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How to Become an ESL Teacher Online or Abroad

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Wondering how to become an ESL teacher?

Teaching English as a second language (ESL) is an excellent way to earn money as a freelancer. You can work in person at a school, work from home online or become an ESL teacher abroad.

Teaching seems to be an evergreen online career because of the need for learning. Its market is always progressing and developing. Language is an essential part of our everyday lives and is a continually evolving subject. English is the language that garners a lot of interest from language learners of all ages worldwide. Most likely, this is because it’s been considered the universal language for the longest time.

Teaching ESL online is a very popular freelance job. It’s challenging, fun, rewarding, and it allows you to travel while you’re working. However, simply having teaching experience and speaking fluent English won’t be enough to cut it. You’ll need training as well as ESL certification. Here is how to become an ESL teacher from home or abroad.

How to Become an ESL Teacher from Home or Abroad

ESL teacher whose learned how to teach English as a second languagehow to teach English

Get ESL Certification

Being a fluent English speaker isn’t enough to be an online ESL teacher. This is because you’ll be teaching people from other countries whose first language is not English. You’ll need tangible proof that you’re qualified to teach foreigners, even if you’re a native English speaker yourself.

That tangible proof can come in the form of a university degree or an ESL certification that declares you’re a qualified ESL teacher. Most reputable ESL teaching companies require ESL certification if you want to find a job through them. If you don’t have certification yet, many ESL teaching companies will point you to institutions that grant ESL certification.

These programs are designed to sharpen your teaching skills as well as the assessment, language, and cultural knowledge that you’ll need when teaching ESL.

In addition, ESL certification programs typically include courses in conversational skills and teaching methods in order to teach the language. Acquiring this certificate is essentially the equivalent of getting a teaching license, proving that you have the skills to be an effective ESL teacher.

Teaching ESL online for a private organization will require studying Teaching English as a Second Language (TESL) to get certified. TESL programs are offered by public and private institutions and can be taken in-person or online. On average, those programs can take up to 150 hours to finish.

Teach ESL without a degree

Most ESL teachers have a university degree, but there are companies that hire ESL teachers who don’t have a degree.

You’ll find 11 companies where you can find ESL jobs even if you don’t have a degree here.

Get a related Bachelor’s degree

Not every online ESL education company makes it mandatory to have an education or an English-related Bachelor’s degree. However, having a related Bachelor’s degree does give you an edge over your peers who aspire to be online ESL teachers. If you’re already certain that you want to teach ESL, then having a Bachelor’s degree related to it will help a lot.

You don’t necessarily have to have an education degree. You can enroll in programs that cover linguistics, communication, and other language studies. Studying anything that involves language or communication makes your resume more appealing to recruiters.

Some companies may require a Bachelor’s degree because they cater to adult English learners. An education degree is also helpful since it covers general subjects that will help prepare you for the rigors of teaching. If you want, you can take programs that will concentrate specifically on ESL.

Degrees in ESL include a Bachelor of Arts in English as a Second Language Education and a Bachelor of Science in Teaching and Learning with a concentration in ESL. Courses such as those will educate and prepare you for a career in teaching ESL. There’s also a Bachelor’s degree in elementary education that emphasizes ESL, which will be helpful if you apply for a job that teaches kids.

Man teaching ESL online at his kitchen table

Acquire teaching experience

While lack of a Bachelor’s degree in education may not affect your qualifications to teach ESL, a lack of teaching experience may.

People with experience in being an instructor or teacher put themselves in a better position to be hired for teaching ESL online or in person. It will be very helpful for you to gain teaching experience if you want to land a job as an ESL teacher.

Most organizations looking for an ESL teacher don’t require formal teaching experience. You can gain experience even by being a peer tutor or by tutoring your neighbor’s child. That should make it easier for you to look for anything that relates to teaching.

If you get a Bachelor’s degree in education, you could ask your university if they know of a place where you can teach and gain some experience. It won’t pay like a regular online ESL teaching job, but it will help get your foot in the door.

There are also alternatives such as applying for a school in areas with a high need for teachers, where you can land a paying job as a substitute.

Note that the experience doesn’t have to be formal. It could be in an informal setting, as mentioned above. It has to be consistent, which means you have to do it periodically for a substantial amount of time.

How much does an ESL teacher make

What you’ll make as an ESL teacher depends on a lot of factors including whether you teach in person in your own country, whether you teach online or whether you teach English abroad.

This calculator will show you how much you can make as an ESL teacher online.

According to PayScale, ESL teachers in the United States earn an average of $20.28 per hour. Interested in teaching English abroad? You can find how much you’ll make as an ESL teacher abroad in nine different countries here.

Find an organization to apply for an online teaching position

Once you’ve gotten either the certification or the degree and you’ve acquired some teaching experience, you can proceed to send in applications for an ESL job. You can do this online by researching for companies or public agencies that need your skills. There are plenty of them; you just need to separate the legitimate ones from the scams.

Start by reading reviews to learn the kind of experiences that former and current ESL teachers have had working for various companies. Based on that, you can get a picture of what it will be like to work there.

Other than that, you should also look at their job offers. See if they have what you’re looking for such as a competitive salary package and desirable working hours. Also  make sure they have teaching positions for the age bracket of students you’d like to teach.

Wrapping up

Teaching English online is a great freelance career whether you want to teach in person in your own country, teach online from home, or work abroad. Just follow the right steps when you’re learning how to become an ESL teacher, and opportunities will open up for you. Make the right choices and you can have an excellent career as an ESL teacher!

How to teach English as a second language at home or abroad

Image by Rishi Gangoly

Guest blogger Angelo Castelda
Angelo Castelda

Angelo Castelda is a freelance writer from Asia. Besides writing, he also spends his time traveling and learning about diverse cultures, which opened his heart more to learning and imparting knowledge about ESL.

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