Teaching English abroad might not seem like the obvious next step for your career, but let’s take a closer look.
If you see someone who has exceptional people skills, is a confident public speaker and knows how to motivate and inspire -> teaching English overseas means taking a big step towards developing these skills.
If you see someone who is:
✓ can speak another language
✓ or has an international career
-> teaching English abroad will set you on the path towards achieving these goals.
Or, maybe on a more practical level, you see someone who has:
✓ paid off their student loans
✓ put down a deposit on a house
-> In this case, teaching English abroad can also be a smart move!
A quick glance at the TEFL job market shows there are more than 40,000 schools and language institutes around the world, all of whom are looking for English teachers right now. That means there is literally a world of exciting, professional experience open to you, even if you don’t know how to teach yet!
Well, the truth is: it’s not that hard. Launching your career overseas might seem like a distant dream, but with a little organisation and a few tips (see below 😁) it’s absolutely possible.
Teaching abroad is sure to give you an international outlook, global network and long-term professional skills to last throughout your career. And you’ll also get to travel, and have a once in a lifetime experience while you’re at it!
Aside from making you stand out in the job market, teaching English abroad at entry level or as a new graduate is a great way to set yourself up for long-term career success.
Aside from TEFL teaching, initial classroom experience overseas can help you transition into plenty of other education jobs such as teaching in state schools, coaching and training, educational psychology, education administration, education publishing, museum, library and university education, and education politics and policy.
Teaching abroad gives you transferable skills that will help you succeed in a range of professional fields. Public speaking skills can be useful in fields like law and sales. Intercultural know-how can put you ahead in (any industry that operates globally - from manufacturing to high-tech or services like marketing, finance, and healthcare - something about regardless of your intended career path, international experience is beneficial) the travel industry and the business world. People skills will put you ahead in management and communication roles.
On top of this, the network you create while you’re teaching English abroad could be invaluable in your future career. In your job you’ll meet students who work in vastly different fields and you’ll have colleagues who have taught in the past. If you work for a smaller school you may be able to get involved in resume-building activities like social media marketing, event organisation or mentoring. If you work at a larger school like Disney English, First Leap China or EF there may be opportunities to get insight into all kinds of in-house professional roles.
Or maybe you are wanting to become an Instagram Influencer? Check out our Instagram stars teaching English abroad in China.
Whatever your career goals, remember that teaching is like riding a bike: kind of scary at first but once you know how to do it, you never forget. Being able to teach means you’ll have a skill (and a reliable side-hustle) that will last throughout your professional life, whether you plan to make a difference by mentoring others in the workplace or want the freedom to increase your income by tutoring on the side.
But that’s not to say that moving abroad is always easy! When you teach overseas you face the challenge of testing yourself in a new environment, putting new skills into practice, and getting comfortable with the unknown every day. There will be days when your classes don’t go to plan, and there will be weeks when you feel homesick.
But teaching English abroad is a unique opportunity to experience living in a foreign culture, with all the adventure and surprise that comes with it. Most teachers find that they form friendships for life while living abroad, and make a meaningful difference in their students’ lives.
So, teaching abroad may come with its challenges, but it will be unforgettable, fulfilling in the best possible way, and definitely worth it.
Many teach abroad programs and jobs provide accommodation close to the school for foreign teachers. Others will expect teachers to find their own accommodation but should provide support and advice on house hunting in the local area. Don’t forget, your English speaking colleagues will have been through the same process before you and should be happy to offer advice!
Absolutely! Although many people hope to learn a foreign language as well as teach one when they move abroad, in most cases, you don’t have to speak the local language to live a comfortable life overseas. This is for a few reasons.
Responsible language schools will provide language support for their foreign teachers to help find housing, set up doctors appointments and get other life admin done. Some may even offer language lessons.
Unless you’re moving somewhere extremely remote it’s likely that many people you meet will also speak some English.
Unless you’re moving somewhere extremely remote it’s likely that many people you meet will also speak some English.
When you’re immersed in a foreign culture you pick up essential daily expressions and useful language fast.
There are an increasing number of apps that can do advanced translations to help you communicate in every situation. If you want to work and travel in China, WeChat can translate text messages, group chats, menus (basically everything) while you’re on the go .
Of course, it’s a great idea to learn some of the local language while you’re teaching abroad. From basic politeness to being able to have full blown conversations, the more language you learn, the more you’ll be able to interact with the world around you. If you have time before you travel abroad, spend a little time studying via an app, or learn the essentials for free online.
Check out the top 8 phrases to learn before teaching English in China!
Yes!! All responsible employers should provide two days off per week for English teachers and vacation time in line with the national average.
Teachers working in the state school system often get the same generous vacation time as students. Teachers in the private sector may get less vacation days but should still get at least 3 weeks vacation per year.
And, when it comes to travel, don’t forget to factor in how much closer you’ll be to exciting new destinations. Not only will you have a new culture to explore right outside your door, your new location in the world will mean destinations that used to seem far-flung are now accessible for day and weekend trips.
It’s easier to say where you can’t teach English abroad! Almost every country in the world employs English teachers. However, your lifestyle, salary and teaching conditions will vary from country to country. Before you start looking for jobs abroad think about your priorities in a destination. Which cultures appeal to you? Which languages do you want to learn? Who do you want to teach? How much do you want to earn? And what kind of lifestyle do you want to have abroad?
Some of the world’s most popular teach abroad destinations include:
China is the world’s largest market for English teachers, and being such a diverse country, a great place to begin your search. Employers hire for English teaching jobs in public schools and private language centers throughout the year. Salaries are typically generous compared to China’s low cost of living. Major cities in China and Beijing and Shanghai, but there are English teaching jobs available throughout the country.
Check out more information on how to Teach English Abroad in China
All kinds of people choose to teach overseas, in fact there are currently over 250,000 native English speakers doing it all over the world!
There are teach abroad contracts for
All with a wide range of professional and teaching experience.
Typical candidates have come to a natural pause in their career or education that means they have the freedom to move overseas for at least a year, making new or recent graduates a natural fit for teaching English abroad. So if you have just graduated and are thinking of TEFL teaching, you can be sure you’ll meet plenty of others in the same position while you’re overseas!
As for whether or not you can do it -- of course! If you are interested in travel, like working with people and can speak English you have the makings of a great English teacher. A sense of adventure and willingness to face a challenge won’t hurt either, but really, almost anyone who is interested in teaching abroad can make a success of it. It might be hard to imagine yourself living life as an English teacher in Asia or South America, but it’s easier than you think to make that dream your reality.
TEFL is an acronym for Teach English as a Foreign Language. Teaching English as a foreign language is also sometimes called ESL (English as a Second Language) or TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages.) While the skills used in teaching TEFL, ESL and TESOL are the same, the context can be sightly different.
TESOL and ESL teachers normally teach English to non-native speakers living in English speaking countries (a Brazilian student living in the US, for example or a Japanese student living in New Zealand.)
On the other hand, TEFL and ESL teachers normally teach English in non-English speaking countries, like China or Brazil. TEFL teaching is what most teachers do when they teach English abroad.
Getting TEFL certified will mean you are able to teach TEFL, ESL and TESOL.
Teachers with TEFL certification have completed a specialised course in how to teach English as a foreign language. This covers topics like understanding English language, intercultural communication, lesson planning, teaching techniques and classroom management. Good TEFL courses also ask participants to do a practicum, which means doing real life teaching practice.
There are many different TEFL certification courses available online and in-person. Most TEFL employers request that candidates take a certification course that is accredited by an international body or respected university.
No, you don’t have to get TEFL certification to find a job teaching English abroad, but getting TEFL certified could improve your overseas teaching experience in two ways.
On your course you’ll get crucial tools, tips and practice preparing you to teach English abroad. Remember, moving abroad is a huge challenge. Setting yourself up for success in the classroom gives you less to stress about and more time to enjoy life overseas.
For many English teaching jobs in Europe and Asia, foreign teachers are not eligible for a work visa unless they have a TEFL certificate. And around the world employers prefer TEFL-certified candidates because they know they are experienced and committed. Well-paying jobs in reliable schools can be competitive and often go to the best qualified candidates.
If you decide to look for these kinds of roles, the employer should offer some kind of teacher training before you start work. Many big, international language schools do this as they have their own teaching methodology that they want employees to use in the classroom.
Which TEFL certification course should I choose?
There is no one organisation that accredits TEFL courses so there are a lot of TEFL courses out there! It’s best to choose a course that is endorsed by a respected university or international TEFL organisation and is recommended by your recruiter or hiring school. Some well known accredited courses are Cambridge University’s CELTA course, and similar courses run by the University of Toronto, University of Northern Colorado and the University of Arizona .
TEFL courses also share a few features in common.
● They are at least 120-hours long.
● They require candidates to hold a bachelor’s degree, or be in the process of getting one.
Whether you want to study for your TEFL certification online or in-person comes down to personal preference. Online courses are often cheaper and give you the flexibility to study when and where you want. In-person TEFL certification courses are more expensive, but provide more structure and a real-life community.
That’s up to you! Like we said earlier, new graduate teachers love their first year so much that they end up staying on for another year! In China, teachers often spend one year in a northern city (Beijing) and then move to a southern city (Shanghai) to travel and explore as much as they can.
Long-term and short-term contracts are available for English teachers who want to work overseas.
For short-term opportunities of less than a year, try looking for summer school jobs and paid TEFL internships. These kinds of jobs are great if you want to try out living abroad or teaching without having to make a big commitment.
Long-term TEFL contracts normally last 12 months, or even two years, and often include a bonus (equivalent to a month of pay) upon completion. Long-term contracts require more commitment but often provide better pay and benefits for teachers. Twelve months may sound like a long time, but when you move abroad you’ll probably find this is just enough time to settle in, make friends and scratch the surface of the culture you’re living in before it’s time to leave again!
And, don’t forget, around 80% of TEFL teachers who work abroad for a year, enjoy the experience so much they end up staying for a second or third year. Many cite continuing to learn a language, maintaining overseas friendships and saving money as reasons to stay for longer.
However, not many TEFL teachers make a life-long career of teaching English. The vast majority use TEFL as an initial professional experience that sets them up with a huge variety of transferable skills to use in different fields. The opportunities after teaching abroad are diverse and plentiful - just ask these famous former English teachers!
Once you know what kind of students you’re interested in teaching it’s time to think about the kind of school you want to work in. Different kinds of schools offer different salaries, working hours and benefits for teachers.
Government sponsored teach abroad programs typically place English teachers in primary and secondary schools to help students learn content specified on the national curriculum. Students will often have to pass exams at the end of their studies and, as such, the focus of classes will be making sure the students learn enough to pass their exams or enter the next grade. TEFL teachers on government sponsored teach abroad programs often enjoy set work hours, high salaries and generous holidays.
Government-sponsored teach abroad programs may run in public or private schools. Hiring for English teachers is generally done in advance of the start of the school year in September with full-time contracts for teachers to work as class teachers or teaching assistants. The application process can be competitive, so requirements include Bachelor’s degrees and TEFL certification.
Students come to private language centers to learn foreign languages and may be kindergarten age through to adult businessmen and women. Classes may include conversational, business and refresher English or English for young learners, and could take place face-to-face or online.
As language centres run for profit the emphasis during lessons is not to make sure students pass exams, but to make sure they enjoy the lessons and feel motivated to come back. Private language centers hire teachers throughout the year on part-time and full-time contracts. English teachers may have lower salaries than in public schools, but more flexibility in their schedules, with classes taking place during evenings and weekends, outside of normal work and school hours.
International schools provide primary and secondary education to students who are living overseas, want to study at international universities, or have parents who are not native to where they live. As such, many subjects will be taught in English and teachers may be expected to teach subjects other than English language. Students normally follow an American, British, Australian, or International Baccalaureate (I.B.) curriculum.
Teachers in international schools are often required to have teaching licenses and professional experience in their home countries. Competition for jobs is high, and salaries and benefits are generous. Hiring for full-time contracts is normally done in advance of the start of the school year in September. The international school sector is booming, particularly in China and the United Arab Emirates.
Universities often hire English teachers to support students who are studying subjects other than English language, but require knowledge of English to complete their studies. Teachers will normally teach classes of students from Monday to Friday and have generous holidays throughout the year. Contracts for English teachers in universities are often part time. Hiring is normally done in advance of the start of the school year in September.
One-on-one private lessons are organised independently of a school or language center and are often well paid. Students who hire an English tutor often have a specific goal in mind for their lessons, which will take place outside of normal work or school hours. Tutoring is normally a part-time role. There are no specific qualifications or requirements to teach English as a private tutor.
Check out our Types of English Schools in China blog here!
The recruitment process for English jobs abroad normally takes place online.
Here’s how to make yours stand out from the pack.
Include the things that qualify you for the position (your education, TEFL certification and nationality) clearly at the top of your resume.
Highlight relevant skills like teaching or coaching experience, your ability to work with others, foreign languages you speak and international experience.
Your resume will probably be read by non-native speakers from a different culture so use clear, simple and formal language.
Show off how great you are at English and make sure you check your resume carefully for spelling and grammar mistakes.
Be prepared to provide extra information like a professional photo, your marital status or your age to help schools work out your visa status and housing arrangements.
The time it takes to find an English teaching job overseas depends on a few factors.
Firstly, hiring seasons are different around the world. If you want to work in Europe you may have to wait to apply for jobs starting in September and January. If you want to work in South America, typical hiring periods are spring and the end of summer. Asia and the Middle East hire year round, but government-sponsored programs typically recruit for starts in September. Depending on when you start your search, it could take from six to nine months from the moment to apply to you actually getting on a plane.
But, let’s imagine that you want to apply for a job teaching English in China, you’ve researched the kind of opportunity you’re looking for and you’re ready to apply for a few teaching jobs that meet your criteria. Going through the whole recruitment process, including getting a visa could take as little as two months, especially if you work with an experienced recruiter who can help you through the visa process.
It’s best not to rush the recruitment process. Moving abroad is a big decision, and you want to be sure that you’ve taken time to choose the right opportunity for you. Scheduling in at least three to four months should give you time to do this.
No recruiter or school should ask you to send them money during the recruitment process. However, depending on your contract, you may have to pay for some expenses such as authenticating documents for your visa, the cost of the visa, and your flights.
$ Authenticated documents: $50 USD to $250 USD
$ Cost of Visa: $150 USD to $350 USD
$ Flights: $500 USD to $1,000 USD
There’s no doubt that moving abroad in a big challenge, especially if you are moving somewhere that you’ve never visited before, with no prior knowledge of what life will be like there. However, there are plenty of things you can do in advance to help make your transition abroad go smoothly.
Cancel or suspend outgoings like your phone contract, gym membership and local subscriptions. You don’t want to be paying for these while you’re living in another country!
Have a check-up with your doctor and dentist before you leave and make sure any ongoing prescriptions (like glasses or contacts) are up-to-date. Ask for advance supplies of any medication you take on a regular basis.
If you can save money before you leave. Doing so will help with your start up costs and mean you have enough to fly home should you need to for any reason. Don’t forget to notify your bank that you’re moving abroad, and take out some cash to cover your first few days in-country.
How do you pack for a 12-month trip? Firstly, work out what your luggage allowance is. Next, research the weather and pack a couple of appropriate outfits for each season. Don’t forget you’ll need some smarter clothes to wear for work too. Include essentials like electronics and adaptors. The rest of the space is yours to play with. Remember you’ll probably have access to stores and supermarkets where you are going, so think about packing things that you can’t buy like a few photos of you loved ones or you’re favourite sweater.
Check out our packing tips for Teaching English in China!
You’ll definitely want to spend time with your loved ones before you move abroad. They’re probably what you’ll miss the most while you’re away! It’s important to let people know you’re leaving as well, so they can get used to the idea and you can discuss how you’ll stay in touch with your nearest and dearest.
In some countries your normal methods of communication will not be available, so make sure you research the best way to keep in touch while you’re away. In China many popular social media channels are not accessible, but China’s own WeChat is. It has interfaces in Chinese and English so downloading it before you go means you are sure to be able to keep in touch while you’re abroad. Don’t forget your mum, cousins or bffs will need to download it too.
Why not throw yourself a going away party? You’ve got something huge to celebrate, after all! Throwing a leaving party is also a great way to get all the people you love together, and make sure you have everyone’s contact details before you go.
Getting familiar with the culture before you arrive in-country is a great way to get excited about where you’re going and reduce culture shock.
● start learning the language. Even learning one or two words before you go will be useful. If you don’t have the time or funds to take lessons, try downloading a free language learning app.
● whether you’re into movies, music, books or fashion, see if there’s any local art you can get into to help you understand the cultural context of your new home.
● look up cool places to visit or things to try where you’re moving and start a bucket list.
● start a food bucket list too! There are sure to be plenty of new and delicious local dishes to try.
Experienced recruiters are familiar with the challenges of moving abroad to teach and will take steps to help their teachers overcome them, and settle into life abroad. All employers should be able to provide practical support to help teachers find housing, open bank accounts and access health care.
Teach abroad contracts may include teacher training to boost classroom skills, and orientation for no extra cost. Orientation may include initial training like language lessons and practical support like tours around the local area and tips on cultural etiquette.
Many organisations also know that one of the things most teachers worry about when moving abroad is making friends. Your workplace can be a source of friendship and many employers will organise events to introduce new teachers to each other and help them form a community.
* Career China offers a complete international relocation program including personalised visa support, cultural learning program and a social forum to meet other teachers planning to teach English in China before you leave.
When you’re living abroad you are sure to face challenges. Learning a language, making friends and understanding a new culture all take time. And, in reality, they can be equally enriching and frustrating! Give yourself a break if you have a bad day while you’re living overseas--starting a life somewhere new is hard work, and you’re probably making more progress than you realise.
Remember as well that one of the biggest rewards of moving abroad is the personal growth you’ll experience. And that won’t happen unless you face down a few challenges! The good news is, you can do it. And, truly, nothing matches the feeling of finding out how hugely resourceful and amazingly independent you can be.
If you’re moving abroad to launch your career, doing a great job at work is a good way to start !
When you first start teaching abroad, be observant. You’ll be in a workplace that is culturally unfamiliar and watching others is a good way to see what kind of behaviour is appropriate. Having said that, your colleagues and students will know that you are not an expert and they’ll forgive a few cultural missteps, the most important thing is to be friendly, open and willing to learn.
This applies in the classroom too. Whether you’re new to teaching or not, take advantage of opportunities to improve your teaching by doing training and having other teachers observe your lessons. Any school will be impressed by a teacher who is organised and makes a genuine effort to help their students succeed. Thinking strategically, see if there are projects you can take on outside the classroom that will help you develop your professional skills too. Maybe your school has a blog, or social media accounts you can help run, or maybe you can help improve teaching resources or help organise events.
Finally, make an effort to get to know your colleagues and students. While this will help you develop a social network abroad, you’ll also be building up a professional network that could last long into the future.
You stand a greater chance of success in your work life if you feel happy and comfortable in your personal life.
It may take time to find your balance when you move abroad but there are some steps you can take to help you settle in quickly.
Firstly, make sure where you live is comfortable and relaxing. This may mean you have to buy some things for your apartment or decorate so it is more to your taste, but if you’ll be living there for a year the investment will be worth it. A fun, affordable way to make a new place feel like home is to put photos of your loved ones or favourite pictures up on the wall.
Next, try and find a routine that makes you healthy and happy. Whether you enjoy exercise, books, cinema, getting out in nature or meeting new people, making sure you have access to the activities you love and building them into your regular schedule will help you build a stable and fulfilling life abroad. Building journaling into your routine is a great way to chart your progress and keep track of your experiences abroad. Try writing a journal, sending regular email updates to friends at home, vlogging or keeping a photo diary.
Lastly, keep an open mind. Living overseas you’re sure to encounter people, places and experiences you could never have imagined before. Some things you might love instantly whereas others will take longer to get under your skin. Basically, living overseas is a learning opportunity. You may well find the things that challenged you when you arrived are what you love 12 months later.