TEFL teacher

English is studied as an additional language by millions of people worldwide and it is generally one of the most commonly used second languages in most regions. This study can take place in a wide variety of schools and language centers, but the one thing they typically have in common is that the study is led by a language tutor known as a TEFL teacher (or a similar variant such as EFL teacher, ESL teacher, etc). A TEFL teacher’s role is to gradually build the four language skills of their students; reading, writing, speaking, and listening, to ensure they are able to reach their personal goals, whether for work, study, travel, or any other reason.

Please note: the acronym TEFL stands for Teaching English as a Foreign Language.

As the number of worldwide English learners is so high, there are countless opportunities for fluent English speakers to take up TEFL teaching roles in many countries, particularly in Asia, Latin America, Europe, and the Middle East. Jobs for TEFL teachers can be found in most cities, big towns and tourist hotspots in these regions and the pace of growth shows no signs of slowing down. If you are looking for a change in your work life and crave the excitement of a new adventure, why not take a serious look at becoming a qualified TEFL teacher?

How to become a TEFL teacher

As the world of English language teaching is largely unregulated in most countries, it is theoretically possible to find a job as a TEFL teacher without any form of qualifications or experience. However, in the modern age most schools that provide English language instruction recognize that to be an effective teacher you need to undertake some amount of teacher training under the supervision of an experienced English language expert. The outcome of this training is usually some form of TEFL certificate that can be used to show potential employers that you have completed your training and are now certified as a TEFL qualified teacher.

Infographic Lifestyle of a TEFL Teacher

What qualifications does a TEFL teacher need?

The vast majority of employers around the world will expect their teachers to have a TEFL certificate of some description. As TEFL certificates are typically graded by the average number of study hours required, there is a wide variety on offer depending on your budget and the amount of time you have to study. At the bottom end of the scale are short-form courses of under 100 hours that are generally only accepted when applying for volunteer positions or jobs that offer a small stipend as opposed to a good salary.

Check out our blog post: The best programs for volunteer teaching abroad.

If you want to be able to apply for mainstream teaching jobs that offer a good rate of pay and comfortable working conditions, you will need to look at TEFL courses that result in a certificate of at least 100 hours. At this level you should cover all the most important teaching subjects that are required by anyone who wants to work in an EFL classroom. Common topics of study include classroom management, lesson planning, material design, and English grammar. By the end of the course you should have a solid grasp of the mechanics of the language and how to teach it effectively to non-native speakers of all ages and nationalities.

At ITTT we provide an extremely popular 120-hour TEFL certification course that will give you all the basic knowledge and skills you need to confidently step into your own classroom upon the completion of your studies.

What qualifications does a TEFL teacher need?

Can I study my TEFL course in a traditional classroom?

Although our online TEFL courses are very popular due to the convenience of studying in your own time from anywhere you happen to be, there is also a popular alternative for people who prefer to learn directly from an expert in the teaching field. Our four-week in-class TEFL courses provide the most in-depth teacher training available as all the theory will be covered in person in a professional classroom environment. Many trainees consider this to be the most effective way to learn as you can fully engage with your highly experienced trainer and bounce ideas and theories off of other members of the group.

Can I study my TEFL course in a traditional classroom?

The other major advantage of in-class TEFL training with ITTT is the teaching practice that is included in every course. No matter which training center you choose to attend, you will spend several hours practicing all the theory you have learnt from your tutor by teaching real English language learners in an authentic classroom. Before every practice session you will plan the contents of the lesson under the supervision of a tutor, who will also conduct a thorough debrief immediately after you have finished. This level of Observed Teaching Practice (OTP) can be absolutely vital in building your teaching skills and your confidence in front of the students.

As most of our in-class training centers are located in areas where there is a strong demand for TEFL qualified teachers, it is common for our trainees to land jobs in the local area straight after completing the course. Check out our in-class TEFL course page for full details of the course and the locations where you can attend.

Check out our blog post: The best programs for volunteer teaching abroad.

Infographic TEFL In-class Courses

What if I can’t attend a training center for four weeks?

If you like the idea of gaining some teaching practice before you start your first EFL teaching job, but do not have the free time or finances to attend a center for four weeks, ITTT does offer an alternative. Our combined TEFL course brings together all the best parts of online and in-class training to create a unique course that appeals to many trainees. To start the course you complete an initial online section that covers all the same theory that is included in the in-class training. This section can be completed from home at any pace that suits your personal situation. Once complete, you can then attend a training center for a short period where you complete your all important observed teaching practice.

Visit our combined TEFL course page for full details on this very popular option.

Also, take a look at our FAQ: How does the combined TEFL course work?

Are there any additional TEFL qualifications I should consider?

Although a 120-hour online course or a four-week in-class option will allow you to apply for a large number of teaching jobs, some of the most sought after positions often require additional qualifications on your resume. The 120-hour course is essentially seen as an entry level qualification that will get your teaching career off the ground. In order to move up the ladder to higher paid jobs and positions of authority you will often need to have completed more than just the basic form of TEFL study.

The first port of call for many TEFL teachers is to add one or more specialized qualifications to their portfolio. These are courses aimed at unique areas of English teaching that require extra skills and knowledge that is more specific to the type of student you will encounter. One of the most common specialized courses is in teaching English online, which is one of the fastest growing sectors in the world of TEFL teaching. Online education was already flourishing but since the worldwide pandemic it has absolutely skyrocketed. Platforms for teaching English online are springing up at a rapid pace and opportunities for those who are suitably qualified are growing even quicker. Although you will be able to apply for many online teaching jobs with just a standard TEFL certification, candidates who also have a specialized qualification will be in a much stronger position as online teaching does require a significant amount of unique knowledge.

Are there any additional TEFL qualifications I should consider?

ITTT offers a convenient 60-hour course in teaching English online (CTEO). However, many first time trainees choose to take advantage of our great value course bundle: the 170-hour course in teaching English as a foreign language with online specialization. This option combines our standard 120-hour TEFL course with an additional section covering all the main areas of online English teaching.

Other common areas of specialized English teaching include teaching young learners and teaching business related English. Although the proportion varies from country to country, children and young adults usually make up a significant percentage of student numbers. With an additional specialized qualification in teaching English to young learners you will be ahead of the game when it comes to your job applications and you will be far better equipped to provide the standard of language instruction your young students deserve.

Take a look at our 60-hour online course in teaching English to young learners (CTEYL).

In many parts of the world business related English is a very important area of TEFL as many companies require their employees to have a good grasp of the language if they want to earn promotions or move into more sought after positions. In some countries it is common for large companies to hire their own ‘in-house’ TEFL teachers who take classes on the premises either before, during, or after normal working hours. There is no need to actually have any specific business background to work in this field as everything you need to know will be covered during the training course.

Take a look at our 60-hour course in teaching business English (CTBE).

What about high-end English teaching jobs?

The next step up from specialized TEFL courses is a diploma level qualification, such as the Diploma in TESOL from ITTT. By adding this type of qualification to your portfolio you will be in an even stronger position when applying for mainstream teaching jobs and you will also be able to apply for advanced level jobs that typically involve more responsibility and a better paycheck. Studying at this level usually requires more in the way of personal research and will cover in-depth subjects that will expand your teaching knowledge and hopefully lead to improved performances in the classroom from both you and your students.

What about high-end English teaching jobs?

Full details of our most advanced training course can be found via our Diploma in TESOL course page.

Should I sign up for more than one course at a time?

While a single 120-hour online or in-class TEFL course should be enough to get you a good teaching position, many trainees decide it is better to take advantage of the great value you can get in signing up for a multi-course package. By completing multiple courses you will expand the list of jobs that are open to you, improve your own understanding and performance in the classroom, and provide the very best quality of instruction for your students. As mentioned above, ITTT offers a 170-hour TEFL course which also covers online English teaching. In addition, we also have two other course bundles that you should take a close look at: the 220-hour Master Package and the 550-hour Expert Package.

If you are still a little confused about which course to take, check out our guide: which TEFL course is right for me?

Who employs TEFL teachers?

As the market for the English language is so big right across the world, there is no one situation that represents all TEFL teachers. There are many different types of employers catering to different students, and you could end up working for any of them. A large proportion of TEFL graduates go straight into working with young learners in government-run state schools, private schools, or kindergartens. These typically operate on standard school hours of around 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Monday to Friday (although the days and hours might vary from one country to the next).

Also read our FAQ: Who will my students be when teaching English abroad?

Another common scenario is working for private language centers that can be individual operations or part of a big chain of schools. These typically operate outside of normal school hours as many classes are aimed at school children who come for additional lessons. Many centers also offer classes to adult learners who might come before or after their normal working day. Your working hours in this type of school are likely to involve evenings and possibly weekends to suit the clientele.

For information to help you choose the right type of school for you, read our FAQ: What types of school hire English teachers abroad?

Working in one-to-one situations as a private English tutor is also common practice, although for many people this is just a convenient way to top up the salary from their main school job. Colleges and universities are also a good option as the working hours are often quite low and the pay reasonably good, although these jobs are relatively small in number in most areas. One other common employer is private businesses. Many medium and large businesses hire their own TEFL teachers or bring in teachers from outside schools to improve the English of their staff members. These lessons could take place before, during, or after normal working hours and it can sometimes be difficult to motivate the students as they haven’t actually chosen to be there in many cases.

Our TEFL Jobs Page is a great place to get an idea of the type of job offers and working conditions you can expect when looking for TEFL positions worldwide.

Where do TEFL teachers teach?

One of the big bonuses of being a TEFL teacher is you get to choose where you want to live and work as jobs can be found in almost every country you can think of. However, while a highly qualified teacher with several years of classroom experience will be in a great position to apply for virtually any job in any country, most newly-qualified TEFL teachers will need to be a bit more realistic until they have gained some of their own experience. Essentially, it is best to look at where the most vacancies are when looking for your first teaching job.

Infographic TEFL Teacher Lifestyle

TEFL in Asia

When it comes to the highest number of job vacancies, Asia is without doubt the continent to head for. Jobs can be found in large numbers in countries such as China, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, and Thailand. In fact, China has so many English language learners that there are never enough teachers to fill all the vacant positions. In many parts of these countries you will find a choice of jobs, even for first time teachers, although some do have a few restrictions in place. In these popular destinations you will typically need to be a native English speaker and have a degree in any subject in order to qualify for a work visa. For TEFL graduates who don’t meet this criteria, teaching jobs can still be found in many less developed countries in the region such as Cambodia, Indonesia, and Vietnam.

Take a look at our blog post: Ultimate country match guide for teaching EFL in Asia

If you don’t have a degree, don’t despair. Check out our guide to teaching English without one.

TEFL in the Middle East

Although technically this region is mainly located in Asia, it deserves a separate section as it is a major player in the world of TEFL. teaching jobs are widespread in the Middle East as most countries are made up of a large number of different nationalities from all over the world and English is often used as a common language. Due to the high demand, jobs in this region are usually among the best paid in the business and they often include some great extra benefits as well. In countries such as Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates your salary is likely to be tax free and you can often expect free accommodation, paid flights in and out of the country, and an end of contract bonus. However, to be eligible for this type of job you will typically need to have a year or two of classroom experience behind you. Other countries with high demand that sometimes have less restrictions include Jordan, Kuwait, Oman, and Qatar.

Take a look at our blog post: Ultimate country match guide for teaching EFL in the Middle East

TEFL in Europe

People have been flocking to Europe to teach English for many years due to the wide diversity of culture on offer in the region. Long term favorites such as France, Italy, and Spain are still highly popular places to teach, although the high cost of living does make it harder to live comfortably here than in other regions. For many teachers it is worth living cheaply in order to spend a year or more living and working in a major city such as Barcelona, Paris, Rome, or Madrid. For others, it makes more sense to look towards countries where the cost of living is a little lower. Countries such as the Czech Republic, Poland, Slovakia, and Slovenia are all good examples of destinations where jobs are widely available and the cost of living is less severe.

Take a look at our blog post: Top tips for teaching English in Europe

TEFL in Latin America

The Latin American region covers a large area and a wide range of different countries. Generally speaking the market for TEFL teachers is considerably lower here than those mentioned above, although there are a few countries with a long history of welcoming foreign teachers. Countries such as Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Costa Rica, and Mexico, all have well established TEFL markets, with plenty of jobs on offer in all the main cities and tourist hotspots. Outside of these options there are several other countries that have a smaller yet growing market to explore. If you would like to get off the beaten track, countries such as Bolivia, Colombia, and Peru have some exciting opportunities for those who are looking for something a little different. It is generally the case that teachers come to this region to look for adventure rather than a large paycheck.

Take a look at our blog post: Ultimate country match guide for teaching EFL in Latin America

Teaching TEFL Online

Although teaching overseas is the dream of many TEFL course graduates, it is not always possible due to personal commitments, and more recently, the COVID-19 pandemic. The good news is that there is a wide choice of options for people who like the idea of working from home and those who simply have no choice in the current climate. Online teaching platforms are thick on the ground and new ones are popping up on a regular basis, so you should find plenty of options out there. Some platforms will have tough restrictions that might rule you out, such as only hiring native English speakers or teachers with a degree. However, due to the vast demand, there are always alternative options to suit almost anyone. For some people teaching online is a great way to gain some real experience before applying for overseas jobs, while for others it is a convenient way to earn a good living without having to uproot your existing life.

Have a quick read of our blog: How to find a job as an English teacher online.

If you are interested in teaching English online, ITTT offers a number of great online course options to get your virtual teaching career underway.

How do I get a job as a TEFL teacher?

The first stop for most teachers looking for a job is to hit Google and follow the links to job boards and teaching forums. This route will bring up a lot of options, however, smaller schools and some lesser known countries are often underrepresented online. If you find one or more options that interest you, simply send off an application and wait to hear back. If the employer likes what you have included in your cover letter, CV/resume and application form they will request an interview which is often completed online or even by phone in some cases. If accepted, you will then be given a start date and it will be up to you to arrive in the required place at the required time to begin your new post. Depending on the employer, you might receive some level of help with sorting out a visa, work permit or any other kind of paperwork that is required. Things such as accommodation and travel arrangements might also be sorted for you or they might be entirely down to you, so it is important that you find out all the details during the application process.

Infographic Tips for writing a TEFL/TESOL Resume/ Curriculum Vitae

Other popular routes towards employment include recruitment companies and job placement schemes. Many people sign up with recruitment companies as they generally take care of all the paperwork for you and it won’t cost you a penny as the employer pays for their services. The main downside of this option is you might have restricted choice as to where you end up living and working.

For more information have a read of our blog post: Top reasons to choose a recruiter when finding a job teaching English abroad.

Several countries operate TEFL placement schemes that typically offer a very safe and well organized way to find a job. Many of these programs are government run and have been in operation for many years. Simply find the official website and start the ball rolling if you meet the stated criteria. These programs usually have one or two start dates per year so it is important to act quickly if you don’t want to miss the boat. Countries that operate large scale recruitment programs for foreign teachers include France, Hungary, Spain, Japan, South Korea, Hong Kong, and Chile.

If you are still not convinced that becoming a TEFL teacher is for you, check out this video to see what our course graduates have to say about their training course and what they have gone on to achieve with their TEFL qualification from ITTT.

How do I get a job as a TEFL teacher?

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