Working as an ESL Teacher [NOC 4021]
ESL (English as a Second Language) teachers provide English language and life skills instruction to new immigrants, international students and others whose first language is not English.
As an ESL teacher you do the following duties:
- Teach students using lectures, discussion groups, and independent or group projects
- Develop curriculum and prepare teaching materials
- Prepare, give, and mark tests and papers to evaluate students’ progress
- Supervise independent or group projects
- May serve on committees to discuss budgets, curriculum revision, and course requirements
- May provide consultation services to government, business, and other organizations
If you work with recent immigrants you often plan lessons around the activities of daily life in Canada, such as answering the phone, looking for a job, grocery shopping, or going to the bank or doctor. You may also take students on field trips and lead other activities outside the classroom.
- College ESL teachers are included in this guide. They are classified with the occupational group “College and Other Vocational Instructors” [NOC 4021].
- Teachers in elementary and high schools are not included in this guide. These jobs are regulated in BC and you must be a member of the BC College of Teachers. If you would like to teach in an elementary or high school, refer to the guide:
In British Columbia, there is a demand for ESL teachers to help new immigrants learn English. In addition, more than 150,000 foreign students come to BC each year, many to study English.
ESL teachers are employed by BC’s many private career training institutions and public schools including colleges, high schools, and elementary schools. There are more than 30 private language schools in Vancouver.
Many positions for ESL teachers offer part time and contract work.
Job Outlook in BC
ESL Teachers in BC are grouped with College and Other Vocational Instructors
Chart from WorkBC
WorkBC provides job openings in BC regions from 2015-2025:
|Region||Expected # of Job Openings||Average Annual Employment Growth||Expected Increase in Employment|
|North Coast & Nechako||130||0.7%||20|
You can learn more about working as an ESL Teacher in BC from
- Career Cruising database (Profile for ESL Teachers)
Types of Employers
You can work for a variety of organizations including:
- community colleges
- private language schools
- community organizations
- elementary and high schools
Your income may vary greatly because there are so many different places you can work as an ESL teacher.
If you work for colleges, private schools, and community centres you are usually paid by the hour. For adult classes, teachers start at about $15 to $20 an hour. Teachers with more experience and training can make up to $50 an hour.
Most teachers are paid only for classroom time. Your wages do not usually include the time spent preparing for program and marking papers outside of class time.
Benefits such as paid vacation and sick pay are rare because you normally work on a contract basis.
Source: Career Cruising database
In BC, ESL teachers in Colleges can expect to make:
Source: Job Bank, Wage Report
You work a variety of hours depending on your work place. Some ESL teaching is done during evenings or weekends to accommodate the work and family commitments of older students.
There is an increasing trend towards part-time employment and you may not find full-time employment immediately.
Source: WorkBC Career Profiles
Skills, Education and Experience
- ability to effectively prepare, organize and deliver teaching materials
- knowledge of other cultures
- strong written and oral communication skills
- resourceful and patient
- organized and detail oriented
- ability to work independently
Education and Experience
Requirements to become an ESL teacher vary depending on where you want to work. In most cases, you need at least a bachelor’s degree in a related subject such as English.
Employers may also require you to have a recognized ESL certificate or diploma. Certificate or diploma programs range from a few months to 1 year in length. They are offered at colleges, universities, and private language instruction schools across the country.
College/adult ESL teachers are not regulated in British Columbia.
There are no mandatory requirements for licensing or professional certification in order to work as an ESL teacher in BC.
ESL Certificate Programs [required by some employers]
- TESL Canada Federation
TESL Canada is the national federation of English as a second language teachers. It provides TESL Canada Professional Certification for instructors trained in Canada.
More information: TESL Canada Certification
- CELTA (Certificate in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages)
CELTA is one of the most widely recognized qualifications of its kind around the world. There are over 2,700 centres in 130 countries that provide CELTA training.
More information: Cambridge English: Find a teaching qualification centre
You’ll find job advertisements in local newspapers, trade journals, and electronic sources, as well as through professional associations’ publications.
You can look at the Vancouver Sun & The Province at Vancouver Public Library for free. Check the job postings daily, the careers section in the Vancouver Sun on Wednesdays and Saturdays and in The Province on Sundays.
Job White Pages
- Available online or in print at the Central Library
NOTE: You can only access this database from the Central Library or VPL branch libraries. Access is NOT available from home or outside the Library.
Online Job Postings
- AMSSA Affiliation of Multicultural Societies and Service Agencies of BC
includes job postings at AMSSA and its member agencies
Professional Associations’ Career Resources
- TEAL, Association of BC Teachers as an Additional Language
Membership required to access job postings
- TESL Canada Opportunities
Click the link “Jobs”, then “Canadian postings”
Identifying the Right Position
When you browse job advertisements, you’ll find different job titles.
For ESL Teachers, look for these related job titles:
- English as a Second Language Teacher or Instructor
- English Language Instructor
- English as a Foreign Language Teacher
- CLB [Canadian Language Benchmarks] Instructor
- ELSA Teacher
Creating a List of Potential Employers
You can use directories to produce lists of ESL employers in British Columbia. Contact them directly to find out if they’re hiring.
- Reference Canada
Click on “Start Search” beside Canadian Businesses, then select the “Advanced Search” button.
Select both “Keyword/SIC/NAICS” under Business Type and “City” under Geography.
In the top search box enter “”English as a second language” and click LOOKUP.
Select the appropriate headings.
Lower down, select the Province, choose the cities, and click the “View Results” button.
NOTE: You can access this database from a Library computer. If you are using a computer from outside the Library, you will need a Vancouver Public Library card to login to this database. After clicking on the database name, you will be asked to enter your library card number and PIN (usually last four digits of your telephone number).
Applying for a Job
In Canada, employers usually expect to receive a resume or curriculum vitae and a cover letter. These should identify the position you are applying for and summarize your relevant experience.
Use the library catalogue to find books on writing resumes and cover letters specific to your industry.
To learn about applying for jobs in Canada, use the following guides:
Getting Help from Industry Sources
Associations for ESL teachers in BC and Canada can provide information and assistance. Registration and fees may be required for membership.
- Education and Training Employees Association
Vancouver’s union for teachers of English as a Second Language.
- LINC: Language Instruction for Newcomers to Canada
(language classes funded by the Government of Canada)
Search the Vancouver Public Library catalogue for journals related to your profession. Examples at the Central Library: