Hailing primarily from Canada and Mexico, Montana’s immigrant community is alive and well and positioned as an important segment of the state’s workforce. In fact, foreign-born residents comprise about 5 percent of the state’s total workforce.
According to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) English Language Learners (ELLs) comprised about 2.4 percent of Montana’s total student population (PreK-12) in 2018. That year’s total of 3,457 students was an increase of about 270 students since 2017 and nearly 500 students since 2016.
Steady growth among Montana’s ELLs means a steady rise in demand for ESL teachers. If you want to take advantage of this unique opportunity to teach the state’s ELLs, you’ll need an ESL endorsement alongside your Montana teaching certificate.
These steps will show you exactly how to earn TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) certification and become an ESL teacher in Montana:
Step 1. Earn a Degree in ESL and Qualify to Become an ESL Teacher in Montana
In Montana, ESL (K-12) is available as an endorsement on a Class 1 or Class 2 teaching license. So, learning how to become an ESL teacher in Montana involves majoring in elementary or secondary education (in a single subject area like language arts or English) and then choosing ESL as a minor, track, or concentration.
For example, the University of Montana offers an ESL Teaching Certificate program that’s available to students already admitted to the Teacher Education program. Courses in this 16-credit program include:
- Linguistics Analysis
- Phonetics and Phonology
- Teaching English as a Language
- ESL Practicum
If you’re new to teaching and haven’t yet earned a bachelor’s degree, you’ll complete a bachelor’s or master’s degree within an approved educator preparation program.
Already a certified teacher in Montana and want to add an ESL endorsement?
If you’re already a certified teacher in Montana, you can add an ESL endorsement by completing an undergraduate certificate, graduate certificate, or master’s in ESL.
For example, Montana State University Billings offers a Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) Certificate that includes four courses leading ESL endorsement:
- TESOL Language, Culture & Pedagogy
- TESOL Second Language Acquisition
- TESOL Methods, Assessment, & Evaluation
- Seminar Workshop
A master’s degree is a popular choice for practicing educators looking to earn ESL certification because it positions them for more and varied professional opportunities, a bigger paycheck, and a Class 1: Professional Teaching License in Montana. (See Step 3.)
Already have a bachelor’s degree in another field?
Your bachelor’s degree in another field may qualify you for a master’s degree leading to an 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 Montana educator.
Step 2. Apply for Your Montana Teaching License with ESL Endorsement
Montana does not require testing for teacher licensure. You will be expected to pass some content examinations during your educator preparation program. However, if you wish to attain Highly Qualified Teacher status, you must pass certain examinations. ESL is not an area in which Highly Qualified Teacher status is offered in Montana.
You can apply online for your Montana teaching license through the Montana State Educator Information System (MSEIS).
You will likely be applying for a Class 2: Standard Teaching License, which is the license that is typically issued to first-time applicants in Montana who meet all requirements.
The second type of teaching license, Class 1: Professional Teaching License is issued to candidates who hold a Class 2 license, master’s degree, and three years of teaching experience.
Fingerprint/background check information – must be requested from your local law enforcement agency. Complete the fingerprint card they provide to you and mail the completed card, along with a check for $29.25 payable to the Montana Department of Justice, to Montana DOJ, P.O. Box 201403, Helena, MT 59620-1403. If you do not receive a response from the Montana Office of Public Instruction (OPI), your background check/fingerprints have cleared. If a problem is encountered, you will be notified of this as well.
Step 3. Consider Earning a Master’s in ESL to Maintain and Upgrade Your Montana Teaching License
Your Class 2 Standard Teaching License in Montana is valid for five years. You’ll apply for renewal through the MSEIS system.
You must complete at least 60 OPI renewal units from approved providers during each renewal period (1 college semester credit = 15 OPI renewal units).
College credits must be earned at regionally accredited institutions. You must send college transcripts verifying these credits directly to OPI.
Graduate Studies in ESL
Getting a master’s degree in ESL can help you to move up to a Class 1: Professional Teaching License in Montana. As mentioned before, this requires holding a Class 2: Standard Teaching License, a master’s degree, and three years of teaching experience.
Consider graduate degree options such as the following that are available in Montana:
- Master of Arts in Linguistics: Concentration in English as a Second Language
- Master in Teaching English as a Second Language
- Master of Arts in TESOL
- Master of Arts in Teaching – TESOL concentration
Step 4. Learn More About Salary Expectations for Jobs in Montana
As of May 2020, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported the following salaries for educators in Montana:
Early Career (25th percentile): $38,980
Experienced (90th percentile): $73,940
Early Career (25th percentile): $39,660
Experienced (90th percentile): $80,380
Early Career (25th percentile): $39,800
Experienced (90th percentile): $78,590
BLS stats also reveal what ESL teachers are earning in Montana in some of its largest metro areas, as of May 2020:
Billings (Elementary School)
Early Career (25th percentile): $45,630
Experienced (90th percentile): $78,080
Missoula (Middle School)
Early Career (25th percentile): $41,500
Experienced (90th percentile): $78,500
Great Falls (High School)
Early Career (25th percentile): $39,220
Experienced (90th percentile): $80,590
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.