New York has always been the shining example of our country’s reputation as a melting pot. New York City is currently home to more than 3 million immigrants – the largest immigrant population in the city’s long history as the gateway to America and a better life for millions. Immigrants now comprise about one-quarter of the state’s population and labor force, according to the American Immigration Council.
It’s no surprise that English Language Learners (ELLs) make up about 10 percent of the total student population in the New York public school (PreK-12) system, according to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES).
NCES statistics also reveal that there’s been a steady climb in the number English language learners in the state over the course of the past generation, with New York public schools now teaching nearly 239,000 students who speak languages at home other than English.
These steps will show you exactly how to earn TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) certification and become an ESL teacher in New York:
Step 1. Earn a Degree in English to Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) and Qualify to Become an ESL Teacher in New York
New York offers both a primary teaching certificate and an additional certificate on a valid teaching license in English to Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) PreK-12.
If you’re new to the teaching field and you haven’t yet completed a bachelor’s degree, learning how to become an ESL teacher in New York involves either completing an ESOL bachelor’s or master’s degree within a registered teacher preparation program or completing a program in elementary, secondary, or special education and then choosing ESOL as a minor or earning an ESL certificate concurrently.
Already a New York certified educator and want to add an additional certificate in ESOL?
If you already hold a New York educator certificate, you can earn an additional certificate in ESOL by completing an undergraduate certificate, graduate certificate, or master’s in ESL.
For example, The City College of New York – Hunter offers an TESOL PreK-12 MA for licensed educators that consists of 30-36 credits leading to an additional certificate in ESOL.
Already have a bachelor’s degree in another field?
With a bachelor’s degree in another field, you may qualify to enroll in a master’s degree program leading to an initial teaching certificate in ESOL. Many schools that offer bachelor’s level teaching certificate programs also offer master’s options that include all of the coursework and student teaching experiences required to become certified as a New York educator with an ESOL endorsement.
For example, the City College of New York offers an MS in TESOL that is designed for individuals with a bachelor’s degree in another field and leads to an initial teaching certificate in ESOL.
Step 2. Pass the Required Exams
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.
Prospective ESOL teachers in New York who are seeking an initial teaching certificate must pass this basic skills test:
- NYSTCE- Literacy Skills Test – this will test your skills in reading and writing to sources
- NYSTCE – Educating All Students Test (EAS) – this will test your competencies in school-home relationships, teacher responsibilities, students with disabilities and other special learning needs, English language learners, and diverse student populations
Content area testing
You must also pass the following content specialty area test to become TESOL certified in New York:
- Safety Net English to Speakers of Other Languages – Content Specialty Test (CST) – ESOL – this test includes selected-response and constructed-response questions on developing English language proficiency across the curriculum, the ESOL program, and foundations of ESOL instruction.
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 by completing a criminal history background check.
- 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 can check the status online here. The NYSED will review it and let you know if you are deficient in any areas.
Step 4. Consider Earning a Master’s in ESL as You 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 speed up 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.
Step 5. Learn More About ESL Teacher Salary Expectations for Jobs in New York
As of May 2020, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported the following salaries for educators in New York:
Early Career (25th percentile): $59,020
Experienced (90th percentile): $131,730
Early Career (25th percentile): $64,250
Experienced (90th percentile): $134,170
Early Career (25th percentile): $65,600
Experienced (90th percentile): $133,150
BLS stats also reveal what ESL teachers are earning in some of New York’s largest metro areas, as of May 2020:
Albany (Elementary School)
Early Career (25th percentile): $57,590
Experienced (90th percentile): $109,650
Buffalo (Middle School)
Early Career (25th percentile): $53,640
Experienced (90th percentile): $99,860
NYC (High School)
Early Career (25th percentile): $69,490
Experienced (90th percentile): $132,510
You can explore ESL teacher jobs and connect with others in your field by joining the New York TESOL Association.
May 2020 Bureau of Labor Statistics salary and job market trends for elementary school teachers, middle school teachers, and secondary school teachers. Figures represent state data, not school specific information. Conditions in your area may vary. Data accessed June 2021.
National Center for Education Statistics, English language learner (ELL) students enrolled in public elementary and secondary schools, by state: Selected years, fall 2000 through fall 2018. Data accessed June 2021.