Among the many attractions of teaching English abroad is the fact that you are free to choose not only the region where you would like to work, but also the specific country or even city. For some teachers the history and culture of Europe appeals most, while others are drawn to exotic destinations across Asia or Latin America. However, before you book your plane tickets you need to be aware that the requirements for foreign teachers vary greatly from one country to the next and these may limit your options. You should do plenty of research on whether any of the following issues apply to your chosen destination.
In some cases, language schools are restricted to only hiring teachers who hold citizenship of a native English speaking country. These are generally considered to be the USA, Canada, UK, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa. In some countries, it is a legal requirement that foreign teachers hold a 4-year degree. There are limitations on hiring teachers over a certain age in some countries, typically around 55. Across the Middle East region in particular, many jobs are restricted to men only or women only, depending on the gender of the students. Men only positions are typically more numerous. The length of contract you are required to sign can vary from six months in some countries, to twelve months in others. In Europe they might run for nine or ten months, as summers are often taken off.
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The huge continent of Asia continues to be the most popular destination for teachers in terms of numbers. Across the region there are a wide variety of diverse destinations to suit everyone, from the high-tech modernity of Tokyo to the peace and tranquility of a Cambodian village, Asia has it all.
If you are hoping to save money while you teach overseas then more developed countries such as South Korea, Taiwan and China are definitely worth a look. Job opportunities are widespread in towns and cities throughout these countries and the salaries are generally good compared to the cost of living. Due to the high demand for teachers, it is also quite straightforward to secure a job before you leave your home country which provides significant peace of mind for those who are new to teaching and traveling.
Although Asia's booming economies offer plenty of well paid teaching jobs, most of these will be found in large towns and cities that may not be to everyone's taste. If you dream of relaxing in a hammock amongst swaying palm trees between lessons, you may want to look elsewhere. Thailand has long been a favorite destination due to the culture, lifestyle and climate. You may struggle to save any of your hard earned cash, but you are sure to create many memories that will last a lifetime. Another country worth considering is Vietnam where the demand for English language teachers is growing rapidly and salaries are rising accordingly.
Although considerably smaller in size than Asia, the Middle East is still one of the biggest draws in the teaching industry. Tax-free salaries and superb benefits await most teachers who manage to secure a position here. However, due to stiff competition for the best jobs you will probably need some experience behind you and many employers will also demand advanced level qualifications. The most numerous job prospects can be found in Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, whilst Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman and Qatar are also worth checking out.
Although you can expect a high salary and great benefits such as paid flights and free housing, you also need to consider the conservative nature of society in most countries in this region. The strict social rules do not appeal to everyone, and female teachers may find it particularly difficult if they are not used to the local culture. However, many teachers quickly adapt to this new environment and many feel that a few inconveniences along the way are more than compensated for financially.
With a wonderful mix of modern attractions and centuries of fascinating history, it is no surprise that Europe attracts large numbers of English teachers. Right across the continent there are plenty of job opportunities to be found in diverse locations stretching from the sunny shores of the Mediterranean in the south, to the cooler climes of beautiful Scandinavia in the north. However, there are a few things to consider before you start packing your bags.
One major drawback of teaching in Europe is the high cost of living. You may be dreaming of life in Rome, Paris or London, but the reality is that a teacher's salary is unlikely to be enough to support a comfortable lifestyle. Another issue is that many countries prefer British English to American English so it can be hard for non-British teachers to land the better paid positions. It is also more complicated for non-Brits to acquire the necessary work permits and visas for popular destinations such as Spain, Italy and France. But don't despair; there are still opportunities for anyone who is determined to hunt them down.
For many teachers the best solution is to look towards Central and Eastern Europe. Compared to their western neighbors, many countries in this region make it far easier for non-Europeans to obtain visas and work permits. The cost of living is also considerably lower making it possible to live comfortably and even save some cash while you work. The most popular destination is the Czech Republic which has plenty of job opportunities plus a fun and laidback lifestyle. Other countries with a growing market for English teachers include Poland, Slovakia and Hungary.
This vast region stretches from the US/Mexico border in the north, all the way down to the wilds of Cape Horn in the south. Although large in area, Latin America does not offer the huge job markets and high salaries that can be found in other parts of the world. However, what it does offer is an abundance of natural beauty and endless opportunities for adventure.
Chile has long been one of the hottest destinations for English teachers in South America. Here you will find plenty of jobs on offer and some of the best salaries in the region. Due to its popularity you can also expect stiff competition when applying for the best paid jobs so you may need to look towards lesser known markets. Countries such as Colombia and Ecuador have a steadily growing demand and are well worth a look. Traditional favorites such as Argentina and Costa Rica are also still popular, although the competition for jobs is very high and the balance between salaries and the cost of living can make it hard to live comfortably. There are many other beautiful countries to explore across Latin America but most only have a small market for English teachers. The bottom line is that teachers don't come to this region to earn their fortune; they come to enjoy the experience of a lifetime.
Many of the world's biggest and most lucrative markets for English language teachers are restricted to native English speakers only. Destinations such as Japan, South Korea, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE, are all great options for native speakers but not for thousands of other qualified teachers whose first language is not English. But don't despair; there are still plenty of exciting destinations all over the world where non-native English speakers can confidently apply for teaching positions. In countries where restrictions on nationalities are in place, the term 'native English speaker' generally refers to teachers from the USA, Canada, the UK, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa. Other countries where English is widely spoken, such as India or the Philippines, are generally not accepted.
As the market for English language teachers is huge right across Asia, there are plenty of opportunities for non-native English speakers. One of the most popular options is Thailand which has a fascinating culture, world famous cuisine, stunning tropical beaches, and a consistently high demand for teachers year-round. To be eligible for a work permit you need to reach a certain standard of English, either 600+ on the TOEIC test, or 5+ on the IELTS test. A four-year degree is also necessary. A TEFL certification is not an official requirement but it is likely to improve your employment chances as a non-native speaker. Another popular option in the same region is Cambodia. Here there are even fewer restrictions making it a good choice no matter where you were born or what qualifications you have. Salaries are not typically large when compared with some neighboring countries, but it offers a good chance to gain valuable classroom experience while living in a rich and vibrant culture. Although non-native speakers do not qualify for a work visa in China, the huge market for teachers means there are always options to be explored. Teachers from all over the world will find employers willing to bend the rules in order to fill vacant positions. One common method is for the employer to provide a business visa, although this does mean you are working illegally and liable to be deported if caught.
Latin America has endless opportunities for non-native English speakers as most countries have few official restrictions and plenty of available jobs. A TEFL certification is usually required, but as long as you are in the country ready to work, that is generally the only thing needed to guarantee employment. There are significant markets for language teachers of all nationalities in countries throughout the region, including Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, and Mexico.
Options for non-native speakers to teach English across Europe are generally quite slim. However, teachers who have a passport from a country within the European Union may be in luck as they are free to work in other member states without a permit. One possible option for non-Europeans is Turkey, although a four-year degree is required and you may also need some previous teaching experience. The best approach is to arrange a Skype call so you have an opportunity to convince the employer that your language skills are sufficient for the job.
If you are a non-native English speaker there are a few things you can do to increase your employability. Although it is not an official requirement in every country, gaining a TEFL certification will improve your teaching skills and show potential employers that you are serious about being a language teacher. Another effective way to impress employers is to show them that you have previous experience in the classroom. Before leaving home you can volunteer your services in community centers or language schools to practice your skills in a genuine classroom environment. Being able to prove your English language ability is also highly recommended. Showing an employer that you have a high score on either the TOEFL or IELTs tests could go a long way toward convincing them of your suitability for the post. Similarly, by meeting the employer in person or over Skype you have the chance to demonstrate your language skills and dismiss any concerns they may have regarding your accent.
When researching your options for teaching English abroad, you may come across articles stating that it is difficult or even impossible for Americans to find work in Europe. However, the good news is this is simply not true, as there are plenty of great opportunities for American teachers in many countries throughout Europe. Due to the huge numbers of people learning English in Europe, there simply aren't enough teachers from within the EU to fill all the available positions. To meet this demand, language schools across the continent look towards native English speaking Americans who possess a TEFL qualification. Every year thousands of US citizens find teaching jobs in major cities such as Rome, Madrid, Berlin, Moscow, and Prague.
In Western Europe there is a strong preference for British English in some countries, and excessive bureaucracy also makes it harder for US citizens to legally find work. However, countries such as Italy, Spain, and Germany all offer large job markets and good opportunities for non-EU teachers. The French and Spanish governments even operate programs to recruits classroom assistants for their public school systems. Eastern Europe is perhaps the best region for non-EU citizens to find work as it has a strong demand for TEFL qualified teachers, and also a lower cost of living than many countries in the west. The Czech Republic has long been a popular destination, while countries such as Poland, Slovakia, Hungary, and Russia also having growing markets. Another country that is well worth considering is Turkey. As it is not a member of the European Union, Turkey is a great option for American teachers as there is no bias towards teachers from EU countries. It also has a great climate and a fascinating culture that blends both European and Middle Eastern influences.
The majority of jobs in Europe are filled following a face-to-face interview, so it is essential that you are on the ground in the country of your choice at the right time of year. For most language schools across Europe, the main hiring season runs from September to October. During this time, thousands of schools are looking to fill positions that were vacated at the end of the previous school year. January is also a good time for job hunting in many countries. Exceptions to these hiring periods include Russia and Turkey, where schools tend to hire at any time of the year.
For countries such as Turkey, Russia and Poland, it is generally necessary to apply for a work visa in advance from within your home country. Elsewhere, the norm is to simply arrive in your country of choice on a tourist visa. In some countries, including hotspots such as Spain and Italy, it is common practice for teachers to work with nothing other than a tourist visa. This is not technically legal but is extremely common and there are rarely any repercussions for foreign teachers. Alternatively, in countries such as Germany and the Czech Republic, you will have a work permit processed locally once hired. Another option is to enroll in a language study program in your chosen country. Often this will include a student visa that allows you to work up to a certain number of hours per week.
For anyone planning an adventure teaching English overseas, the amount of cash needed to cover the initial start-up costs is an important question to consider. As with any move there are certain expenses that cannot be avoided, although these will vary depending on where you plan to teach. In most cases the basic start-up costs will include:
- Obtaining TEFL certification
- Travel costs to your chosen country
- Funds to support yourself until your first payday.
The cost of obtaining TEFL certification can vary considerably depending on the style of course you choose. At ITTT our least expensive online option can be completed for under $200, while an in-class course will typically cost between $1500 and $2000, not including flights, accommodation, meals etc. However, you should not base your choice of course solely on the cost, as there are fundamental differences to consider.
Online courses offer an affordable way to obtain TEFL certification, and they can be completed in your spare time without any loss of income. They can also be completed from any location worldwide that has an internet connection. However, most employers insist on TEFL certification of at least 120 hours, so the cheapest options are unlikely to be sufficient for securing a well paid job. Also, online courses do not include any practical teacher training or teaching practice with real students, something that might put you at a disadvantage in a competitive job market.
The big advantage of an in-class TEFL course is that you receive direct instruction from a highly qualified and experienced teacher trainer. During the course you will also have the opportunity to practice your skills in a genuine classroom environment with real students of English. However, the higher cost of attending an international TEFL training center can be prohibitive for some potential teachers. Completion of an in-class course also requires attendance for a 4-week period which might not always be possible.
Heading off to teach English abroad will often involve a long and costly flight to your chosen destination. However, in countries where it is normal to hire teachers in advance from within their own country, many employers routinely provide free airfares. This is common practice in much of Asia and the Middle East, and less common in Europe and Latin America.
Once on the ground you will need sufficient funds to see you through until you receive your first pay packet. If you are heading to Europe or South America, it is likely that you will travel there before starting the job hunting process. In this case you should budget for around two weeks to find work, plus a further month until your first pay day. During this period you will need to cover your initial accommodation, a deposit and one month's rent for an apartment once you have found a job, as well as groceries, transport costs, and phone credit. The sum required will vary depending on country and lifestyle, but you should budget around $2000 to $3000 in Western Europe, while Eastern Europe should be roughly half that amount. Those heading to Latin America could get by on as little as $750 to $1000. If you are heading to Asia or the Middle East there is a good chance that you will already have secured employment before departure. In this case you will need the funds to see you through the first month of work only. Many employers in these regions also provide free or subsidized housing which can further reduce your expenses.
The age, background, and motivation of the students in your ESL classroom will vary greatly depending on where you are teaching and the school or institute you work for. You could have a class full of university students, hotel workers or even high flying business executives. Alternatively, you might work in a government school teaching a class of children aged anywhere from five to sixteen. Each of these groups has its own characteristics, and different teachers have their own preferences. Just remember that by completing a reputable TEFL certification course before you head off abroad, you will learn all the skills required to deliver effective and enjoyable lessons to almost any group of learners.
A large percentage of teachers working in ESL classrooms overseas will find their classes are full of adults of various ages and backgrounds. This is particularly true across Europe and Latin America as few countries in these regions allow foreign teachers to work in public schools. Subsequently, most teachers work for private language centers that either conduct classes on their own premises or send teachers to work with company employees directly onsite. The students in your classroom could come from many different walks of life such as employees of cross-border businesses, workers in the tourism and hospitality industries, university students planning to study overseas, or individuals who simply want to have a better understanding of English language media such as music, books, movies and television. When working with adult students it is worth remembering that the vast majority will have work or study commitments during the week so you should be prepared to work evenings and at weekends.
Unlike much of Europe and Latin America, Asia has a huge market for teaching ESL to young learners. In countries such as South Korea and Japan, there are government programs in place that recruit large numbers of foreign teachers to work within the public school system (other countries including Spain, France, and Chile have similar programs on a smaller scale). Summer jobs working with young learners in English language camps are another area that is popular in many parts of the world. In some countries it is also common for parents to send their children for extra language instruction on top of what they receive during school hours. Many thousands of teachers work in private language academies in countries such as China and South Korea where the majority of lessons are conducted in the late afternoon and early evening. As well as general English instruction, many students also attend these lessons looking for help in passing the English language college entrance examination known as TOEFL.
As well as working in a government-run school or a private language academy, many teachers across the world turn to tutoring private students to top up their income. If you decide to branch out into private lessons you can choose to limit your services to certain groups or you can mix things up across all ages and backgrounds. Just remember that the rules and regulations regarding private lessons vary from country to country so it is wise to do your research before you get started. Your main employer might also have some concerns if you decide to poach their students for private lessons away from the school.
While teaching English abroad you could find yourself working in a wide range of schools, institutes, academies, colleges, universities, camps and other settings. The most numerous opportunities, particularly in Europe and Latin America, are generally found in private language schools. State-run schools also offer a high number of teaching positions, particularly across Asian countries.
A significant percentage of all ESL teaching jobs are located in language schools that are privately owned by individuals or independent companies. These can range in size from a single room school with one teacher, to large chains spread across several countries. Many of these private schools provide general English instruction to all ages and abilities, while some may specialize in teaching young learners or teaching business English. Although conditions vary from one school to the next, you should expect to teach somewhere between 25 and 30 hours per week, with a further 10 to 15 hours of planning time. As many schools cater to students looking to study after work or school, you should also be prepared to work some evenings and weekends. Class sizes can be anywhere from a single student up to 15 or more. Private schools in Europe and Latin America generally cater to the adult market, although the number of schools aimed at young learners is increasing every year. In contrast, Asian countries generally have a larger number of schools specifically created for young learners.
Certain countries also provide the opportunity to work as an English teacher in public or state-run schools. The majority of these positions are found in Asian countries such as South Korea and Japan, although there are a smaller number of openings in Europe and the Middle East. The role of the teacher in these settings is usually to work as an assistant or in partnership with a local teacher, following a typical school routine from around 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Monday to Friday. In order to qualify for a position in a public school in most countries, you will need to be a native English speaker with a four-year college degree. In return you can expect to receive a good salary and other benefits such as health insurance and paid holidays. Many positions also include paid airfares to and from the country and assistance with accommodation. Recruitment for these positions is usually completed from within your home country, around six months before the start date.
Working in an English language summer camp is a popular option for many ESL teachers as it involves short periods of work so you are not tied to a long contract. Teaching jobs in summer camps generally consist of four to six weeks working with children of various ages. Camps can be found throughout Asia and Latin America, although the most numerous opportunities are found within Europe, particularly Spain, France and Italy. Recruitment is often aimed at younger teachers under 30 years of age, with the majority of positions filled locally. Some camps do also recruit online so it is worth checking out a range of ESL recruitment websites.
If you are a TEFL certified teacher who has professional teaching experience and high-level academic qualifications, you may be eligible to work in universities in some countries. Although small in number, these positions allow you to work with advanced level language students and typically offer a higher salary than public schools or private language centers.
Volunteering as an ESL teacher is a very popular option as it allows you to visit fascinating parts of the world that are generally less travelled. It also offers a unique opportunity to provide a valuable service to children and adults who would otherwise have little chance of accessing language instruction. Many volunteer positions are on a short term basis ranging from one week to two months, although longer stays are also an option in some instances. Charitable organizations offering language teaching positions can be found in many developing areas of the world including Asia, Latin America and Africa.