New York ESL Teacher Job Description and ESOL Certification Requirements

The New York State Education Department (NYSED) certifies qualified teachers to teach English to Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) at the Pre K-12 level.

According to the Educational Testing Service (ETS), New York is among the top six states in the nation with the heaviest concentration of English language learners (ELLs) in the Pre K-12 student population. During the 2004-05 school year, New York had 203,583 ELL students, according to the American Community Survey Special Calculation published by the U.S. Department of Education.

George Mason University Offers a Master of Education (MEd) in Curriculum and Instruction, Concentration in TESOL
The Master of Arts in Teaching - TESOL online program from the USC Rossier School of Education prepares you to teach students of all ages in the U.S. and internationally, gives you the option to pursue a teaching credential, and can be completed in 12 months.
Liberty University Offers Undergrad Cert and B.Ed. in English as a Second Language.
Capella University offers online Master’s program in English Language Learning and Teaching designed to help educators advance their career in supporting diverse student populations. While it does not satisfy licensure requirements, the program can help you build the skills to use instructional strategies, emerging trends, and best practices to effectively teach English Language Learners to help students adapt to new cultural environments.

ELL students in the United States speak more than 450 languages, with Spanish, Vietnamese, Hmong, Chinese/Cantonese and Korean being the most common.

Review the steps in this guide to learn how to become an ESL teacher in New York:

#1 ButtonComplete a Bachelor Degree and Teacher Preparation Program
#2 ButtonPass the Tests for Teacher Licensure and TESOL Certification
#3 ButtonApply for Your New York Teaching Certificate in ESOL
#4 ButtonMaintain and Upgrade Your New York Teaching Certificate in ESOL



Step 1. Complete a Degree and Teacher Preparation Program in New York

The New York State Education Department (NYSED) offers different pathways leading to TESOL certification, some of which apply to first-time applicants, while others apply to those who already hold a teaching certificate in New York or another state. The common educational requirement among all of these pathways is that you must hold a bachelor’s degree from a regionally accredited university or college.

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The educational requirements that lead to TESOL certification in New York are as follows:

  • Path 1: Complete a New York State Registered Teacher Preparation Program in English to Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL). A list of such programs may be found here. This program will include a student teaching component.
  • Path 2: If you already hold a New York teaching certificate, you may have a major in one of the liberal arts and sciences, with 30 semester hours of credit. Courses must include:
    • Linguistics
    • English grammar
    • Language other than English (includes American Sign Language) – must consist of at least 12 semester hours
    • Teaching literacy skills methods (3 semester hours)
    • Methods of teaching English to speakers of other languages (6 semester hours)
  • Path 3: Complete a comparable state-approved teacher preparation program in ESOL in another jurisdiction.
    • You must have at least a 2.5 GPA in your undergraduate studies
  • Path 4: If you already hold a teaching certificate from another state or territory, you must:
    • Have at least a 2.5 GPA in your undergraduate studies
    • Have at least three years of full-time, paid ESOL teaching experience OR have completed an approved teacher preparation program
  • Path 5: If you are Nationally Board Certified by the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards and hold a bachelor’s degree, you automatically meet New York’s educational requirement



Step 2. Pass the Tests for Teacher Licensure and TESOL Certification

Passing the New York State Teacher Certification Examinations (NYSTCE) is a must for all would-be teachers in New York. These tests are given at the Basic, Content Area and Performance Assessment levels.

Basic testing

Prospective ESOL teachers in New York who are seeking an initial teaching certificate must pass this basic skills test:

Content area testing

You must also pass the following content specialty area test to become TESOL certified in New York:

Performance assessment

Finally, all New York teachers must pass an assessment of their performance. For prospective ESOL teachers, it is:



Step 3. Apply for Your New York Teaching Certificate in ESOL

Once you have completed the educational, experiential and examination requirements listed above, you are ready to apply for your New York teaching certificate in ESOL. Additional requirements that you must meet before applying include:

  • If you graduated from a New York teacher preparation program – you need an online statement from the institution recommending you for certification. Contact the certification officer at your institution to make sure this has been completed.
  • All applicants, regardless of their path, must complete a six-hour Dignity for All Students workshop in harassment, discrimination and bullying prevention and intervention. A list of approved providers for this workshop is here.
  • All applicants, regardless of their path, must receive Fingerprint Clearance through completing a criminal history background check. Forms for this check may be found at the Office of School Personnel Review and Accountability web site.
  • If you already hold a teaching certificate, either in New York or another state, or completed an approved teacher preparation program in another state, you must also complete the following workshops:

When you are ready, you may apply online for certification through the New York TEACH System. Make sure to have transcripts from all institutions that you attended sent directly to the NYSED. Copies of teaching certificates you hold must be mailed as well. Pay all applicable fees online. Items should be submitted to: The University of the State of New York, The State Education Department, Office of Teaching Initiatives, Room 5N-EB, 89 Washington Ave, Albany, NY 12234.

After you have submitted your application and necessary supplemental materials, you may check its status online here. The NYSED will review it and let you know if you are deficient in any areas. If you are, you must complete this Application Update form and submit it.



Step 4. Maintain and Upgrade Your New York Teaching Certificate in ESOL

Your Initial Certificate is valid for five years, during which time you must complete the requirements for a Professional Certificate. You must accrue at least two years of teaching experience and complete a mentoring program to qualify.

If you obtain a master’s degree in TESOL from an approved graduate teacher preparation program, this will also hasten your transition to a Professional Certificate. Examples of such degrees available in New York include:

  • Master of Arts in Teaching English as a Second Language
  • Master of Science in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages
  • Master of Science in Teaching – Concentration in TESOL
  • Master of Science in Education

Your Professional Certificate remains valid continuously. However, you must prove that you have maintained the professional development (PD) standards of the NYSED every five years by completing 175 hours of PD. Your school district will keep records of your PD hours and report them to the NYSED.

New York ESL Endorsement Salary Bonus Incentives

New York is one of the most linguistically and culturally diverse states in the U.S. A recent memo from the Office of the Governor reported that the foreign population of NY State grew 47 percent, or by 1.3 million people between 1990 and 2006. First generation immigrants now represent 22 percent of the total population in New York City. As a result, New York offers abundant opportunities for educators that teach English to speakers of other languages, especially in New York City (NYC) which employs 75 percent of the state’s ESL teachers.

The five most common foreign languages spoken in New York are Spanish, Chinese, Arabic, Bengali and Haitian Creole.

ESL teacher endorsements are granted and controlled by the New York State Education Department (NYSRD) which offers both TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) and Bilingual endorsements. The first is for teachers who will teach English language learners in an English classroom setting; Bilingual endorsements are for bilingual teachers who will teach in dual-language classrooms.

Both endorsements require a bachelor’s degree or better and a valid New York K-12 teacher’s license. Additional requirements for a TESOL endorsement include:

  • Complete a state-approved ESL program
  • Demonstrate proof of English proficiency
  • Complete college-supervised student teaching OR one year paid, full-time experience teaching an ESL class

Additional requirements for a Bilingual Endorsement include:

  • Complete 24-semester hours of bilingual education courses
  • Demonstrate proficiency in both English and the language of instruction
  • Student teaching same as for TESOL endorsement above

New York pays the fifth highest average ESL teacher salary in the nation. The median annual salary for a high school ESL teacher is $64,390 in comparison with the national median of $53,390. However, NYC teachers do far better than those in the rest of the state. At $82,240, the Nassau-Suffolk area (Long Island) pays the highest median high school teacher salary of any metropolitan area in the country.

The NYC Department of Education schedule for teacher salaries is as follows:

  • Starting teachers with a bachelor’s degree and no experience – $45,530
  • Starting teachers with a master’s degree and no experience – $51,425
  • Masters degree plus 30 credit hours and 5 years experience – $74,796

NYC teachers receive incremental raises and those in some areas receive performance bonuses. It is possible for a teacher with 22 or more years with the NYC school system to earn an annual salary in excess of $100,000.

The table below provides 2013 Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) salary information for Adult, Basic and Secondary Education and Literacy Teachers (ESL teachers are included in this category).

Area name
Annual Median Salary
Albany-Schenectady-Troy NY
Binghamton NY
Buffalo-Niagara Falls NY
Ithaca NY
Kingston NY
Nassau-Suffolk NY Metropolitan Division
New York-Northern New Jersey-Long Island NY-NJ-PA
Poughkeepsie-Newburgh-Middletown NY
Rochester NY
Syracuse NY
Utica-Rome NY
Estimate Not Released
Capital/Northern New York nonmetropolitan area
Central New York nonmetropolitan area
Southwest New York nonmetropolitan area

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