How to Teach English Abroad: A Step-by-Step Guide for Everyone


You want to teach 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, created by a TEFL certified, experienced teacher who’s been in your shoes, to get your plans to teach English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) 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, requirements vary by region and country. Use this chart to get an overview of what is required to teach where (and other useful info): Jobs at a Glance.

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. If you do not have a degree you can teach, for example, in countries throughout Central and South America.
  • 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, but not all, 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 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 countries 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/citizen of a major English speaking country? 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 in certain countries, especially throughout Asia, visa requirements may stipulate that teachers are citizens of major English speaking countries such as the UK, US, or Canada. The bottom line? Be willing to be flexible if you are a non-native English speaker looking to teach abroad.

Step 2: Get TEFL certified if you are not already.

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.

There are two basic types of TEFL certification to choose from:  online training or traditional classroom training, which is called “onsite.” Here are the main points of each:

Online certification:

  • 100% online
  • Part-time schedule (work on the course when you can)
  • Accepted in many regions (Asia, Latin America) but not all
  • Does not include the hands-on teaching practicum (but you have the option to add one)
  • Affordable (approx. $200-$500, depending on course)
  • Comes with job placement resources you can use to find a TEFL job

Onsite certification:

  • 100% in the classroom
  • Intensive, full-time schedule: M-F for 8 hours each day, with homework
  • Accepted in all regions including Europe and the Middle East
  • Includes observed/evaluated teaching practice
  • A bit more of a financial investment (approx. $1500- $2500, depending on course)
  • Comes with personalized, lifetime job placement assistance to help you line up TEFL jobs

Step 3: Apply for jobs.

This is the fun part! Once you have determined where you want to teach and are qualified to teach, and you’ve gotten certified, you are ready to apply for jobs. Polish your resume by highlighting your TEFL certification and teaching-related experience and get started (click here for tips on writing a killer TEFL resume)! You can find open teaching positions worldwide using the BridgeTEFL Job Board, or via another popular  TEFL job board. Search by country and follow the application instructions just as you would for a job here at home.

To get in touch with a TEFL advisor to learn more, just click here!