador. Otherwise, a bachelor's degree is required prior to taking the certification program. Any college course will do but it will always be an advantage if you have an education degree.
A TESOL/TEFL certification will provide you only the foundation and the basic skills to teach English and prepare you for licensure. Like any other teacher, you need to acquire a teaching license first before you can teach in the U.S. Licensing requirements may vary from state to state or from one country to another. Some states may require you to take basic skills to prove your proficiency in reading, Math and writing abilities as administered by the state's Commission on Teacher Credentialing or the Board of Education. Apart from passing the state licensing exam, the whole process of securing your state credentials may include completing an application form, submitting your school transcript of records, passing required drug tests and breezing through a derogatory/criminal record check. In some states, additional requirements for adult education may even be required since this is the teaching category the ESL course falls under which may include taking courses on bicultural studies and foreign language course. It is best to check the specific requirements for the ESL teacher with the Board of Education of the state where you intend to teach.
Finally, apply for internship at adult education centers, social service programs, or community colleges to gain valuable teaching experiences. Internship will allow you to acquire experience and practice your teaching skills under the supervision of more experienced teachers.
ESL teachers earn an annual salary of from $42,000 to $60,000 depending on the state you're in. You may not earn as much as a beginning teacher but you will definitely reach top earnings as you gain more experience.
So, if and when you do decide to undergo a TEFL/TESOL certification program, make sure it is with an institution duly accredited by experts in this field. Make sure too that the certification program that it offers is internationally known and recognized and that it has an unblemished and verifiable record of producing quality teachers in the past.