10 Things You Need To Know About Teaching English Abroad

Want to get paid to live, work, and travel abroad? From Brazil to Turkey, teaching English abroad offers thousands of opportunities to accomplish all three at the same time. However, it can be an intimidating decision! Consider these 10 points as you explore your options.


1. Don’t Be Intimidated!

Too many people don’t even consider teaching English abroad because they think that they need to have a degree in education, prior teaching English experience, or that they need to speak a foreign language. In fact, with approximately 1 billion people learning English worldwide, the demand for native-speaking English teachers is so high that virtually any English speaker, even without a college degree, can be hired to teach English professionally overseas. It’s just a matter of planning, research, and getting the right training and guidance.


2. Take an Accredited TEFL Certification Course

You don’t need to possess prior teaching experience, a degree in education, or even a college degree to teach English abroad, but unless you hold a degree in teaching English as a foreign language (TEFL), you’ll want to take an accredited 120-hour TEFL certification course. Most schools around the world will not hire you off the street (or Internet) simply because you speak English; they want to employ teachers who have received a certain degree of training. Typically completed in a four-week intensive format (or the equivalent part-time or online), a professional-level TEFL certification course will incorporate live, practice teaching and provide training in critical teaching skills like lesson planning, methodology, and classroom management.

A word to the wise. Make sure the TEFL class meets the 120 hour standard, is accredited, and incorporates live practice teaching. Weekend classes, two week classes, and cheap online courses with no practicum will not provide you with the qualifications you need to be hired. A course that provides comprehensive and personal job placement assistance is also recommended.


3. Research is Key

Teaching English abroad is a totally realistic option for many people to live abroad and enjoy the international adventure of a lifetime, but it does require planning and research. From hiring seasons and salaries to interview procedures and visas, there are a bunch of matters to look into. Here are some top resources to help you get started:

  • Country Chart –This chart compares salaries, hiring requirements, visa info and various other aspects of teaching English in more than 50 countries
  • ESL Job Boards like www.daveseslcafe.com and www.eslemployment.com feature hundreds of job listings in addition to forums and articles
  • Want to know whether you might teach English abroad with a friend or where you might live overseas? Here are more than 200 FAQs & Articles about all aspects of teaching abroad
  • Susan Griffith’s Teaching English Abroad provides hundreds of pages of country specific information and contact info for hundreds of potential employers.
  • Firsthand accounts – Here are links to over 100 blogs, articles, and interviews from people that have taught abroad
  • Last, but certainly not least, you can gain great insights from teaching abroad articles on www.lifeafterstudyabroad.com

4. If You Want to Make Big Bucks, Head to Asia or the Middle East

In most nations in the Persian Gulf and East Asia, English teachers typically make enough salary to save 30 to 50 percent of their income after expenses and often receive free airfare and housing. This is common in nations like China, Saudi Arabia, and South Korea, where most first-time English teachers make enough to save $1,000 a month or more after expenses, which is great for paying student loans or funding extra travel.


5. Put Together a Realistic Timeline

The process of enrolling in a TEFL class, becoming certified, beginning your job search, and making travel arrangements, will usually take at least 3 – 6 months.


6. Engage Family and Friends

You will likely need their support both morally and perhaps financially. Once they understand the value of living and teaching abroad, parents will typically be more than happy to chip in for start-up costs like airfare and TEFL certification. Just remind them that this is a professional endeavor, not spring break or a new flat screen.


7. Be Aware of Hiring Seasons

In some parts of the world, hiring for English teachers is seasonal. Language schools in Europe, for example, conduct more of their hiring and interviewing in-person locally during the months of September (and into October in Spain) and again in January.

In South America, most language schools hire during March and into April (it’s the end of their summer break) and again in July – August.

In Asia, demand for English teachers is so high that private language schools are hiring year-round though public schools in South Korea. Though the job market is not as large, jobs can also be found throughout the year in the Middle East.


8. A College Degree is Required in Some Countries, But Not All

Most schools in Western Europe and Asian nations like Japan, South Korea, and Vietnam require a four-year degree. If you don’t have a four-year degree, most countries in Latin America offer great opportunities and major job markets like China, Russia, and Cambodia are also viable options.


9. Be Prepared for Startup Costs

One great aspect of teaching English abroad is that it provides a sustainable income that will enable you to live, travel, and work abroad for as long as you like. But like any major endeavor in life, it will require a financial investment. Startup costs will vary depending on where you want to teach, so count on $2,000 – $4,000 to cover TEFL certification, airfare, and supporting yourself for a month or two when you’re first getting started.

Hot Tip! Teaching English in Asian nations like China and South Korea can significantly lower startup costs because housing and airfare are typically provided.


10. Keep An Open Mind and Be Flexible

Just because you don’t know anything about a particular region, or because you haven’t considered teaching in a certain country does not mean that they can’t provide you with a rewarding and enriching experience. This is especially true in cases where you may have trouble finding good opportunities in your first choice of teaching destinations. If you insist that you will only consider teaching English in one particular destination, you are only cheating yourself of thousands of great opportunities around the globe.

John-BentleyAuthor: John Bentley
John Bentley is a Senior Admissions Advisor at the International TEFL Academy, which trains and certifies 1,500 people a year to teach English abroad and provides lifetime job search guidance to all students and graduates. He holds a BA from Harvard and an MSJ from Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism. While at Harvard, John wrote for the Egypt-Israel edition of the famous Let’s Go! travel guide series and he has worked in the field of international travel and education throughout his career. He also grew up in Egypt and has traveled to more than 50 countries around the globe.

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