Most ESL jobs involve teaching general English to children or adults. However, a TESOL teaching career can include other types of teaching. Teachers with more experience can specialize and teach business English, EAP (English for academic purposes) which involves students prepare for study, usually at university level in an English speaking country. There are also ESL jobs in ESP (English for specific purposes) for example teaching secretaries telephone English, or hotel and management English to hotel staff. It's also usually possible to work as a private tutor, teaching English in people's homes.
Most of the ESL jobs available around the world are in private language schools. These vary a lot; from well run and professional schools which will give you a good experience of teaching, to badly organized and chaotic schools. There are also opportunities to volunteer teaching English in less developed parts of the world.
Ask on internet forums for information about the school you plan to work for, you should be able to get some information. A good school should be relaxed about letting you speak to other teachers there. It's worth asking how long teachers usually stay with the school. If there are many teachers who have been there for a number of years, this is a good sign.
I was once asked what I would do differently if I was applying for my first TESOL job again. My answer was not to be too concerned about the pay. I do not mean that you should accept low paying esl jobs. What I mean is that I sometimes chose worse working environments for the sake of a bit more money per hour. Now I look first at the working environment. Then I choose the best paying of the good alternatives. After all, a lot of your day is spent in the school. Feeling good about being there has a value too.
For more information on jobs in specific countries and regions of the world, read teaching English overseas
This can be profitable and give you more freedom than working for language schools. Once you get to know the country you are living in, and speak some of the language, it should be possible to set up your own work. Either tutoring in homes, or working directly for companies, and teaching their staff.
In some countries the main problem will be legal restrictions on freelance work. Every country is different. In some parts of the world it's legal to tutor (as long as you declare the work and pay tax). In other countries it's just not allowed, and if caught you risk fines and possible deportation. Check the situation in the country you work in. Here is an answer I wrote to a reader's question about teaching freelance in Spain
If you stay in TESOL for more than 4 or 5 years, there will most likely come a time when you will want to try something else; other than private language schools. An ESL job in a public elementary or high school is one option. Another option is to teach in an international school.
The most obvious transition is to move into teacher training . Here you can pass your experience on to new teachers. To work in esl teacher training experience is alway required, and often some type of TEFL certification. A TEFL diploma will be required in some countries. In other parts of the world employers will only be concerned about your teaching experience within their organization.
An added benefit of further TEFL qualification is that it helps you remain mobile, and avoid becoming stuck in a single country or region.
Another option for developing your TEFL career is ESL management. If you are a good teacher, and if you stay long enough in a larger language school, there's a chance you will be offered a position as a senior teacher, assistant director of studies (ADOS), or director of studies (DOS).
A senior teacher (which can go by other names) is a teacher who gets paid a bit more for helping new teachers teach. ADOS and DOS positions are management positions. These esl jobs will sometimes involve a little teaching, training teachers, day to day management, and sometimes some course and syllabus writing. If you are interested in this kind of job, look for teaching jobs in a large school with many branches.
If management doesn't appeal to you, and you enjoy writing, you may like to try writing educational materials This can range from preparing materials for other teachers to use, to collaborating on coursebooks, workbooks and teacher's books. The easiest work to find in materials writing is for language schools and other educational institutions. I wrote a series of coursebooks for a chain school in East Asia for one year and, although I enjoy teaching, I found the change of focus a refreshing break from the classroom.
If you are interested in running your own business, this might be an attractive idea. There are many teachers who have opened language schools around the world.
This is, or course, easiest when you do it on a very small scale. And at this scale you don't need to be a great business person. I know teachers who began by turning their living room into a classroom. And others who rented a couple of rooms, lived in one and taught in the other. If you are a good teacher, and good at promoting yourself this could work for you. Here is the answer I wrote to a reader's question about advertising an EFL business in France
If you are more ambitious, or if your small scale enterprise works, you can rent a larger space and employ other teachers. I did this with partners, and ran a small chain of language schools in Northern Taiwan.
There is no guarantee that you will make money. But if you do, it can be more profitable than teaching, and you have the freedom to choose how you want to teach, what books you want to use, and the kind of courses you will offer.
I'm beginning to add ESL job ads to this site. However, the best places for job ads are for now Dave's ESL Cafe and TEFL.com Dave's also has a lively forum. Another useful ELT forum is the ESL Employment forum