Last Updated on August 26, 2022 by Nellie Huang
Before I became a travel blogger and writer, I spent years teaching English abroad. They were some of the best times of my life as I got to experience life abroad, forge lifelong friendships, and travel as much as I could!
Teaching English abroad is honestly one of the best travel jobs as you often get a reasonable salary and more vacation days than most jobs. There are over 1 billion people learning English as a second language worldwide, so the demand for English teachers is high. Plus, you don’t need a degree in English or prior teaching experience to find a position.
In this article, we’ll explain what you should consider when deciding to become an ESL teacher, and how you can get the ball rolling with your new career.
Table of Contents
How to Teach English Abroad
Get TEFL certified
A TEFL certificate (Teach English as a Foreign Language) is key to getting your foot into the industry and opening up job opportunities for you. Taking a TEFL course with a well-accredited provider ensures that you’re actually prepared to start teaching upon completion of your course. You’ll be taught the necessary skills and knowledge to get started, as well as receive advice and support from experienced professionals.
Employers pay attention to accreditation and typically look for you to have completed a 120-hour long course at a minimum – which goes to show how your time and investment will be valued.
Decide what kind of ESL teacher you’d like to be
One of the many great things about becoming a qualified ESL teacher is all the choice you have. Before jumping right into the job search, deciding what kind of teacher you’d like to be is a good starting point.
Would you like to be an ESL teacher with a fixed contract at a public, private or language school? Or would you like to become a freelance private tutor? Or perhaps an online teacher, with the freedom to choose where you want to work from?
The more experience you gain as a teacher, the more options you’ll have, and the easier it’ll be to work out what is the right fit for you. After completing your contract, you have the freedom to try out a different type of TEFL job in another location.
Find out what the qualifications needed are
Typically, a Bachelor’s degree in any discipline is required – so if you do have a degree, it still counts even if it’s completely irrelevant to teaching. When a degree is listed as essential criteria in a job advert, it’s often because it’s a visa requirement and therefore not negotiable.
Not having a degree will narrow down your options but it doesn’t have to stop you from putting your TEFL qualification to good use. There are many English teaching opportunities elsewhere that won’t require you to have a degree, including in South America and Europe.
If you’re eager to experience life in Asia, your options without a degree are particularly limited. Cambodia would be your only option. However, that’s not to say you couldn’t relocate temporarily as a volunteer or as a digital nomad teaching English.
Research on where you can teach
First, research on where you’re eligible to teach. If you’re planning to be an in-classroom teacher abroad, there may be a number of requirements you need to meet. For instance, some countries like Japan and South Korea prefer to hire native English speakers.
For more information about where to teach English, I recommend checking out The TEFL World Factbook provided by the experts at The TEFL Academy. They have teaching abroad guides in over 100 countries. Each country profile outlines everything a TEFL teacher would need to know including average pay, living costs, working environments and even the weather!
Plan your finances carefully
While TEFL will give you the chance to travel the world and make money, you still need to have some savings to tide you through the first few months. You can never be sure of how quickly you’ll find work so it’s best to prepare for the job search lasting longer than anticipated.
How much you earn as an ESL teacher will depend on where you go — wages tend to be relative to the cost of living. Some employers may cover your travel expenses (when they do, you’ll typically be reimbursed at the end of your contract), and/or offer you accommodation.
Provide the required documentation
Once you’ve worked out where you plan to teach, making sure you have the right documentation will be the next step. Employers, as we’ve mentioned, can have different requirements. Typically, ESL teachers will need a TEFL certification, a criminal background check, a passport or degree from an English-speaking country, as well as potentially getting all these documents legalized to evidence their authenticity.
Advantages of Teaching English Abroad
Being able to work abroad is definitely a major factor drawing many people to teach English abroad. While it’s undeniably one of the best parts of it – there’s a lot more benefits to teaching English abroad than you can imagine.
Travel the world while teaching
As an online English teacher, you aren’t committed to a typical working routine every day. Your classroom can be wherever as long as you have a decent internet connection and a device with a camera and a microphone, then you can teach. It’s worth noting that when applying to work for online teaching companies, they’ll have their own requirements too.
Even if you’re teaching in a public/private school, you can still travel as you’ll have more vacation days than others. School teachers tend to have spring break, summer vacation and a few weeks off at Christmas. While teaching English full-time in Spain, I managed to travel to Morocco, Greece, Egypt and Tanzania during the holidays and had a blast!
Pick up a new language
English teachers who work abroad are in a great position to pick up a new language. As you’re living in the country for an extended period of time, learning the language will help you integrate and get to know the culture better. Some ESL companies offer free language lessons for their employees, but others don’t. Either way, it’s a good idea to make the effort. You’ll be more confident in your surroundings and locals will appreciate it.
Meet people from all walks of life
One thing you can be sure of with teaching English abroad is that you’re going to meet lots of interesting people with different lives from your own. Exchanging cultures, values, stories and experiences could well build the foundations of life-long friendships. I met one of my closest friends when we were teaching in Spain, and we still travel together at least once a year.
Save money while you live life to the full
Depending on where you teach and how you manage your finances, you should be able to save money to travel. I was making around 2000 euros a month in Madrid as an English teacher, which was pretty decent. I managed to save $10,000 from teaching English for a year. I’ve heard that the salary for an ESL teacher in Japan and South Korea is quite high.
Make a difference
However and wherever you teach, you have the opportunity to make a difference to your students’ lives. If you invest your time and effort into being a great teacher, you will see the impact you’re making to other people. When I was volunteering in Tanzania, I saw first-hand how my kids were fascinated by me and how quickly they were picking up English phrases. As cliche as it sounds, the experience changed my life.
Now that you know a bit more about what’s involved in getting TEFL certified and actually finding your first job, what’s stopping you from taking the first step? Typically, teaching contracts will be a year-long, meaning that there’s no need for your first destination to be your only destination.
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