North Carolina’s population has exploded in recent years (rising about 10 percent between 2010 and 2020 alone), and its influx of immigrants is one of the biggest drivers of its growth. As of 2018, about 8 percent of the state’s residents were immigrants, according to the American Immigration Council.
While this may not seem like much, the rise in the number of immigrants in North Carolina has been slow and steady, translating into a rising community of English Language Learners (ELLs) in the state’s public schools. Just a generation ago, ELLs in North Carolina’s public school system (PreK-12) totaled only about 44,000. By 2018, this number had exploded to more than 114,000 one generation later– more than two and a half times higher.
These steps will show you exactly how to earn TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) certification and become an ESL teacher in North Carolina:
Step 1. Earn a Degree in ESL and Qualify to Become an ESL Teacher in North Carolina
The North Carolina Department of Public Instruction offers both a primary and add-on K-12 ESL license.
If you’re new to the field of education and haven’t yet completed a bachelor’s degree, learning how to become an ESL teacher in North Carolina involves either earning an ESL bachelor’s or master’s degree through a state-approved educator preparation program or earning a bachelor’s or master’s degree in elementary, secondary, or special education and completing the required ESL education through a track, minor, or concentration.
For example, North Carolina Central University offers a BA in Elementary Education with a concentration in ESL that includes 19 hours of ESL certification coursework:
- Speech and Language Development
- Introduction to Linguistics
- Bilingualism/Second Language Learning
- English as a Second Language and Second Language Literacy
- Language and Culture
- English as a Second Language Practicum
Already hold a North Carolina teaching license and want to add an ESL add-on license?
If you are already a North Carolina licensed teacher, you can earn an add-on ESL license by completing an undergraduate certificate, graduate certificate, or a master’s in ESL. For example, UNC Greensboro offers a 15-credit ESL add-on licensure program that is designed for currently licensed North Carolina educators. Courses in this program include:
- Legal, Historical and Cultural Implications of English as a Second Language
- Literacy Instruction for English Language Learners w/ practicum
- Applied Linguistics
- Word Study
- Teaching English as a Second Language w/ practicum
Already have a bachelor’s degree in another field?
With a bachelor’s degree in another field, you may qualify 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 a licensed ESL educator in North Carolina.
For example, North Carolina State University offers an MAT in ESL program that is delivered in a hybrid model and is designed for individuals who hold a bachelor’s degree in another field. Successful completion of this program leads to an initial ESL license K-12 in North Carolina.
Step 2. Pass the Required Exams
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 their skills in their specific content area(s).
Basic skills exams
All prospective TESOL teachers in North Carolina must pass the following Praxis exams tests (you may be required to take these tests prior to beginning your teacher preparation program):
- Core Academic Skills for Educators: Reading (score of 156 required to pass)
- Core Academic Skills for Educators: Writing (score of 162 required to pass)
- Core Academic Skills for Educators: Mathematics (score of 150 required to pass)
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 Initial Professional License as an ESL teacher.
You’ll 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 Initial Professional License (IPL) is valid for three years. After that time, you’ll convert your IPL to a Continuing Professional License (CPL), which must be renewed every 5 years. You must earn either 8 CEUs or 80 clock hours of professional development during this time and apply for renewal through the NCDPI Online Licensure System.
Activities accepted for renewal credit include:
- College or university courses
- Local in-service courses or workshops
- Classes and workshops approved by an LEA
Graduate Studies in ESL
Consider pursuing a master’s degree in ESL to satisfy professional development hours help you to advance in your career and perhaps attain a higher salary than you would 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
Step 5. Learn More About Salary Expectations and Jobs in North Carolina
As of May 2020, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported the following salaries for educators in North Carolina:
Early Career (25th percentile): $42,030
Experienced (90th percentile): $65,340
Early Career (25th percentile): $43,120
Experienced (90th percentile): $66,640
Early Career (25th percentile): $42,750
Experienced (90th percentile): $68,070
BLS stats also reveal what ESL teachers are earning in North Carolina’s largest metro areas, as of May 2020:
Asheville (Elementary School)
Early Career (25th percentile): $39,530
Experienced (90th percentile): $60,350
Raleigh (Middle School)
Early Career (25th percentile): $43,010
Experienced (90th percentile): $77,550
Charlotte (High School)
Early Career (25th percentile): $44,450
Experienced (90th percentile): $74,620
Find ESL teacher jobs in North Carolina through TEACH North Carolina and connect with others in your field through the Carolina Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages.
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.