28th January 2019

Alternative Careers in TESOL

By Eve Conway

If you’re thinking of taking an initial teacher training course, such as a Trinity Cert TESOL or a Cambridge CELTA, the obvious choice of career is to work as a teacher. There is much talk about whether or not experience within the TEFL industry is a springboard into other careers, and indeed during my years in the industry I have known former colleagues use the soft skills they have developed through teaching English as a foreign language to go into fields such as marketing, sales and law. However, what many people fail to consider is that a qualification in TESOL can also be useful for other jobs within the TESOL industry. If you’re thinking of taking the plunge and want to know what extra value your certificate will bring you, carry on reading for my run down of the most common (non-teaching) jobs in the TESOL industry.

Teacher training

As a teacher trainer myself, I’ve had many colleagues who have moved from teaching into teacher training. Opportunities within teacher training range from training in service teachers for CPD sessions and INSETs, to training pre-service teachers on TESOL courses that may never have stood in front of a class before. You may find yourself setting up mentoring and coaching programs for working teachers and doing observations and giving feedback on their teaching. The job is perfect for those people who love being in the classroom and have a strong interest in teaching methodology but perhaps want a break from planning and delivering English lessons. Due to the nature of the job, it is important to be diplomatic when giving feedback and supportive of others’ feelings and goals. In addition, a high level of subject knowledge is often necessary. Additional qualifications that will help you move from teaching into teacher training include a level 7 qualification such as a Trinity Dip TESOL or MA in TESOL as well as more specific qualifications in teaching young learners or business English.

ELT Publishing

One profession that recruits a lot of ex-teachers is ELT publishing. The coursebooks and materials that teachers use for their classes are created by educational publishers such as Oxford University Press, Cambridge University Press and Macmillan Education. ELT materials writers often start out as teachers and are hired to write materials on a freelance basis. It can be quite competitive to get a job as a materials developer, but there is a webpage, ELT Teacher to Writer, which gives some good advice about how to transition from being a teacher to an ELT materials writer.

Writing is not the only option that publishing houses offer. Another common career for ex-ELT teachers is becoming an ELT-editor. You’d be feeding back on writers’ content and even commissioning work from writers. Whilst many publishers prefer candidates who already have some publishing experience, I have known ex-teachers who have gone straight into editor positions on the strength of their teaching experience, and a CELTA or Cert TESOL plus 1-2 years of teaching experience is often listed as a requirement in ELT Publishing role specifications. If you are thinking of trying to transition into publishing later on, it is a good idea to see if there are any extra projects that you could take on in your current school that demonstrate your editorial or writing skills, such as contributing to the school webpage or social media platforms or if you work at a language centre chain, finding out if there is an opportunity to create any materials to be shared across multiple centres.

Academic Management

Every school or language centre needs a headteacher or director of studies. Often, there is quite a clearly defined career path for language teachers who want to branch into management, perhaps by becoming a coordinator first, then an assistant director of studies and then finally a director of studies. The role would suit someone who is passionate about education but who wishes to manage large projects and who has a good sense of commercial awareness in terms of ensuring that the centre is meeting market needs and turning over a healthy profit. If you are interested in becoming a director of studies it can be a good idea to ask your line manager if there are any centre projects that you could take part in, in order to strengthen your non-classroom soft skills and even get a taste of project management. In addition, speak to the management at your current school and ask their advice on what actions you could take in order to become a suitable candidate for a director position.

In addition to teacher training, publishing and academic management, there may be opportunities to move into such fields such as educational technologies, assessment design and governmental education policy. You may find that the possibilities actually surprise you once you start to investigate!

If you're in Hong Kong, English for Asia offers a number of free taster sessions for the entry level Cert. TESOL as well as the advanced Teaching Young Learners (TYLEC) course and the Dip. TESOL.

Eve Conway is our TYLEC and CertTESOL trainer. She has worked in Spain, Vietnam and Mexico as both a teacher and TYLEC trainer as well as having worked on shorter projects in the UK, Italy, Azerbaijan and Peru. She worked for over 6 years for the British Council, where she discovered a love for working with children, particularly Early Years learners. Eve holds a bachelor’s degree in English language as well as an MA in Applied Linguistics and a Trinity DipTESOL. Having always loved languages, she is a fluent Spanish speaker and is keen to learn more languages. Eve is a keen conference speaker and occasional writer for ELT magazines and publications.