How to become an ESL teacher?

First of all, it tends to depend on who you are. If you have grown-up Canadian, have an undergraduate degree and have spend a year teaching overseas, you may already be a good candidate for being hired. By hired I mean for a part-time probably evening program. Foreign trained teachers are also hired because of their experience, but some school prefer foreign trained teachers and some schools do not.

Also, understand that many school will hire you without provincial or national accreditation or certification. It may not be neccessary to pursue this. Most of them are looking for experience teaching ESL or cross-cultural experience.

Here's how you can pursue certification:

1) Apply with your provincial accrediting organization. In Alberta it's ATESL (Alberta Teaching English to Speakers of Other Language - ATESL offers certification as follows:
Option A: need a Bachelour's Degree; 250hrs of training in ESL (grad or upper-level undergrad; 250hrs teaching experience in an ESL classroom
Option D: usually for foreign trained teachers
Cost: $52.50 includes a 1yr membership to ATESL. Some funders of ESL programs ask for teachers to be certified with this.
  • To receive more detailed information on the above click on the ATESL website.

2) Apply with our national accrediting organization. It's called CANADA TESL - this the national body of which ATESL is affiliated. It offers certification as follows:
Standard 1 (interim): undergrad degree; undergraduate or graduate TESL training from a approved organization that CANADA
TESL has approved - 100hrs of training.
Standard 1 (permanent): same as above plus 1000 hours of teaching (about 1 year teaching fulltime)
Standard 2 (interim): same as Standard 1 but 250hrs of training in a training program accredited with CANADA TESL for level 2.
Standard 3 (interim): Masters in TESL from U of A or Trinity Western University ( Other masters degrees in ESL can be approved on an individual basis.
Standard 3 (permanent): same as above but also 2000 hours of teaching.
  • For more detailed information on the above visist the Canada TESL website or click here here:$!26+Explanations.pdf?method=1

Of course the money you will be getting for teaching let's say the LINC program (1200 free hours to Permanent Residents) will be between $25-50/teaching hour, and you're very lucky if you can get paid for any prep - most school don't do it. If you teach a lot, let's say a 25 hour's a week is full time, then you'll be taking home hopefully $3000-4000/month. LINC (our federal gov't program) providers can be accessed here; this is a good way to see all the school in Calgary and it gives you option on who you can send your resume to:


The Big 5 in Calgary (U of C; Mount Royal; BVC; Columbia; SAIT) would prefer a Masters degree esp in TESOL. They usually only hire people with about 5 years experience for their major programs. As usual, you need connections to get these jobs as they are not normally advertized.

Basically, while I love the ESL profession, it suffers from a lack of respect in society. Teaching English to adults is not a prestigious occupation so the pay is not very high despite being a high-quality professional. Teachers are paid poorly compared to the public education system.

In Calgary I have met many Caucasians-Canadians who are dedicated to ESL students. They generally focus on communicative language teaching and on pronunciation. They excel on teaching students about Canadian culture and how to be accepted in the workplace. Their grammar skills are often weaker than their foreign-trained colleagues.

I am just beginning to have experience knowing foreign trained teachers. The Centre for Newcomers is the school that I have seen foreign-trained teachers be the most successful at. Some students are wary of having a "ethnic" teacher but if you are good at your profession they will accept you readily. Indeed, in grammar classes many students prefer teachers who are foreign trained and non-native speakers.

My names is James Edel. I am accredited with CANADA TESL at Standard 3. I have been working for and serving the immigrant community and especially Asian community for about 5 years. I hope this page has helped you. For more information I can be reached at Thank you for your interest in this profession!

1) The ACE TESL program at Mount Royal is High Recommended.
The ACE TESOL Certificate is an introductory ESL teacher training course with 100 hours of classroom instruction and a 20- or 10-hour practicum. Students must have daytime availability between the hours of 8:30 a.m. and 5:30 p.m., Monday to Friday, in order to complete the practicum.
The ACE TESOL Certificate with 20-hour practicum (in combination with an undergraduate degree) is recognized by TESL Canada for Professional Standard One.
cost: $2,100

2) CELTA is one of the most respected certificates. And they really love people with British accents! It's downtown Calgary across from "The Bow"

Full Time 4 Weeks 100 contact hours 20 hr practicum

COST: $2,500 Probalby most widely recognized

3) I’m not sure if you’re “religious” or not but a Christian group offers a good program to help people who volunteer for churches.

Fall 30 Hour Training Program

Each Fall we conduct an intensive 30-Hour Training Program that extends over a one-month period�(three weekends in total). A maximum of 35 trainees can attend the Training�Program. Each trainee receives a comprehensive training manual, a Clearly Speaking text, the Canadian Language Benchmarks manual, and a CD with numerous resources for your church-based ESL program. Participants who finish the training and observe two ESL classes will receive a CESLM Training Certificate.

During the Training Program trainees will have an opportunity to observe demonstrations of conversation-style lessons, and will be matched up with volunteer ESL students to practice their ESL facilitation skills. By the end of the Training�Program you will be inspired and prepared to start your own church-based ESL program!

Content areas in the 30-Hour�Training�Program include:
- Spiritual Foundations
- Who Are Our Learners?
- Interculturalism
- Adult Learning Principles
- How to Teach Pronunciation
- How to do Grammar Interventions
- How to Plan Theme-Based Conversational-Style Lessons
- How to Start an ESL Program in your Church
- Ways of Doing ESL Bible Studies
- Introduction to Canadian Language Benchmarks
- Resources and Referrals

COST: very small

4) MA in TESOL from Trinity Western is becoming popular.

5) M.ED from U of C

HOW TO BECOME A CERTIFIED TEACHER (thru post-degree program like at U of C)
You had asked me to tell you what the procedure was for getting one’s permanent teaching certificate, so here it is.

  1. You have to get a teaching degree. I got my 2-year Bachelor of Education degree in the Masters of Teaching program at the University of Calgary in 2004. To get into that particular program, you have to have already completed a 4-year degree. Some bachelor programs in teaching are 2 years, while others are 4 years.
  2. When you graduate, you will be given a teacher certification package which includes the rules, steps, and application forms needed.
  3. Send in the interim teacher application form (along with $50) to the professional teacher association in order to receive your interim teacher certificate which lasts for 3 years.
  4. Find a teaching job at an Alberta Education certified school and accumulate 400 full-time days (about 2 years) of teaching experience. You must teach Alberta Curriculum approved courses (English, Math, Sciences, Social Studies, etc.). ESL does not count towards your hours.
  5. Once you have accumulated the hours needed, send in another application form like you did in #3, but this time say you are applying for your permanent teacher certificate (along with $50).
  6. You will receive a letter from the teacher organization outlining the next steps to be taken which basically amounts to someone from the organization contacting you to arrange a time to observe your teaching.
  7. Someone will eventually contact you and arrange a time to observe you teach. That person will tell you what he/she wants in the form of documentation. I was asked to provide my daily lesson plans, unit plans, and yearly plans (i.e., course outline), samples of tests I’d given, my grade book, and an evaluation done by my supervisor. I put it all in a binder for my observer to look at when he was here.
  8. The person came to observe two classes, and then he gave me feedback afterwards. He and you sign a form which he sends in, and eventually, you will get your permanent teacher certificate card in the mail.