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December 19, 2005

ESL Teaching Prerequisites

"What office is there which involves more responsibility, which requires more qualifications, and which ought, therefore, to be more honorable, than that of teaching?" ~Harriet Martineau

ESL qualification prerequisites anyone?

Blog folk,

There's a lot of talk going on now on the ESL-School blog and in the various ESL-Job-Forums out there about what kind of academic degrees you might (or might not) need to qualify for employment at a respectable ESL school abroad (or, just get legal working papers). On top of this . . .

ESL Interview.gif

. . . there is the age-old question of what type of ESL certification one should have, if any at all. The consensus seems to be that all of this depends on:

1. the individual country and its own set of laws and
2. the individual ESL school and how high (or low) its standards are.

First over at ESL-Lesson-Plan, and now at the English-Blog, I've decided to take a poll and find out, once and for all, what the average ESL teacher today has under his or her belt when it comes to listing credentials on a vita or a job application form.

Since our readership is quite big - and growing - the results should be very interesting.

I've prepared a little survey on this subject. Don't worry, they are six easy multiple choice questions. If you have a moment to spare, please share you input on this anonymous poll. I'll collect the data and publish it in either a future blog post or in the January edition of ESL Instruct (or both).

The link to the poll is here (will bounce back here when done):


As usual, thanks for your participation. After taking the survey, please feel free to leave a comment here on your thoughts about how "degreed" an ESL teacher ought to be, what it means to our profession when the standards are raised, and, besides actual teaching experience, which program(s) benefit both the ESL student and the skill-level of the ESL teacher the most?

Until the next entry,

Lee Hobbs
ESL Instruct, Editor-in-Chief

NOTE: 23 March 2006, Please click HERE to see the dramatic results from the December survey about the average prerequisites for teaching ESL.

Posted by lhobbs at December 19, 2005 12:19 AM

Readers' Comments:

Hi Lee,

Thanks for the nice comment. I am sure that you and I will be up to something one day. I am honestly using my site (mramer.org) right now as an ad to show my skills, and a reference to prosepective employers. I also want it as a way friends can check out what I am up to without having to send out emails. But iteachers.org will be more dynamic and hopefully it will have some resources for teachers out there. Hope you are doing good. Happy Holidays from Arkansas!


Posted by: Mahmoud at December 20, 2005 12:12 AM


My credentials are: BA[H] Political Science and History with a Geography minor, a TESOL teaching certificate, and three years experience teaching ESL at a YMCA in Canada.

I do believe that I am qualified to work and teach ESL in any country. Some countries such as Spain or Germany prefer a BEd, but it is not mandatory. I think it is important that an ESL teacher at least has a BA from a English university.

I hear about people who get bored of working in factories in North America and decide to go teach English in China or Africa. I think this is wrong because they may not have the proper techniques or language skills to adequately teach. Many students around the world are coming to an English country and realizing that they do not actually know the language.

It may seem a little much to demand an ESL teacher have a BA, but it would guarantee quality and appreciation. Remember that every ESL teacher affects the next one, because non-English cultures can gain mass bias' against foreign ESL teachers from only a handful of bad teachers.


Posted by: Jason Figueroa at December 31, 2005 01:06 AM

Lee and other fellow-Lee-readers,

I took your ESL qualification prerequisite survey and am looking forward to seeing the results when you post them!

Teaching ESL/EFL isn't exactly known to be the most lucrative profession (the understatement of the new year, I know). And this very subject -- how "degreed" an ESL teacher ought to be -- plays an obvious and direct roll on the average amount of "green stuff" today's ESL teacher can expect. Raising standards, ESL qualification prerequisites is just one example, is a must! I'm not saying it's all about the money, but the teaching field as a whole has been long under paid and under appreciated, wouldn't you say?!

I agree with Jason that an ESL teacher ought to have at least a BA from an accredited English university, and I don't at all think that's too much to demand. I also think it prudent of teachers to take some version of an ESL certification program. Unfortunately, many such certification courses out there now are a joke and a waste of money, so it's important to do your research and choose a reputable organization!

I earned my BA in English with a Spanish minor and the followed with a Via Lingua TEFL certification course in Madrid. I found that both helped me land better jobs in more supportive environments than colleagues who were job searching with simply a "native speaker degree".

So that's what I have to say in regard to the questions you threw out to us, but before I sign-off, I have a few questions of my own...

Less talk, more action: How do WE (individually or otherwise) help raise the standards of our profession?

Trying to move mountains: Do you really think it's possilbe to raise standards with the plethora of employers out there ready to hire the first English-speaking traveller that wanders by -- regardless of qualification or dedication to the profession?

That's all for now, folks!

Posted by: Smyth at January 4, 2006 04:44 AM


Shakespeare's a must. Knowledge of. Experience Acting out at least one of his many famous plays. But if you were unlucky enough to discover not, the wonders of Ye Olde English then try memorising a verse from your favourite play.

For you clever ones out there... What play does the following verse come from?

"If I may trust the flattering truth of sleep, my dreams pursuade some joyful news at had! My bosom's Lord sits lightly on it's throne and all this day an unaccustomed spirit lifts me above the ground with cheerful thoughts! I dreamt my Lady came and found me dead! (Strange dream that gives a dead man leave to think)... And breathed such life, with kisses on my lips, that I revived and was an Emperor! Ah me! How sweet does doth love possess... when but love's sorrow is so rich in joy!"

So forget about your qualifications and experience for a moment and ponder the prerequisite of poetry!


PS: Please excuse the odd inaccuracy as the verse (spoken by Romeo)was written from memory...

PPS: My favourite Shakespeare play is Hamlet.

Posted by: John at January 5, 2006 06:14 AM


Teaching qualifications come in all shapes and sizes, and acceptable standards fluctuate from country to country.

The best piece of advice I can offer is, when armed with whatever qualifications you have earned, turn to the greatest qualification of all when you are ready to work in a relatively undeveloped country - and that's the qualification of life.

Because no matter where you go, the system will not change for YOU...YOU must change to suit the system. Flexibility, adaptability, friendliness and respect...because without these qualities/qualifications you will struggle to survive in another country...and remember, YOU are the foreigner!

Fish and chips, mince and tatties will not always be readily available for those who are looking for a 'home from home' situation. Go with the flow, enjoy the experience, and help as many people as you can to speak a new language - it's their path to a new and happy life.


Posted by: jim hollerin at January 5, 2006 11:06 PM


Your comment about the qualification of life is a valid one and I have seen people come to my country and be horrified because the washing machine instructions are not in English. You do have to be adaptible and willing to embrace the culture and 'ways' of the country you have decided to reside in.

But a lot of the comments on this page are about the individual, the teacher. But what about the students. They have invested time and money to learn English and that responsibility lies on our shoulders. They need to learn usable, current English,(not the bard John). If you are considering a career in English Teaching, or even a year or two in the profession, remember that last word, profession.

If I wanted to become a car mechanic, I would assume that just because I can drive I know about cars. In the same way just because we can speak English doesn't make us teachers.

Therefore for anyone thinking of jetting off around the world to teach English I have the following advice. A TEFL certificate is a must, (often more important than a degree.) That certificate should be externally validated, try Cambridge or Trinity. (I am not being critical about the others but some schools will not employ you if you have other ones). And that certificate should be considered as a start of a Education not the end of it.

Happy Teaching,


Posted by: gareth at January 7, 2006 05:25 AM


[ . . . ] With 35 years experience in ESL, an Education degree, but no ESL diploma as such, this was a key blog for myself. I see many excellent posts that seem closed to me because I don't have the time or money to get CELTA for myself. Yet I plan to pursue some of these more tantalizing positions, especially in Russia, even though I lack CELTA.

I truly feel my extensive background makes me more qualified than some younger CELTA diploma holders. Time will tell !


Posted by: Paul Tagney at January 13, 2006 01:28 PM


Hello. My name is Jeremy Lignelli. I am teaching Englsih down in Puerto Rico while I obtain my Masters in TESL. I am recently cordinating research for my PHD on Discrimination in the TESL, TEFL, TESOL job market and field.

I came across your newsletter with the pole you were doing on discrimination, if there is anything you can send me as far as information, statistics, web pages, etc. ,personal accounts I would be glad to take them.

Feel free to contact me at
teclig@yahoo.com [or] l


Note from Lee:

Readers, do you have any information for Jeremy? I'll open up the poll information for him once it's completed. Post any thing you can offer him here.

Posted by: Jeremy at February 3, 2006 03:07 PM

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