IELTS is big business these days as people from all around the world look to sit this essential English exam. Getting a high band score in IELTS can open all sorts of doors – employment, education, immigration – and so each year more people begin some sort of IELTS training course. Naturally, many of them will need a part-time or full-time IELTS teacher to help them. That means that there are lots of opportunities for new IELTS teachers.
So, how do you become an IELTS teacher?
Requirements for Being an IELTS Teacher
Technically, there are no requirements for being an IELTS teacher. You do not need to pass a course or get a certificate in order to be an IELTS tutor. You could start up your own IELTS school and begin teaching tomorrow if you really wanted.
However, realistically, an IELTS teacher should have several important qualities.
Firstly, you should have a good grasp of the English language. You don’t need to be a native speaker, but it obviously helps to have that intuitive grasp of the language. You should be good enough that when you sit the IELTS exam yourself, you score at least a band 8. Unfortunately, there are many unqualified teachers out there who would probably fail to get a 7, but they somehow manage to give others advice.
It is also very important that you actually know about the IELTS exam, although this is something most native speakers or advanced English learners can pick up quickly. I would strongly recommend getting a set of IELTS exam papers and taking the test yourself, and then looking through some good IELTS books to get an idea about all the different possible question types. The Cambridge English Teacher platform also has an online IELTS training course, which is about 20 hours and is very useful for new teachers. At the end, you get a certificate, which will help you a little in convincing a prospective employer of your competence. FutureLearn also has some IELTS courses (as well as some tailored to ESL teaching in general).
Of course, teachers generally need a number of personal qualities – a sense of responsibility, patience, communicative abilities, and so on. These will all help you greatly as you move forward as a teacher, but never give up trying to improve yourself and always strive to be the best for your students.
An Extra Note on Qualifications
Although I mentioned above that no qualifications are, strictly speaking, required to teach IELTS, you will probably need certain qualifications depending on where you work. If you are freelancing, you might just find students and then get referrals; however, more than likely you will be working for a school or institution and they will want a BA or MA, and perhaps a CELTA or DELTA. At a minimum, they would probably want you to have a 120-hour TEFL certificate.
How Can I Get an IELTS Teaching Certificate?
I should mention that there is no such thing as an IELTS teaching certificate. At least, there is no official qualification or training course. The closest thing to an IELTS teaching certificate would be actually training as an examiner, but if you do that then you are no longer allowed to teach IELTS. (This would be a major conflict of interest.)
The organisers of IELTS do, however, offer advice to teachers and Cambridge does offer a 20-hour “How to Teach IELTS” course that you can download. New teachers should definitely make use of these resources.
English Ability and Becoming an IELTS Teacher
If you want to become an IELTS teacher, you really need to have great English skills. Sadly, there are thousands of IELTS teachers around the world who speak English very poorly and they give awful advice. These include both native learners and people for whom IELTS is a second or third language.
You might think, “I’m a native speaker so I can help people learn English!” That’s possibly true, but IELTS is a pretty advanced test and getting a band 7 or higher requires really knowing the language well. If you can’t explain the uses of the present perfect tense, for example, or how to punctuate a sentence properly, then you simply won’t be an effective teacher.
If you really do have a great intuitive grasp of the language (i.e. you are a native speaker), then you might want to spend a few weeks intensely studying grammar so that you can teach it effectively. This will really help you when students ask tricky questions or make mistakes that you need to correct.
Finding an IELTS Teaching Job
It isn’t hard to find an IELTS teaching job if you have the qualifications mentioned above, as well as some experience. Obviously, you can just search Google, but the immediate results aren’t very helpful.
The most popular ESL job board is Dave’s ESL Cafe, which has been around for many years. It is not IELTS-specific, but you may find something there.
You will find that many schools that want an IELTS teacher tend to only sometimes teach IELTS. You would be a general English teacher with a partly IELTS curriculum. This is true in high schools, universities, and training schools.
There are of course some specific IELTS training schools. In China, the biggest one is called Global IELTS. However, I don’t recommend them. I don’t know what it is like working there, but I feel they are scammy and make ridiculous promises to their students like, “Learn these 100 words and get a band 7!” Unfortunately, you will find institutions like this all over the world. I’m sure that working for such a place would be depressing, even if it paid well.
You can look into online IELTS teaching. Lots of people start their own IELTS businesses and teach by using Skype or Zoom. However, it is of course difficult to find students who are willing to pay you. One option is to use a company that matches students and teachers. There are quite a few, but some of the ones I have found online are:
I have personally never used any of these, but italki seems the best from what I have researched.
When teaching IELTS online, you have to make lesson plans yourself and figure out an appropriate schedule. You usually need to give a free or discounted lesson to attract students, and then set reasonable prices after that. It looks like beginning teachers need to start with a low rate and then increase it as they gain experience and high reviews. I have a guide to starting your own online business here.
Where Can I Teach IELTS?
Above, I mentioned that you can teach IELTS in schools, universities, training programmes, online, or even sometimes in tandem with a business or organization.
However, in which parts of the world can you teach IELTS?
Well, IELTS is pretty popular across the globe. It is huge in China right now, as well as in Vietnam, the Middle East, and India. In fact, much of Asia is currently IELTS-crazy. But you can also find IELTS courses in Europe and South America, and pretty much everywhere else. These days, many of my students come from France and Germany.
If you are very qualified, you may find a position teaching IELTS to English learners even in a country like the U.S. or U.K., although here the market is far more competitive and new teachers tend to get pushed out in favor of more experienced ones.
Some people want to know how to become an IELTS teacher in Australia. This is natural because IELTS is really popular there. There are many immigrants from countries around Asia and these people often prepare for IELTS in order to get their visas. Again, the advice from above is to get some sort of experience and qualification but remember that there are no actual official criteria that you need to satisfy. You can check out different IELTS training schools in Australia and ask them what sort of qualifications you need to get a job there.
First Days as an IELTS Teacher
Your first days as an IELTS teacher will be totally different depending on the job. If you picked up an online gig, you might be teaching for a few hours in the middle of the night on your laptop! On the other hand, you might be giving a lecture to 150 students in an auditorium. So it’s hard to say exactly what you will be doing…
Being an IELTS teacher, though, will involve teaching IELTS exam skills as well as grammar and vocabulary. You will have to impart knowledge as well as give feedback. You will most likely be dealing with all four sections of the IELTS exam:
The important thing is to make sure that you are prepared and that you know your students. Learn as much about the exam as possible before you start teaching, and go into your classroom (or virtual learning environment) feeling confident and prepared. Get to know your students and their goals, and then do whatever you can to help them achieve those goals. Make sure that whatever you teach is appropriate for their present level of English ability. You can figure that out by giving them a mock test early on.
Career Progression in IELTS
In IELTS, as in other ESL jobs, career progression is largely what you make of it. If you want to, you can go far and make a great career out of it… but if you don’t put in the effort, it probably won’t be worthwhile.
There are some IELTS teachers out there who have built successful businesses and soon have people working for them. They might move into educational management or they might start designing courses rather than just teaching them. Many people try making courses or writing books, but it’s now getting to be a really saturated market.
One popular option is becoming an IELTS examiner. This is definitely a highly-paid position and many people want to do it. You will need a lot of experience, great English skills, and a qualification. According to the British Council website, you just need a TEFL certificate, but any examiner I have spoken to tells me that you really need a CELTA.
Is There a Future in IELTS Teaching?
This is a big question and obviously no one can see into the future, but I feel confident that there will be a big market for IELTS teachers for the foreseeable future.
We can see from this Google Trends search that IELTS continues to be of worldwide interest:
Understandably, interest dropped off during the beginning of the covid pandemic as travel restrictions stopped people from going abroad. However, it is not only recovered but more people are searching for “IELTS” on Google than before the pandemic!
There are concerns about how technology – specifically AI – will affect the teaching industry, but I feel that certainly for the next few years IELTS will be lucrative.
And Finally, Money….
So here’s the big question: How much do IELTS teachers get paid?
Well, again, that is a huge variable. It depends entirely upon where you work and how good you are at the job. In China, where there aren’t many native English speakers, there is a massive premium on native speakers with IELTS knowledge. You can help prepare students for their IELTS test and get paid anywhere from $20-100 per hour. I’m not joking! If you are good at writing, you can coach students to improve their writing skills for about $100 per hour in some places.
Teaching online tends to pay less, but if you put in the hours and get good reviews, you can ask for $25+ per hour. Although you could earn far more by living and working in, say, Shanghai, $25/hour is not bad for sitting at home just about anywhere in the world! Some “digital nomads” choose to live in cheap locations like Thailand and then work with students from all over the world, earning good money.
If you are a skilled businessperson, then of course you may start your own online business and turn it into an IELTS empire! However, don’t expect that to happen overnight. It’s a competitive field and you will need a range of skills to achieve real success.
There are currently many opportunities to work as an IELTS tutor. If you have a degree, a good grasp of grammar, and preferably some sort of English teaching qualification, then you may qualify to do this job. It also depends on where you live. Working as an IELTS tutor in the UK or Australia is probably harder than finding a job in China or Vietnam. Still, this is a booming market and breaking into it isn’t hugely difficult.