How can I progress in my ESL teaching career?

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  • GregS
    11 January, 2021 at 11:07
    • Total posts: 1

    Hi everyone,

    My name is Greg and I am a British ESL teacher (and an occasional proofreader), based in the east of France. I have been teaching ESL for about 1 year and a half and I love the work and the interactions I have with students, both in one-to-one and class settings. Although I originally fell into this line of work, I feel that I have finally found a career that I care a lot about, and one that could potentially last a lifetime. I find myself at a crossroads however and so I could really do with some advice and information from the ESL community.

    I began teaching at a private training centre that accepted me as I am a native speaker, rather than because I have adequate qualifications (I have none at all!). Since then, I have managed to find a second job at the local university. Though the university job has boosted my confidence a great deal, I still cannot escape the fact that I am seriously under-qualified both in terms of my past studies and my job-related certificates.

    I still find myself stuck at the bottom of the ladder, generally only able to take low-security and low-paid contracts (the university job is an exception to this but I am quite lucky to have found this job). I have not been able to save any money for the future and I don’t have a pension yet.

    I have a real passion for my students’ welfare, the English language, language study in general and the craft of teaching but I am worried that this will only go so far. I need to build a real ESL Teacher’s CV. Can anyone please advise me on where to start and what to aim for?

    Do I need a CELTA or should I be aiming for a Masters’ degree?
    Can I build my professional profile by doing online courses through a website such as

    I am contemplating returning to the UK but I worry that I will lose the advantage of being a native speaker abroad. Is it realistic to work as an ESL teacher in the UK?
    Are there opportunities to train on the job and build my profile while I work?

    Thank you all for your time,


    24 February, 2021 at 14:01
    • Total posts: 3

    Hi Greg.
    The Celta, Delta, and other teaching certs are quite different from an MA, and each one teaches you something different.

    The CELTA, for example, will teach you basic lesson planning, classroom management, and a bit about how language acquisition works. You learn a bit of theory, do some lesson planning, and some practice teaching. By the end, you’ll have a much better understanding of why certain lesson steps are done, in what order, and how to better manage your classroom and get your students talking.

    The DELTA, or DIPTESOL, or any other diploma level course, goes much further. You learn about all the different methods, i.e., why you use this or that method, their strong and weak points, and a little bit about what theories from second language acquisition research those methods are based on. It also teaches you curriculum development, syllabus design, and about testing. You are also required to learn terminology – that is, what are the terms used in ESL and what they mean, and that of course requires understanding the concepts behind them. As an example, by the end of the Delta you will understand phonetics, e.g,. what is a syllable, why are they important for pronunciation, how to teach it, and how to create a test that will show you whether or not your students really understand.

    The MA, on the other hand, is almost pure theory. Instead of planning lessons, you do your own research. For example, you do research on and compare the different theories on how languages are learned, critique them, form your own theories, and then test them to see if they work or not. When you finish an MA, you’ll be able to connect theory with practice.

    You really cannot go directly into an MA when you don’t have any real understanding of lesson planning, much less methodology and theory.. You’d drown, as all the concepts would be totally new to you. You likely couldn’t even read a single journal article as you’d have to look up terminology and then read another five papers mentioned in that paper. I also don’t think you’d even be accepted into any MA TESOL program without any prior ESL qualifications.

    If I were you, I’d start easy: CELTA. If you like it, then you can take the next step, and the next after that. After all: you may start to study in earnest only to find you don’t actually like it, find it boring, or otherwise change your mind, knowing all the hard work that lies in front of you.

    Becoming a professional teacher is a commitment to academia. If you don’t like academia, if you don’t want to spend thousands of dollars, and if you don’t want to spend the rest of your life reading books on second language acquisition theory, then maybe stop where you are now, milk it for all its worth, and once you burn out or get bored, find a different job in another field.

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