North Carolina ESL Teacher Job Description and ESOL Certification Requirements

Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) are licensed at the K-12 level in North Carolina where they teach the growing number of English Language Learner (ELL) students. Students in need of English language instruction are becoming increasingly prevalent, even among North Carolina’s rural school districts.

According to a recent article in the American Association of School Administrators online magazine, the rural Chatham County school district has recently seen massive growth among the ELL population, which now makes up 20 percent of the total student population in the district. Schools such as this one and many others across North Carolina find themselves in sudden need of licensed ESL teachers to fill a void.

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.
Campbellsville University Offers an ESL Endorsement (P-12), M.A. in Teaching - Secondary Education, M.A. in TESOL
Liberty University Offers Undergrad Cert and B.Ed. in English as a Second Language.
Greenville University Offers a Master of Arts in Education - Teaching English as a Second Language (ESL)
George Mason University Offers a Master of Education (MEd) in Curriculum and Instruction, Concentration in TESOL
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.
St. John's University Offers an Online Ph.D. in Literacy
Saint Joseph's University Offers an English as a Second Language Certificate

To become an ESL teacher in North Carolina, follow the steps outlined in this guide:

#1 ButtonComplete a Bachelor Degree and Teacher Preparation Programs
#2 ButtonPass Examinations for Teachers in North Carolina
#3 ButtonApply for Your North Carolina Teaching License as an ESL Teacher
#4 ButtonMaintain and Upgrade Your North Carolina Teaching License



Step 1. Complete a Degree and Educator Preparation Program

The North Carolina Department of Public Instruction has created two pathways to teacher licensure for initial candidates in the state.

  • Traditional Pathway: You must complete a state-approved educator preparation program in ESL that culminates in at least a bachelor’s degree
  • Alternative Pathway: You must have completed an alternative route to teacher licensure in another state in ESL, earned a bachelor’s degree from a regionally accredited institution (a list of regional accreditation agencies is at the bottom of this page), and meet the federal government’s requirements to be deemed “highly qualified” (that is, you must hold a bachelor’s degree and demonstrate competency in the area(s) in which you teach)

Both of these pathways lead to acquiring a Standard Professional (SP1) Professional Educator’s License. Additionally, both pathways will include a student teaching component, which varies according to your program’s rules but usually lasts at least 12 weeks.

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Step 2. Pass the Examinations Required for Teacher Licensure in NC

The North Carolina Department of Public Instruction requires that all initial teacher licensure candidates in the state pass examinations assessing their basic skills as well as skills in their specific content area(s).

Basic skills exams

All prospective TESOL teachers in North Carolina must pass the following tests (you may be required to take these tests prior to beginning your teacher preparation program):

If you hold the following ACT or SAT scores, you are exempt from taking the Core exams:

  • SAT score less than 1100 (Verbal and Quantitative) with at least 550 on Verbal = exempt from taking the Core tests in Reading and Writing
  • SAT score less than 1100 (Verbal and Quantitative) with at least 550 on Math = exempt from taking the Core test in Math
  • ACT composite score of less than 24, but at least 24 on the English portion= exempt from taking the Core tests in Reading and Writing
  • ACT composite score of less than 24, but at least 24 on the Math portion = exempt from taking the Core test in Mathematics

Content area exam

All teachers in North Carolina are expected to pass the Praxis II exam(s) for the content area(s) in which they wish to become licensed. For TESOL teachers, that is:



Step 3. Apply for Your North Carolina Teaching License as an ESL Teacher

When you have completed the above requirements, you are ready to apply for your North Carolina teaching license as an ESL teacher.

Register with the NCDPI Online Licensure System. This is the portal you will use for submitting your application for a Professional Educator’s License and related documents.

    • If you hold a teaching license in another state, a copy of the front and back of that license
    • If you have a graduate degree in education, or think there may be a question about your education, complete Form V and have the licensure officer at your institution complete the recommendation portion

Once registered with the licensure system, you can begin submitting the required documents:

  • Enclose original transcripts from all institutions you attended and any other coursework you have completed/degrees received
  • If you are seeking Highly Qualified status, include this form
  • Include copies of test scores from all examinations taken
  • If you have prior teaching experience, include Form E, Verification of K-12 teaching experience. You must complete one form for each of your former employers.
  • Include Form CE, Verification of Post-Secondary (College) educator experience, if it applies
  • If you received your degree from a school in a foreign country, include an evaluation of your transcript by an international education evaluation service
  • If you wish to have materials returned to you, enclose a self-addressed, stamped envelope
  • Include the proper application fees
  • Mail everything to NC Department of Public Instruction, Licensure Section, 6365 Mail Service Center, Raleigh, NC 27699-6365



Step 4. Maintain and Upgrade Your North Carolina Teaching License

Your Standard Professional (SP1) Professional Teaching License is valid for three years. After that time, you may upgrade your license to an SP2, which is valid for five years. To renew your SP2 license, you must earn 7.5 renewal credits including:

  • Literacy = 1 renewal credit
  • ESL=1 renewal credit (or other content area in which you are licensed)
  • General renewal credits approved by your Local Education Agency = 5.5 renewal credits

Activities that count towards renewal credit include:

  • College or university courses
  • Attending local workshops or in-services
  • Taking classes approved by your Local Education Agency

The North Carolina school district for which you work will keep track of your renewal credits.

When you are ready to renew your SP2 license, complete the License Update form. Attach official transcripts to show renewal credits and a completed Verification of K-12 Educator Experience form. Mail these materials and a renewal fee of $55 to North Carolina Department of Public Instruction, Licensure Section, 6365 Mail Service Center, Raleigh, NC 27699-6365.

Graduate Studies in ESL

Consider pursuing a graduate degree in ESL. This type of degree can help you to advance in your career and perhaps attain a higher salary than your counterparts with just a bachelor’s degree. Additionally, teachers who are already licensed in another area in North Carolina and seek ESL licensure often pursue a graduate degree to help them in this endeavor. Options in North Carolina include (but are not limited to):

  • Master of Education Specialty Studies –Teaching English as a Second Language
  • Master of Linguistics – TESOL specialization
  • Graduate Certificate in TESOL
  • Master of Arts in TESOL

North Carolina ESL Endorsement Salary Bonus Incentives

North Carolina is one of the fastest growing states in the U.S. In fact, CNN Money has listed Charlotte and Raleigh among the nation’s 10 fastest-growing cities. Much of this growth is due to immigration. In 1980, roughly two percent of the state’s population was comprised of non-English speakers, while today it is almost 11 percent. This has led North Carolina to be identified as a high needs state when it comes to ESL teachers.

According to the Migration Policy Institute, there were 748,072 foreign-born persons in North Carolina in 2012. The University of North Carolina Population Center maintains that Spanish speakers (638,400) make up the largest group, followed by speakers of Hindu (38,552), French (28,783), Chinese (27,738), German (24,075), Vietnamese (23,279) and Arabic (18,207). Altogether, residents can hear some 20 different tongues spoken in the Tar Heel State.

The North Carolina Department of Public Instruction is responsible for teacher certifications, which are granted either for a particular subject or grade level (birth-K, K-6, 6-9, or 9-12).

According to the National Center for Education Statistics, average annual teacher salaries in North Carolina are considerably below the national average.

  • National average – $56,303
  • North Carolina – $45,947

However, North Carolina salaries vary between cities and teachers with an advanced degree earn at least $2,000/year more than those with just a bachelor’s.

Salary differences between beginning elementary school teachers with a bachelor’s degree in North Carolina’s five largest cities are:

  • Charlotte – $52,426
  • Fayetteville – $49,711
  • Greensboro – $51,202
  • Raleigh-Durham – $53,118
  • Winston-Salem – $51,292

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

Area name
Annual Median Salary
Asheville NC
Charlotte-Gastonia-Rock Hill NC-SC
Durham-Chapel Hill NC
Greensboro-High Point NC
Greenville NC
Hickory-Lenoir-Morganton NC
Raleigh-Cary NC
Estimate Not Released
Virginia Beach-Norfolk-Newport News VA-NC
Wilmington NC
Winston-Salem NC
Northeastern North Carolina nonmetropolitan area
Other North Carolina nonmetropolitan area
Western Central North Carolina nonmetropolitan area
Western North Carolina nonmetropolitan area

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