TEFL/TESL teacher: job description

TEFL/TESL teacher: job description

TEFL is an umbrella term for teaching English to students of any age whose first language is not English. TESL refers to teaching students who will be using English instead of their native language after moving to an English-speaking country.
This job can be a good opportunity for travel, or you can stay and teach at home.

What does an English language teacher do? Typical employers | Qualifications and training | Key skills

Typical responsibilities of the job include:

  • planning, preparing and delivering lessons
  • preparing teaching materials
  • helping pupils improve their listening, speaking, reading and writing skills via individual and group sessions
  • checking and assessing pupils' work
  • organising and running specialist courses
  • attending social events

Typical employers

  • Private schools
  • Maintained schools
  • Further and higher education institutions
  • Community and adult education centres
  • Voluntary organisations

Opportunities are advertised online, by careers services and recruitment agencies, in national newspapers, in the Times Educational Supplement and Times Higher Education, and in specialist publications such as the English Language Gazette as well as their online equivalents.

Qualifications and training required

It may be possible to become a TEFL/TESL teacher without a degree, though employers typically look for graduates who have approved TEFL qualifications. A degree in language, linguistics, education or English will be particularly helpful in applications.

There are two main internationally-recognised TEFL qualifications: the Cambridge CELTA (Certificate in English Language Teaching to Adults) and the Trinity College London TESOL course, commonly referred to as CertTESOL. To find out more about TEFL courses, visit the TEFL page of TARGETpostgrad, our website aimed at graduates.

To teach in some countries it is necessary to hold Qualified Teacher Status (QTS) in addition to a TEFL qualification, and often at least two years' general classroom experience. Relevant work experience gained as a private tutor, language assistant or summer language school tutor can be helpful.

To read about how to get into careers in teaching via a school leaver route, go to the teaching section of TARGETcareers, our website aimed at school leavers.

Key skills for TEFL/TESL teachers

  • Excellent spoken and written language skills, with English and foreign languages
  • Clear diction
  • Patience
  • Lateral thinking
  • Confidence