If you’re passionate about the English language, and are keen to share this enthusiasm with others as a teacher, then you might consider becoming an ESOL tutor.

An ESOL tutor is someone who teaches English as a foreign language, which requires a deep understanding of the grammar of the language, as well as how it is used colloquially and spoken among peers.

If this sounds like something you are interested in, then you’ve come to the right place!

In this article I’m going to outline how exactly you can become an ESOL tutor, and all the ways you can get paid to teach English to non-native speakers.

First we’ll take a look at some of the prerequisites for the position, then we’ll dive into the specific steps you should take to become a successful ESOL tutor.

Tutor teaching a student
Tutoring can be rewarding for both tutor and student.

Requirements for an ESOL tutor

Just like any job, there are criteria that have to be met for you to be considered for a position as an ESOL tutor.

If you’ve found yourself wondering what qualifications are necessary, if getting a degree is essential, and how much experience in the field is valued, then you should find this section useful.

Is a university degree essential?

Yes, in all likelihood you will be expected to have completed a bachelor's degree before undertaking a position as an ESOL teacher.

The most evident reason for this is that you will be in a much better position to teach others, the longer you yourself have spent in the education system as a learner.

Being able to empathise with the learner´s point of view is a huge asset to a teacher, and very much necessary.

In fact, as a language tutor, you will likely find that your experience as a learner will serve you well in the career, even perhaps more so than it would if you were teaching a different subject.

Learning a language is a process rife with frustration, and mistakes. If you have prior experience learning one then you will be able to relate to the learner's experience and provide useful insight on how to learn from mistakes and move forward with optimism.

So yes, a university degree is necessary, either in education, English, writing, or a foreign language. The more you know about the teacher-student dynamic, and the more personal experience you have learning another language as a beginner, the better.

Are there other important qualifications?

We’ve established the importance of completing a bachelor’s degree, but what other qualifications and skills would be looked upon favourably for the position of ESOL tutor?

Pick up a second language

While an in-depth knowledge of the English language will go a long way to securing a job as an ESOL tutor, it’s also a wise idea to brush up on a second language too.

Why should you learn a second language if you’ll be teaching English?

Well, as I mentioned earlier, learning a second language will really help put you in the shoes of your future students when it comes to obstacles they’ll inevitably encounter on their language-learning journeys.

If you’ve been there before, you will understand the reluctance to speak up in a second language, and how important it is to put the students at ease and facilitate a non-judgmental environment in your classroom (be it a physical or digital one.)

You can learn a second language in a variety of ways. One method is to go the traditional route of studying a foreign language as part of your degree, perhaps spending a year abroad in the country to cement your communication skills.

Another way is to self-teach. While this will be much harder and require a lot more self-discipline, you will arguably become a much better language teacher as a result of this independently-focussed study.

Finally, you might consider partaking in a language immersion programme. What’s great about programmes like this is that they will throw you in the deep end from the beginning, and put you through the ringer in a short amount of time, meaning you can achieve competency and perhaps even better in a few months or so.

Take on ESL training

As well as the degree, you will need to take on some specific ESL (English as a Second Language) training, in order to become well acquainted with teaching methodologies and the expectations of an ESOL tutor.

This training doesn’t have to take a long time, nor break the bank. In fact, if you are lucky enough, you will be able to take advantage of an offer on a website such as Groupon to get a discount on an ESL course.

There are various length courses you can complete, and taking a TEFL (there are many acronyms in the world of teaching English) online course is both convenient and easy enough to pass with sufficient time spent studying the material.

These courses will cover a broad range of helpful topics associated with teaching English as a foreign language, including but not limited to: how to teach grammar, how to assess student progress, and how to conduct a conversation class.

Acquire a teaching license

The next step to becoming an ESOL tutor, is to acquire a teaching license or certificate.

It isn’t enough to have an extensive knowledge of the English language, you must also be able to demonstrate your ability to teach the language with regard to all of its individual elements.

After all, being good at something doesn’t necessarily mean that you will be a great teacher in that subject, it takes some form of formal training to get into the mindset of a teacher and understand what exactly the role entails.

The requirement for a license will depend on where you are, and there are some options which might not require one at all, but it’s always best to lean on the side of caution. Besides, acquiring a teaching license will look great on your CV, and give you extra confidence in your ability to teach.

If you really want to make sure you stand out from the competition, then it might even be worth considering going for a Master’s in education or a related field, but this isn’t necessary to become an ESOL tutor.

What's next?

Ok, so you fulfill all the above criteria for becoming an ESOL tutor, and now you want to know what your options are.

Become an English Language Teaching Assistant abroad

Teacher and students in a classroom
Teaching abroad is a great way to get experience.

First, and perhaps not an option everyone would consider, you could choose to become an English language teaching assistant abroad through an organisation such as the British Council.

If you love the idea of exploring a new country and culture while developing your skills as an English language teacher, then you might very well enjoy the programme offered by the British Council.

With teaching assistant posts in many different countries, this can be a fantastic stepping stone in your ESOL career, and can also be a great way to find out whether this is what you really want to do!

Not to mention the fact that you can use the opportunity to master a second language and reap the benefits of living abroad for a short period of time.

I would highly recommend this option, having been involved with this programme for 3 years now, I have enjoyed the experience thoroughly and learned a lot about myself and about teaching English as a foreign language.

The downsides to this programme are few, and it's really easy to get involved with, so I would implore you to consider this as an option to kickstart your ESOL career.

Take the traditional path to teaching English

Of course, the most obvious way to become an ESOL tutor is to make a go of it in your town/city.

Once you are clear to give classes legally-speaking, then you can start to market yourself and conduct your own business, finding students and creating a work life that works for you.

This method requires a fair amount of self-discipline and requires that you know how much to charge students, and how to plan out your lessons every day, and also market your services to the public in a convincing manner.

The downside to this path is that you might struggle to find a lot of people looking to learn English in your area, unless you are living in a country where the native language is something else.

Give Superprof a go

One of the easiest and most convenient ways of getting into teaching, and tutoring, these days is through online tutoring platforms such as Superprof.

We provide you with everything you need to kickstart your ESOL tutor career and find eager students without needing to do a lot of marketing for yourself.

Teaching online is a fantastic option for those who prefer the freelance lifestyle, and are comfortable operating from their own homes. What’s more, you won’t need to travel around, or have students come to your home, since everything your classes will all be carried out online.

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Sam is an English teaching assistant and freelance writer based in southern Spain. He enjoys exploring new places and cultures, and picking up languages along the way.