Download PDF


Working as an ESL Teacher [NOC 4021]

Job Description

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.  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.

As an ESL teacher you do the following duties:

  • teach English grammar, reading, writing, and pronunciation
  • teach students phrases for use in daily life or conversation
  • prepare and mark tests and assignments to evaluate students’ progress
  • may take classes on field trips or other activities outside the classroom
  • teach newcomers about canadian culture
  • develop curriculum and prepare teaching materials
  • teach students using lectures, discussion groups, and independent or group projects


  • 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: Teachers – Elementary & Secondary

Sources: WorkBC, Career Profile for College Instructors, Career Cruising (profile of ESL Teacher)

Industry Overview

In British Columbia, there is a demand for ESL teachers to help new immigrants learn English. In addition, in 2019 more than 51,000 foreign students came to BC, 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, with over 45 across BC (2019 figures).

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



forecasted average employment growth rate; job openings; composition of job openings for 2019 to 2029

For Regional Outlooks, see: WorkBC College and other vocational instructors

You can learn more about working as an ESL Teacher in BC from

Types of Employers

You can work for a variety of organizations including:

  • community colleges
  • private language schools
  • community organizations


Your income may vary greatly because there are so many different places you can work as an ESL teacher.

Those at colleges, private schools, and community centres are paid by the hour. They work on a contract basis.  ESL teachers who work for colleges, private schools, and community centres make $15 to $20 an hour. More experienced teachers 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:

low, median, high hourly wages by BC regions

Source: Job Bank, Wage Report

Working Hours

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.

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
  • creative
  • 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 such as TESL or TESOL. 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]

Finding Jobs

You’ll find job advertisements in local newspapers, trade journals, and electronic sources, as well as through professional associations’ publications.

Local Newspapers

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: Access at VPL locations only

Online Job Postings

  • BC JobConnect **must have permanent resident number**
    newcomers can post their skills, education and work experience to BC employers looking for workers

Professional Associations’ Career Resources

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 as an additional language
  • 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.

  • Settlement Agencies/Services – Vancouver
    (enter your postal code and click to select the boxes, ‘language training’ and ‘language assessment’)
    Settlement agencies offer language assessment and classes
  • 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 SEARCH.
    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

Industry Associations

Associations for ESL teachers in BC and Canada can provide information and assistance. Registration and fees may be required for membership.

Industry Journals

Search the Vancouver Public Library catalogue for journals related to your profession. Examples at the Central Library: