How to Become an ESL Teacher in Vancouver

As one of the most international cities in the world with an array of teaching positions throughout the region, let’s take a look at how to become an ESL teacher in Vancouver. Here’s a step-by-step guide to get you on your way to a new career.

Take a Recognized Teaching English as a Foreign (or Second) Language Certificate Program

Within Canada the most well-known ESL teaching program is commonly mislabeled the TESL certificate. What many people don’t realize is that TESL Canada is a non-profit organization.  Many institutions around the country offer teaching programs that may or may not be recognized by TESL Canada. In short, one TESL certificate is not the same as the other, and not all are recognized by TESL Canada. At the very minimum, look for a certificate that is recognized by TESL Canada. Certificate programs are usually 4-12 week programs that include a teaching practicum. Avoid short, one-week programs that aren’t recognized by any national or international organization.

Get Experience

In most cases, a reputable teaching program will include a 20-hour teaching practicum. Following this, you can typically find part-time and even full-time work at a smaller school. Additionally, there are immigration organizations such as The Immigrant Services Society of BC that offer volunteer and paid positions. Allow yourself six months to build up a significant portfolio of teaching materials as well as knowledge of common grammar and vocabulary questions.


English-language tests including IELTS, TOEFL, CELPIP, and Cambridge Exams are required for immigration, employment, and post secondary institutions. For these reasons, preparation, invigilation, and marking jobs are all in high demand. Even with zero to very little teaching experience, finding work as a test invigilator is an easy way to make extra income and help keep you afloat in between jobs. These are all wise steps towards increased income and job security. Avoid falling into the routine of teaching the same classes to the same level of general English learners. The hard truth: it doesn’t matter how popular you are with students – teachers with no specialized training are a dime a dozen.

Teach English Overseas

Teaching English in another country is an exciting option at any point in your career. Full-time teaching jobs in Asia and the Middle East are plentiful and often come with accommodation, flights, and bonuses. Do your research and follow the old cliché: if the job seems too good to be true, it probably is. The major caveat with teaching internationally is that a TESL Canada certificate is typically not recognized. If you’re considering a career teaching English in a foreign country, the CELTA program is your ticket. It’s recognized throughout the world and you can also use it to become an ESL teacher in Vancouver.

Expect Change

Full disclosure: this is not a career where you should anticipate the same routine for 25 or 30 years. Schools change their schedules, add new programs and tests, and tend to do major overhauls every 5 to 10 years. 30 years ago, for example, there were only a few English schools in Vancouver and they catered primarily to local immigrants. Now there are dozens of schools within the Vancouver area and more in its suburbs. Returning to a previous point, you need to specialize in English-language tests and current trends. Aim to be the one teacher at your school who is trained in more programs than anyone else. You will be indispensable and eventually sought after by organizations. The work will come to you.