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Texas ESL Teacher Job Description and ESOL Certification Requirements

In the decade leading up to 2012, the number of English language learners in Texas grew by nearly 100,000 students. Now totaling 722,000 students, English language learners now represent nearly 15 percent of the total student body statewide. ESL teachers in Texas serve as a vital bridge between the state’s ELL students and opportunities for academic achievement and lifelong success.

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To become an ESL teacher in Texas you will need to work through the TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) certification requirements established by the Texas Education Agency and implemented by the State Board for Educator Certification. Follow these steps to become an ESL teacher in Texas:

#1 ButtonEarn a Degree in TESOL while Completing a Teacher Prep Program
#2 ButtonComplete the Texas Testing Requirements
#3 ButtonApply for Your Teaching License and TESOL Certification
#4 ButtonMaintain Your ESL Teaching Certificate



Step 1. Earn a Degree in TESOL while Completing a Teacher Prep Program

Earning a bachelor’s degree at minimum is the first step towards meeting the licensure and TESOL certification requirements in Texas. Your course of study will need to include an approved educator preparation program.

There are three types of ESL educator preparation programs that correspond to different grade levels:

  • ESL generalist for grades 4-8
  • ESL generalist for early childhood through grade 6
  • ESL supplemental for all grades – this option is only available if you are already a certified Texas teacher and are adding on an extra ESL certification

Common among all ESL educator preparation programs are courses such as:

  • Linguistics and language education
  • Cultural diversity, sensitivity, and understanding
  • Methodology and strategies for developing a successful ESL curriculum
  • ESL assessment strengths, weaknesses, and options
  • State and federal laws that pertain to being an ESL instructor
  • Psychology and pedagogy of learning English
  • ESL practicum or student teaching experience in a classroom setting

Many teachers find that studying a second language is also advantageous when preparing to become an ESL teacher. The five most common languages among Texas’s ELL students are:

  • Spanish
  • Vietnamese
  • Chinese
  • German
  • Korean



Step 2. Complete the Texas Testing Requirements

You will need to complete up to three assessments to be eligible for certification as an ESL teacher. You can register for these through the Texas Education Agency Electronic Testing Service (ETS) website.

  • Basic Skills Test
  • Pedagogy and Professional Responsibilities Exam
  • ESL Test

Basic Skills Test

Depending on the educator preparation program you complete, you may need to take a basic skills test that demonstrates you have knowledge of foundational concepts in reading, writing, and mathematics. These have been identified by the Texas Education Agency as being key areas in which all teachers need to have a basic level of competency. Check with your individual degree program and educator preparation program for specific testing requirements. These programs may require one of the following exams:

Pedagogy and Professional Responsibilities Exam

You will have to pass the Pedagogy and Professional Responsibility Exam for early childhood (EC) through grade 12. This will ensure you possess the adequate pedagogical skills to be an effective teacher. The exam is comprised of 100 multiple-choice questions that cover the topics of:

  • The promotion of student learning, instructional design, and assessments – 34 percent
  • Creation of a positive and productive classroom environment – 13 percent
  • How to implement effective and responsive instruction and assessments – 33 percent
  • The professional responsibilities and roles of a teacher – 20 percent
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ESL Test

This test will ensure you have the necessary skills to meet the quality standards that are specified in the Texas ESL teacher job description. All ESL certification exams can be found here.

General ESL relevant topics covered on most all of these multiple-choice exams include:

  • Language acquisition and language concepts
  • ESL assessment and instruction
  • Family and community involvement, cultural awareness, and the foundations of ESL education



Step 3. Apply for Your Teaching License and TESOL Certification

At this point you will be qualified to submit an application to become a certified ESL teacher. If this will be your first time attempt at certification you can apply through the Educator Certification Online System (ECOS).

As part of your application you will need to include official transcripts from the school or schools where you completed your degree and ESL educator preparation program. Your test scores are automatically sent to the Texas Education Agency once they are calculated.

After you have applied you will also need to have your fingerprints taken and pass a criminal background check. Once you are approved and receive your teaching certification you can begin looking for ESL jobs in Texas through websites such as the Texas Education Agency’s Statewide School District Job Search.

Adding ESL to an Existing Certificate

If you are already a certified teacher in Texas you also have the option of adding an ESL certification on top of your existing certification. This also happens to be the only way to become an ESL teacher in grades 9-12. To do this you will need to pass the appropriate ESL test that corresponds to the grades you intend to teach.



Step 4. Maintain Your ESL Teaching Certificate

You will need to renew your ESL teaching certificate every five years, and you can do with the same ECOS account you used to make an initial application. To be eligible for renewal you need to earn 150 hours of approved continuing professional education by engaging in activities such as ESL workshops, seminars, and additional college education.

Many teachers choose to fulfill their renewal requirements while simultaneously earning a master’s degree such as an M.A.T., MATL, or M.Ed, or a master’s specific to their content area. For teachers who are planning on advancing up the career ladder into senior positions this especially makes sense because you can use the same accomplishment to fulfill two objectives. Having a master’s degree will also solidify your expertise in the field of teaching and ESL, resulting in a better experience for your students. Higher professional credentials can also lead to faster promotional opportunities and greater job security.

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As you become more experienced as an ESL teacher you may wish to consider affiliating yourself with a professional association. These can offer insights into legislation affecting ESL as well as professional development and employment opportunities:

  • Texas Association for Bilingual Education (TABE) – an association of professionals and advocates that promotes the growth and quality development of bilingual education throughout Texas. You can pertinent find ESL resources with this association pertaining to curriculum development, conferences, and professional training.
  • TexTESOL (Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages) – this organization strives to maintain and develop excellence in English language learning and teaching. You can find useful information about upcoming conferences, professional trainings, TESOL certification, and networking opportunities in the field of ESL through TexTESOL.

Texas ESL Endorsement Salary Bonus Incentives

As a U.S. border state, immigration is nothing new to Texas. But perhaps what is striking about Texas is the sheer growth of the English Language Learner (ELL) population in the state.

According to a June 2014 article in the Texas Tribune, about 17 percent of Texas’ 5 million public school students qualify as ELLs. Of the state’s ELLs, about 90 percent are Hispanic. The Texas Education Agency also reported that the number of students participating in bilingual or ESL programs increased nearly 47 between the 2002-03 and the 2012-13 school years.

A 2009 Intercultural Development Research Association paper found that in 1996-1997, Texas was home to about 514,000 ELLs; in 2006-07, this number grew to 731,000, a 51 percent increase during the ten-year period.

Further, the National Center for Education Statistics reported that Texas’ limited English proficient population grew by 90 percent from 1990 to 2010. Of the state’s ELLs in 2010, 87.4 percent spoke Spanish, 3.2 percent spoke Vietnamese and 2 percent spoke Chinese.

Teachers in Texas may hold a primary or add-on endorsement in English as a Second Language. Many school districts in Texas seek ESL teachers with a bilingual endorsement, as well.

According to the National Center for Education Statistics, the lowest average salary for educators was $32,600, while the highest average salary was $50,300. ESL teachers likely earn salaries higher than the state average, as is evident through recent statistics and job postings. For example:

  • The Texas Tribune reported that ESL teachers in Plano, as of 2013, earned a median, annual salary of $52,972.
  • An April 2014 job posting for an ESL position in Waco, Texas, revealed a salary range of $40,288 to $54,688.

It is also commonplace for ESL teachers in Texas to receive stipends and ESL certification education reimbursement through hiring school districts. For example, the Austin school district offers a tuition reimbursement/payment incentive program to encourage district teachers to obtain a bilingual and/or ESL certification.

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Additional information can be found in the following table, provided by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, which details salary statistics for Adult Basic and Secondary Education and Literacy Teachers, an umbrella category under which adult ELL teachers are classified:

Area name
Annual Median Salary
Austin-Round Rock-San Marcos TX
Beaumont-Port Arthur TX
Brownsville-Harlingen TX
Estimate Not Released
Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington TX
Estimate Not Released
Dallas-Plano-Irving TX Metropolitan Division
Estimate Not Released
El Paso TX
Fort Worth-Arlington TX Metropolitan Division
Estimate Not Released
Houston-Sugar Land-Baytown TX
Killeen-Temple-Fort Hood TX
Laredo TX
Estimate Not Released
Longview TX
McAllen-Edinburg-Mission TX
San Antonio-New Braunfels TX
Tyler TX
Northwestern Texas nonmetropolitan area
Eastern Texas nonmetropolitan area
Southern Texas nonmetropolitan area
Gulf Coast Texas nonmetropolitan area

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