Thanks to a sizable number of both Mexican and Caribbean immigrants (hailing largely from Cuba, Haiti, and Jamaica), Florida’s foreign-born population is alive and well, comprising nearly one in five residents here. According to the American Immigration Council, as of 2018, Florida was home to about 4.5 million immigrants – or about 21 percent of the population.
Florida’s large immigration population also means that a sizable percentage of PreK-12 students in the state – about 10 percent as of 2018 – are classified as English Language Learners (ELLs). The number of ELLs in Florida have continued to rise throughout the last decade, increasing from about 188,000 in 2000 to about 282,000 in 2018.
As a result, ESL teacher shortages in Florida are commonplace. As of the 2021-2022 school year, the U.S. Department of Education reported ESL teacher shortages across all grade levels (PreK-12) in Florida. This need means outstanding professional opportunities to make a difference as an ESL teacher in Florida.
Want to focus your initial teaching certificate on ESL or add an ESL endorsement to your existing license? There’s plenty of options to get you where you want to be.
These steps will show you exactly how to earn TESOL certification (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) and become an ESL teacher in Florida:
Step 1. Earn a Degree in ESOL and Qualify to Become an ESL Teacher in Florida
If you’re new to the teaching field and want to learn how to become an ESL teacher in Florida, good news: you’ll have two possible pathways to get you there. You can either choose to major in ESL and earn primary ESL certification, or you can major in elementary education, special education, or in a single subject area in secondary education and then choose an ESL minor, track, or concentration to satisfy the required coursework to earn an endorsement in ESOL.
Regardless of which route you choose, you’ll want to pursue a bachelor’s or master’s degree that’s part of a Florida-approved educator preparation program.
Bachelor’s degrees and master’s in ESOL are hard to come by, but there are plenty of undergraduate and graduate teacher preparation programs in Florida that offer a major in elementary, secondary, or special education and a track, concentration, or minor in ESOL.
For example, the University of Tampa offers both a BS in Elementary Education with ESOL Endorsement and Reading Endorsement (K-6) and a BS in Secondary English Education with ESOL Endorsement (6-12).
The Florida Department of Education requires a minimum of 15 credits in ESOL to earn an endorsement in this field, so you’ll find that these programs include the following courses:
- Methods of teaching English to speakers of other languages (ESOL)
- ESOL curriculum and materials development
- Cross-cultural communication and understanding
- Applied linguistics
- Testing and evaluation of ESOL
Already a Florida certified and want to add an ESOL endorsement?
If you’re a certified (or soon to be certified) Florida educator in search of an ESOL endorsement, you may want to consider earning a master’s degree. Master’s degrees are a natural pursuit for many educators who want to broaden their professional opportunities and increase their earning potential.
Florida State University is just one of many schools in Florida that offer a Master’s in TESOL for bachelor’s prepared educators.
Or, if you want a quick path to an ESOL endorsement, you can choose from one of the state’s many undergraduate and graduate certificate programs in ESOL.
Already have a bachelor’s in another field?
If you already have a bachelor’s degree in another field and want to become a certified teacher in Florida, you may be able to complete the required coursework through one of Florida’s Educator Preparation Institutes, which are programs specifically designed to prepare non-education baccalaureate or master’s holders to become certified teachers in Florida.
Your bachelor’s degree may also qualify you to complete a master’s degree as part of a teacher preparation program. Many schools that offer bachelor’s level teacher preparation programs also offer programs at the master’s level that lead to initial teacher licensure.
Step 2. Pass the Required Exams for ESOL Teachers in Florida
Florida has its own testing system for aspiring teachers.
The Florida Teacher Certification Examinations (FTCE) General Knowledge (GK) test will assess your basic skills with regard to reading, English language and essay writing, and mathematics. All aspiring teachers in Florida must pass this exam.
You must also pass the FTCE Professional Education Test, which assesses your knowledge of professional education practices and pedagogy.
Subject Matter Testing
If you completed Option 2 or 3 above, you will NOT be required to pass the FTCE ESOL K-12 ESOL Subject Area Examination. This examination is not required for endorsements.
Otherwise, if you are seeking certification in ESOL, you must pass the FTCE ESOL K-12 ESOL Subject Area Examination.
Step 3. Apply for Your Florida Teaching Certificate
If you have completed the steps above, you are ready to apply for your Florida teaching certificate. You’ll set up an account, run through the Initial Onboarding process and Start a New Application and apply for your Initial Educator Certification (Form CG-10) through the Online Licensing Service site.
When the Florida Department of Education evaluates your application and supporting documents, you will be issued an Official Statement of Status of Eligibility.
You won’t be issued a Temporary Certificate until you’re employed in a Florida school, so your next step is to seek a teaching job in a Florida public, non-public, charter or other state-approved school. TeachInFlorida.com can help you in this endeavor. Once you have secured a teaching position, and passed a fingerprint check, your certificate will be mailed to you.
Step 4. Consider Maintaining and Upgrading Your Florida Teaching Certificate by Earning a Master’s in ESL
Do you have a Temporary Certificate? If so, you may teach with it for three school years. You are expected to meet all the qualifications for a Professional Certificate during this period, including passing any of the FTCE tests you might not have taken yet. A Temporary Certificate is not renewable.
If you hold a Professional Certificate, it is valid for five school years. You may secure a renewal form from your school district’s office. During the five years of its validity, you must complete six semester hours of college credit for each subject area in which you hold certification.
If you have a Professional Certificate in another area (not ESOL) and have earned ESOL certification (sometimes called TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) certification), by passing the FTCE Subject Area Exam, you must complete 6 credit hours/120 hours of ESOL in-service or courses within three years of passing the test.
Course titles or descriptions that qualify for credit include:
- Cross cultural communication
- ESOL testing and evaluation
- ESOL curriculum and instruction
- Applied linguistics
- ESOL methods
If you have a Professional Certificate in another area (not ESOL) and have earned an ESOL endorsement, you need not accumulate additional in-service points in ESOL when you renew your teaching certificate – the ESOL endorsement will be automatically renewed.
Things to keep in mind:
- You must earn one semester hour of credit each renewal period (every three years) in teaching students with disabilities
- 20 in-service points in an approved Florida master in-service program equals one semester hour of college credit
- If you pass the FTCE subject test in your area of certification, that counts for 3 semester hours of credit
- If you obtain certification from the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards in your certified subject area, it will automatically renew your Florida teaching certificate in that subject
- If you teach a college-level course, you will earn the same amount of credit as if you took that course
Many Florida ESOL teachers go on to pursue graduate degrees. A master’s degree can help you to move up in the Florida school system, and to command a higher salary than your peers. Some master’s degrees lead directly to Florida certification in additional subjects as well. Potential graduate degrees in ESOL in Florida include:
- Master of Arts in Applied Linguistics – Teaching English as a Second Language
- Master of Education – Concentration in Teaching English as a Second Language
- Master of Arts in Education in Curriculum and Instruction with ESOL Specialization
- Specialist in Curriculum and Instruction with ESOL Specialization
- Doctorate in Curriculum and Instruction with ESOL Specialization
Step 5. Learn More About ESL Teacher Salary Expectations for Jobs in Florida
As of May 2020, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported the following salaries for educators in Florida:
Early Career (25th percentile): $43,850
Experienced (90th percentile): $82,840
Early Career (25th percentile): $46,200
Experienced (90th percentile): $84,940
Early Career (25th percentile): $47,790
Experienced (90th percentile): $86,270
BLS stats also reveal what ESL teachers are earning in Florida in some of its largest metro areas, as of May 2020:
Jacksonville (Elementary School)
Early Career (25th percentile): $53,420
Experienced (90th percentile): $88,890
Miami (Middle School)
Early Career (25th percentile): $51,130
Experienced (90th percentile): $100,120
Tampa (High School)
Early Career (25th percentile): $50,530
Experienced (90th percentile): $81,960
Land an ESL teaching job in a school district or region identified as having an ESL teacher shortage and you may qualify for a signing bonus, annual stipend, student loan repayment, and more. And if you’re currently completing your ESL education, you may qualify for grants and scholarships aimed at the bilingual education community.
You’ll find a wealth of opportunities and resources through professional associations focused on Florida’s bilingual educators. For example, the Florida Association for Bilingual Education features an active network of teachers, educators, and more who work in the bilingual education field.
May 2020 Bureau of Labor Statistics salary and job market trends for elementary school teachers, middle school teachers, and secondary school teachers represent state data, not school-specific information. Conditions in your area may vary. Data accessed June 2021.
Student population data from the National Center for Education Statistics represents English language learners (ELL) enrolled in public elementary and secondary schools in the fall of 2018.