Should I teach English abroad?

Whether you are just looking to earn some extra cash during a gap-year or are planning a more serious move into the world of education, teaching English as a foreign language has many benefits. The demand for TEFL qualified teachers is continually growing in many parts of the world and opportunities for making teaching a career are abundant. Also, if you decide that it is time to head back home, there are many directions in which your overseas teaching experience can take you.

Are TEFL teachers in demand in English speaking countries?

Although for many TEFL course graduates the aim is to head overseas to experience living and working in a foreign culture, it is not the only option. Plenty of people use their teaching qualification within their home country as increasing levels of immigration have led to a rapid increase in demand for ESL teachers in English speaking countries, such as Australia, Canada, the UK, and the USA. While there are teaching opportunities in most parts of the world, if you are newly qualified and short on experience it might make sense to look at countries that have the strongest demand.

Are TEFL teachers in demand in China?

As it has the world's largest population it is no surprise that China offers the single largest market for foreign English language teachers. However, you should be aware that foreign teachers technically require a degree to qualify for a work permit. While the two big cities of Beijing and Shanghai do tend to adhere to this policy, you will find that the rules are often less strictly enforced in many other areas.

Are TEFL teachers in demand elsewhere in Asia?

Outside of China there are plenty of other countries where there is a strong demand for foreign teachers. Highly developed countries such as Japan, South Korea and Taiwan all have a long history of employing large numbers of foreign teachers. There is potential to earn a high salary in all of these locations, although the competition is likely to be stronger and the requirements more stringent than in China. Southeast Asia is another hotbed for those looking to teach English. Although salaries are unlikely to match those of the countries above, the laidback lifestyle and low cost of living is a major plus side for many. The countries with the most numerous opportunities in this region are Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, and the Philippines.

Are TEFL teachers in demand in Europe?

The demand for foreign teachers is generally very high across Europe. Countries such as Italy, France and Spain have been attracting teachers from all over the world for decades. However, you will find that competition is strong for jobs in the most popular areas. In recent years countries further east, such as the Czech Republic, Poland and Hungary, have also become more popular as demand has grown rapidly and the cost of living is considerably lower.

Are TEFL teachers in demand in Latin America?

Most countries in Central and South America have some level of demand for foreign teachers and few requirements for experience and qualifications other than a TEFL certificate. Traditional hotspots for employment include Argentina, Chile, Mexico, and Costa Rica. In recent years other countries such as Colombia, Ecuador and Peru have also seen a steady increase in demand.

Can I make a long-term career out of TEFL?

YES, you absolutely can have a long-term career as an EFL teacher. For the majority of people who head overseas to teach English, it all starts with a small idea to see a bit of the world while earning some money. After a while, many people realise that teaching is something that they enjoy doing and are actually quite good at, so why not continue developing the skills and knowledge needed to make it something more long-term?

What qualifications do I need to make a career out of TEFL?

If you want to teach overseas in the long-term, a TEFL certification is a must. While jobs can be found in some countries without any qualifications, the better paying jobs that offer the best benefits and working conditions will always be out of reach without any teaching credentials on your CV/resume. Once you have a TEFL certificate and have found your feet in the classroom, the next step up the career ladder will generally be made more realistic by adding a higher level qualification to your paperwork, such as a TESOL Diploma or even a teaching related degree.

What other TEFL related jobs are available in the long term?

There are many thousands of people worldwide who originally set off to teach for a year, but found they loved the lifestyle so much that they have carried on teaching in the classroom year after year. However, some teachers find that they want to look at other avenues in the teaching profession that offer greater responsibility, a higher salary, or simply a change from the classroom. Jobs such as teacher training, writing teaching materials, educational consultancy, or various management positions in schools or language centers are all possibilities for a successful career.

What are the benefits of a long-term career in TEFL?

While it is not all about money for many teachers, it is true that you can earn a very good living by teaching English overseas. The hottest destination for teaching salaries is the Middle East where employers in countries such as the UAE, Qatar, and Saudi Arabia, pay very large salaries that are tax free! Asia also has some great options for earning top dollar, including China, Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan. However, in order to qualify for positions in these countries you will generally need a university degree and the best paid positions will also require a year or two of classroom experience.

Many of the better paid jobs in these regions also come with extra benefits that can really bump up your income and saving power. Housing is often the most expensive outlay for teachers abroad, but if you have gained the qualifications and experience necessary to land jobs in the hottest regions for teaching then you will often get free accommodation included in your contract. Other typical benefits offered by the top TEFL jobs include airfares in and out of the country, health insurance, signing on and end of contract bonuses, and transport subsidies.

Another well known benefit of teaching is the amount of annual leave that you get as standard. While your friends back home might get up to four weeks vacation a year, most teachers will have two or three times as much paid leave. Some teachers take the time to visit family and friends, while others head off to explore the wider region. With the amount of time you have and the money you should save during term time, there are no limits to where you can go or what you can experience.

What skills will I need to make a career out of TEFL?

Many of the skills you need can be learned during your initial TEFL course, by experience in the classroom, or by taking higher level teaching qualifications. One of the most important skills is written and spoken communication. As a large part of teaching involves talking in front of the class, it is important that you are a confident speaker who is able to be informative and approachable. You also need to be a good listener and know when to take a back seat and let the students do the talking.

How you communicate the subject of the lesson is also a vital skill. As your students are non-native English speakers, you need to use simple sentences and clear instructions to avoid unnecessary confusion in the classroom. Avoid using difficult words that they haven?t learned yet and always speak in a slow clear voice to ensure you get your message across. Cultural sensitivity is also something you need to be aware of. It is important to avoid any subjects that are controversial and to adhere to local customs and culture.

What can I do after teaching English abroad?

Some people who head overseas to teach English grow to love the lifestyle so much that they never return to work in their home country. However, for the majority, the move back home will come at some stage, whether after a single year or much longer. For some it can be a difficult experience as you are no longer the person you were when you first left home. Everything can feel different, from the everyday language to the time zone, from the climate to the cuisine. Reverse culture shock can be genuinely unsettling. One way you can combat this, and continue the international focus of your new found way of life, is to find a job that allows you to use the new skills and knowledge that your time abroad has given you.

Can I carry on teaching English in my home country?

One obvious step for many teachers is to simply continue working as an English language tutor. If you live in or near any relatively large city you are likely to find language schools and community colleges that offer English lessons to foreign students, immigrants or refugees etc. With overseas experience and a TEFL qualification, the chances of finding a suitable job are high. In recent years the demand for online English lessons has really boomed meaning you can also work from home teaching students from all over the world. Some teachers even go on to set up their own language school or online teaching business.

Can I join a non-profit or volunteer organization?

Depending on where your overseas teaching took you, you may have experienced life in environments that are less advantaged than your home country. This personal insight is highly sought after by a wide variety of organizations that work in developing nations across the world. If you have experience working in a diverse, multicultural environment and are keen to give something back to the wider society, this could be a very fulfilling option for you. Many of the skills learnt while teaching abroad are highly transferable which opens up all sorts of possibilities in this field.

Can I work in the travel industry?

If you found that your favourite part of your teaching adventure was the adventure rather than the teaching, you could consider the travel industry. If you wrote a blog during your travels, or simply have a way with words, then travel writing is a career that comes in many different forms. You might have to start off contributing work for free initially, but with hard work and a bit of patience you could well find the perfect job. Another option is to look towards travel agency work. There are plenty of high street and online agencies that are looking for experienced travellers to fill a variety of positions.

Will my cultural awareness & language skills help me find a job?

If you have spent a considerable time in one country you might find opportunities for work with organizations that have a connection to it. Embassies, consulates and international companies are often looking for people who have a good understanding of their culture and experience of living in it. If you also picked up a good standard of the local language during your stay then your options are even greater in this field. Potential opportunities include translation and interpretation, foreign language instruction, support roles for international students, recruitment and many more.

Should I go back to school?

Your time away from home might well have changed the way that you see the world and your future within it. Heading back to education to gain higher qualifications that allow you to widen your job opportunities is certainly a viable option. If teaching is now in your blood, gaining a Masters or Phd in TESOL, linguistics, or something similar will open the door to higher paying education jobs at home or abroad. If you have had enough of teaching, there are plenty of other educational avenues available where your international experience will stand you in good stead.

Can teaching English abroad be a long term career?

It is not unusual for returning teachers to quickly have a rethink and decide that they aren?t ready to stop just yet. Every qualified teacher with previous overseas teaching experience is in a great position to land another job in the country of their choice. You could head back to the familiarity of where you have already been, or even better, try somewhere new that will further broaden your experience and offer a whole new set of adventures. A long-term career in overseas teaching is entirely possible, particularly if you invest in higher level teaching qualifications such as a Diploma in TESOL or a DELTA certification course. Another good option is to use your experience and move into teacher training or writing teaching materials etc.