Your Ticket to an International Adventure

Teaching English Abroad

Editor’s note: The International TEFL Academy‘s president, Bruce Jones, has appeared twice on the show as an expert guest. (Email him.) I shared his work in an earlier Stateless Man article, and he contributed this one to assist people who may be interested in teaching English abroad and to explain how his organization fits into the mix.

  • Are you looking to embark on a great international adventure but don’t have $10,000 or $20,000 in the bank to fund 6 – 12 months of travel?
  • Would you like to live and work as a local in a foreign country and make a difference in the local community?
  • Can you see yourself walking to work every day through the street markets of Bangkok, the medieval thoroughfares of Prague, or the grand boulevards of Buenos Aires?

If your answer is “yes,” consider teaching English abroad for your next international adventure. With 1 billion people learning English worldwide (300 million in China alone!), the demand for native and even fluent English speakers to provide English language instruction is so high that most English speakers can gain viable employment in dozens of countries worldwide, from Japan and Thailand to Spain and Costa Rica.

Where can I teach?

A native English speaker with a college degree who takes the equivalent of a four-week intensive training course, to Teach English as a Foreign Language (TEFL), can realistically gain employment in up to 100 countries around the globe. Even those who don’t hold a degree, or who may not even be native English speakers, can teach in dozens of countries around the globe.

Asia: Both developed nations like Japan and South Korea, as well as upcoming economic “tigers” like Vietnam, Thailand, and especially China, boast huge demand for English teachers, making the region largest job market in the world by far for those looking to teach English abroad. In addition, Asia tends to offer more lucrative opportunities, even for first-time teachers, who typically make enough to save 30%-50% of their income each month after expenses. This can amount to the equivalent of $300-$500 a month in countries like Thailand and China, and up to $1,000 a month in South Korea.  In most Asian nations, citizenship from a native-English speaking country is a normal requirement, as is a college or university degree and a TEFL certification.

Europe: From Spain and Italy to Poland and the Ukraine, tens of thousands of foreign English teachers are hired annually across the continent.  Most teaching opportunities will be in private language schools catering to adults, but in some countries like Spain, France and Austria, education ministries also recruit citizens of various English-speaking countries like the U.S., Canada, and the U.K. to teach in state schools. Most teachers are hired locally — often as freelancers or independent contractors — and are paid by the hour. Many teachers supplement their income by taking on private students on the side.

Latin America: If you fancy exploring the sun-kissed shores of Mexico, the Incan ruins of Peru, or the cosmopolitan thoroughfares of Santiago or Buenos Aires, you’re in luck. Nearly every nation in Latin America offers loads of opportunities to teach English. Major job markets include Chile, Argentina, Peru, Costa Rica and Mexico, and as in Europe, many language schools hire locally. Latin America is an especially good option for those who may not hold a four-year degree or citizenship from a native English speaking country as such factors as not as important as they are in most Asian, European, or Persian Gulf nations.

The Middle East: Uber-wealthy oil states in Persian Gulf countries like Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (U.A.E., including Dubai and Abu Dhabi), and Oman offer great salaries and benefits for English teachers. However, job markets are more challenging for those without a background in teaching. Demand for English teachers is also high in Arab states like Morocco, Tunisia, Egypt, and even Iraq.

But I have no background or experience in teaching; how can I teach English abroad?

Take an Accredited TEFL Certification Course! Unless you hold a degree in TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) or TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages), you’ll want to take  an accredited 120-hour TEFL certification course to train you how to teach English on a professional level. Gaining a TEFL certification is key to boosting your chances of getting hired as an English teacher abroad. Why?

  • Tens of thousands of schools and language institutes around the world will not consider hiring you as an English teacher unless you hold this credential. School administrators want to hire teachers who have been trained, not just somebody off the street who happens to speak English!
  • You need to learn the skills required of a professional teacher, including a grasp of teaching methodologies and practices; the ability to craft effective lesson plans; and the ability to manage a classroom and provide you students with a quality educational experience that will enable them gain further educational and professional opportunities.
What kind of TEFL certification course do I need?

Spend five minutes searching “TEFL certification” on Google and you’ll quickly discover that all sorts of training courses are available for teaching English abroad. They range from two-day weekend classes and self-taught online classes for $89 to four-week intensive classes taught by university instructors and state-of-the-art online courses that actually incorporate live practice teaching and instruction from highly qualified professors.

If you plan to teach English abroad professionally, you owe it to yourself to invest in the training you need to succeed as a teacher and to earn a recognized credential. Here are some basic standards you should look for in any TEFL certification course for teaching English abroad on a professional level:

  • At least 100 hours of coursework and training;
  • At least 6 to 20 hours of practicum (live practice teaching and observation with actual non-native English speakers and not role-playing with fellow TEFL classmates);
  • An curriculum that is accredited by a recognized, independent organization within the field;
  • Instruction provided by a qualified instructor (who has the equivalent of a Master’s Degree in TESOL or related field and extensive experience).

An accredited TEFL certification course for teaching English abroad on a professional level will typically equate to a 4-week intensive class in-person (Courses are available around the world.), or a 11 to 13 week part-time class in-person or online.

It is also recommended that you take your TEFL certification course from an organization that provides comprehensive job search guidance to assist you with the process of finding jobs and navigating the interview process.

One Final Tip: Research, Research, Research!

Teaching English AbroadMost English speakers have loads of options when it comes to destinations for teaching English abroad, and if you’re going to move half-way around the world to live in a foreign country, you better learn what you’re getting yourself into. You will need to consider some basic questions like: Where do I want to teach? What are hiring requirements for teaching in difference countries? Where do I find jobs and how do I interview? You will also need to learn about hiring seasons, salaries, visas, and many other considerations.

Here are some great resources for exploring such questions:

  • The International TEFL Academy website features hundreds of FAQs & Articles about teaching English in addition to country profiles for more than 50 countries around the globe. You can also call +1 773 634 9900 and speak to an expert advisor about all aspects of teaching English overseas.
  • Blogs and articles written by folks who are actually teaching English abroad offer great insights into the whole experience. 

 Susan Griffith’s Teaching English Abroad contains loads of information, including country descriptions; contact information for thousands of schools and recruiters; and tips on visas, hiring procedures, and financial issues like salaries and benefits.


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