Teaching English in the USA

Teaching English in the USA

A prevalent misconception within the TEFL world is that English-speaking countries and regions, like the United Kingdom, the USA and Australia, are out of bounds for TEFL teachers. The prevailing thought is that, well, these are English-speaking places - so why on earth would they need teachers who are skilled in giving English lessons?

While many TEFL teachers from the USA move abroad to pursue career opportunities and new adventures - a very worthwhile thing to do - it’s often forgotten that some of the most effective and meaningful English teaching can be done in English-speaking countries. Simply put, not everybody is proficient, even if it is a national language, and the stigma around not being able to speak the “native” language is a real issue for countless people.

91% of the American population speak English “very well” , with 8.2% unable to speak it to the same level of proficiency. That might not sound like a huge number, but consider that the population of the United States is nearly 332 million. There are roughly 45 million immigrants living in the USA, many of whom will undoubtedly need help learning English.

So, the demand for TEFL teachers is most certainly there. Let’s explore the USA as a destination for teaching English.

Why there’s demand for TEFL teaching in the USA

An important point that needs stressed here: it’s wrong to assume there aren’t loads of teaching opportunities and eager English learners in the USA.

Though yes, English is the national language, not everyone in the US is proficient. This has a knock-on effect for people who aren’t English speakers in the USA - everything from voting, sorting health care, following safety protocols, finding work is affected. 

By teaching English in an English-speaking country, you can truly empower those who are disenfranchised. Consider how scary and confusing it must be, at times, to move somewhere and not speak the local language. 

TEFL in English speaking countries opens doors. It improves the economic and social circumstances of any given individual. Take, for example, schoolkids; if you are able to tutor school-age children and improve their English skills, they can advance in school, make friends and join clubs. If you’re tutoring adults, you can help people find work, translate important life admin for them, help them gain access to local amenities and, most crucially of all, help them to attain independence.

It really is crucial. With the sheer number of people who aren’t proficiency in English living in the USA, the chances to make a difference are abundant.

A globe with North America visible

Language schools/public schools

Before we proceed, an important note: it’s extremely hard - impossible, much of the time - to move from one English-speaking country to another in order to work as a TEFL teacher. The reason? Countries don’t tend to issue visas for jobs that can be filled by their own citizens. 

Paid work can be extremely hard to find. Building experience through voluntary work, or teaching English abroad elsewhere, is a very good idea. That’s something to bear in mind as we go on to discuss the TEFL landscape in the USA.

If you’re an American citizen, though, and you’re planning on sharpening your TEFL skills close to home, you’ll need at least a  TEFL certificate with 120 hours of training before considering working in the TEFL industry.

Where do paid opportunities tend to lie? Language schools and, naturally, the public school system. There are a huge number of language schools from coast to coast, offering a range of different classes. Business English is popular, as is exam preparation, which can be the catalyst for many a successful job application or university place. Different age ranges are catered for, from junior classes right up to the elderly.

To find work in public schools, you’ll need a degree and a TEFL certificate at least, due to the sheer competition.Not only that, some interesting experience of teaching would be hugely advantageous.


Of course, there’s always tutoring. Voluntary tutoring is a fantastic way to build TEFL experience, working with community projects for refugees and asylum seekers . There are many amazing organisations where TEFL teachers are truly needed. For example, Refugee Council USA are full of opportunities for refugee assistance from coast to coast. ORAM (Organization for Refuge, Asylum and Migration) focus on members of the LGBTQ+ community who have fled persecution, and Alight is an organisation based in the US that helps refugees in different parts of the world, with a robust educational volunteering programme. 

World Relief Western Washington delivers English classes to refugees, from Family Literacy to classes for children or adults specifically. Hope English School has a similar function, as does the Refugee Educator Academy . Volunteering is a fantastic opportunity, and with current world events as they are, a lot of people need your help.

If you’re looking to earn from teaching English, it’s never been easier to set yourself up as an online English teacher . Advertising on Facebook, LinkedIn etc, or even leafleting in your local community, is bound to bring clients. From elementary through to the university level, tutoring is a fruitful business.

Alternatively, at the top end of the TEFL earning scale, English courses in universities and community colleges need lecturers. If you have the experience, a master’s degree (at least), some history in academia and, of course, a high-quality TEFL certification, you’re in demand.

Young students sitting at desks

Opportunities and resources in the USA

If you’re not from the USA and you’re looking for TEFL work in the Land of the Free, then internships and initiatives are your best bet. 

Alliance Abroad Group offers certified teachers the chance to work on long-term programmes (3-5 years) teaching in the United States. What’s more, they’ll sponsor your visa - a huge help!

Amity are on the search for experienced, qualified TEFL teachers to work in the USA for up to 3-5 years.

Central Michigan University is located in Mt. Pleasant and has a language centre where TEFL jobs can be found.

If you want to try to find work in Massachusetts, home of the New England Patriots, Harvard University and Matt Damon, City Year looks for volunteer teachers to ship up to Boston.

ELI is the English Language Institute at the University of Alabama, if the southern US states are more your thing.

Fullbright Teacher Exchanges runs the Fulbright Distinguished Awards in Teaching Program for International Teachers. The great news for qualified UK teachers: if successful, you can work in the USA for up to 4 months.

Greenheart needs volunteers for its Californian summer camps. Great for the CV, and a fantastic way to explore the 3rd biggest US state.

Kaplan International has schools in 7 American locations. All positions with Kaplan are paid, and paid quite well: at least $15 per hour, or $31,200 per year for full-time positions.

Spirit Cultural Exchange is looking for qualified teachers to full elementary and high school roles. They require two years of experience and a degree in your teaching field.

The USA: Full of great options

While it can be nigh-on impossible to travel into the US to teach English, there are countless chances for US citizens with TEFL certificates to make a lasting positive impact on the lives of others.

What is TEFL about, after all, if not community? Understanding each other and finding common ground? With the United State’s history as a “melting pot” of cultures, it’s not a one-way thing; while you can teach English, you can learn about other cultures and ways of life, just as you would teaching overseas.

It’s also worth remembering that places like Puerto Rico , Hawai’i, the US Virgin Islands and other territories will have TEFL opportunities for US citizens who want to travel and work, within the auspices of the United States. 

Again, while the idea of travelling abroad and teaching English is massively alluring - and thousands do it - there are areas and communities that need help learning the USA’s national language, for all kinds of reasons. Teaching English in the USA is more than worth doing, and there are countless ways to do it.

For more on teaching in the USA, read our guide here! And see our previous blog post about TEFL in English-speaking countries .

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