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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.

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) 
  • 2021 NOC: College and other vocational instructors (41210) 
Interests & Abilities

In Alberta, this occupation is part of 1 or more 2006 National Occupational Classification (NOC) groups. If there are multiple related NOC groups, select a NOC heading to learn about each one.

College and Other Vocational Instructors

2006 NOC: 4131

Interest Codes

Interest Codes for This NOC Group

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

Your Interest Codes

To identify or change your interest codes, complete the Interests Exercise in CAREERinsite.

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 for this NOC group 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 About Interests


Typical ability expectations for this NOC group
Your abilities

To fill in or change the values for your abilities, complete the Abilities Exercise in CAREERinsite.

Mental Abilities

General Learning Ability

Verbal Ability

Numerical Ability

Visual Abilities

Spatial Perception

Form Perception

Clerical Perception

Physical Abilities

Motor Coordination

Finger Dexterity

Manual Dexterity

Understanding Abilities

A Quick Guide

You are born with abilities that help you process certain types of information and turn it into action. These abilities influence which skills you can learn more easily.

The abilities or aptitudes shown for this NOC group come from the General Aptitude Test Battery (GATB). The GATB measures 9 aptitudes. It groups them into 3 categories: mental, visual, and physical.

The abilities scores range from 1 to 5, with 5 being stronger.

Learn About Abilities

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
  • Strength Required Lift up to 5 kg

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.

Traits & Skills
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.

In Alberta, this occupation is part of 1 or more 2016 National Occupational Classification (NOC) groups. If there are multiple related NOC groups, select a NOC heading to learn about each one.

Top 10 Skills Employers Are Looking For

College and other vocational instructors

2016 NOC: 4021

This chart shows which job skills are currently in highest demand for this occupational group. It was created using this occupation's 100 most recent Alberta job postings, collected between Sep 08, 2022 and Mar 23, 2023.

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.
Construction Specialization: Organized
Construction Specialization: Excellent oral communication
Construction Specialization: Reliability
Construction Specialization: Effective interpersonal skills
Construction Specialization: Client focus
Computer and Technology Knowledge: MS Word
Communication Systems Experience: Classroom
Construction Specialization: Team player
Construction Specialization: Flexibility
Tasks: Deliver lectures and presentations
Educational Requirements
Updated Mar 31, 2020
  • Minimum Education Varies

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.

To expand or narrow your search for programs related to this occupation, visit Post-Secondary Programs.

Completing a program does not guarantee entrance into an occupation. Before enrolling in an education program, prospective students should look into various sources for education options and employment possibilities. For example, contact associations and employers in this field.

Certification Requirements
Updated Mar 31, 2020
  • Certification Not Regulated

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 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.

Source: 2019-2023 Alberta Regional Occupational Demand Outlook

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

Related Alberta Job Postings
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.

In Alberta, this occupation is part of 1 or more 2016 National Occupational Classification (NOC) groups. If there are multiple related NOC groups, select a NOC heading to learn about each one.

College and other vocational instructors

2016 NOC: 4021
Average Wage
Per Hour
Average Salary
Per Year
Average Hours
Per Week
Average Months on Payroll
Survey Methodology Survey Analysis

2021 Alberta Wage and Salary Survey

NOC 4021 Wage Profile

Unless otherwise noted, the data shown here is for all industries and all regions in Alberta.

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.

To see the full survey data for this NOC group, visit the wage profile.

Other wage sources
To make an informed wage and salary decision, research other wage sources [pdf] to supplement this data.

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.

Hourly Wage

For full-time and part-time employees
  • Low
  • High
  • Average
  • Median

Hourly Wage

For full-time and part-time employees
Wages* Low (5th percentile) High (95th percentile) Average Median
Starting $16.00 $40.14 $28.81 $28.70
Overall $23.94 $55.87 $43.55 $46.58
Top $26.19 $100.00 $54.33 $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.

Pay brackets for hourly wages

  • Starting pay: average pay offered for entry-level positions
  • Overall pay: average pay across all employees in this occupation
  • Top pay: average pay offered to top-paid employees

Industry Information

Professional, Scientific & Technical Services
Public Administration
Educational Services
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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