Professional Development for ESL Teachers – 8 Ways to Boost Your Resume

August 12, 2021
ESL professional development

Professional development for ESL teachers is sometimes overlooked, but it’s important. Whether you’re looking for a new position or want to move ahead at your current job, ESL professional development can help you stand out to employers as someone who stays on top of trends in education and values lifelong learning. To make your resume shine, we’ll share eight professional development opportunities, such as earning specialized TEFL/TESOL certificates, attending webinars, and applying for TEFL/TESOL fellowships.

What is meant by professional development for ESL teachers?

Professional development is learning designed to improve one’s capability, expertise, and knowledge in a certain job or career field. This learning often involves earning or maintaining certain credentials through academic certifications and coursework but can also involve informal learning opportunities, such as peer groups or conferences.

When it comes to ESL professional development for teachers, for example, a TEFL/TESOL-certified, experienced teacher might take a specialized course to learn a new skill, such as teaching English online, or attend a TESOL conference in-person or online to stay on top of the latest methods of teaching English.

Why is professional development important for ESL teachers?

Professional development for EFL teachers provides opportunities for both traditional and online English teachers to stand out among other professionals in this highly competitive field. It can improve your chances as an applicant and help you advance in your current job.

Furthermore, TEFL/TESOL professional development is important if you want to continue to be a better and more successful teacher for your students. Without participating in professional development opportunities, teachers can become stagnant in their teaching practices and in their EFL careers.

Olivia, a teacher in China, on during a professional development event in Indonesia

Olivia, a teacher in China, with colleagues during a professional development event in Indonesia

What are some examples of professional development for ESL teachers?

There are countless opportunities for ESL professional development. Below are eight of the best ways you can take part in this kind of ongoing learning, all of which will give your resume a boost and provide talking points for your next TEFL/TESOL job interview.

1. Earn a TEFL/TESOL certification of at least 120 hours

If you don’t already hold an internationally-recognized TEFL/TESOL certificate, earning this credential will open doors to a wider range of teaching opportunities both worldwide and online. Most reputable employers require a certification of at least 120 hours, so if your current certificate is fewer hours than that, upgrading it to meet this international standard will result in more opportunities, as there are various types of jobs you can get with a TEFL/TESOL certificate. Even if you’re already a teacher, it’s important to get TEFL/TESOL certified to advance your career. Fortunately, earning a TEFL/TESOL certificate online is an option, so it’s possible to take this step no matter where in the world you’re located!

2. Specialize your training/certification

If you’re already TEFL/TESOL certified, specialized courses will enhance your resume by showing employers that you go above and beyond and value continuous professional development.

Specialized Certificates

Teachers can specialize in high-demand areas, such as teaching young learners or teens, to qualify for more diverse jobs and be better prepared for the classroom. Specialized training also provides opportunities for experienced teachers to expand into new and growing areas of TEFL/TESOL, such as teaching English online or using Content and Language Integrated Learning (CLIL), a bilingual education method growing in popularity all around the globe.


You can even take professional development courses through Bridge via TEFL/TESOL Micro-credentials! These short, targeted courses cover practical, current topics in English language teaching, and you can take as many as you like. There are plenty of courses geared toward online English teachers working from home as well. You’ll also have the option to get tutor support in your micro-course and to earn a verifiable certificate and digital badge upon completion.

Available Micro-credential courses are the following, and more are added on a continual basis:

General Micro-credentials

Micro-credentials for teaching English online 

3. Showcase your achievements with digital badges

Digital badges for BridgeTEFL certification

When you complete a TEFL/TESOL certification course or specialized certificate with Bridge, you will receive a digital badge that allows you to highlight your achievement. Add digital badges to your resume, LinkedIn profile, or Bridge Job Board Teacher Portfolio to showcase your professional development. These stackable, shareable digital credentials provide employers with the full scope of the program you completed with just one click.

4. Attend or present workshops at your school or virtually

Team up with colleagues to identify areas in your teaching methods or your school that could use improvement, such as handling challenging students online. Then, host a workshop on the specific skill set that needs to be addressed. Workshops can be held in-person or virtually via software like Zoom.

These professional development workshops can be scheduled on a monthly or bi-monthly basis; teachers can take turns presenting or you can host a roundtable discussion instead. Consider incorporating peer evaluations or self-reflective practices like journaling into your workshops, providing teachers an opportunity to share the areas in which they excel and in which they need to improve. That way, you’ll never run out of workshop topics to cover!

TEFL teacher Carol with some of the Cambodian teachers she trains

Carol, in Siem Reap, Cambodia, holding a training workshop for local teachers

5. Connect with ESL peers and influencers

There are various ways to connect with ESL peers or other experts in the field. Try joining an interactive TEFL/TESOL training course, such as the IDELTOnline, with an international cohort of trainees in order to share ideas with other teachers through online forums, discussion threads, and collaborative projects.

You can also join EFL/ESL groups on social media sites like Facebook. These groups provide teaching support and allow you to discuss ESL teaching methods and ideas with other professionals. Some groups even revolve around specific topics, such as lesson planning, to help you grow in specialized areas. Others, such as the Bridge TEFL/TESOL Jobs Facebook Group, focus on job searching.

You can also connect with ESL peers through networking events like conferences. Use these opportunities to attend information sessions, share ideas, and learn from experts in the industry.

Join the Bridge Teaching English Online Facebook Group to connect with teachers around the world.

6. Attend virtual or in-person TEFL/TESOL conferences

Attending TEFL/TESOL conferences is a great way to continue your EFL professional development. There are many annual regional, national, and international conferences available to teachers, and these conferences are even shifting to a 100% online format.

TEFL teachers at a TESOL event in Colombia

Bridge staff members, Anna and Lisa, attending the TESOL conference in Colombia

Two of the most popular include the TESOL International Convention & English Language Expo and the IATEFL International Conference. Conferences such as these provide opportunities for ESL teachers to network and hear from leading experts in the industry. Plus, attending a prestigious TEFL/TESOL conference shows employers your continued interest in professional development and your involvement in the EFL community.

Take a deeper look at TESOL and IATEFL to learn more about these ELT industry giants.

7. Apply for a TEFL/TESOL fellowship or grant

Applying for a teaching fellowship or research grant in an ESL-related field can give your career a huge boost in terms of making you more marketable and providing you with invaluable teaching experience.

National programs, such as the U.S. Department of State’s English Language Fellow Program, are competitive, and acceptance into one of these teaching programs looks great on your resume. If you’d rather focus on a research project for a specific ESL topic, try searching your government’s education site for grants. Most countries have a decent budget for awarding grant money to teachers for ESL projects, and having specialized, government-funded research under your belt will set you apart from other English language teaching professionals.

8. Get your master’s in TESOL

This one may not be as easy as getting a specialized TEFL/TESOL certificate, but if you’re thinking of making teaching a career, consider getting your master’s in TESOL. An MA TESOL opens up the most competitive job opportunities and qualifies you to teach at a higher level, such as at universities. MA TESOL jobs are diverse and include opportunities as an academic advisor or a materials writer.

If you’re not ready to make the commitment to a master’s program right now or you want to explore other options, consider ESL continuing education classes or certifications like the Bridge IDELTOnline™, which can be taken as a pathway to graduate study at Bridge partner universities.

Is a master’s in TESOL worth it for you? Read this article to find out.

Training and participating in English language teachers’ professional development opportunities, such as attending conferences or completing specializations, makes you a better teacher. But, it’s also key to enhancing your TEFL/TESOL resume and standing out in a competitive job market.

If you think earning a master’s in TESOL might be the right step for you in professional development, consider getting started with the Bridge IDELTOnline™ course, which can be a pathway to your master’s.