How to become an ESL Teacher: Australian careers in teaching

ESL teachers are responsible for, and play a pivotal roles in, helping those who arrive in Australia with minimal or non-existent English skills. They can work with students as young as kindergarten age up to adults. To help these students, they must prepare coursework and teaching materials that take into account the diversity and skill level of the students. There are many places to work as an ESL teacher - government or independent schools, intensive English centres, private colleges for international students, at TAFE or in universities. To become any type of teacher it is essential to complete a degree in Education, whilst incorporating your area of interest into your study plan.

  • Task Career in focus: What an ESL teacher does

    ESL students will assess a students proficiency in English and adjust course material to suit their needs. This may mean coming up with creative ways to teach and explaining things in as “basic” a way as possible. In many ways, it is like teaching a primary school child English for the first time, but harder, especially if the student has no English language skills whatsoever. ESL teachers can consult with other teachers who teach their students in a general classroom setting. It is common for ESL teachers to work with refugees who have fled traumatic conditions in their homeland, and to help adult migrants to gain social confidence and integrate more easily into their local community by becoming more fluent in English. This line of work requires a high degree of cultural empathy and knowledge..


    • Preparing course works
    • Recording and reporting on student progress
    • Working with diversity
    • Consulting with other teachers
    • Motivating and directing students
  • Skills Core qualities: Skills to succeed as an ESL teacher

    As with all other teaching roles, being an ESL teacher requires elite organisational and planning skills because work must be prepared in advance. ESL teachers must also demonstrate cultural sensitivity in order to work with students from all over the world. It’s vital to have the sensitivity, diplomacy and communication skills necessary to communicate with people from diverse socio-economic backgrounds. This rewarding career is not merely a profession but rather a vocation that has the potential to change the lives of others and have a positive impact on communities. 

    • Cultural awareness and sensitivity
    • Effective communication skills
    • Aptitude for languages
    • Genuine desire to help others
    • Problem solving skills
  • Specialisations The field: Specialisations within teaching

    All teachers in Australia are required to complete a bachelor degree in education before working in schools. Alternatively, some people choose to study teaching as a postgraduate master’s degree. Within teaching itself, there are a number of specialisations to choose from. It is important to figure out what you are passionate about and enjoy teaching, and to adjust your courses accordingly. 

    Primary School Teacher

    Teachers in primary school teach their students a range of basic literacy, numeracy, science, creative and comprehension skills, ensuring their foundational skills are developed and nurtured early. Primary school teachers have a key role in the early learning of children and can also help to prepare them for high school.

    High School Teacher

    Secondary teachers work with students aged from twelve through to eighteen as they progress through the second phase of their educational journey. To be a high school teacher one must complete a bachelor degree in education, tailored to suit the requirements of being a secondary teacher. Most high school teachers specialise in a few areas – for example Maths and Science, LOTE and English or Sport.

    Special Education Teacher

    Students with disability or impairment need to learn too – but it takes a different type of teaching. Special ed teachers nurture “special” students and adjust course content to suit their needs. Aside from theory in different areas, special education teachers also teach students key life skills that will help them in the future when they are no longer in a safe school environment. The job requires a lot of patience, care and planning and involves working collaboratively with parents, carers and health professionals.

    Vocational Education and Training (VET) Lecturer

    VET lecturers deliver industry-based education to students looking to work in a particular field, often in a trade such as construction, beauty or hospitality. VET teachers/lecturers must have extensive experience in the industry and will need to complete a Certificate IV in Training and Assessment to begin.
  • Pathways The right track: Find study options for becoming an ESL teacher

    The path to becoming an ESL teacher begins the same as any other teacher – with a degree in education. Students have the option of altering their course to suit their interests, and once they have finished, may like to complete short courses to learn new techniques and up skill throughout their career. 

    Starting Out

    These courses will qualify you to work in the education sector as support staff or in childcare, a great introduction to the world of teaching.

    Building Skills

    Completing a bachelor’s degree will allow you to pursue employment as a professional teacher in Australian schools. These degrees involve a combination of practical and theoretical learning – all aspiring teachers are required to undertake a placement to gain experience.

    Developing Your Resume

    Another option is to study a degree that focuses on an interest first, then studying education in a postgraduate degree. This will allow you to become a teacher and may even give you a greater advantage to work in your speciality area.

    Industry Recognition

    All teachers must join the register of qualified teachers in your state. Find out more in our resources section.

    Entering the Workforce

    Put your training to good use and get the best professional head start in your teaching career. Take a look at our sample resume and cover letter and put your best foot forward when you apply for teaching jobs.

    Job prospects in Teaching: Working life as an ESL teacher

    Australia is a multi-cultural country, and with people constantly moving from overseas, there is always a need for ESL teachers to help them adjust to their new home.

Teaching Industry Resources:

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