Due to various historical and economic circumstances, English has become the dominant language of the world. According to the British Council at least one billion people speak or are trying to speak English, and of those about 300 million people are actively studying the English language. These statistics help to explain the emergence and explosion of the TEFL industry. This is very good news for English speakers who find themselves in possession of a commodity that is in much demand throughout most of the world.
Teaching abroad is an incredible way to immerse yourself in the local culture, interact on a meaningful level with the locals and earn some money to travel. Teaching however is not easy, it's challenging and you will earn the money you make. It is a job after all, and like any job you should commit yourself to it. Take a TEFL course, research the local culture, and ask yourself in advance if you have the patience and commitment required to teach abroad.
Why teach abroad?
English teachers are in demand in countries around the world. There are over 900 K-12 overseas American, Anglo-American, British and international schools worldwide. This makes teaching one of the few practical means of finding a paid position in many countries. Teaching abroad provides the opportunity to form meaningful relationships and connections with a multicultural student body. It also provides an opportunity to improve your foreign language skills and gain valuable, cross-cultural work experience.
Where to find jobs?
There are a few strategies for locating an overseas teaching position.
- You may apply through a U.S.-based organization or company. These usually arrange the placement and provide additional logistical support.
- You may contact overseas schools directly.
- You can go to the country where you would like to work and inquire about teaching positions in person. The downside to this is upfront cost: airfare, housing, etc.
Use caution when applying for teaching positions overseas. Many people have a rewarding and enriching experience teaching English abroad independently, but there are many challenges and uncertainties as well.
While many teachers choose to arrange their employment before going overseas, some teachers also arrange a position upon arrival. Both options have pros and cons. You need to decide what works best for you.
If you would like to find a position after you arrive in the city, consider completing a TEFL or CELTA certificate program in the city where you are interested in teaching. You'll have time to make contacts, do interviews, and tour schools while you are taking the course.
A great place to start looking for employment opportunities is to look at the following sites:
The following organizations provide teaching English placements in various countries. Note: requirements, job duties, salary, and benefits vary greatly.
CIEE — Chile, China, Spain, Thailand
InterExchange — Ghana, Spain
WorldTeach — American Samoa, Bangladesh, Bulgaria, Chile, China, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Guyana, Kenya, Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Mongolia, Namibia, Poland, Rwanda, South Africa, Venezuela TEFL Certificate Abroad Program:
Global Experiences - offers the TEFL Certificate Course in several locations around the world. Fees include the 4-week intensive course, private accommodation during the duration of the course, and job placement assistance for life.
American-Scandinavian Foundation - Teach in a Finnish school, college, private or public institution, or university
Czech Ministry of Education - The Academic Information Agency assists people in finding teaching posts, mainly at primary and secondary state schools in smaller towns in the Czech Republic.
English Program in Korea (EPIK) - Teach English in the Korean educational system
Teaching Assistant Program In France - Assist with English classes in a French school
Fulbright English Teaching Assistantships - Opportunities for English language and conversational classes are available in several countries in Asia, Europe, and South America
Japanese Exchange and Teaching (JET) Program - Work as a teaching assistant in a Japanese school
Language and Culture Assistants in Spain - Help Spanish students learn English as a teaching assistant in a primary or secondary school.
Peace Corps - Teach middle school, high school, or university students in one of over seventy countries around the world
Private school teaching opportunities:
An alternative to working for a company or a government sponsored program is to work at privately owned language school or institute. Requirements for private schools vary depending on the school and country. Check to see if you are qualified to teach in a specific school or country by looking at actual job postings.
Teach Abroad Contracts
Most organizations prefer a commitment of one academic year, though some offer summer or semester possibilities. In most cases you must sign a contract and stick to its terms. It would be a good idea to research a school in advance by speaking to former teachers.
In some instances, some schools will provide you with a return ticket only after you have completed your year commitment. There have been cases where schools have rejected visas if one attempts to change schools before the year-long commitment has been completed. Alternatively, if you are not interested in signing a contract, there are many short-term teaching jobs, in addition to volunteer teaching positions, with flexible commitments from a few weeks to a few months.
Use caution when signing any legal document. Read the document carefully and ask the school to clarify anything you do not understand. A good contract should clearly state:
- Visa sponsorship: some schools will provide all necessary assistance to obtain a visa from you. But there will also be many that do not. Make sure to investigate what the schools their guidelines are, as well as the country.
- Salary: always important. Check whether you are on an hourly/weekly wage, ask if there is overtime pay, schedule of paid holidays, sick time, how and when you will be paid.
- Daily and weekly work schedule: know the hours you will be required to teach.
- Health insurance: make sure the coverage is adequate, if covered at all. You might have to acquire additional coverage from your home country or in the country you are teaching in.
Remember, if an offer seems too good to be true, it probably is. Take nothing for granted…take your time, do lots of research, and follow your gut feeling.