English Teaching Opportunities in the USA

Teaching Around The World, The ICAL TEFL Blog

What’s the current teaching situation in the USA? We look into what is happening here right now in terms of immigration and teaching English.

Each year more than one million immigrants who arrive in the USA‏‎ face one of the biggest challenges of moving abroad – learning the language spoken in your host country.

According to MPI (Migration Policy Institute) the number of people who speak very little or no English has increased from 14 million in the 1990 Census to over 21 million in the 2000 Census.

Fifty percent of limited-English-proficient (LEP) adults report having nine or fewer years of education, and 64% have less than a high school degree. Only 18% have any post-secondary education.

Of course being able to speak good English can make the difference from getting a poorly paid, low level job and climbing the social ladder, which means immigrants to the States will need good written and spoken English language skills to be able to function effectively in the American society and become fully-fledged members of their communities and respected workers.

To cater for their needs many types of ESL‏‎ and literacy programs have been developed over the past 25 years in the States. ESL programs are offered in adult education classrooms around the country, giving scope to those who want to work in their own Country as ESL teachers also.

Types of ESL Programs for Immigrants

Life Skills ESL programs are designed to give immigrants the basic tools to get settle in the country. They generally consist of three to six hours of instruction per week. Most of the classes are for beginners‏‎ who stay on average for about 120 hours.

A range of other ESL programs further supports the language and literacy skills needed to address family, health, and financial issues. There are also ESL programs focused on passing the English and civics requirements of the US naturalization exam.

Finally there are ESL programs geared specifically to provide immigrants with the English skills required for employment, including for particular jobs or occupations. These are called Vocational ESL or VESL programs and represent a growing field.


  • Nearly half of the growth in the US labor force in the 1990s and 60 percent between 2000 and 2004 was due to new immigrants.
  • In 2004 there were over 20 million foreign-born individuals working in the US. Half came from Latin America and the Caribbean and a quarter from Asia.
  • One in five doctors in the United States is an immigrant.
  • While one in eight US residents is an immigrant, one in seven workers and one in five low-wage workers is an immigrant.

Useful Links

Teaching English in the USA‏‎ – a guide to teaching and working in the USA for TEFL teachers

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