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What is ESL teacher. Photo of ESL teacher in front of whiteboard.

Chances are you recently discovered an interest in teaching English or have heard the term crop up before and now have a burning desire to get answers. 

But what is an ESL teacher and wait a sec…what does ESL stand for? 

ESL stands for English as a second language. 

So naturally, an ESL teacher is an instructor who teaches English as a second language! Meaning your students’ native tongue is anything but English.

English is one of the most widely spoken languages globally, so as an English instructor, you’re helping the world connect through language.  

Sounds like a pretty meaningful job, doesn’t it? 

It definitely is, so keep reading to learn more about what an ESL instructor is and how you can become one. 

What is an ESL teacher?

ESL teachers help English language learners (ELS) whose first language isn’t English to reach fluency in English as their second language. 

Teachers can give lessons for any English level starting from the very basics to more advanced English and specializations. 

They help students with everything from reading, writing to communication skills like speaking and listening. 

Your students could be newcomers, international students or ESL students in their home countries where English isn’t the first language.

You can either teach English online or in-person as an English language instructor.

Photo of ESL teacher writing on white board. What is ESL teacher?

How do I become an ESL teacher?

There are a couple of paths towards becoming an ESL instructor.

And the great news is that you don’t need any prior teaching experience to become an ESL teacher. 

It all starts with a bachelor’s degree and the right certifications (because you wouldn’t want to show up to any job unqualified.) 

There are a few certifications you might want to add to your resume to ensure you’ll thrive as an ESL teacher, even if you’re already an experienced teacher.

First take a look at getting your TEFL, TESL, or TESOL

You may be wondering what those acronyms mean, no worries, we’ve got you covered:

  1. TEFL: Teaching English as a Foreign Language
  2. TESL: Teaching English as a Second Langauge
  3. TESOL: Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages

So, which certification do you need?  

It depends. So to help you decide, we came up with this helpful guide: 

TEFL VS TESL - what is an ESL instructor? What is an ESL teacher?

How do I get certified to teach ESL?

You’ll need a bachelor’s degree (in any subject) plus your choice of TEFL, TESL or TESOL. 

Before you choose a course, it’s important to only go with reputable course providers

Tip: Look at the requirements for jobs you want and make sure the course provides at least 100 hours of certification at a minimum; otherwise, you might not qualify for those opportunities.

If you’re going for a TEFL certification, the surefire way to ensure you pick the right one is to go with a provider with lots of great reviews, international recognition and preferably backed by universities. 

Become an ESL teacher today!

If you’re certified to teach ESL already and are ready to dive in then you can check our job board for thousands of ESL teaching opportunities.


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