Salary Stats and Employment Rates for TESOL

ESL (English as a Second Language) teachers work in many different settings. This can include vibrant and bustling cities, suburbs with diverse communities, and rural towns with high immigrant populations. The salary you will earn as an ESL teacher depends on the level of education you obtain, how many years of experience you gain in the field, and where you work. Having a master’s degree in ESL will set you apart from other teachers who only have a bachelor’s degree. You will also have a better chance at being able to increase your salary with a graduate degree and teaching certification.

Teaching Salaries

All of the salary and employment statistics that we list here are provided by The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) as of May 2015. The BLS does not have a specific page for ESL teachers because they place them in the same bracket as adult literacy and high school equivalency diploma teachers. The following chart from the BLS contains the median annual salaries for the most popular industries in which they worked:

ESL pay by level

The BLS includes teachers with only a bachelor’s degree into their salary statistics. Those with a graduate degree will likely be able to earn a more than the listed median and mean salaries.

Top States for Teaching Salaries

As previously mentioned, location can play a part in both your potential salary as well as your employment opportunities. Typically the cost of living, employer’s budget, demand, and the relative value a state places on education will influence your income as an ESL teacher. According to the BLS, states that pay the highest average secondary and adult literacy teacher salaries are as follows:

  • California: $68,380
  • New York: $64,960
  • Connecticut: $63,260
  • West Virginia: $62,710
  • Illinois: $60,580

Top U.S. Areas for Teaching Salaries

Where you live in any state has just as much of an impact on your salary potential as the state as a whole does. Cities with larger populations are more likely to offer higher salaries than less populated areas. Similar to factors that determine salary per state, demand for ESL teachers, resources allocated to education, and cost of living for the area will affect your potential salary.

If city life isn’t for you, that’s okay because ESL teachers are needed virtually everywhere. Although you will likely earn a lower salary working outside of the city, it is largely due to the cost of living. City living is typically far more expensive than living in a nonmetropolitan area. There are pros and cons to working in the city or not for any profession, and only you can decide which area is right for you. To give you an idea of what you could earn in each setting, we have created this chart comparing the top five highest paying metropolitan and nonmetropolitan areas using data from the BLS.

Top Paying Metropolitan Areas Top Paying Nonmetropolitan Areas
Stockton-Lodi, CA: $93,220 North Coast Region of California: $79,890
Bakersfield, CA: $90,220 Mother Lode Region of California: $78,120
Vallejo-Fairfield, CA: $84,440 Capital/Northern New York: $70,620
Riverside-San Bernardino-Ontario, CA: $82,170 Southeast Minnesota: $66,810
Los Angeles-Long Beach-Glendale, CA: $73,800 Northern Vermont: $64,440

Employment Outlook

Salary isn’t everything. The whole point of becoming a TESOL or any other kind of teacher is to be able to motivate students to learn so that they may better themselves. That’s why it is important to know that your skills are needed in a specific area. Not only will looking for jobs in high-demand areas help the students, but it can also increase your chances of being able to start and expand your career. In the map below, the states that are in the darkest shade of green are the ones that continue to employ the most adult literacy teachers.

ESL Highest Employment States

These are the salaries of the states with the highest employment level for adult literacy teachers:

  • California: $68,380
  • Washington: $56,420
  • Texas: $51,530
  • New York: $64,960
  • North Carolina: $45,190

Luckily, finding a job can be relatively easy for TESOL graduates. The BLS predicts that the demand for adult literacy and high school equivalency diploma teachers is going to increase by 7 percent from 2014 to 2024. This is a steady growth that is similar to the estimated average growth-rate for all occupations.

Teaching Abroad – What You Need to Know

If you’d like to teach abroad, there are many opportunities to do so. Many countries across the globe look for certified TESOL and ESL instructors to work at language academies or as private tutors.

When applying an ESL or TESOL program, make sure to talk with an advisor to ensure the program will prepare you teach abroad, or at the very least, offers additional certification options to work as ESL instructor in a foreign country. Also, if you know where you want to live and work, research the country’s ESL teaching requirements, as each country has its own certification criteria.

What are popular ESL degree options?

If you’re currently an ESL or TESOL teacher, a master’s degree will prepare you to effectively teach students with well-planned curriculum and lesson plans. If you’re interested in learning more about programs for teaching ESL, we’ve provided a list of some popular, accredited schools below.


Northcentral University

  • HLC
  • NCA

George Washington University

  • MSA

University of Southern California

  • WASC

Grand Canyon University

  • HLC
  • NCA

Click here to find more online ESL degrees...