Teacher Tips

Teach IELTS for a Living: The Complete Guide

cropped-IELTS-Academic-Logo.jpgThis article is part of the Teach IELTS series at IELTS Academic, an online provider of skills training for IELTS and English as a foreign language.

Dr Indiana Jones
Dr Indiana Jones: academic adventurer?

Do you have an intrepid sense of adventure but feel constrained by a somewhat bookish personality?

Do you dream of living and working in distant cities in the most exotic outposts of the globe – but with the crumbling temples replaced by air-conditioned classrooms, the hanging gardens replaced by free-standing whiteboards, and the ancient curses replaced by the past perfect tense?

Do you have a university degree and a perfect command of the English language?

If the answer is yes to all three questions above, then teaching IELTS may be just the job for you. Find out how in this complete guide to teaching IELTS for a living.

Why teach IELTS?

IELTS test-takers all have a remarkable goal – to migrate overseas for study or work – which makes them highly motivated learners. It may be said that IELTS teachers have an easier time than their counterparts teaching unruly kids or busy professionals, though individual temperament will likely dictate where a teacher finds the greatest fulfilment.

The IELTS test is marked entirely by hand, and every candidate must be interviewed by a examiner. So, unlike other language tests which make greater use of multiple-choice questions and automation, IELTS provides a context in which the teacher is central to the student’s preparation for the test.

Since IELTS is a popular test the world over, qualified IELTS teachers enjoy excellent mobility, while global demand for their services is forecast to grow steadily for the time being. In short, teaching IELTS is one of the better jobs to aim for in the wider TEFL industry.

What qualifications are needed to teach IELTS?

There is no certificate or licence to teach IELTS. You could, in theory, begin teaching it today. However, most IELTS teaching positions are at schools which only employ teachers with a minimum of a CELTA, an entry-level certificate for teaching English as a foreign language. More prestigious employers such as the British Council will sometimes require a DELTA, a diploma that builds on the CELTA with more in-depth study of second-language acquisition.

These are not the only relevant qualifications, however. A TEFL certificate is often accepted in place of the CELTA, while a master’s degree in TESOL will usually do away with the need for the DELTA. A master’s degree opens the door to university teaching which, while not always highly paid, certainly offers more status and perks than the private language school industry.

Wherever you happen to teach IELTS, one essential requirement is to hold a degree from an English-speaking university, since that is exactly the situation most of your students will be heading for. In fact, you can begin a career teaching IELTS by completing an intensive, one-month CELTA course right after university. Most of us, however, will gravitate towards IELTS after a variety of teaching experiences.

What kind of teaching does IELTS involve?

IELTS is usually taught in small groups, and students tend to fall into three categories: false beginners, intermediate learners, or near-natives.

False beginners are those who learned English while at school but have gone many years without using it. They may have substantial knowledge of English grammar and vocabulary, but they often cannot speak or write except in very basic sentences.

Intermediate IELTS students, particularly if they are older, may have ‘plateaued’. Their English ability may allow them to cope in everyday situations, but not necessarily in an academic or professional environment. IELTS teachers will therefore need to use special techniques to get students to break out of the plateau stage and begin using more advanced communication strategies.

Near-natives are already using English to an advanced level. What they want from a teacher is feedback on their test performance with direct reference to the IELTS assessment criteria. These students can be the most challenging, but also the most rewarding to teach.

In all three cases, learners have clearly defined needs and results are measured by the test. The ‘Keep them talking’ approach does not work so well for IELTS students. Teaching IELTS also means teaching academic skills such as argument and essay organisation. If you’re the kind of person who has no time for theory, IELTS teaching may not be for you!

Teach IELTS in Asia

Where can I teach IELTS?

There are IELTS test centres in more than 130 countries, which means there are IELTS teaching opportunities in more than 130 countries as well. Asia is by far the world’s largest source of international students, so it’s relatively easy to find work in China, Malaysia, Thailand, Vietnam, Korea, or Japan.  There are also many teaching positions in countries such as the UK and Australia which receive a lot of international students, though demand in these countries tends to peak seasonally around the academic year. Most IELTS instructors work for language schools. Teaching positions are also offered at universities, but often on a short-term or part-time basis. Self-employment as a private teacher is another option, but it helps if you can combine IELTS with other related areas of expertise such as TOEFL, TOEIC, FCE, or CAE.

Are IELTS teachers well paid?

While not exactly enjoying the lifestyle of the expatriate company transfer set, IELTS teachers should at least be able to earn an above-average income for the country in which they teach. Few, however, would choose to teach IELTS just for the money. For most teachers, it’s a way of funding an extended stay in another country, with all the cultural rewards that can bring.

Can I become an IELTS examiner?

A CELTA or DELTA and several hundred hours of IELTS teaching experience are often quoted as the minimum requirement, but the ease of becoming an examiner depends mainly on supply and demand in the country where you teach. While examiner work pays nicely, it’s unlikely to lead to an increase in earnings from teaching, as qualified examiners are forbidden from advertising their examiner status in their professional lives. Your local British Council or IDP website should tell you whether examiner training is available.

What are the long-term prospects of teaching IELTS?

On the face of it, excellent. International student mobility almost doubled between 2000 and 2010 and, while the rate of growth has slowed slightly, UNESCO predicts there will be more than 7 million students travelling to other countries for higher education by 2020, most of them to study in English.

Even in countries outside the Anglosphere, there is a growing tendency among universities to adopt English as the language of instruction, creating more demand for reliable and secure tests such as IELTS. With 2.5 million tests taken in 2014 and accreditation by over 7,000 institutions, IELTS enjoys such a dominant position in many territories that it is difficult to imagine it being replaced by another test within the next decade.

There is, however, a threat from automated language tests developed by companies such as Pearson and EF. The main attraction of such tests is that, by eliminating human examiners, they can provide results in days rather than weeks. At the same time, however, increasingly draconian visa regulations in countries such as the UK have boosted demand for Secure English Language Tests (SELTs), with IELTS considered the most reliable.

On the face of it, long-term prospects for IELTS and those who teach it appear to be very secure.

cropped-IELTS-Academic-Logo.jpgThis article is part of the Teach IELTS series at IELTS Academic. The article was updated in 2015 to include recent data on IELTS and international student mobility.

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