How to Teach English Abroad: A Step-By-Step Guide for Everyone
You want to start your adventure teaching English abroad, but with all the various websites, blogs and random advice out there, you’re not sure how to get started. Don’t let information overload stall your plans! Follow this easy, step-by-step instruction guide on how to teach English abroad, created by a TEFL certified, experienced teacher who’s been in your shoes, to get your plans to teach English in gear.
Step 1: Take an inventory of your qualifications to determine where you can teach.
There’s no one, single profile of an English teacher. It’s possible to teach English regardless of your qualifications, age, or first language. You might be a recent college graduate, a professional who wants to switch careers, or a retiree.
However, where you can teach will depend, to some degree, on these factors. There are jobs available teaching English in virtually any country in the world, but requirements vary by region and country.
Here are the questions that will determine where you can teach:
Do you have a bachelor’s degree (or higher degree)?
Many countries will have this requirement or preference when hiring teachers—but not every country. So, can you teach English without a degree? Yes! For example, TEFL qualified teachers can teach in countries throughout Central and South America and some countries in Europe. Usually teachers without a degree simply need to have a strong command of English, a TEFL certificate, and perhaps some experience (whether as part of a TEFL course, volunteer work, or a teaching job). Another option for teachers without a degree is to teach English online. While this may not come to mind as a teach-abroad opportunity, remember that with a good Wi-Fi connection, you can teach online from anywhere in the world! Learn more: here are 5 countries where you can Teach English abroad without a degree.
Did you take (or do you plan to take) your TEFL certification course in the classroom or online?
Both types of TEFL training—online and in person—will lead to teaching jobs, especially if your certificate is at least 100 hours. Online TEFL certification is accepted in most countries worldwide. For those with an eye on teaching in Europe or the Middle East (and who do not have teaching experience), a 4-week, classroom-based certification or a university-level online TEFL course will lead to more jobs.
Do you have any teaching experience?
Don’t worry– you actually don’t have to have experience to teach in most countries, such as many locations in Asia and Latin America. For people looking to teach in the very high-paid region of the Middle East, on the other hand, experience will usually be required. Many teachers with plans to teach in the Middle East simply begin their career in another region in order to gain the experience they need to get hired later in countries like the UAE or Qatar.
Are you a native English speaker or do you have a high level of English proficiency?
Plenty of people who speak a first language other than English are teaching successfully either at home or abroad. But it’s important to be aware that employers will expect teachers to have an excellent command of English, including grammar and pronunciation, in order to qualify for jobs. Some schools may even have “native English speaker” requirements, but luckily, this outdated limitation is coming under scrutiny more and more as English is recognized as the world’s lingua franca. The bottom line? Be willing to be flexible if you are a non-native English speaker looking to teach abroad.
Step 2: Decide where you’d like to teach (region/country).
People sometimes wonder where there is a demand for English teachers. It’s true that there is a big push for foreign teachers in Asia, for example, where the government in countries such as South Korea has made English instruction a national priority. However, in reality, the demand for EFL teachers is not limited to Asia; there is a desire and need for English language instruction in just about every country around the world.
That’s great news for aspiring TEFL teachers, who have plenty of options when it comes to choosing a TEFL destination, such as Europe, the Middle East, Africa, or Latin America. The decision of where to teach is more a matter of matching your interests, salary requirements, and qualifications to a particular country.
Here’s a summary of the most popular regions:
This is a popular region for new teachers, since salaries are good in countries like South Korea, Japan, China, and Taiwan, and cost of living can be low. For example, in Japan, a qualified teacher can make around $2,000-$2,500 USD per month. In South Korea, a teacher might make $2,000 USD per month and have housing and airfare included in the teaching contract! Teaching experience is not usually required in this region, except sometimes in the major cities, though a university degree is almost always required.
Teaching in Europe may not be as lucrative as Asia due to a higher cost of living in many countries, but the culture and the travel opportunities make it an appealing destination for many teachers. Qualifications to teach here may be a bit stricter than other regions, with a bachelor’s degree usually required and sometimes teaching experience. European nationals are favored for jobs in Western Europe; however, this citizenship limitation doesn’t tend to extend to Central or Eastern Europe, making countries like the Czech Republic or Ukraine an option for non-European teachers.
Cost of living is low in this region, and teachers with some knowledge of Spanish may choose to teach here to build on that or more easily communicate. This region also tends to have more flexible hiring requirements for teachers, meaning those without a 4-year degree or teaching experience can often find positions here, in countries such as Mexico, Costa Rica, Chile, or Peru.
The Middle East
This is probably the highest-paid TEFL region, though it’s not as popular a choice for teachers, especially new ones since requirements are also quite high. In the United Arab Emirates, for example, a teacher might make $3,000 – $4,000 USD per month (tax-free), with housing and airfare provided. However, to qualify for positions there (which are commonly at universities), you will likely need classroom-based TEFL certification, a bachelor’s or master’s degree, and as much as three or four years’ experience teaching English abroad.
Step 3: Decide between an online and in-person TEFL certification course, if you are not already certified.
Unless you are a licensed teacher in your home country or hold a degree in education, you will likely need to be TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) certified to get hired as an English teacher abroad. Most schools look for teachers with at least 100 hours of training and may also prefer teachers with added specializations in the area they will be teaching, such as Business English or Young Learners.
There are two basic types of TEFL certification to choose from: online training or traditional classroom training (which is sometimes called “onsite”). TEFL certification cost, as well as your schedule and the type of training you prefer, will all factor into your choice of course. Here are the main points of each to help you decide:
- 100% online
- Part-time schedule (work on the course when you can)
- Accepted in many regions (Asia, Latin America)
- Does not include the hands-on teaching practicum (but you have the option to add one)
- Affordable (approximately $200-$500, depending on course)
- Comes with job placement resources you can use to find a TEFL job
- 100% in the classroom
- Intensive, full-time schedule: Monday through Friday for 8 hours each day, with homework
- Accepted in all regions worldwide including Europe and the Middle East
- Includes observed/evaluated teaching practice
- A bit more of a financial investment (approximately $1500- $2500, depending on course)
- Comes with personalized, lifetime job placement assistance from a TEFL advisor to help you network and line up jobs
Step 4: Complete your TEFL course and any additional specializations.
If you choose a self-paced, online TEFL course, you’ll work through it in your spare time, within a 3-month time frame, under the guidance of a tutor. Bridge Online TEFL courses include components such as:
- Tutor guidance
- How-to teaching videos
- Practice quizzes
- Grammar review/assessment
- Lesson planning practice
- Ongoing assessment
Some people find it hard to stay on track in a self-paced, self-study course, and prefer the structure and interaction of a 12-week, graduate-level TEFL course like the International Diploma in English Language Teaching (IDELTOnline). Have you ever taken an online university course? Then you’ll be familiar with this type of advanced-level TEFL training which you join a cohort of other trainees and contribute to discussion boards as well as attend webinars.
This type of training is completed either in your home country before you go abroad, or in the country where you’d like to teach. Getting TEFL certified in the classroom, in the country where you plan to teach can make it easier to transition into a job immediately after the course is over, since you’ll get local job placement assistance “on the ground” when you graduate. Your schedule in an onsite TEFL course will be intensive, with classes Monday through Friday from about 8-5. You’ll usually attend lectures in the morning and practice teach in the afternoon.
With either type of training, you may decide to complete TEFL specializations, as well. These courses can be taken with any general TEFL certification, or added afterward as professional development. For example, a teacher with plans to teach English in China may add a Specialized Certificate in Teaching Young Learners to his existing certification, to qualify for better jobs. Like self-paced TEFL courses, these targeted trainings are done individually, at your own pace, and can boost your resume and make you stand out when applying to jobs.
Step 5: Prepare your TEFL resume and search for jobs in your location of interest.
This is the fun part! Once you have determined where you want to teach, and you’ve gotten certified, you are ready to apply for jobs. Polish your TEFL resume by highlighting your certification and specializations as well as any teaching-related experience (click here for tips on writing a killer TEFL resume)! When your resume is ready, you can search open teaching positions worldwide using the BridgeTEFL Job Board, or another popular TEFL job board. Filter jobs by country and other criteria and follow the application instructions just as you would for a job here at home.
Step 6: Interview with schools abroad and decide where to accept an offer.
Once you have applied for jobs, you’ll need to be ready for interviews. How does this work for a job halfway across the world? Usually the interview is done by video, such as through Skype. Remember you’ll need to be flexible on the interview time, since the school may be in an entirely different time zone!
Treat the video interview just as you would an in-person one, by dressing professionally and arriving on time, fully prepared. Read this article to find out what a Skype job interview is really like and to see some example questions employers might ask.
If the interview goes well, you’ll likely be offered a teaching position, and the school will send you a written contract to review. Read it carefully before accepting the position, checking for things such as:
- Salary (Is it as-stated in job ad or during the interview?)
- Benefits (such as accommodations, visa assistance, airfare reimbursement, and language lessons)
- Monetary bonuses (sometimes offered for contract extensions)
- Monetary penalties (such as for early termination of contract)
- Restrictions on tutoring privately, outside of your job (if this is something you’re interested in doing for extra money)
Be cautious about the contract but don’t feel like you’ll be absolutely locked in if you sign it. While not ideal, contracts can be broken if necessary, but it’s always important to be aware of any financial penalties for doing so. It’s also important to consider how an early termination of contract may be viewed by future employers.
Ready to take the first step? Download this free eBook: How to Get Started Teaching English Abroad.