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.

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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

There are job opportunities both in the UK and overseas. Jobs in the UK are often based in urban areas and involve teaching students whose first language is not English. In the summer holiday season there is work available teaching English to overseas students who are visiting the UK.

Opportunities are advertised 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 EL Gazette.

The British Council provides information about training and opportunities to teach in various locations overseas. The JET (Japan Exchange and Teaching) programme is supported by the Japanese government and recruits UK graduates to work as assistant language teachers, teaching English in schools in Japan.

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 teach in some countries it is necessary to have 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.

Key skills for TEFL/TESL teachers

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

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