TESOL:  Jobs, jobs, jobs, but no takers!

TESOL: Jobs, jobs, jobs, but no takers!

Christine Knorr headshotby Christine Knorr, MA TESOL, Director of Washington Academy of Languages

As Director of the TESOL Certificate Program, I am always on the lookout for ways to connect our TESOL graduates to teaching assignments. In fact, just this past year, three school directors visited Washington Academy of Languages in person imploring us to send them our graduates. I’d love to, but where are they?

In the past year there has been a significant surge in inquiries related to finding qualified language instructors to teach English nationwide and abroad, namely in China, Mexico, Vietnam, and Taiwan. According to international school directors, hiring “just native speakers” is not enough anymore.

Educational institutions abroad still value the importance of having native speakers of English, but they also recognize the importance of having skilled teachers.   Employers are looking for individuals who have training and some foundation in language pedagogy.  Schools want their teachers to deliver quality language instruction because it directly impacts their students.

For job seekers this no doubt sounds encouraging, but as much as the demand for trained teachers continues to increase, unfortunately, the number of applicants in TESOL programs remains small. In fact, enrollment in TESOL degree programs has steadily been declining nationally. Just in Seattle, two major schools for training English teachers have recently closed, and several universities have discontinued offering graduate degrees in TESOL altogether. I am very perplexed about this sudden shortage. English instruction has always been popular but this recent demand seems to have gotten even more serious worldwide.

So, I wonder, where are the future English teachers? Why aren’t more US students choosing to pursue a teaching degree in ESL? Is there an increased fear of traveling? Is tuition too high to justify the future salaries facing graduates and student debt? Or is there a lack of interest in service professions altogether?

Christine taking a quick tour of Hanoi on motorbike after classes. March 2015

Christine taking a quick tour of Hanoi on motorbike after classes. March 2015

While these reasons may be valid, I’d like to suggest that pursuing a certificate or degree in teaching English is still worthwhile!  Although pay for teaching remains low nationwide, in most foreign countries, teachers enjoy a higher social status and many can live comfortably. More importantly, with a TESOL certificate in hand, better paying positions are available.  Obtaining a certificate is more affordable than pursuing a degree and is accessible online, in class, or both. Graduate TESOL certificates—assuming they are from sound, accredited institutions–can be completed in as short as 5-15 weeks, depending on the program. And they are recognized worldwide.

If safety is a concern, there are so many countries to choose from! Be sure to research the current political climate and its economy. Many countries will make every effort to find working permits and ensure that you have housing and safe transportation.

As a former EFL/ESL instructor myself, I can only see the unique and valuable experiences I’ve had as a language teacher both abroad and in the US. In fact, for many years I couldn’t believe I was being paid to do something so truly gratifying and stimulating.

As both an English teacher and a TESOL trainer, I encourage anyone who might be interested in a new professional challenge to consider teaching English either abroad or here. The requirements are different but the experience will be equally rewarding!