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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 to immigrants, international students and other adults whose first language is not English.

  • Avg. Salary $70,708.00
  • Avg. Wage $40.67
  • Minimum Education Varies
  • Outlook below 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 Dec 15, 2016

The main objective of ESL instruction is to develop the second language proficiency of new immigrants and international students to the point where they can participate effectively in an English speaking environment. ESL programs are designed to develop learners' skills in the following areas:

  • listening comprehension
  • reading comprehension
  • pronunciation and intonation
  • spoken fluency
  • writing and composition
  • grammar and vocabulary
  • communication and learning strategies
  • understanding of common English phrases
  • digital literacy.

Beginning ESL courses generally focus on topics that help newcomers participate in their communities or help overseas students begin to develop basic English proficiency. For example, themes for new immigrants may include:

  • renting accommodation
  • using public transportation
  • banking and shopping
  • using telephones
  • health or medical care
  • travel
  • making friends
  • leisure activities
  • citizenship education.

Cultural orientation as well as language instruction is provided to help students adjust to Canadian life as quickly and successfully as possible. Field trips (to banks, grocery stores, shopping malls, cultural and job sites), guest speakers and research projects help immigrants learn about their new country and share aspects of their own culture and country.

Intermediate and advanced level classes generally focus on improving fluency and communication skills, and providing transitional support for those wishing to go on to further training or educational opportunities.

ESL classes may include an employment component with topics such as interview strategies, work vocabulary and workplace communication strategies. Some ESL classes are designed specifically to help people prepare for work in particular types of workplaces or occupations, or to prepare for further education. International students often plan to return to their own countries but expect to use English for personal development, to complement studies in their home countries to meet language proficiency requirements or for business, commerce and academic purposes.

Working Conditions
Updated Dec 15, 2016

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

  • in academic environments (public schools, language centres, post-secondary schools, private institutes)
  • in community facilities (community centres, churches, temples, synagogues)
  • 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 Dec 15, 2016

ESL teachers need the following characteristics:

  • excellent communication skills
  • an interest in language
  • imagination, energy, creativity, patience, enthusiasm, commitment and adaptability
  • a sense of humour
  • the ability to work well in a multicultural environment and demonstrate respect for other values and cultures
  • the ability to create an environment in which students feel comfortable and will 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, supervising and evaluating student progress, and helping others.

Educational Requirements
Updated Dec 15, 2016

No consistent academic requirement has been established for teachers of adult ESL classes. Employers set their own hiring policies, requirements and standards. Consequently, required qualifications vary greatly. However, many employers prefer to hire applicants who have a bachelor's degree and professional certification from Teachers of English as a Second Language Canada (TESL Canada) or Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL).

School boards and most post-secondary school employers require a bachelor of education (B.Ed.) degree or teacher's certificate with a specialization in teaching English as a second language (TESL). Some 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 adult ESL, although learning a second language does provide insight into the language learning process.

Work related expertise is required to teach courses that are designed to prepare people for work in particular types of workplaces or occupations.

Certification requirements for TESL Canada members include a university degree and instruction in methodology and theory, a supervised adult ESL or English as a Foreign Language (EFL) classroom practicum and a minimum number of hours of teaching experience:

  • Professional Standard I requires a bachelor's degree, 100 hours of methodology and theory, 20 hours of practicum, 1,000 hours of teaching experience and positive performance reviews
  • Professional Standard II requires a bachelor's degree, 250 hours of methodology and theory, 20 hours of practicum, 1,500 hours of teaching experience and positive performance reviews
  • Professional Standard III requires a master's degree in applied linguistics or TESOL and 20 hours of practicum (or a Professional Standard I or II with a master's degree in a related field), 2,000 hours of teaching experience and positive performance reviews.

Professional Standard I is entry level. Employers in Canada often require Professional Level II.

TESL Canada offers interim certification to recent graduates of ESL training programs. Teachers can receive permanent certification when the required hours of teaching experience have been reached.

For a complete list of TESL-recognized training programs that meet the requirements for Standards I, II or III, see the TESL Canada website.

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

Related Education

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

Bow Valley College

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

Certification Requirements
Updated Dec 15, 2016

Certification is not required, as there is currently no legislation regulating this occupation.

Employment & Advancement
Updated Dec 15, 2016

ESL teachers are employed by:

  • colleges and universities
  • school boards
  • private schools
  • agencies and organizations serving immigrants.

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 in this occupation will be 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 (work opportunities generated by people leaving existing positions)
  • occupational growth (work opportunities resulting from the creation of new positions that never existed before)
  • size of the occupation.

In Alberta, the E121: College and Other Vocational Instructors occupational group is expected to have a below-average annual growth of 1.6% from 2016 to 2020. In addition to job openings created by employment turnover, 211 new positions are forecasted to be created within this occupational group each year.

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

Wage & Salary
Updated Dec 15, 2016

Many ESL teachers are paid by the hour. They may be paid for actual classroom teaching time (contact hours) and not for 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 Dec 15, 2016

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:

For more information on career planning, education and jobs call the Alberta Supports Contact Centre toll-free at 1-877-644-9992 or 780-644-9992 in Edmonton, or visit an Alberta Supports Centre near you.

Updated Mar 09, 2016. 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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