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English as a Second Language Teacher - Adults

English as a second language (ESL) teachers provide English language and life skills instruction. They teach newcomers, international students, and other adults whose first language is not English.

  • Avg. Salary $70,708.00
  • Avg. Wage $40.67
  • Minimum Education Varies
  • Outlook avg
  • Employed 11,600
  • In Demand Lower
Also Known As

Educator, English as an Additional Language (EAL) Instructor, English as a Foreign Language (EFL) Instructor, Teacher

NOC Codes

In Canada, the federal government groups and organizes occupations based on a National Occupational Classification (NOC) system. This alis occupation may not reflect the entire NOC group it is part of. Data for the NOC group can apply across multiple occupations.

The NOC system is updated every 5 years to reflect changes in the labour market. Government forms and labour market data may group and refer to an occupation differently, depending on the system used. Here is how this occupation has been classified over time:

  • 2006 NOC: College and Other Vocational Instructors (4131) 
  • 2006 NOC-S: College and Other Vocational Instructors (E121) 
  • 2011 NOC: College and other vocational instructors (4021) 
  • 2016 NOC: College and other vocational instructors (4021) 
Skills Shortage

Employers that Recruited in the Last 2 Years

Average Wage
  • Certification Not Regulated
  • Strength Required Lift up to 5 kg
Interest Codes
The English as a Second Language Teacher - Adults is part of the following larger National Occupational Classification (NOC).
College and Other Vocational Instructors

Interest in co-ordinating information to develop curricula and prepare teaching materials, course outlines and examinations


Interest in administering and marking tests and papers to evaluate students' progress and in supervising independent or group projects, field placements, laboratory work or hands-on training; may serve on committees concerned with matters such as budgets, curriculum revision, and course and diploma requirements


Interest in instructing students, providing individualized tutoring and advising on program curriculum and career decisions

Reading Interest Codes
A Quick Guide

The interest code helps you figure out if you’d like to work in a particular occupation. 
It’s based on the Canadian Work Preference Inventory (CWPI), which measures 5 occupational interests: Directive, Innovative, Methodical, Objective and Social.

Each set of 3 interest codes is listed in order of importance.

A code in capital letters means it’s a strong fit for the occupation.

A code in all lowercase letters means the fit is weaker.

Learn More

Updated Mar 31, 2020

The main goal of ESL instruction is to help newcomers and international students speak English well enough to take part effectively in an English-speaking setting. ESL programs help learners develop skills in the following areas:

  • Listening comprehension
  • Reading comprehension
  • Pronunciation and intonation
  • Spoken fluency
  • Writing and composition
  • Grammar and vocabulary
  • Communication, including context and intercultural exchange
  • Learning strategies
  • Understanding of common English phrases
  • Digital literacy

Beginner-level ESL courses tend to focus on topics that will help newcomers become involved in their communities. They also help overseas students develop basic English proficiency. Themes might include:

  • Renting accommodations
  • Using public transit
  • Banking and shopping
  • Using telephones
  • Getting health or medical care
  • Travelling
  • Making friends
  • Taking part in leisure activities
  • Preparing for citizenship

ESL teachers provide cultural orientation as well as language instruction. This helps ESL learners adjust to Canadian life quickly and successfully. Field trips (to banks, grocery stores, shopping malls, cultural centres, and job sites), guest speakers, and research projects help newcomers learn about Canada. These activities also encourage them to share aspects of their own culture and country.

Intermediate- and advanced-level classes tend to focus on improving fluency and communication skills. They also provide transitional support for those wishing to go on to further training or learning opportunities.

ESL classes may include an employment component. Topics might include interview strategies, work vocabulary, and workplace communication strategies. Some ESL classes help people prepare for specific workplaces or jobs, or prepare for further education. International students often plan to return to their own countries. However, they expect to use English for personal development, to complement studies in their home countries, or for business, commerce, or academic purposes.

Working Conditions
Updated Mar 31, 2020

Hours and classroom facilities vary greatly. Classes may be taught:

  • In academic settings (public schools, language centres, post-secondary schools, private institutes)
  • In community facilities (community centres, places of worship)
  • At job sites (factories, hospitals, hotels, offices)

Class sizes vary from one-to-one tutoring situations to academic classes of 20 or more students.

  • Strength Required Lift up to 5 kg
Skills & Abilities
Updated Mar 31, 2020

ESL teachers need:

  • Communication skills
  • An interest in language
  • Imagination, energy, creativity, and enthusiasm
  • Commitment and adaptability
  • A sense of humour
  • Strong organizational skills
  • The ability to work in a multicultural environment and show respect for other values and cultures
  • The ability to create an environment in which students feel comfortable and willing to participate
  • The ability to make classes relevant to the needs and interests of diverse groups

They should enjoy co-ordinating information and preparing teaching materials. They should also enjoy supervising and evaluating student progress, and helping students achieve their goals.

Top 10 Skills Employers Are Looking For

College and other vocational instructors
NOC code: 4021

This chart shows which job skills are currently in highest demand for this occupational group. It was created using this occupation's 19 most recent Alberta job postings, collected between Oct 27, 2021 and Jan 20, 2022.

Review these skills to learn:

  • Whether or not this occupation matches your skill set
  • What training you may need to get these skills
  • What skills to highlight in your resumé, cover letter, and interview.
Prepare teaching materials and outlines for courses
Prepare, administer and mark tests and papers to evaluate students' progress
Lead discussion groups and seminars
Personal Suitability: Reliability
Personal Suitability: Organized
Business Equipment and Computer Applications: MS Word
Personal Suitability: Client focus
Teaching Format: Classroom
Conduct course and program evaluation or review
Advise students on program curricula and career decisions
Educational Requirements
Updated Mar 31, 2020

There are no consistent academic requirements for teachers of adult ESL classes. Employers set their own hiring policies, requirements, and standards. As a result, required qualifications vary greatly. However, many employers prefer to hire applicants who have a bachelor’s degree and professional certification.

School boards generally require a bachelor of education (B.Ed.) degree or teacher’s certificate with a specialization in teaching English as a second language (TESL). Some post-secondary schools require a graduate diploma or master’s degree in TESL or applied linguistics.

It is not necessary to be fluent in another language to teach ESL to adults. However, learning a second language provides insight into the language learning process.

Work-related expertise is required to teach courses designed to prepare people for work in specific workplaces or jobs.

Private and public post-secondary schools may offer short training courses for people planning to teach English as a second language overseas.

For information about professional certification and recognized training for certification, see Certification Requirements.

Related Education

The following schools offer programs or courses that are related to this occupation but are not required to enter the field.

For a broad list of programs and courses that may be related to this occupation try searching using keywords.

Certification Requirements
Updated Mar 31, 2020

No legislation currently regulates this occupation. However, many employers prefer to hire applicants who have professional certification from Teachers of English as a Second Language Canada (TESL Canada) or Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL).

Canadian employers who prefer TESL Canada certification often require applicants to have the Professional Standard Two rather than Professional Standard One. There is also a Professional Standard Three certification for those with a graduate TESL degree. The TESL Canada website provides a list of training programs that meet Professional Standards One and Two, and another list for Professional Standard Three.

Employment & Advancement
Updated Mar 31, 2020

ESL teachers work for:

  • Agencies and organizations serving newcomers
  • Post-secondary schools
  • Private schools
  • School boards

There are few permanent teaching positions available in this occupation. For most ESL teachers, work tends to be on a short-term, contract basis or part time.

ESL teachers are part of the larger 2011 National Occupational Classification 4021: College and Other Vocational Instructors. In Alberta, 76% of people employed in this classification work in the following industries:

The employment outlook [pdf] in this occupation is influenced by a wide variety of factors including:

  • Trends and events affecting overall employment and immigration, especially in the industries listed above
  • Location in Alberta
  • Employment turnover (when people leave existing positions)
  • Occupational growth (when new positions are created)
  • Size of the occupation

In Alberta, the 4021: College and other vocational instructors occupational group is expected to have an average annual growth of 1.9% from 2019 to 2023. In addition to job openings created by employment turnover, 231 new positions are forecasted to be created within this occupational group each year.

NOC groups often include several related occupations. Although there is labour market data for the larger NOC group, this occupation makes up only a part of that group. It means data for this occupation may be different than the data shown. For example, only some of the 231 new positions to be created will be for this occupation. It also applies to other data for the NOC group such as number of people employed.

Employment turnover is expected to increase as members of the baby boom generation retire over the next few years.

Wage & Salary
Updated Mar 31, 2020

Many ESL teachers are paid by the hour. They may be paid for actual classroom teaching time (contact hours) rather than the substantial amount of time they spend preparing. Some teachers are hired on short-term or sessional contracts. Others have permanent positions with benefits and a negotiated pay grid.

College and other vocational instructors

Survey Methodology

Survey Analysis

Overall Wage Details
Average Wage
Average Salary
Hours Per Week

Hourly Wage
For full-time and part-time employees
  • Low
  • High
  • Average
  • Median
Wages* Low (5th percentile) High (95th percentile) Average Median
Starting $17.22 $42.74 $31.89 $32.83
Overall $20.00 $58.94 $40.67 $46.22
Top $21.00 $66.77 $48.40 $50.00

Swipe left and right to view all data. Scroll left and right to view all data.

* All wage estimates are hourly except where otherwise indicated. Wages and salaries do not include overtime hours, tips, benefits, profit shares, bonuses (unrelated to production) and other forms of compensation.

B: Good Reliability
Data Reliability Code Definition

Good Reliability, represents a CV of between 6.01% and 15.00% and/or fewer than 30 survey observations and/or if survey observations represent less than 50% of all estimated employment for the occupation.

Industry Information
Public Administration
Professional, Scientific & Technical Services
Educational Services
Other Services (Repair, Personal Services and Related)
Health Care & Social Assistance

Skills Shortage

Employers that Recruited in the Last 2 Years


Recruiting Employers that Experienced Hiring Difficulties


Employers with Unfilled Vacancies of over 4 Months


Vacancy Rate

Related Post-Secondary Field of Study
  • Education and Library Studies
  • Humanities and Languages
Other Sources of Information
Updated Mar 31, 2020

Alberta Teachers of English as a Second Language (ATESL) website:

Teachers of English as a Second Language Canada (TESL Canada) website:

Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) International Association website:

Get information and referrals about career, education, and employment options from Alberta Supports.

Updated Mar 31, 2020. The information contained in this profile is current as of the dates shown. Salary, employment outlook, and educational program information may change without notice. It is advised that you confirm this information before making any career decisions.

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