According to the U.S. Department of Education, there were 4.7 million students classified as English Language Learners (ELLs) during the 2009-10 school year. ELLs are generally defined as those that have not yet achieved proficiency in English.
The need for English as a Second Language (ESL) teachers has become dire in certain areas of the country, such as Texas and Florida, where, according to the most recent census, immigrant populations are growing faster than ever before. As such, school districts across the country are now scrambling to adapt classrooms to this changing demographic, which is largely accomplished through the work of competent teachers who can help integrate and transition ELLs.
This demand for ESL teachers in certain parts of the United States affects the salaries these educators earn, as does their level of education and experience.
ESL Teacher Salary: Demographic Region
A 2014 Huffington Post article reported that, during the 2010-2011 school year, 10 percent of all public school students in the United States were English Language Learners (ELLs). This rate is significantly higher in many states, such as California, where 29 percent of all students were learning English as a second language.
A National Center for Education Statistics 2014 publication entitled, The Condition of Education, found that the need for ESL teachers is in particularly high demand among states in the West. For example, the following states reported, during the 2011-12 school year, that more than 10 percent of their students were ELLs:
- New Mexico
Fourteen states, including the District of Columbia, had enrollment statistics for ELLs during the same period between 6 and 9.9 percent:
- New York
- North Carolina
- Rhode Island
The state with the highest increase of ELLs between 2002 and 2012 was Hawaii, which increased 6 percentage points.
ESL teachers are likely to find better employment options—and therefore higher salary opportunities—in cities than in suburban areas.
In 2011-12, The National Center for Education Statistics found that the number of ELLs in small cities averaged about 10.9 percent, while ELLs in large cities averaged around 16.7 percent. In contrast, ELL students averaged about 9 percent of public school enrollment in suburban areas, and ELL students averaged about 6.2 percent of public school enrollment in towns, 5.7 percent in fringe areas, and 3.9 percent in rural areas.
A 2012 USC Rossier School of Education article found that the big cities with large immigrant populations, such as Los Angeles, Chicago, and New York, are likely to have better employment opportunities for ESL teachers. However, they also reported that a number of smaller cities also have lucrative prospects for ESL teachers, as well, including:
- Nassau-Suffolk, New York: The average salary for an ESL teacher in the Nassau-Suffolk area, as of 2012, was $82,240, with the top 10 percent earning as much as $119,940.
- Lawrence-Methuen-Salem, Massachusetts: The average salary for ESLs in this region of Massachusetts topped $77,540 in 2012.
- Santa Ana-Anaheim-Irvine, California: ESL teachers had average salaries that topped $105,850 in 2012.
- Modesto, California: ESL teachers in California, as of 2012, earned an average salary of $73,210, with top salaries coming in at $92,410.
- Naperville, Illinois: ESL educators in Naperville earned salaries as high as $113,870, as of 2012.
ESL Teacher Salary: Education and Experience Considerations
Similar to other teachers, ESL teachers can expect to earn a higher salary as their experience and education increase. Although an ESL teacher salary depends on the school district’s pay schedule and their current hiring needs, average salaries for ESL teachers are often indicative of degree and experience earned.
For example, teachers in the Philadelphia (Pennsylvania) School District, at the entry level, earn a minimum salary of $45,360 if they possess a bachelor’s degree; $46,694 if they possess a master’s degree; and $49,615 if they possess a master’s degree plus at least 30 additional credits or a doctorate degree.
Likewise, teachers in the Fairfax County (Virginia) School District who possess a bachelor’s degree and one year of experience earn a minimum salary of $46,516; teachers with five years of experience earn a minimum salary of $49,022; and teachers with ten years of experience earn a minimum salary of $54,215.