Can I teach in the USA with a TESOL certificate?

The USA has long been a destination of choice for immigrants, migrant workers, business professionals, and international students from every imaginable corner of the world. While all these different groups have their own reasons for choosing the U.S., one thing is generally the same among them all, i.e, the need to improve their English. Whether it is just a short-term visit or something more permanent, the countless numbers of new arrivals means there are always plenty of opportunities for TESOL qualified teachers in cities and towns across the country.

What are the requirements for teaching English in the United States?

One thing it is important to know is that a university degree is typically required if you want to teach English in the USA. If you want to teach within the public school system, you will most likely also require a state teaching license or an education-related certification. However, in the private sector there are no such restrictions. Private language schools, colleges, community centers, and even libraries are all possible options when looking to teach English and a TESOL certificate is often enough to get your foot in the door. Your chance of securing a position will be greatly enhanced if you have some previous classroom experience, either within the U.S. or while teaching overseas.

What type of students will I teach in the USA?

The majority of students you are likely to find in your classroom will be adults who have moved to the U.S., either short or long term. Your students will usually have a very strong motivation to learn as they need English in order to find employment, operate their business efficiently, to further their education, or simply to fit into their new community. Due to the high numbers of new arrivals in many areas the demand for lessons is often very strong.

Your students could be a mix of nationalities, with ages ranging anywhere from 16 to 60. They could be from any conceivable background and their motivation for being in your class could be one of many, including:

  • To study abroad and experience what life is like in a major U.S. city.
  • To prepare for the TOEFL exam which is necessary for international students who want to get into American universities.
  • To further their career. A good level of English is increasingly necessary in order to climb the employment ladder in many non-native English-speaking countries.
  • As a temporary work assignment from a company outside of the United States.

Where are the best places to find jobs teaching English in the USA?

There are many options when it comes to finding English language lessons in the U.S. The majority of students will enroll on courses run by private language schools, local community centers, colleges, and even less obvious locations such as libraries. As mentioned, the number of new arrivals every year is so large that there are hundreds of possible options in most major cities. Many smaller cities and towns will also have a limited number of options to choose from. All of these institutions require teachers and there will usually be several advertising jobs at any one time.

Many of these students will be on short-term intensive courses in order to learn the language quickly via total immersion in an English speaking community. Private language schools are at the heart of this sector and they can be found in large numbers in cities such as New York, Chicago, Boston, Seattle, and many more besides.

Is a TESOL certification equivalent to a state teaching license when applying to teach English in Public Schools?

Unfortunately this is not typically the case. Jobs in most public schools are off limits to anyone who doesn’t possess a state teaching license or equivalent certification. To gain the necessary qualifications you would need to complete a degree in education, a specific training program, and have plenty of classroom experience. However, as previously mentioned, the demand for TESOL qualified teachers in the private sector is very high and there are always vacant positions waiting to be filled.

If you do possess an education degree, gaining a TESOL certification can also be a very worthwhile endeavor. Many schools, especially in smaller communities, like to have a TESOL qualified teacher onboard in order to guide new arrivals from non-native speaking countries.

What is the best way to find English teaching jobs in the United States?

As with any other job search in any other part of the world you will need to use your initiative and be willing to put in a fair amount of effort if you want to land a good job. You will find some jobs advertised on local job boards and on ESL related websites. However, it is often best to simply reach out to all the language schools and other venues offering lessons in the area where you have chosen to settle.

It is quite common for ESL jobs to be only part time or on a freelance basis, so it might be necessary to look for more than one employer to make up a full-time schedule. However, once you have settled in and proved your worth, you might find that a full-time contract is on offer further down the line. Reference letters from overseas schools can be a big help during the application process, as can videos of you actually teaching in previous roles.

Private English lessons

Opportunities for providing private ESL lessons are widely available in the U.S., which can be a great way to top up your income from a part-time or full-time teaching job. This option might involve teaching adults, but many parents also invest money in extra English lessons for their children, on top of what they receive in their mainstream schooling. To take advantage of this opportunity you will need to market your services by placing ads in areas where non-native speakers might congregate, such as community centers, libraries, and cafes. Ads can also be placed in foreign language newspapers and on relevant websites. Business cards and flyers are also a good way to spread your message via the local non-native English speaking community.

Teaching English online

Online English teaching is the fastest growing sector within the TESOL world, which makes it a great way to gain some teaching experience and earn some cash before heading overseas to teach. With previous experience and a pot of start-up money you will be in a great position to find a good teaching job in almost any country you can dream of. It might also be a perfect way to make a living while remaining within the U.S. as the demand for virtual lessons is so high across the world that there are a huge number of online teaching platforms to potentially sign up with.

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