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Minnesota ESL Teacher Job Description and ESOL Certification Requirements

In July 2021, a $52 billion, two-year Minnesota state budget was passed, and within that budget was a big commitment to raising educational standards. With an increase of about  2.5 percent in the first year of the budget and another 2 percent in its second year (that’s about $1.1 billion over four years), public education in Minnesota will see its biggest jump in funding in about 15 years. For Minnesota’s growing number of English of Language Learners (ELLs), it’s a big win, as the budget contains investments in ELL programs at the district level.

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According to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), Minnesota’s ELL population comprised about 8.5 percent of the total PreK-12 student population in 2018, rising slightly from 71,162 in 2015, 72,128 in 2016, and 73,203 in 2017.

For the 2021-2022 school year, Minnesota reported an ESL teacher shortage across all grade levels (PreK-12), according to the U.S. Department of Education. For aspiring ESL educators, now is the time to make ESL certification part of your Minnesota teaching license.

These steps will show you exactly how to earn TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) certification and become an ESL teacher in Minnesota:

#1 ButtonEarn a Degree in ESL and Qualify to Become an ESL Teacher in Minnesota
#2 ButtonPass the MTLE Exams
#3 ButtonApply for Your Minnesota Teacher’s License and TESOL Certification
#4 ButtonConsider Earning a Master’s in ESL to Fulfill The Professional Development Requirements to Renew Your Minnesota License
#5 ButtonLearn More About ESL Teacher Salary Expectations for Jobs in Minnesota



Step 1. Earn a Degree in ESL and Qualify to Become an ESL Teacher in Minnesota

In Minnesota, you can earn an initial teaching license in ESL (K-12). Therefore, if you’re new to the field of education, learning how to become an ESL teacher starts with completing an ESL bachelor’s or master’s program that’s part of a state-approved teacher preparation program.

These programs include study in:

  • English grammar
  • General linguistics
  • Language acquisition
  • Language and culture
  • Student testing and assessment
  • Second-language teaching methods
  • Teaching studies with limited English proficiency
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Augsburg University, Bethel University, and Concordia University St. Paul are just a few of the Minnesota colleges that offer ESL as a major and pathway to a primary ESL teaching certificate.

ESL Minor – You may also choose to major in an area like elementary education or in a single subject at the secondary level and then minor in ESL. This will allow you to earn an initial license in elementary or secondary education with an ESL endorsement.

For example, the University of Minnesota offers an ESL minor that can be added to any education major. You can expect to complete the following courses within an ESL minor:

  • Linguistics for Teachers
  • Basics in Teaching English as a Second Language
  • Introduction to Pronunciation and Grammar for ESL Teachers
  • Intercultural Communication and English Language Teaching

You can also get your initial license through a Graduate Certificate program in English as a Second Language (ESL). This program shares four of its ESL courses with those that meet the standard of the K-12 Reading Teacher certificate. Thus, you will be particularly well equipped to meet the literacy needs of your ESL students.

Already a Minnesota certified teacher and want to add an ESL endorsement?

If you already have a Minnesota teacher’s license, you have a number of options. You can go back to school and get an ESL endorsement at either the undergraduate or graduate level. Undergraduate certificates, graduate certificates, and master’s in ESL all contain the coursework necessary to add an ESL endorsement to your teaching certificate.

For example, Metropolitan State University offers an Urban Education MS: English as a Second Language Concentration for practicing teachers.

You may have to take additional educational coursework in order to get the required K-12 licensing. For instance, if you are an elementary teacher, you will have to take coursework in secondary education. If you are licensed for 5-12 or 7-12, you must take a course in reading and writing at the elementary level.

Already have a bachelor’s degree in another field?

Your bachelor’s degree in another field may qualify you to complete a master’s degree leading to your initial teaching license. Many schools that offer bachelor’s level teaching certificate programs also offer master’s options that include all of the coursework and practical experiences necessary to become certified as a Minnesota educator.



Step 2. Pass the MTLE Exams

Minnesota has its own set of exams for teacher licensure: the Minnesota Teacher Licensing Exams (MTLE). You will need to take two sets of exams to get your initial teaching license:

  • Basic Skills Tests – assesses your skill in reading, writing, and math
  • Pedagogy Exam in either elementary or secondary education
  • English as a Second Language – This exam has two subtests that take about an hour each:
    • Subtest 1:
      • I. Foundations of ESL Instruction, Communication, and Assessment
      • II. Content and Communication Instruction and Assessment for English Language Learners
    • Subtest II:
      • Linguistics, Language Acquisition, and Cultural Pluralism
      • Principles of Second-Language Teaching



Step 3. Apply for Your Minnesota Teacher’s License and TESOL Certification

To qualify for your ESL teacher’s license, you’ll need to get approval from the school that provided your TESOL education. This is the case whether you are getting your initial teaching license or adding an endorsement to your current license.

You’ll apply for a Tier 2 License once you’ve entered into an approved teacher preparation program and then advance to a Tier 3 license once you’ve completed your program and passed all necessary content and pedagogy exams. Finally, you’ll qualify for a Tier 4 license once you’ve completed at least 3 years of teaching experience in Minnesota.

Learn more about advancing your license here.



Step 4. Consider Fulfill the Professional Development Requirements to Renew Your Minnesota License

You’ll need to renew your Tier 4 teaching license by completing at least 125 clock hours of professional development during the five-year renewal period. All PD hours must be submitted to the school district where you work.

Earning a master’s in ESL will go a long way toward satisfying the professional development requirements.



Step 5. Learn More About ESL Teacher Salary Expectations for Jobs in Minnesota

After you have become a licensed ESL teacher in Minnesota, you may want to join the state’s professional organization: MinneTESOL. In addition to advocating for ESL teachers in the state, it provides a number of useful resources to help you teach the subject.

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If you already have a teaching license after completing a bachelor’s degree program, but want to acquire more advanced knowledge about the field of TESL, you can pursue an M.Ed. Professional Studies program with a concentration in Second Languages and Cultures Education (SLC) or an M.A.T. with an Endorsement in English as a Second Language, among other specialized programs. You will take courses in education, as well as those specific to second languages and culture.

As of May 2020, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported the following salaries for educators in Minnesota:


Elementary School

Early Career (25th percentile): $48,040
Median: $60,210
Experienced (90th percentile): $91,190


Middle School

Early Career (25th percentile): $47,250
Median: $60,640
Experienced (90th percentile): $96,800


High School

Early Career (25th percentile): $49,930
Median: $62,410
Experienced (90th percentile): $91,080


BLS stats also reveal what ESL teachers are earning in Minnesota in some of its largest metro areas, as of May 2020:


Duluth (Elementary School)

Early Career (25th percentile): $48,780
Median: $62,390
Experienced (90th percentile): $92,100


Minneapolis (Middle School)

Early Career (25th percentile): $47,070
Median: $59,850
Experienced (90th percentile): $101,080


St. Cloud (High School)

Early Career (25th percentile): $52,170
Median: $62,380
Experienced (90th percentile): $84,080


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.

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