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DCE Magazine

Expert Perspectives on Choosing a Career in English Language Teaching

Summer 2018

Whether you are on a straight career path or a curvy one, you will have new options and opportunities, here at home and abroad, with a UCI TESOL certificate.

Tyler Barrett had just graduated from college and wasn't quite sure what he wanted to do with his life, so he explored a number of career paths. He knew he wanted to live abroad for a while, explore other cultures and get some international perspective, so he pursued and earned his TESOL certificate – that's Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages. Soon after, he started working in Japan, teaching English to Japanese-speaking students and loving every minute of it.

“I found that a TESOL certificate was one of the credentials that employers were looking for when it came to filling English teaching positions in Japan and elsewhere,” said Barrett, an instructor in the Division of Continuing Education's online TESOL certificate program. “In fact, the recruiter who hired me for my English teaching position in Japan told me that it was my certificate that set me apart.”

For nearly five years Barrett worked for a company that facilitated Assistant Language Teachers in public schools throughout Japan. He was considered an honored guest and was included in school activities and local festivals, in addition to teaching English in classrooms. He was seen as a “cultural ambassador” of American English. “It was a very positive experience,” he said.

“A TESOL certificate and a B.A. is your ticket to travel the world and live abroad while teaching English,” Barrett said. If the idea of travelling or living and working overseas doesn't grab you, then teaching English in the U.S. may be the way to broaden your horizons, meet new people and share languages and cultures. Whether you are considering teaching English at home or abroad as a long-term career, or a stepping stone to another field, a TESOL certificate can increase your options.

A rewarding career here at home

Teaching English as a second language offers some very special rewards for those who choose the TESOL path, according to Rachel Kraut. The TESOL teacher and DCE instructor has been moved to tears watching her students master their new language. Learning English is a personal mission for many that can greatly improve their lives, and watching the results of her efforts to fulfill that mission has been a deeply rewarding experience for Kraut.

“Teaching ESL can be so gratifying. I would even go so far as to say that teaching ESL is more rewarding than teaching in general at times,” she said. Several years ago she worked as an ESL instructor for a community-based program here in the U.S.

“All of my students were local adults and wanted to improve their English language skills for work or to better integrate themselves into their city and community. Several of them had these goals but also really wanted to pass the GED to greatly improve their job prospects in the U.S. At the culmination of our semester, the students approached me to proudly announce that they had all passed the GED exam. We all cried happy tears together. I will never forget that day or the swell of pride I had.”

An introduction to the field

“A bachelor's degree and a TESOL certificate are enough to teach abroad,” according to Christopher Stillwell, another DCE instructor in the UCI TESOL certificate program. A certificate is an excellent introduction to TESOL if you would like to break into the field for personal enrichment or career change (at any age) or even graduate school preparation. Earning a TESOL certificate could be your first step along the academic journey if you have set your sights on embarking on an academic teaching career.

An exciting adventure

“No matter your age, a TESOL certificate opens the door to a world of exciting adventure for you and often for your entire family,” said Lesley Clear, a longtime ESL teacher and DCE instructor in the TESOL certificate program, whose students have ranged in age from 3 to 88.

“ESL instructors very often bring along their spouses and even children to share in the adventure as a family, learning all about new cultures and exploring foreign countries together.

And don't think that you need to be fluent in a foreign language to teach English abroad – it's actually considered an advantage if you aren't. “Even if you are fluent in, say, Japanese, it's a good idea to keep it to yourself. The schools want a fully immersive English-speaking experience for their students. They don't want teachers to translate everything — they want students to learn through looking at pictures, and hearing the English words being pronounced.”

A background in teaching isn't necessary either. All you really need is passion for your new career, an undergraduate degree and a TESOL certificate and you're on your way.

“Once you complete our online TESOL certificate program, you'll have all the background you need to launch an exciting and gratifying new career abroad,” Clear said. “There are so many rewarding opportunities in so many countries, in state-run language schools, private schools and private tutoring. New TESOL teachers are most often recruited through recruitment firms and agencies that handle most of the details, including housing and health insurance, so everything is taken care of.”

Rachel Kraut agrees with Clear's assessment. Although Kraut has spent most of her career teaching ESL in the U.S., she described a teaching assignment at a university in China as a real highlight.

“I was bitten by the travel bug long ago, but working in the TESOL field brought an international dimension to my trips that wasn't previously there,” Kraut said. “I had never formally worked abroad until that opportunity came around, and I'm so glad I took it,” she said.

A global demand

Japan and Korea offer lots of opportunities for ESL instructors — demand throughout Asia is quite high. Europe, Latin America, the Ukraine and even the Middle East also have a strong demand, according to Lesley Clear. “English-speaking countries like New Zealand and Australia are seeing a large influx of immigrants who want to learn English as well,” she added.

English is practically a universal language, considered a ticket to a better life, whether it's for business, academic achievement, or just being able to travel and communicate.

Learn more at ce.uci.edu/tesol