Teaching ESL

Do you want to teach ESOL (English to speakers of other languages)?

ATESOLbannerTeaching English to speakers of other languages (TESOL) can be a very satisfying profession. As a teacher you may help refugees overcome great hardship to make new lives in Australia. You may teach migrant children who are eager to learn and whose parents are strongly committed to education. You may teach Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders who speak traditional Indigenous languages, creoles or Aboriginal English. You may prepare people to undertake study in Australian schools, vocational education and training institutions and universities. You may assist adult migrants to participate more fully in Australian life through newly acquired English skills.

You may help international businessmen and women develop their skills to communicate with each other. You may teach young adult travellers attending short intensive English courses in Australia and enjoy stimulating cultural exchange with people from many countries. A recognised TESOL qualification can provide a ticket to work throughout the world.

ATESOL NSW receives many enquiries from people who are thinking of undertaking TESOL training and who want to know the best courses for intending ESL (ESOL) teachers to undertake. We hope that the following introduction to the field provides a starting point for your further research. It can be time-consuming to obtain the information you need, but detailed, up-to-date information is only available from training, employing and accrediting authorities.

No single course will qualify you to teach in all the scenarios described above so you should think about the types of work situations which most interest you before choosing a course. Below are some issues which you need to consider.

Considerations before choosing a TESOL course
  • Where do you want to teach? In Australia or overseas?
  • Who do you want to teach? Young people (primary, secondary tertiary)? Adults? Migrants? Refugees?
  • Do you want to teach in a government school, an independent school, an IEC (Intensive English Centre), a private college aimed at international students, at TAFE, university or elsewhere?
  • Do you want to study a course which is covered by HECS or a full fee paying course?
  • How do you want to study? Full time? Part-time? By distance education?
  • Are you considering TESOL as a career or are you looking for a way to combine work and overseas travel for a year or two?
  • Do you want your TESOL course to be counted toward a higher degree, e.g., Master of TESOL or Master of Education?
  • If you have a course or institution in mind, what is the quality of the course and institution you are considering?
  • How well regarded and recognised is the course and institution in Australia and/ or overseas?
  • Does the training institution assist new teachers to find employment?

It is important to note that there is no accrediting body with the role of granting worldwide official recognition to any teaching certificate or diploma. The information on this website is particularly relevant to readers from NSW or those intending to work in NSW. The following table gives an overview of minimum qualifications usually required for work in various contexts for teachers who are not already teaching in a government school.

NOTE: The TESOL field involves many acronyms. See the Glossary at the end of this document for an explanation of some of these terms. To gain an overview of the field, look at some of the websites referred to in the Glossary.

Overview of usual requirements for new ESOL teachers in NSW and overseas


Some Places for Studying TESOL


TESOL can be studied as part of an undergraduate degree in education. Contact Education faculties at universities for more details.

The majority of enquirers to this site are graduates who are considering training in TESOL so this information is directed at them. The following universities in NSW provide TESOL training as post graduate qualifications. Type "TESOL" into the site's search field if necessary.

Other TESOL training organisations

The Certificate IV in TESOL is offered by some interstate TAFE colleges by distance education. Please ask providers of this course for further information. (Type "Certificate IV TESOL" into the search field in your search engine.)

Private organisations (and some universities) provide training in the CELTA. These organisations may be found by typing "CELTA" into your search engine.

Frequently asked questions

Which course is the best?
We are not able to recommend any particular course or institution but suggest that initial enquiries be made to universities which teach TESOL.

What is CELTA?
CELTA (Certificate for English Language Teaching to Adults) is issued by the University of Cambridge ESOL, part of Cambridge Assessments, which is a department of the University of Cambridge. The certificate can be obtained after completing a 4 week full-time course or an equivalent period part time. The CELTA is a practically oriented short course which is widely recognised overseas. It teaches important practical skills but is not sufficient on its own to gain a CELTA holder employment as an ESL teacher in NSW. Some ELICOS colleges require this qualification. The CELTA is accepted as a component in some university TESOL certificate, diploma and masters courses. In Australia, the CELTA course is usually full fee-paying.

Further information on the CELTA is available at


The CELTA is taught at some universities and by private providers in Australia.

I was born in Australia so I speak good English. Would teaching ESL be easier than what I am doing now ?
Teaching English to speakers of other languages can be personally rewarding and intellectually stimulating but it cannot be described as "easy". Contrary to popular belief, it rarely involves teaching "one-to-one". You need to study linguistics in order to analyse language and understand it on many levels. (Linguistics is a subject which many TESOL students find to be quite challenging.) You need to be methodical and well organised so that your students can make steady progress through a planned program. You also need to be empathetic, warm and spontaneous so that you can add fun into the classroom and capitalise on unplanned learning opportunities which arise. You must maintain enthusiasm while teaching a group of students the same topic many times. (It takes a long time to learn any language and repetition is required for all language learning.) You need to be creative so that you can motivate students who are discouraged when they reach a language learning plateau or when worries from outside the classroom intrude.(Migrants, particularly refugees are likely to have settlement concerns which may take their focus from learning.) You are more likely to enjoy this work if you are have good people skills, like meeting people from different cultures , have a genuine interest in learning about and from them and have good teaching skills.

I speak good English but am not a native speaker. Can I be an ESOL teacher?
To undertake TESOL training in Australia you need to demonstrate a high level of competence in English on the IELTS or an equivalent scale. Many non-native speakers with excellent English competence and a good understanding of language teaching and learning have become successful ESOL teachers. However, you need to be aware that in some countries there are employers who have a bias towards native speakers of English.

What are the job prospects?
The TESOL field is rapidly expanding. With the growth of English as an international language, there is demand internationally for ESL teaching from primary school level upwards. In Australia, teachers are needed to teach migrants and refugees, and also international students. The demand for teachers in Australia fluctuates in line with migrant and refugee intakes, government funding for ESL teachers and with varying enrolments of international students. To assess current job prospects internationally, look at job boards at websites such as:

To gain an idea of job prospects in NSW, look at job advertisements at sites such as http://mycareer.com.au/ or http://www.seek.com.au or in the press. English Australia offers an employment service for those seeking or offering a job in ELICOS in Australia and abroad: You can also subscribe to a mailing list for direct notification of new positions as they become available at http://www.englishaustralia.com.au

It sounds interesting but I'm not sure whether TESOL is right for me.
Find out more about the work in an international context by joining the job forum at Dave's ESL Café.

To find out more about the TESOL field in Australia, look at some of the websites referred in this overview. You may be interested to attend some of ATESOL's professional development workshops which run from March to October each year. They will give you a feel for what is involved and you will have the opportunity to meet current ESL teachers. The English Australia website at http://www.englishaustralia.com.au has further information about teaching international students.

How can I get a job in a NSW school?
Teaching in schools in NSW requires registration with the NSW Institute of Teachers. Further information may be available from these sites:

NSW Department of Education and Communities

1300 300 498

Requirements for specialist ESL teachers

NSW Teachers Federation

1300 654 369
Email: mail@nswtf.org.au

The TESOL field is full of confusing acronyms. What do they mean?
We hope that this table helps with some acronyms. TESOL terms evolve. Some of the terms in the table below are older and fading in popularity while others are more current. That is why some terms have similar meanings to others.