With the demand for qualified English teachers at an all-time high, more and more colleges and universities are offering undergraduate English teaching degrees. This section is designed to provide information on this growing trend and, at the same time, advice for would-be English teachers. Such help can help you set the stage for success in the ever-evolving ESL industry!
At the dawn of the 21st century, globalization is the order of the day. Companies – and their customers – routinely span the globe in an interconnected web of commerce that is increasingly reliant on one thing: English. Indeed, the rise of global capitalism has been aided and abetted by English. It is a language which more than half a billion people from Key West to Canberra speak natively and fully a billion more speak as a second language. Those who speak it have reaped its reward; those who do not are eager to catch up. Still, while English speakers of one form or another make up 20% of the world’s total population, in individual countries their numbers are far fewer. As a result English is a ticket to economic success in many developing economies and English teachers are in ever higher demand. For the would-be English teacher, however, the path to a career in English language education is less clear. After all, would-be engineers study Engineering, would-be chemists study Chemistry, but some of the most successful English teachers do not have an English teaching degree.
There are two reasons for this. One, it is still early days in the international English as Second Language (ESL) industry and demand for teachers often outstrip supply. As such, most international ESL positions rely on native speaking ability more than formal training and admit candidates with a Bachelor’s degree in any discipline. Two, until recently there was no such thing as an English teaching degree. True, the MA in TESOL has a relatively long history but few colleges have offered formal degree programs at the undergraduate level. Those interested in more formal training have instead gotten Bachelor’s degrees in English and either minored in Linguistics or pursued a formal TESOL certification – more on that later – after they completed their degree.
This well-trodden path is, even now, a good guide for those interested in teaching English abroad. While very often a degree in any discipline is sufficient, certain majors provide would-be educator with a leg up in both the hiring process and the actual classroom. After all, certain majors are more naturally related to a career in English education and the more discerning (if not also more lucrative) employer is often on the lookout for such candidates. In addition to the abovementioned English and Linguistics, those who formally studied Education find that their focus has improved their prospects in landing a high quality position and, perhaps more importantly, have a better grasp of what to do once they actually enter the classroom.
As noted above, though, more and more schools are offering Bachelor’s degrees in teaching English as a second language. In fact, the official TESOL Association – TESOL.org – even provides a list of schools that offer undergraduate English teaching degrees in both the US and Canada. With participating colleges and universities from places as diverse as Hawaii to Montana and Manitoba to even French-speaking Quebec, interested parties can help break new ground while preparing for their new careers.
Worry not, however, if you already have your Bachelor’s degree. A variety of Teaching English Certificates exist to provide auxiliary credentials to help prepare English educators. These certification programs range in length – and cost – from week-long TEFL certifications to multi-year MA in TESOL programs and each, naturally, comes with its own particular set of benefits. The MA in TESOL, as well as the Cambridge-authorized CELTA, are by far the most widely-regarded certification programs available but are by no means necessary (or even advisable) for first time teachers. Those who are just starting out in ESL education would benefit greatly from shorter TEFL courses because at that point in the process in the emphasis should be less on an English teaching degree and more on their English teaching career. Post-graduate studies should only be an option for those who have committed to ESL for the long haul.