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2016 ELT Job Market in the United States

Depending where you are and where you want to be, 2016 was a good, bad, or typical year for ELT programs in the United States. 
  • Bad year for university jobs, teaching and administrative
  • Good year for community college jobs
  • Typical year (trending positively) for professor jobs
  • Typical year (unpredictable) for other jobs
If you want to learn more, read on. I describe each job sector through my interpretation of ELT job opening announcement data from the TESOL Career Center, Higher Ed, and The Chronicle of Higher Education.

University Jobs

I work at an intensive English program at a public university in the United States, and it's quite noticeable that the ELT job market has taken quite a hit this year with the Saudi government cutting scholarships. I saw this firsthand as the Saudi enrollment numbers at my university dropped, but this is only a few years where most programs saw record numbers of Saudi students. My data confirms this trend.
Since 2009, I've been keeping track of ELT job announcements in the United States. 2014 was the peak year of ELT jobs in American universities with 173 full-time job opening announcements. That's more than twice the number of announcements in 2016, 83, which is the lowest number since 2011, the year before the record number of Saudi students. The good news is that there is a steady stream of full-time job openings with March and October as the best months for reporting job openings at 13 each. Unfortunately, 2016 broke the three-year streak of a hot summer market for university ELT jobs. I infer that this means programs were not anticipating larger enrollments for the upcoming academic year.

In terms of administrative or director positions, 2016 was also the lowest year for announced job openings since 2011. I recorded 71 job openings compared to 103 in 2015, 94 in 2014, and 105 in 2013. June was a good month in 2016 for announcements with 10 job openings. The last month with 10 or more administrative job openings was August 2015. 2016 as a whole showed no downward trend as the number of job openings showed to be consistent with a mode of 7 job openings recorded in 6 months.

Community College Jobs

If the university ELT job market is cold, then the community college ELT job market is hot. 2016 was a record year for full-time job announcements, especially in California. Before 2016, there would be about one month per year with 10+ full-time job openings. 2016 had 4 months of 10+ job announcements with February posting a record 23 full-time jobs. 2016 posted record jobs every month from January through June and then again in August and December. 2016 was also the first year that I have observed more community college ELT jobs (106) than university ELT jobs (83).

However, I believe it's more difficult to get a full-time job at community college without having served as an adjunct instructor at the same institution for at least a year. I don't know how many of these full-time positions were filled internally, but I'm guessing most of them were. With Donald Trump coming in as the new President, I'm not confident that the hot ELT job market in community colleges will continue.


Most university and community college ELT jobs require a MA degree in linguistics, TESOL, or a related field. There have been a few that only required BAs, but I've seen a growing number of university ELT jobs requiring a PhD. PhDs are of course expected for those looking for a job as a professor, tenure-track or not. The job market for professor positions doesn't seem as volatile as the market for the other types. 2016 didn't appear to be an unusually hot or cold year for ELT professorships.

There were 74 tenure-track job announcements in 2016, up from 73 in 2015. 2014 was the record year since I've been recording with 86 job openings. 2012 was similar to 2016 and 2015 with 76 tenure-track job announcements. The rest of the years were lower: 2010 with 17, 2011 with 35, and 2013 with 42. From this data, I can only say that 2016 was a good but not great year for job hunters.

As for non-tenure positions, there were 30 job opening announcements in 2016. Let me be clear that these are not adjunct positions. They are full-time benefited positions, sometimes visiting or short-contract. It may be a good sign that the trend is moving down for non-tenure positions while the trend is moving up for tenure-track. 2012 was the record year for non-tenure positions at 49, followed by 2014 with 41 job non-tenure job openings. Other years were similar to 2016: 2011-29, 2013-31, 2015-34.

For both tenured and non-tenured positions, the market seems quite stable, slowly and surely recovering from the 2008 economic crisis. I would estimate that around 65% of these job openings require the applicant to have K-12 certification or teaching experience. A growing number but still under 50% require the applicant to have online teaching experience. For those applying to professor positions in linguistics, many require proficiency in at least another language, Spanish being the most preferred.

Other Jobs

This last category includes jobs teaching at the ELT chains, such as ELS, ESLi, and Shorelight, which are usually associated with universities. They also include publishing/editing jobs, government organizations, and non-profit organizations, such as the TESOL International Association and the Center for Applied Linguistics. These types of jobs have been growing a lot in the past few years, but 2016 (45) did not have as many jobs as 2015 (62). I believe the reason for this is the same for university jobs, lower student enrollment. The one employer with the most 2016 job announcements in this category was Shorelight Education, which specializes in university bridge programs for international students.

The interesting thing about this category is that most of these "other" jobs are often found in three locations: California, Boston, and the District of Columbia. 2016 marks the first time California overtook DC in job announcements for this category. When comparing job locations, California usually dominates the ELT job market in every category. In fact, California tied Ohio for university ELT job announcements for the first time in 2016.

My Predictions for 2017

Here are my predictions listed in the order of my confidence:
  1. The community college ELT job market will remain strong at least for another 6 months
  2. The "other" ELT job market will improve as I believe the US legislature will be favoring more privatization in the education sector
  3. The university ELT job market may suffer more if the Trump administration targets Muslims and immigrants in general
  4. The professor job market may continue its slow and steady increase if the US economy is stable and the demand for English language education continues to be high in public education in the US and abroad 
To view my raw data of job openings, click on the Job Market Archive tab above or click here.


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