How to become a Teacher - English as a Second Language

Teachers of English as a Second Language (ESL) teach, and assist other teachers to teach, students whose first language or dialect is not Standard Australian English to become proficient with the English language.

Personal requirements of a Teacher - English as a Second Language

  • An understanding and acceptance of cultural differences
  • An excellent grasp of English language structure
  • Able to identify the needs of individual students
  • Very good communication skills
  • Excellent organisational skills
  • Prepared to work outside of school hours
  • Patient when dealing with students of differing abilities and cultures

Education & Training for a Teacher - English as a Second Language

To become an ESL teacher you usually have to complete a degree in primary or secondary education with a major in ESL. Alternatively, you can undertake a postgraduate qualification, such as a Graduate Diploma of Education specialising in teaching ESL, after completing a degree in teaching, education or another relevant area (a Bachelor of Arts majoring in English, for example). To get into the degree courses you usually need to gain your Senior Secondary Certificate of Education. Prerequisite subjects, or assumed knowledge, in one or more of English and mathematics are normally required. Universities have different prerequisites and some have flexible entry requirements or offer external study. Contact the institutions you are interested in for more information. Entry to postgraduate courses usually requires completion of an appropriate bachelor degree. Contact the institutions you are interested in for more information. ESL teachers in Vocational Education and Training (VET) institutions require experience in designing and delivering Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) programs to adults. A VET qualification may also be required to teach at a VET institution.

Additional Information

Before undertaking practical placements required by courses, students will need to obtain a Working with Children Check. A National Police Certificate may also be required. You will need to register with the teaching board in your state or territory. Teachers are required by mandatory reporting laws to report suspected cases of child abuse or neglect.

Duties & Tasks of a Teacher - English as a Second Language

ESL teachers:

  • teach students basic or advanced English language skills
  • teach students individually and in small groups outside of the regular classroom, or assist students within normal classroom settings
  • diagnose and assess English language competency in students whose first language is a language other than English
  • provide assistance to regular classroom teachers by designing special teaching programs for students with English language difficulties
  • provide advice concerning the community services available to assist students with English language difficulties.

Employment Opportunities for a Teacher - English as a Second Language

ESL teachers work for adult community education organisations, VET institutes, universities, private language schools and government-funded agencies. They also work in primary and secondary schools. The demand for ESL teachers is affected by migrant intake levels and government policy on migrants entering Australia.

Avg. weekly wage:


Future growth:


Employment by state:

ACT 1.9%

NSW 33.3%

NT 0.7%

QLD 18.9%

SA 7.3%

TAS 1.1%

VIC 28.6%

WA 8.2%

Hours worked:



Lower unemployment

Gender split:

Male 24%

Female 76%

Education level:

Highest qualification is secondary school: 1.8%

Highest qualification is a Certificate 3 or 4: 0.8%

Highest qualification is a Diploma or Advanced Diploma: 3.6%

Highest qualification is a Bachelor degree: 39.1%

Highest qualification is a Postgraduate Diploma or Graduate Certificate: 54.6%

Age brackets:

15-19 - 0.1%

20-24 - 6.1%

25-34 - 26.8%

35-44 - 22.6%

45-54 - 19.5%

55-59 - 8.2%

60-64 - 7.1%

65 and Over - 9.5%

*The data above is sourced from the Department of Employment’s Job Outlook website.

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