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Frequently Asked Questions About Starting a Career in TESOL

This FAQ provides information about academic requirements for EAL teachers, an overview of teacher education programs, suggestions on how to search for jobs, and details about the career services that TESOL provides.  
If you are new to the profession, reading this section first will make the more detailed career information available on TESOL's website easier to understand. 

TESOL, which stands for teaching English to speakers of other languages, is a general name for the field of teaching that includes both teaching English as a second language (TESL) and teaching English as a foreign language (TEFL). It's important not to confuse all occurrences of the acronym with TESOL International Association. For example, not every TESOL Certificate Program is offered by TESOL International Association. It may be offered by a university or even a private company.

No single degree, certificate, or license authorizes an individual to teach English as an additional language (EAL) in all fields or in all parts of the world. Job requirements are specific to the job and the employer and may vary a great deal from one job to another. Depending on the place one is teaching, generally speaking, the minimum qualification to teach English in private language schools throughout the world is a bachelor’s degree and some type of TESOL certificate. 
A good first step is to contact the department or ministry of education in the country where you plan to work for more information about that country’s educational system and academic requirements for teachers. 

Most English language teaching (ELT) jobs require at least some academic background in TESOL or a related field. The potential employer decides what is related, but examples may include education, English, and linguistics. If you have a degree in an unrelated field, you might consider supplementing it with a TESOL certificate. 

Certificate programs provide an introduction to teaching EAL. Generally speaking, there are two types of certificate programs: graduate certificates and independent certificates. Both usually require applicants to have a bachelor’s degree, but only the individual institutions offering certificates can answer questions about their prerequisites. 
Graduate certificates are usually taught at the university level and usually take two to four semesters to complete. The credits are often applicable to a master’s degree. Independent certificates are usually much shorter-term programs (from two to six weeks) that focus on practical training and different methods for teaching language. To ensure that you get a solid grounding the essentials of English language teaching, TESOL strongly encourages you to review our standards for short-term certificate programs. 

Within the TESOL English Language Professional’s Resource Guide, you can search for degree and certificate programs in EAL and related fields. 
The directory does not include all programs worldwide. If you do not see a program listed in your area, you might contact local universities to inquire whether they offer one or contact your local TESOL affiliate. You might also search online or contact the Department or Ministry of Education in the country where you hope to find a program.

TESOL International Association does not evaluate teacher education programs and cannot comment on individual institutions. As an association, TESOL must be impartial and cannot direct potential students to any program or type of program. Only the individual institutions can answer questions about the types of degrees or certificates they offer. 

Numerous volunteer opportunities are available worldwide. Local literacy programs often include an EAL component, and aid agencies place volunteer teachers throughout the world. If you are untrained and plan to search for a paid position, you will most likely find low pay, no benefits, and long hours. These entry level positions are usually easiest to obtain by applying on-site. 
With that being said, TESOL strongly urges you to obtain some kind of credential. The TESOL Core Certificate Program is an entry level certificate that will give you the skills you need to enter into the ELT workforce. 

Speaking a second language is not necessarily required to enter the field of TESOL, but it is beneficial, in general, to have learned another language and to know another culture. If you are living and working in a non–English-speaking country, you may not be required to speak the host country’s language, but you will likely find your stay more comfortable and rewarding if you learn the local language.  

Because no single body governs all the ELT jobs worldwide, there is no central source for salary and benefits information. You will have to search for information on a specific country.  

Because no single body governs all ELT jobs worldwide, no statistics exist for which countries have the most jobs. Some places you can check for job listing are TESOL’s Online Career Center and Dave’s ESL Cafe.  

TESOL does not offer placement services for teachers or recruitment services for employers. But the TESOL Career Center does have many other resources available to job seekers. 

TESOL International Association headquarters is located in Alexandria, Virginia, USA. TESOL also has more than 100 affiliates worldwide, but these affiliates are autonomous organizations with independent memberships and activities. Although TESOL shares a special relationship with its affiliates, membership in TESOL does not constitute membership in any of its affiliates or vice versa. 

For information on how to join TESOL International Association and details about additional member benefits, please visit the TESOL membership webpage. 

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