Bachelors In

Teaching English as a Second Language Degrees

The complete guide on what you’ll learn, job prospects, university programs, and saving time and money.
on July 20, 2020

Why We Love It

  • $68,200
    Potential Avg. Salary*
  • Growing Demand
    Job Outlook

* Salary & growth data is based on the recent Bureau of Labor and Statistics data published at for 25-1081 Education teachers, postsecondary 11/2021. Based on national data, not school-specific information. Conditions in your area may vary.

With a bachelor of arts in teaching English as a second language (ESL), you’ll be prepared to work as a teacher either in the US or internationally. You’ll study the pedagogy of teaching English to non-native speakers, which will qualify you to work in elementary, middle, and high schools. You may also teach English to adult immigrants or visa-holders in colleges or non-profit education organizations.

What is a Degree in Teaching English as a Second Language?

With a bachelor’s degree in ESL, you can enjoy a career as an educator both nationally and abroad. By studying the English language, linguistics, and pedagogy, you’ll learn how best to communicate with non-native speakers and teach them how to speak and write English fluently. You many find work at elementary, middle, and high schools, teaching children how to use English for success in school and into the future, or you may educate adults in colleges or for non-profit educational organizations.

Many ELS majors also choose to double-major in another language of interest. By studying Spanish, Arabic, Hindi, Russian, or French languages and developing fluency, ESL teachers can better communicate with their students who speak those languages natively. They can also understand the differences between the languages that cause issues in translation or confusion for new learners. ESL teachers may also provide English education abroad with the Peace Corps or another non-profit organization.

Recommended Schools

What Courses Would I Take For a Major in Teaching English as a Second Language?

  • Principles of Linguistics
  • Teaching the English Language
  • Language Acquisition
  • Structure of English
  • Reading and Writing in the ESL Classroom
  • Second Language Acquisition
  • Cultural Issues in the ESL Classroom
  • Teaching Grammar

What Jobs Can You Get with a Degree in Teaching English as a Second Language?

There is always demand for effective ESL teachers. ESL teachers help immigrant students adapt and thrive in English-speaking classrooms, and they help adult immigrants and visa-holders learn the language so that they can communicate effectively and understand signs, directions, and communications in the US. ESL teachers are also commonly hired to work in schools abroad for countries with programs designed to teach students English as a second language.

How Long does it take?

A bachelors in Teaching English as a Second Language will have a typical length of 4 years in a full time schedule. That said, there are many ways to speed up the timeframe by either taking more units via online coursework, community college, or taking free classes at that could transfer to universities in the US.

Online Teaching English as a Second Language Degree

Online ESL teaching degree programs are popular for students who seek additional financial resources. The common approach is to study a bachelor degree and get a certification for ESL teaching. You may also have the choice to get prepared directly to an ESL teaching certificate which would normally take few months. Your choice depends mainly on your career plans in the future. In some cases, accreditation of the study program may also be an important factor in determining your choice.

What Can You Do With a Teaching English as a Second Language Degree?

Teaching English as a second language (ESL) is a preferred career choice for students who have good skills and knowledge in English but are less experienced in teaching. It provides a good source of money for young people who are passionate about traveling to different parts of the world. The English knowledge should be certified by some sort of degree in addition to teaching certification as the TEFL certificate. Teaching as a second language will give you the chance to deal with people with diverse cultures from different places which is a great experience to everybody. You will also have better skills in communicating with people who sometimes lack a common language.

What does an ESL student learn?

Teaching English as a second language essentially requires understanding the language in addition to outstanding communication skills. The teacher should also be able to acknowledge the diversity of people and the difference between them regarding culture and learning abilities. The following list shows the courses commonly studied in ESL programs:

  1. Teaching methods: the student will learn the various methods that can be used to teach English to non-English speakers as the direct method, grammar-translation, audio-lingual, structural approach, total physical response and communicative language teaching.
  2. Cultural diversity: this course introduces examples of cultural differences between people. The course may focus on the culture of specific groups if the student has clear intention to teach this group of people.
  3. Assessment methods: the student will get to know the different methods available for assessment of language students including placement, diagnostic and formative methods.
  4. Developmental psychology: this course refers to the study of psychological changes related to human development over the course of their life. The course is particularly important for teachers working with children in early developmental stages.
  5. Phonetics and syntax: Phonetics refers to the way letters and words are pronounced in a certain language while syntax refers to the arrangement of words and phrases in a sentence. This course is particularly important for teaching English to non-English speakers.

Now I have the ESL degree…where can I work after graduating?

Graduating with an ESL related degree qualifies you to mainly work as an English teacher which can be done in a variety of settings:

  1. Teaching immigrant students: teaching can be part of general education programs in schools or as a dedicated program for adults who are recently joining English speaking community.
  2. Teaching English abroad: this is the most popular choice for ESL teachers who are passionate about traveling and learning new cultures. This job will provide enough money for your living expenses and will get you directly in touch with people living in this country.
  3. Online teaching as a freelancer: learning English online has gained much popularity recently. You will meet with people from around the world and offer them personal classes. This is a good choice that provides the highest level of flexibility for the teacher as you can work at any time or place.
  4. Curriculum development: if you are not interested in working directly with students, then this job can be a suitable choice. You will be responsible for developing a curriculum that is suitable to various groups of students.

Should I choose an ESL teaching degree?

Teaching English is an available choice for people who need funds to travel or learn abroad. Working with people from various countries and cultures is a great advantage that is personally rewarding. ESL teaching will help develop a number of skills that are important for your life in any career:

  1. Communication skills: this is the most important skills for ESL teachers. You will need to work effectively with diverse people. Your way of communication is critical for the effectiveness of teaching.
  2. Time management: teaching is a time-sensitive job that usually follows a strict timeline. ESL teachers may also work online with people from different countries in different time zones. You will have to manage your time effectively for this purpose.
  3. Public speaking: if you are going to work with classes of large number of students, which is common in some countries, then you will probably need to learn public speaking skills.
  4. Problem solving: you will commonly face problems in your class related to learning difficulties, organization or other issues. You should have good analytical and problem solving skills to overcome these difficulties.

Recommended Schools

Best Jobs for Teaching English as a Second Language Degrees

Individuals with degrees in teaching English as a second language can find work as educators in a variety of institutions. They can teach ESL in elementary, middle, and high schools, or they can work in colleges or other adult education organizations. Many also find work internationally in schools abroad, and some enter the Peace Corps where they teach English and provide aid to individuals abroad.

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Look for a Combined Programs

To teach ESL in the US, you’ll need a teaching license to teach in elementary, middle, and high schools, and you’ll need a master’s degree to teach in colleges. For this reason, you can save time and money by finding a program that combines all of the degrees/licenses you need to achieve your career goals. If you only earn a bachelor’s degree, you’ll need to enroll in a one-year transition to teaching program to earn a license, or you’ll need to complete another two years of coursework to earn a master’s degree.

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About the Author
Grant founded with a purpose-driven mission: make college accessible and affordable for everyone. After graduating college with an overwhelming amount of debt, he was determined to change how students embark on their education. He's a frequent speaker and author in higher education, and has been featured in Forbes, Bloomberg Businessweek, Business Insider, American Express, AOL, MSN, Thrive Global, Reader's Digest, Inside Higher Ed, Evolllution, EducationDive, and nearly 100 radio shows and podcasts.

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