Teaching ESL

Teaching ESL


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


Teaching 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 tobanner2.jpg 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

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





Government school or IEC (Intensive English Centre)

Bachelor's degree in education with relevant major or Bachelor's degree with relevant major plus a Diploma in Education. In addition to these qualifications, intending ESL teachers need a post-graduate TESOL certificate or diploma (if TESOL method was not part of the degree or Dip. Ed.)


Independent school

Bachelor's degree in education or a Bachelor's degree with a relevant major, e.g., English, plus a Certificate or Diploma in Education is usually required. Qualifications required vary according to school.


TAFE and other providers of the AMEP programme (AMES, ACL and others)

Degree or teaching qualification recognised by TAFE NSW and a TAFE-recognised qualification in TESOL; or a degree or teaching qualification recognised by TAFE NSW and a postgraduate qualification in TESOL. Also experience in designing and delivering TESOL programs to adults (currently 800 hours for full-time teachers and 200 hours for part-time teachers). Certificate 4 in Workplace Training and Assessment is currently required.



English for TAFE/uni preparation


ELICOS (private colleges teaching overseas students, primarily adults, and some secondary level students)

Qualifications required vary according to college. Colleges which teach students on student visas are required to employ teachers who have an acceptable pre-service teaching qualification (including a 3 year degree) plus an appropriate TESOL qualification, or a recognised degree or diploma plus 800 hours classroom teaching experience plus a TESOL qualification. The Cambridge Certificate in Teaching English as a Foreign Language to Adults (CELTA) is required by some.



English for TAFE/uni preparation

Community colleges, etc.

Various other organisations run part-time ESL classes. Qualifications required vary according to college.






Schools, private colleges, universities

Minimum qualifications vary according to institution. A university degree is usually required. In many countries a degree plus a TESOL qualification such as the CELTA or other TESOL certificate is accepted by private colleges.

Requirements to gain employment in government schools and universities are becoming more stringent. In some countries, such institutions now require qualifications similar to those needed for NSW government schools. People who want to make a career in TESOL and aspire to senior, better paid roles such as Director of Studies may need to consider undertaking relevant Masters qualifications such as an MA (TESOL) or the Cambridge Diploma of English Language Teaching to Adults (DELTA). Many countries will only provide a relevant work visa to applicants who have a university degree. Check international websites for ESL teachers (such as Dave's ESL Café) to see what requirements apply in countries where you would like to teach.



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.

Australian Catholic University

Charles Sturt University

Macquarie University

University of Newcastle

University of New England

University of New South Wales

University of Sydney

University of Technology, Sydney

University of Wollongong

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?
(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

Dave's ESL Café at http://www.eslcafe.com/
TEFL Professional Network at http://www.tefl.com/

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 at http://www.eslcafe.com/

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
For more information, go to http://www.dec.nsw.gov.au/about-us/careers-centre

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.

TESOL Acronyms


The Adult Migrant English Programme, also known as AMEP, is an Australian Government funded programme which provides basic tuition in the English language to help eligible adult migrants and refugees settle successfully in Australia. AMEP courses are run by AMES, TAFE, ACL and other private providers: http://www.ames.net.au/AMEP


Adult Multicultural Educational Services( AMES) is Australia's largest provider of specialist, multicultural language, employment and settlement services. With the assistance of Government contracts, AMES educates and services almost 50,000 people annually: http://www.ames.net.au/


The Australian Centre for Languages (ACL) is the largest private provider of English as a second language education in Australia and is a developer of English language teaching resources and support services. Annually ACL teaches more than 18,000 students within Australia: http://www.acl.edu.au/


Computer-Assisted Language Learning


Certificate in English Language Teaching (taught by agencies of University of Cambridge ESOL )


Community Language Other Than English


Community Languages


Diploma in English Language Teaching (taught by agencies of University of Cambridge ESOL)


English Australia (EA) is the national peak body and professional association for English language colleges (ELICOS) in Australia: http://www.englishaustralia.com.au/


English as an additional language or dialect (This term refers to learners and has superseded "ESL" in many countries).


English for Academic Purposes


English as a Foreign Language. Refers to English as taught where English is not a native language. Compare with (ESL or ESOL)


English Language Intensive Course for Overseas Students


English for Specific Purposes


English as a Second Language (synonymous with ESOL). Refers to English as taught to non-English speakers in a country where it is a native language, e.g., Australia, USA, UK. (Compare with EFL)


English to Speakers of Other Languages (This term was introduced after "ESL" came to be regarded as too limiting because some non-native speakers of English speak more than one other language.)


English for vocational education


The International English Language Testing System measures ability to communicate in English across all four language skills – listening, reading, writing and speaking – for people who intend to study or work where English is the language of communication. Secondary level overseas students who intend to study in Australian institutions must achieve a minimum score in the IELTS exam, which varies according to type of institution and course which students intend to attend: http://www.ielts.org/


Language Background Other than English


Limited English Proficiency


Language Other Than English


Language, Literacy and Numeracy Programme. A Commonwealth funded programme for registered jobseekers. Courses are conducted by AMES, TAFE and some private providers.


The National English Language Teaching Accreditation Scheme Limited (NEAS) is Australia's national accreditation scheme for English Language Teaching centres. (It is not involved in accrediting government schools nor independent schools for Australian students.) http://www.neas.org.au/home/


The National Centre for English Language Teaching and Research (NCELTR) was part of the Department of Linguistics at Macquarie University and the lead partner in Australia's AMEP Research Centre. It is now called the Centre for Macquarie English (CME): http://www.cme.mq.edu.au/


Non-English Speaking Background (This term has now been largely superseded by LBOTE.)


Non-native English speaking teacher


Technical and Further Education. TAFE NSW is the largest vocational education and training provider in Australia: https://www.tafensw.edu.au/


Teaching English as a Foreign Language


Teaching English as a Second Language


Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages. TESOL Inc. is an international professional association of teachers of ESOL: http://www.tesol.org


Good luck!