TESOL Education and Employment in the ACT

Australian Professional Standards for Teachers – EAL/D Elaborations

Education authorities around the country are now expecting teachers to plan professional learning, carry out performance management and apply for re-registration using the Australian Professional Standards for Teachers (APST). This is a generic document for teachers in any setting, and consequently needs some interpretation to appreciate its implications when working with learners of English as an Additional Language or Dialect (EAL/D).

Interpretation is now available in the EAL/D Elaborations, produced by the Australian Council of TESOL Associations (ACTA) in consultation with the Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership (AITSL). AITSL acknowledges the work and expertise ACTA has provided in producing this document to support teachers working in EAL/D settings. The EAL/D Elaborations have direct relevance for all such teachers, not just those in EAL/D (or ESL) positions.

There is a full version and a short version of the EAL/D Elaborations. The full version provides a range of ideas and guidance for working with EAL/D learners; the short version provides just a single elaboration for each of the Focus Area Descriptors, and is useful mainly as an introductory tool for people who are not yet very familiar with the Australian Professional Standards for Teachers.

Feedback from trialling shows that people are finding the EAL/D Elaborations very useful in a variety of ways, including for:

  • reflecting on and improving their teaching and support of EAL/D learners
  • planning whole school and individual professional learning,
  • performance management
  • job applications
  • making staff selections.

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Do you want to teach ESOL (English to speakers of other languages)?

Teaching English to speakers of other languages (TESOL) can be a very satisfying profession. As a teacher you may help refugees overcome great hardship to make new lives in Australia. You may teach migrant children who are eager to learn and whose parents are strongly committed to education. You may assist adult migrants to participate more fully in Australian life through newly acquired English skills. You may teach young adult travellers attending short intensive English courses in Australia and enjoy stimulating cultural exchange with people from many countries. A recognised TESOL qualification can provide a ticket to work throughout the world.

ATESOL ACT receives many enquiries from people who are thinking of undertaking TESOL training and who want to know the best courses for intending ESL (ESOL) teachers to undertake. We hope that the following introduction to the field provides a starting point for your further research. It can be time-consuming to obtain the information you need but detailed, up-to-date information is only available from training, employing and accrediting authorities.

No single course will qualify you to teach in all the scenarios described above so you need to think about the types of work situations which most interest you before choosing a course. These are some matters which you need to consider:

Considerations before choosing a TESOL course

  • Where do you want to teach? In Australia or overseas?
  • Who do you want to teach? Young people (primary, secondary, tertiary)? Adults? Migrants? Refugees?
  • Do you want to teach in a government school, an independent school, an IEC (Intensive English Centre), a private college aimed at foreign students, at TAFE – CIT or in another state, university or elsewhere?
  • Do you want to study a course which is covered by HECS or a full fee paying course?
  • How do you want to study? Full time? Part-time? By distance education?
  • Are you considering TESOL as a career or are you looking for a way to combine work and overseas travel for a year or two?
  • Do you want your TESOL course to be counted toward a higher degree eg Master of TESOL or Master of Education?
  • If you have a course or institution in mind, what is the quality of the course and institution you are considering?
  • How well regarded and recognised is the course and institution in Australia and/ or overseas?
  • Does the training institution assist new teachers to find employment?

It is important to note that there is no accrediting body with the role of granting worldwide official recognition to any teaching certificate or diploma. The information on this website is particularly relevant to readers from the ACT or those intending to work in the ACT. The following table gives an overview of minimum qualifications usually required for work in various contexts for teachers who are not already teaching in a government school.

NB. The TESOL field involves many acronyms. See the Glossary for an explanation of some of these terms. To gain an overview of the field, look at some of the websites referred to in the Glossary.

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Overview of usual requirements for new ESOL teachers in the ACT & Overseas

Government school or IEC (Introductory English Centre) Bachelor’s degree in education with relevant major or Bachelor’s degree with relevant major plus a Diploma in Education. In addition to these qualifications, intending ESL teachers need a post-graduate TESOL certificate or diploma (if TESOL method was not part of the degree or Dip. Ed.)
Independent schools Bachelor’s degree in education or a Bachelor’s degree with a relevant major eg English, plus a Certificate or Diploma in Education is usually required. Qualifications required vary according to school.
AMEP (Adult Migrant English Program) providers EITHER a recognised Bachelor Degree and a recognised postgraduate TESOL qualification which includes a practicum*
OR a Bachelor of Education with a TESOL major or equivalent which includes a practicum*
PLUS a Certificate IV in Training and Assessment or equivalent
* See http://www.neas.org.au/teachers/amep.php for information about practicum requirements and full details of minimum requirements.
ELICOS (universities and private colleges teaching overseas students, primarily adults, and some secondary level students) Qualifications required vary according to college. Colleges which teach students on student visas are required to employ teachers who have an acceptable pre-service teaching qualification (including a 3 year degree) plus an appropriate TESOL qualification, or a recognised degree or diploma plus 800 hours classroom teaching experience plus a TESOL qualification. The Cambridge Certificate in Teaching English as a Foreign Language to Adults (CELTA) is required by some.
* See http://www.neas.org.au/teaching/teachers for information on Teaching in NEAS endorsed ELT Centres.
Community colleges, etc Various other organisations run part-time ESL classes. Qualifications required vary according to college.
Qualifications required vary according to institution. A university degree is usually required. In many countries a degree plus a TESOL qualification such as the CELTA or other TESOL certificate opens up avenues of employment in private colleges. Requirements to gain employment in government schools and universities are becoming more stringent. In some countries, such institutions now require qualifications similar to those needed for ACT government schools. People who want to make a career in TESOL and aspire to senior, better paid roles such as Director of Studies may need to consider undertaking relevant masters’ qualifications such as an M. TESOL. Many countries will only provide a relevant work visa to applicants who have a university degree. Check international websites for ESL teachers  (eg. Dave’s ESL Café) to see what requirements apply in countries which interest you.


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Some Places for Studying TESOL


TESOL may be able to be studied as part of an undergraduate degree in education. Contact Education faculties at universities for more details.

The majority of enquirers to this site are graduates who are considering training in TESOL so this information is directed at them.  Only one university in the ACT offers an on-campus postgraduate course in TESOL:

University of Canberra offers three professional TESOL courses, to be completed part time or full time:

  • Graduate Certificate TESOL/FLT (4 subjects, one semester) – also available online
  • Graduate Diploma TESOL/FLT (8 subjects, two semesters) – also available online
  • MA TESOL/FLT (16 subjects, 2 years full time)


Several other universities offer postgraduate TESOL courses by distance study, including those listed below – type “TESOL” into the site’s search field to find relevant courses:

Other TESOL training organisations

The Certificate IV in TESOL is also offered by some interstate TAFE colleges by distance education. Please ask providers of this course for further information. (Type “Certificate IV TESOL” into the search field in your search engine.)

Private organisations (and some universities) provide training in the Certificate in English Language Teaching to Adults (CELTA), but none are currently providing this course in the ACT. These organisations may be found on the CELTA website: http://www.cambridgeenglish.org/teaching-english/teaching-qualifications/celta/ or by typing “CELTA” into your search engine.

Also check the Careers Advice page on the NEAS website, which shows which courses qualify you for teaching in which sectors/programs: https://neas.org.au/resources/career-advice/

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TESOL employers in the ACT

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The TESOL field is full of confusing acronyms. What do they mean?

We hope that this table helps with some acronyms. TESOL terms evolve. Some of the terms in the table below are older and fading in popularity while others are more current. That is why some terms have similar meanings to others.

TESOL Acronyms
ACTA The Australian Council of TESOL Associations – the national coordinating body representing all teachers of English to speakers of other languages.  ATESOL ACT is a constituent association of ACTA.  http://www.tesol.org.au/
AMEP The Adult Migrant English Program, also known as AMEP, is an Australian Government funded programme which provides basic tuition in the English language to help eligible adult migrants and refugees settle successfully in Australia. In the ACT region, AMEP courses are run by Navitas English and TAFE NSW Illawarra; in other states by TAFE, AMES and other private providers. http://www.education.gov.au/adult-migrant-english-program-0
CALL Computer Assisted Language Learning
CELTA Certificate in English Language Teaching to Adults (taught by agencies of University of Cambridge ESOL)
CLOTE Community Language Other Than English
CL Community Languages
DELTA Diploma in English Language Teaching (taught by agencies of University of Cambridge ESOL)
EA English Australia (EA) is the national peak body and professional association for English language colleges (ELICOS) in Australia. http://www.englishaustralia.com.au/
EAL/D English as an Additional Language or Dialect. This term is replacing NESB and LBOTE in some places.
EAP English for Academic Purposes
EFL English as a Foreign Language. Refers to English as taught where English is not a native language. Compare with (ESL or ESOL)
ELICOS English Language Intensive Course for Overseas Students
ESP English for Special Purposes
ESL English as a Second Language (synonymous with ESOL). Refers to English as taught to non-English speakers in a country where it is a native language eg Australia, USA, UK. (Compare with EFL)
ESOL English for Speakers of Other Languages (This term was introduced after “ESL” came to be regarded as too limiting because some non-native speakers of English speak more than one other language.)
EVE English for Vocational Education
IELTS The International English Language Testing System measures ability to communicate in English across all four language skills – listening, reading, writing and speaking – for people who intend to study or work where English is the language of communication. Secondary level overseas students who intend to study in Australian institutions must achieve a minimum score in the IELTS exam, which varies according to type of institution and course which students intend to attend. http://www.ielts.org/
LBOTE Language Background Other than English
LEP Limited English Proficiency
LOTE Language Other Than English
LLNP Language Literacy and Numeracy Programme. Now known as SEE: Skills for Education & Employment – see below.
NEAS The National English Language Teaching Accreditation Scheme Limited (NEAS) is Australia’s national accreditation scheme for English Language Teaching centres. (It is not involved in accrediting government schools nor independent schools for Australian students.) http://www.neas.org.au/
NESB Non English Speaking Background
NNEST Non-Native English Speaking Teacher
SEE Skills for Education & Employment. A Commonwealth funded programme for registered jobseekers. In the ACT region, courses are conducted by CIT and TAFE NSW Illawarra. http://www.education.gov.au/skills-education-and-employment
TAFE Technical and Further Education.
TEFL Teaching English as a Foreign Language
TESL Teaching English as a Second Language
TESOL Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages.
TESOL International TESOL International is an international professional association of teachers of ESOL. http://www.tesol.org/
TQI Teacher Quality Institute http://www.tqi.act.edu.au
UECA University English Centres Australia – a network of 30 Australian universities offering English Australia Language courses for overseas students, ELICOS, and IELTS preparation. http://www.ueca.edu.au

Thanks to ATESOL NSW for permission to use their template and some of their information for this document.

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Frequently asked questions

Which course is the best?

We are not able to recommend any particular course or institution but suggest that initial enquiries be made to universities which teach TESOL.

For information on what qualifications and experience are required to teach in accredited ELT centres and requirements for teaching the AMEP, please check the website of the National English Language Teaching Accreditation Scheme Limited (NEAS): http://www.neas.org.au/teachers/

What is CELTA?

CELTA (Certificate for English Language Teaching to Adults) is issued by the University of Cambridge ESOL, part of Cambridge Assessments, which is a department of the University of Cambridge. The certificate can be obtained after completing a 4 week full-time course or an equivalent period part time. The CELTA is a practically oriented short course which is widely recognised overseas. It teaches important practical skills but is not sufficient on its own to gain a CELTA holder employment as an ESL teacher in the ACT. Some ELICOS colleges require this qualification. The CELTA is accepted as a component in some university TESOL certificate, diploma and masters courses. In Australia, the CELTA course is usually full fee-paying.

Further information on the CELTA may be gained from: http://www.cambridgeenglish.org/teaching-english/teaching-qualifications/celta/

The CELTA is taught at some universities and by private providers in Australia, but at present not in the ACT.

I was born in Australia so I speak good English. Would teaching ESL be easier than what I am doing now?

Teaching English to speakers of other languages can be personally rewarding and intellectually stimulating but it cannot be described as “easy”. Contrary to popular belief, it rarely involves teaching ‘one-to-one’. You need to study linguistics in order to analyse language and understand it on many levels. (Linguistics is a subject which many TESOL students find to be quite challenging.) You need to be methodical and well organised so that your students can make steady progress through a planned programme. You also need to be empathetic, warm and spontaneous so that you can add fun into the classroom and capitalise on unplanned learning opportunities which arise. You must maintain enthusiasm while teaching a group of students the same topic many times. (It takes a long time to learn any language and repetition is required for all language learning.) You need be creative so that you can motivate students who are discouraged when they reach a language plateau or when worries from outside the classroom intrude. You are more likely to enjoy this work if you are have good people skills, like meeting people from different cultures and have a genuine interest in learning about and from them.

I speak good English but am not a native speaker. Can I be an ESOL teacher?

To undertake TESOL training in Australia you need to demonstrate a high level of competence in English on the IELTS or an equivalent scale. Many non-native speakers with excellent English competence and a good understanding of language teaching and learning have become successful ESOL teachers. However, you need to be aware that in some countries there are employers who have a bias towards native speakers of English.

What are the job prospects?

The TESOL field is rapidly expanding. With the growth of English as an international language, there is demand internationally for ESL teaching from primary school level upwards. In Australia, teachers are needed to teach migrants and refugees, and also international students. The demand for teachers in Australia fluctuates in line with migrant and refugee intakes, government funding for ESL teachers and with varying enrolments of international students. To assess current job prospects internationally, look at job boards at websites such as

Dave’s ESL Café at http://www.eslcafe.com

TEFL Professional Network at http://www.tefl.com

To gain an idea of job prospects in the ACT, look at job advertisements at sites such as http://mycareer.com.au or http://www.seek.com.au  or in the press.

It sounds interesting but I’m not sure whether TESOL is right for me.

ACTA is the national profession body representing teachers of English to speakers of other languages in Australia.  ACTA has initiated and supported the development of a set of National Professional Standards for Teachers: http://www.tesol.org.au/RESOURCES/National-Professional-Standards-for-Teachers

You may want to become a volunteer ESOL tutor.  In the ACT these are some providers of volunteer TESOL opportunities:

Home Tutor Scheme of the Adult Migrant English Program (AMEP)

Migrant and Refugee Settlement Services (MARSS)
MARSS runs home tutor service, as well as language, conversation and pronunciation classes, and a migrant singing group.  You could also volunteer to tutor in the Program for After School Studies, helping migrant children with their school homework. http://www.marss.org.au/

Find out more about the work in an international context by joining the job forum at Dave’s ESL Café at http://www.eslcafe.com

To find out more about the TESOL field in Australia, look at some of the websites referred to in this overview. You may be interested to attend some of ATESOL ACT’s workshops and seminars during the year. They will give you a feel for what is involved and you will have the opportunity to meet current ESL teachers.

How can I get a job in a government school?

Teaching in government schools in the ACT requires registration with the ACT Department of Education and Training. Further information may be available from these sites:

Department of Education and Training http://www.det.act.gov.au

Teach NSW, Department of Education and Training http://www.teach.nsw.edu.au

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