Whether based on economic and political concerns or simply wanting to try a new career path, ESL teachers may seek other opportunities outside of intensive ESL programs (IEPs). Thankfully, there are plenty of options where TESOL training and experience are useful.

"Teachers learn a multitude of transferable skills in their jobs," Michelle Dwyer writes for the Houston Chronicle. "Apply these skills when moving on. Focus on your best skills and market yourself as a master in this skill. For example, a great communicator makes a great teacher."

The following are some possible non-IEP careers where one's TESOL training and experience is a benefit. Some like K-12 ESOL will allow a teacher to stay in the public school system.


One possibility is public school ESOL. Most schools have students whose L1 is not English, and these students may need instruction in English as a second language. Just in the K-12 schools there are 5 million not-native speakers, writes Claudio Sanchez for NPR.

"About 1 out of every 10 public school students in the United States right now is learning to speak English. ... There are nearly 5 million of them, and educating them — in English and all the other subjects and skills they'll need — is one of the biggest challenges in U.S. public education today."

In addition, there is a shortage of trained teachers:

"ELLs are often concentrated in low-performing schools with untrained or poorly trained teachers. The shortage of teachers who can work with this population is a big problem in a growing number of states (English language learners: How your state is doing)."

Teaching in a public school requires certification consisting of education courses and an unpaid internship. Some certification programs are available on line, so participants would not have to leave work, or they may be available as evening courses. Some districts may offer emergency certification if ESOL is considered a critical need.

Adult education ESOL

A related field is adult education ESOL. These programs are offered in community colleges and, in some areas, public school evening programs. Depending on the county, the public school-based programs in Florida require state teacher certification, while community colleges require at least a BA with some TESL training and experience. This field is still evolving. See the following by Jose Carmona:

"Much work is still needed in the field of adult first- and second-language literacy. Research in the field is scarce and in need of improvement. More and more U.S. states are encountering the need to offer adult literacy classes."

Note, though, that some college administrators may not realize the need for such courses and their benefits to the community:

"There were several challenges to overcome. The first and most significant was to convince college administrators who did not appear to understand the validity of the course. As one higher level administrator was hear saying, “Why should we help these students? They can't even read and write in their own language."

Foreign language teaching

L2 teaching is another possibility. ESL methodology transfers readily to foreign language teaching.

"In addition to the typical French, Spanish and German classes offered in America's secondary and even elementary classrooms, Chinese, Japanese and Russian are being taught in more public schools. In addition, American Sign Language has become popular in some districts."

If the person knows a foreign language, then he or she can apply to teach in the foreign language department. Community colleges require a master's degree, which most TESOL professionals already have. Universities typically require a Ph.D., but some may hire MA holders as lecturers to teach beginning and intermediate levels if the language is in demand and there is a shortage of personnel, or if there is a need for adjunct instructors.

The demand changes constantly, so the candidate should check the listing constantly, including the HR homepages of target institutions and job pages such as higheredjobs.com.

Prefreshman writing and reading

Remedial English teaching is a field where the TESOL training will come in handy. These courses are often called "college prep" or "developmental English" and are designed as an intensive review of composition style or L1 reading skills. These courses are often listed with lower numbers that the regular composition courses.

For example, if English 101 is freshman composition, then English 100 would be the precomposition course. Similarly, in Florida ENC1101 is college composition while ENC001 is developmental English.

Often, the students taking these courses are over the traditional age of college students and have been out of school so long that they are out of practice. Others may have done poorly in high school and are now trying to make up for lost time in order to get a better job or continue their academic studies.

Trained ESL teachers have the skills and the patience to deal with these students. TESOL techniques of teaching writing and composition work well with some modification.

Adult basic education (ABE)

ABE programs serve students who need to complete their high school degree. They may have dropped out of school for health reasons, or to work and now they realize that in order to get ahead they need to get their diploma or GED. ESL teachers can move into this field since they already have the skills, and some districts and community colleges may consider them already certified.

"Besides teaching adults basic job skills or proficiency education such as reading, writing and English, Adult Ed teachers also help learners who left school at an early age in order to support their family, get a job — or for other reasons — complete their high school equivalency diploma program. Adult teachers are important advocates for instilling confidence and skills in those who haven’t had the chance to complete their basic learning and preparation for a fast-paced job field (How to become an adult education teacher)."

People often choose to reinvent themselves by choosing a new career, writes Susan Svrluga in The Washington Post. In many cases they need to get additional training and feel that their experiences are of no help. But experience in one field often transfers to another:

"Sometimes people don’t realize their experience can be an asset, rather than a barrier, to admission said Janet Gilmore, a spokeswoman for the University of California at Berkeley. They may not need a new degree but instead could change gears with an additional course or certificate."

Community colleges

Community colleges are a viable option since they offer the types of courses mentioned earlier that an ESL teacher could teach. Most community college instructors feel they have made a good choice and are happy with their careers:

"Most two-year college faculty members find their work deeply satisfying. A recent national survey of community college faculty members found that 73 percent report experiencing 'joy' in their work and 71 percent believe their work is meaningful. Teaching is a mission, not just a job, because community college faculty members change lives every day."

One should do careful research just to be sure before making the jump, Elise Wile writes:

"Make certain the career you want to move into is vibrant and growing. Research median pay rates and growth rates in your part of the country. Learn about the pros and cons of the profession, so that you don't allow teacher burnout to cause you to view a new career path through rose-colored glasses."