Can I make a career out of TEFL?

For many potential EFL teachers, comments from family and friends such as “that sounds great, but what will you do when you get back?” are a common theme as many people don’t see teaching English as a ‘real job’. It is not unusual for people who don’t understand the teaching profession to assume that teaching English abroad is something young people do for a bit of fun before they start their real life and career. While many people do only teach EFL for a short time and some are only in it for the adventure, there are plenty of others who take the role seriously and embark on a successful career in the classroom.

Is a long-term career in TEFL really possible?

Absolutely, many people choose to have a long-term career working within the English language teaching industry in countries all over the world. In most cases these individual journeys start with the intention of earning some money while exploring unfamiliar parts of the world. However, for some the realization that teaching is something they are good at and they enjoy doing can lead to a longer commitment to their overseas adventure.

Will I need any qualifications to make a career out of TEFL?

Theoretically it is still possible to work as an EFL teacher without any qualifications in some parts of the world, but these opportunities are increasingly few and far between. In the modern age of language learning a formal TEFL certification is all but essential in most cases. If you want to make a real career out of teaching English and earn a good living you should gain a good quality TEFL qualification before you start out. By completing your course you will learn all the basic skills required in the classroom and you can then consider a higher level qualification such as a TESOL Diploma or a teaching related degree when you are ready to move up the career ladder.

Will I have any long-term options other than standard classroom teaching?

Many people get on a plane expecting to teach for a year but then enjoy the lifestyle so much that they carry on year after year. For others the journey leads them to want more responsibility, a higher salary, or maybe just a change from everyday classroom teaching. If you find yourself in this position you can consider a range of options, such as management roles in schools or language centers, teacher training positions, writing teaching materials, or even setting up your own online teaching business.

Is a long-term career in TEFL financially viable?

While few people enter the teaching profession for the money, it is still possible to earn a comfortable living teaching English abroad. In the Middle East, for example, large tax free salaries are widely available. These very attractive contracts draw a large number of teachers to countries such as the UAE, Qatar, and Saudi Arabia, although a degree is almost always required. Asia also offers plenty of earning potential in countries with a large demand, including China, Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan. Once again, a degree is usually required and previous experience might be necessary to land the highest paying positions.

Many of the teaching jobs in these regions will also include a range of extra benefits in your contract. Some will include free accommodation which is a real bonus as this is generally the biggest outgoing for most overseas teachers. Paid airfares in and out of the country are quite common, while health insurance and end of contract bonuses are also a feature of many contracts.

One benefit that teachers particularly enjoy is a large amount of paid holiday in comparison to most other jobs. In many cases EFL teachers receive at least two or three times the standard vacation time. For some this is the perfect opportunity to travel and explore farther afield, while others use it to head back home to visit family and friends.

Do I need any specific skills to make a career out of TEFL?

You will learn all the basic skills required during your initial TEFL training course. You can then develop them and learn further skills through general classroom experience and by adding specialized and advanced level TEFL certifications to your portfolio. As a fair amount of a teacher’s day involves speaking in front of the class, spoken communication skills are clearly important. It is also highly important to be fair and approachable if you want your students to be comfortable during your lessons. You should also be aware of the importance of listening skills as knowing when to step back and let the students do the talking is vital in an EFL classroom.

Another hugely important area is the manner of your communication. As your class will be full of non-native English speakers, you need to use clear and simple instructions that are suitable for the language level of the whole group. Unfamiliar words should obviously be avoided until they have been taught in the class, and using a slow, clear voice will go a long way towards getting the right information across to your students. Finally, you should always be aware of cultural sensitivity. In many cultures there are subjects that are best left out of the classroom. Before starting a job in a new environment it is essential that you find out about any of these to avoid any unnecessary embarrassment or upset during lessons.