Can I teach English abroad?

Almost anyone who has the desire to teach English abroad can make their dream come true. Although you will find some restrictions regarding teaching experience and academic qualifications in some countries, there are plenty of great destinations around the world where a TEFL certificate is all that is required. Whatever your background, work history, or age, there is the perfect teaching job waiting for you somewhere in the world.

Can I teach English abroad without any teaching experience?

Yes, you can start a new career teaching English abroad without any form of teaching experience. Due to a huge demand for English language teachers in countries all over the world, tens of thousands of English speakers head overseas every year to work in a variety of different classrooms. Of this number, approximately 90% will have never worked in any kind of teaching role before.

How do I teach English without knowing my student's language?

Wherever you find yourself living and working as an English language teacher, you will most likely teach your students using a method known as total immersion, whereby no other language is used in the classroom besides English. As most learners are not in a position to move to an English speaking country in order to be surrounded by the language, it is the teacher's job to bring this immersion to the student in the classroom.

How will a TEFL certificate help me in the classroom?

Although experience is not necessary, it is not the case that simply being an English speaker qualifies you to become a language teacher. To be successful in the classroom, a teacher needs to possess a range of specific skills and knowledge that need to be learnt and practiced. By completing a high-quality TEFL certification course before you start your first teaching job, you will gain all the specialist skills you need, such as lesson planning, grammar awareness and classroom management. Once TEFL certified, you will be able to confidently apply for a wide range of jobs in countries all over the world.

Do I need a degree to teach English abroad?

If you have a four year college degree, the world really is your oyster when it comes to teaching English abroad. For those without a degree the options are more limited but it is by no means impossible.

Where do you need a degree to teach English abroad?

In recent years some of the traditional hot spots for EFL teaching have tightened their visa restrictions to include the requirement of holding a formal degree. Developed Asian countries such as South Korea, Japan and Taiwan generally require a degree to secure a work visa, whilst the lucrative markets of the Middle East are also hard to access without formal qualifications. However, the good news is that there are still plenty of options around the world for non-degree holders who are flexible and willing to go the extra mile to secure their dream job.

Why do TEFL employers require a degree in some areas?

Although some countries have a legal requirement for teachers to hold a degree, in many others it is simply down to the individual employer to set their own standards. In many of the most popular destinations the competition for jobs is so fierce that employers can set the bar as high as they like, making it difficult for non-degree holders. But do not despair as there are a few things you can do to increase your chances of landing a job.

How can I improve my TEFL job prospects if I don't have a degree?

Possibly the most important thing you can do to make yourself more employable is to complete an internationally recognized TEFL certification course. With a TEFL certificate in hand, you are able to show an employer that you have received some level of instruction in language teaching. The time and expense you have put into the course will also demonstrate your commitment to your new teaching career. Another great way to improve your employment options is to gain some teaching experience to put in your CV/resume. A short stint volunteering at a local language center or teaching private lessons to individuals in your community will go a long way when looking for paid work.

Where should I look for TEFL jobs if I don't have a degree?

Even with a TEFL certificate and some classroom experience you may still need to be a bit flexible when choosing where you would like to work. There are many fascinating countries around the world that are open to employing teachers without a degree. Latin America, Southeast Asia and much of Eastern Europe are all good places to start your search, and if you are in the country and available for an interview in person your chances of landing a job are extremely high. While it is true that a degree does give you more options in the international teaching market, having a TEFL certification and a strong desire to teach English abroad can also be all you need to start an exciting new career as an EFL teacher.

Do TEFL teachers need a second language?

The simple answer is no, you do not need to have any knowledge or experience of languages other than English to take a TEFL course or to become an EFL teacher. The ability to speak other languages is not required as the vast majority of TEFL classrooms around the world rely on the communicative approach to English teaching that specifies that English is the only language used in the classroom.

How can I teach English if I don't speak the student's language?

In multilingual classrooms where the students could have a dozen or more different first languages, being able to communicate in one or two of them would obviously be of no particular advantage. In monolingual classrooms you may also find that students are more inclined to revert to their mother tongue during the lesson if they are aware that the teacher can understand what is being said. Whatever the classroom environment, one of the basic principles of EFL teaching is for students to only communicate in English, from the very beginning to the very end of every lesson.

Does it help if a teacher has learnt a foreign language?

Although it is not necessary to speak other languages to be an effective EFL teacher, there are certainly advantages to having some experience in learning and using a foreign language. Firstly, it allows you to experience what it is like to be a language learner, which should help you to empathize with your students and therefore improve the effectiveness of your lessons. It can also change the way you look at your own language and can lead to a greater understanding of the fundamentals of English such as grammar structures etc.

Should I learn the local language while teaching English abroad?

If you find yourself living and working in a foreign country you are more than likely to pick up the local language to some degree during your stay. Being able to communicate with the local people can certainly make your life much easier on a day to day basis, and it can also significantly enhance your overall experience of teaching English abroad. However, as long as you have completed a good quality TEFL course and therefore learnt the skills and techniques needed to plan and deliver effective lessons, knowledge of the local language is by no means essential.

Are there any age limits for TEFL teaching?

The good news is that there is no real age restriction on who can take a TEFL course and then go on to teach English abroad. At ITTT we do require you to be at least 18 years old to enroll in our courses but there are certainly no upper age limits. Over the years we have successfully trained people of all ages, many of whom have gone on to have successful careers as English language teachers. As long as you are a native or near-native English speaker who is keen to learn new skills and is open to new ideas, then your age should be no barrier to your success.

Can older teachers find jobs teaching English abroad?

Although a large number of new TEFL graduates are in their 20s, it doesn't mean they are always the most sought after by employers. Yes, there are many employers around the world who are only interested in recruiting younger teachers for various different reasons. However, there are plenty of situations where more mature teachers are equally popular. If you have any previous experience in teaching or training related employment, then you will have little problem landing a teaching job. In fact, simply having plenty of general life experience can often go in your favor. One factor worth remembering is that roughly half of all EFL classes are for adult language learners, with the business English sector being one of the fastest growing. Many employers in these areas prefer their teachers to be more mature to help create a good rapport in the classroom, whilst any history in the world of business will also go strongly in your favor.

Are some regions better than others for older EFL teachers?

Age can be an issue in certain countries where visa requirements include an upper age restriction. When choosing where to teach it is advisable to thoroughly research any visa or work permit restrictions that may apply to your age range. A certain level of flexibility in where you look for work will also help you to find the right job. Certain regions are more likely to offer opportunities for all ages, with Latin America, Southeast Asia and the Middle East all being particularly good areas to explore.

How can I level the playing field as an older EFL teacher?

When looking to teach English abroad it is worth noting that more than half the jobs available worldwide require candidates to conduct an interview in person. This creates a great opportunity for teachers of all ages, as you get to meet the employer in person and show them that you are fit, healthy and professional in your approach, regardless of the age on your passport. The bottom line is, if you are keen to teach English abroad then there are jobs out there for everyone.

Can I teach English abroad if I have children?

It is certainly possible to travel overseas and work as an English language teacher if you have children. However, there are several things to consider before deciding whether it is the right option for you and your family.

What are the financial implications of teaching English abroad with children?

Wherever you are in the world raising children can be an expensive proposition, so before you head off to teach English abroad you need to be sure that it is financially viable. As pay levels vary greatly from one region to the next, where you plan to teach is one of the most important decisions you will have to make. Europe and Latin America are both very popular destinations for ESL teachers, but it is not easy to earn enough to support more than one person in these regions. In contrast, across Asia there are several countries such as China, South Korea, Taiwan and Japan where a mix of high salaries and a lower cost of living make it possible to comfortably support a child on a single teacher's pay.

What options do I have for my children's education?

If your child is preschool age you will need to consider the cost of daycare or the services of a nanny while you are at work. Once again, these are likely to be much more affordable in Asia than in Europe. Those with school age children also need to thoroughly research the options available in the country they are heading for. In some it is feasible to enroll a child in a local public school, while in others it is not. If it is possible to enroll your child in a local school, you still need to consider whether it is a suitable environment. Those who speak the local language should find it relatively easy to adapt, however, for most children it will mean rapidly learning the language in order to fit into unfamiliar surroundings. This might be realistic for young children who often find it easy to pick up a foreign language, but for teenagers it could be much more difficult. In countries where local schools are not an option, a British or American based international school is generally the only alternative. While these offer a high standard of education, the cost is likely to be beyond an average teacher's salary.

What about medical insurance and access to healthcare?

Many of the most affordable destinations for teaching English abroad are in developing nations where local health care options may not be of the standard you are used to back home. However, in many cases local medical facilities are of a good standard and very affordable so it is up to you to research your chosen area. In certain countries it is standard practice to provide health insurance as part of a teacher's contract, and some employers also provide insurance for dependents. If you successfully apply for a job that has you and your family covered, it could make a big difference financially and provide great peace of mind.

What about visas for my children?

If you are able to secure a job that includes a work visa then you should find that your child is eligible for some form of dependent visa. In countries where work visas are hard to secure, teachers often work on a simple tourist visa that needs to be renewed every three months. While this is common practice for many, teachers with children need to check with the authorities to confirm whether their child is eligible to attend public school without a long-term visa.

Is it safe for single women to teach English abroad?

Yes, not only is it safe for women to teach English abroad, it is also extremely popular. Every year there are somewhere in the region of 150,000 women working as ESL teachers in countries all over the world. Of these, the majority will find themselves living in modern, thriving cities across Europe, Asia and Latin America that have a similar level of infrastructure and amenities to what they are used to back home. Whether in Rome, Beijing, or Santiago, new teachers will almost certainly find there is an expat community of English speakers who are more than happy to provide local knowledge and information to help them settle into their new life overseas. Unfortunately, nowhere is 100% safe all of the time, but with a few simple precautions single women can head off to teach English abroad with little need for concern.

Where should I teach English abroad as a single woman?

Before you make a final decision on your destination for teaching English abroad, it is a good idea to do some research to ensure you choose a suitable location. For example, the role of women in society varies across different cultures, as does what is seen as acceptable interaction between the sexes. To decide whether you would feel comfortable living long term in any particular country, it is important to be familiar with the cultural norms so you can make an educated decision. A simple question you can ask yourself is: would I be happy to go to this location on vacation? If so, it is reasonable to assume that you would feel safe living and working there. Bear in mind that most of the biggest markets for ESL teachers are located in peaceful countries with well developed economies, rather than in war-torn and impoverished regions. Once you have decided on a city, the final thing to do before heading off is to research its different neighborhoods to find out which area is best to live in.

Where can I get advice on the local area?

Whatever your choice of destination, you are certain to find other like minded teachers who have also made the decision to live and work abroad. These colleagues can be a great source of local knowledge when finding your feet in your new home, particularly when it comes to staying safe. From how to safely use local transport, to contacting the police and emergency services, your new colleague's knowledge is invaluable. If they suggest there are certain parts of town or particular establishments that are best avoided, it is wise to assume they know what they are talking about. It is not only your new colleagues that will want to look out for you, as most people worldwide are happy to welcome foreign teachers into their communities. By making a conscious effort to engage with local people, you should find that you become accepted into the community and are therefore safer living within it.

What else can I do to stay safe?

Common sense is also an important part of staying safe while living and working abroad. By following a few simple rules you can dramatically reduce the chances of getting into any kind of trouble. Always avoid any areas that are seen as unsafe, particularly at night. When socializing, never accept drinks from strangers, and avoid getting drunk in public. Avoid flaunting any sign of wealth such as jewelry, electronic gadgets, or wads of cash. Finally, be clear on how to contact the police and other emergency services.