What does an ESL teacher do?

ESL teachers assess students’ English language abilities and the extent to which they require help, and prepare course outlines, learning materials and outcomes accordingly. They may also assist teachers who have ESL students in a mainstream classroom setting. Developing new teaching materials and adapting existing materials is also key to the role. ESL teachers often work with refugees who have fled traumatic conditions in their homeland, and also help adult migrants to gain social confidence and integrate more easily into their local community by becoming more fluent in English, so cultural empathy is a must.


  • Preparing instructional materials
  • Recording and reporting on student progress
  • Dealing with a vast array of cultural backgrounds
  • Monitoring and assessing student progress
  • Motivating and directing others

What skills do I need to be an ESL teacher?

All teaching roles require organisational and planning skills and the creation and execution of lesson plans. As an ESL teacher, you will also require cultural sensitivity in order to work with students from all over the world. It’s vital you have the sensitivity, diplomacy and communication skills necessary to communicate with people from diverse socio-economic backgrounds. This rewarding career is not merely a profession but rather a vocation that has the potential to change the lives of others and have a positive impact on communities.

  • Cultural awareness and sensitivity
  • Effective communication skills
  • Aptitude for languages
  • Genuine desire to help others
  • Problem solving skills


In order to work as a teacher in the Australian public school system, you will be required to complete a tertiary qualification, generally a Bachelor of Education or postgraduate Master of Teaching. Teaching offers incredibly varied career pathways and the option of furthering your career in a wide array of specialisations relating to subject areas, age groups and types of educational institution. These are just some of the avenues a teacher may pursue.

Primary School Teacher

Working in the primary school system, teachers are expected to teach students from K-6 a range of basic literacy, numeracy, social science, creative expression and comprehension skills, ensuring their foundational skills are developed and nurtured early.

High School Teacher

To work within the secondary education sector, teachers must complete a specialisation as part of their Bachelor of Education degree, completing the requisite amount of units in their teaching field. It is also possible to become a teacher through postgraduate.

Special Education Teacher

The special education sector caters to the needs of students with sensory, physical, emotional or intellectual disability or other learning impairment. It requires a lot of patience, care and planning and involves working collaboratively with parents, carers and health professionals. Special Education teachers instruct students in key life skills in addition to meeting educational goals.

Teacher Librarian

Working in either primary or secondary schools, teacher librarians ensure that appropriate resources are available to students. They assist in improving student literacy, coordinate distance education programmes, familiarise students with information technology and research methods and manage the library facilities.

Early Childhood Teacher

Working in preschools and community kindergartens, early childhood teachers blend creative play and education to promote early development of key literacy, numeracy, art, music and comprehension skills. They’re responsible for nurturing a child’s social, physical and intellectual development during their preschool years.

Accredited Childcare Worker

An accredited childcare worker is able to provide a creative and supportive environment in which children can learn and play. Completion of a Certificate III in Early Childhood Education and Care is necessary for accreditation, allowing you to take on more senior roles in out of school hours care and preschool environments.

Vocational Education and Training (VET) Lecturer

VET lecturers provide targeted industry-based instruction to students hoping to enter a specific professional industry. Completion of a Certificate IV in Training and Assessment and relevant professional experience in your subject area will allow you to conduct classes, workshops or courses in your specialty area.

Head Teacher

Head Teachers report to the school principal, overseeing the teachers in their specific department such as science or English. In addition to teaching classes, they provide assessment for the teachers in their subject area and perform administrative and management roles.

School Principal

Principals oversee the performance and welfare of a school as a whole and the student body. Working closely with the heads of department and administrative staff, they approve the educational program in line with prescribed curriculum goals, organise fundraising programs and enrolment drives. They are generally very experienced teachers with a thorough understanding of the education system.

Study pathways for ESL teachers

Becoming an ESL teacher requires tertiary study in your field of specialisation, as well as ongoing professional development to ensure you’re on top of changes within the education sector and your subject area or field.

Getting Started

These courses will qualify you to work in the education sector and offer a great introduction to the world of teaching.

Skill Building

Completing a bachelor’s degree will allow you to pursue employment as a professional teacher in Australian schools.

Professional Development

Additional training is available for those refining their skill set or pursuing a specialisation.

Industry Recognition

In order to work as a teacher you will need to join the register of qualified teachers in your state. Find out more in our resources section.

Getting a job after graduation

Put your training to good use and get the best professional head start in your teaching career. Take a look at our sample resume and cover letter and put your best foot forward when you apply for teaching jobs.

Job Prospects and Salaries

With Australia’s population increasingly made up of migrants from all over the world, ESL teachers are always in demand. Qualified teachers in general are able to find employment across all areas of the education sector, and further growth in job openings is predicted.