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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.

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.

Sources: WorkBC, Career Profile for NOC 4021, Career Cruising database (Profile for ESL Teachers).


  • 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:

Industry Overview

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

job outlook for ESL teachers in BC

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
Vancouver Island 610 1.2% 140
Lower Mainland/Southwest 4,700 1.4% 1,425
Thompson-Okanagan 580 2.2% 220
Kootenay 370 1.8% 125
Cariboo 180 0.7% 30
North Coast & Nechako 130 0.7% 20
Northeast 190 0.9% 40

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
  • 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:

BC regional hourly wages for ESL teachers

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.

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
  • 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. 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

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: 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

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 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

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: