How to teach English overseas (From a teacher who’s done it)

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A great way to travel the world and fund your travels is to teach English overseas.

If you want to spend a long time in a destination, teaching English is a popular option for overseas travelers looking to earn funds and reside outside of their home countries.

English teaching offers individuals the chance to travel to exotic locations, learn a new culture, and earn some extra cash.

How to teach English overseas

The Golden Mountain
Teaching in Bangkok

We both had the good fortune to teach English overseas in Bangkok, Thailand for six months. Caz went through one of the teach English abroad programs and got her TEFL certification, whilst Craig had no experience and no certification.

Some schools want to submerge their students in English and want your Western presence in their schools.

Teach English Abroad Programs (mentioned at bottom of this post) are numerous and do not require that you speak the local language.

Even if you have no teaching experience, you can still find work if you get your TEFL certification.

The Opportunities for teaching English overseas

kids sitting for a class picture
teaching in London, 1997

Your ability to teach English overseas varies tremendously around the world. Your best bet would be to consider Asia as they have a wide availability of jobs, the pay is better than anywhere else, and the cost of living is generally low.

Teaching English abroad is not always easy and there are times you wish you never got involved, but if you place yourself in a location which you are interested in, it makes it so much easier to get out and explore, to meet local people, and to deal with any culture shock issues.

Even if you don’t intend to make teaching a career, the experience of teaching English overseas looks great on your resume, and the experiences of interacting with the locals will last a lifetime.

Depending on where you go and what type of job you want, the qualifications needed will vary as will the pay. In some of the top positions, benefits can include airfare and housing.

1. What Are the Requirements for teaching English abroad?

  • Be a native English speaker.
  • Have a bachelor’s degree, generally from a 4-year accredited university.
  • Have TEFL certification/teaching degree. If you have TEFL certification your chances of getting hired increase greatly. And a teaching degree almost guarantees you a position

2. What is TEFL, ESL, TESL and TESOL?

TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language.) is a certification course to teach English around the world.

The TEFL program

  • typically lasts for 120 hrs
  • combines lectures and classwork with at least 6 hours of observed teaching practice
  • is offered in many places around the world
  • prices and quality vary depending on where you do the course

ESL stands for English as a Second Language. It’s basically the study of English by people who speak a different native language.

TESL stands for Teaching English as a Second Language.

TESOL is Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages.

3. Where to teach English overseas?

Locations for teaching English overseas include:

Teaching English abroad is a big industry and demand for teachers is growing, with the peak hiring season being around July for a September start.

When choosing a destination there are factors that you need to consider.

  1. Think about your travel interests and areas that fascinate you.
  2. Consider your nationality and what countries may have economic, political, or geographic ties to your own.

For example, if you are British you have a good chance of finding work in Europe without any visa or political issues, and also Africa. Whereas an American would find it easier in Asia and Latin America.

Now this is not set in stone, and as long as you are a native speaker, have TEFL certification or a teaching degree, then the opportunity to teach English abroad anywhere there is a demand will be greater.

4. Teaching English overseas: Benefits and salary

people smiling
Caz teaching in Bangkok

Salaries and benefits range from country to country, town to town, school to school, and if you are going through one of the teach English abroad programs, then program to program.

There are SO many variables like your qualifications and experience, the school’s budget, how many hours you work, the type of school etc.

Generally, you can earn from $0 as a volunteer, up to around $60,000 per year for elite private schools. And most of the top paying schools expect you to sign a 2-year contract.

There are always exceptions, but generally this is the norm.

Not all schools and countries offer you benefits, but some of the better ones do (especially international schools).

Benefits can include:

  • Free round trip airfare (usually refunded at the end of your contract).
  • Free Accommodation (type and size will vary)
  • One month’s severance package

5. Can I teach English overseas without a degree?

It’s possible to be in the right place at the right time and to find work without a degree. This is rare and not a recommended path.

There are people working without degrees or TEFL certification, and generally in the rural areas where it’s harder for schools to recruit qualified individuals.

6. Types of English schools overseas

Government Schools

Government schools are probably the most reliable. You will get paid, have some level of support, and the school probably won’t close anytime soon! However, they are usually the worst paying jobs.

Language Schools

You should get much better pay here than a government school. For example, Caz worked at a language school in Bangkok on a Saturday, and her pay for one day there was equivalent to half-a-months pay from her full-time government school position.

Also, your schedule and curriculum should have more flexibility, and the resources will be much better. The negatives are that your job may not be as secure and they don’t always deliver what they promise so do your research.

Private Schools

Private schools offer better pay than Government schools, and the students may be slightly better, but you will probably have less flexibility than a language school. Once again, there are good and bad private schools, so do your research and try and speak to current or former teachers.

International Schools

Usually, international schools are the top of the range schools.The students are children of international expats, diplomats, or very rich locals. Curriculum should be close to or the same as your country of origin.

Teaching should be similar to at home, and obviously, most of the students should speak fluent English and be motivated. The pay at International schools should be the best you can get, with added benefits like airfare, accommodation etc thrown in.

The negative is that competition for these jobs is tough, prospective teachers are highly qualified, you are required to sign 2 year contracts, and openings are few and far between.

And like other schools, there are good and bad International schools, and “fake” international schools.

A good guide as to whether it’s a “true” international school is to look at the enrollment of students and the ratio of international kids to locals.

Some International schools advertise themselves as such, but they mainly have local students and are therefore a glorified private school.

Online English Schools

Take advantage of the booming market – teaching English online to Chinese students from home!

This is a great way to earn money teaching english.

Check out these schools for teaching English to Chinese students online:

Corporate Training

These jobs typically pay very high, the students will be adults who want to learn, your schedule can be somewhat flexible, and the work could last a few months. Hours are usually before or after business hours. These jobs are also typically hard to get and require experience.

7. TEFL Tips

  • Expand Your Circle of Friends – make the effort to not only interact with the natives of the country you are in, but also the other English teachers from all over the globe.
  • It’s a Career With Growth Opportunities – if you are passionate enough about teaching English overseas, you can get a Master’s degree and learn how to teach other teachers.
  • Learn Another Language – take the opportunity to learn the language of your chosen country, at least be conversational.
  • Go Abroad With an Organization – if it’s your first time teaching abroad, you may find going with one of the credible Teach English abroad programs the best way.
  • Take the Good With the Bad – there will be fun and easy days and difficult times as well. Take the good with the bad and understand that YOU signed up for this.
  • Open Your Eyes – take off the blinkers and see life from other people’s perspectives.
  • Make a New Start – turn it into an opportunity to leave your past behind and create an entirely new life.
  • Go Somewhere Fun – make sure you’re in a place where you can enjoy your leisure time and have some fun, otherwise, what’s the point?
  • Travel Longer – use your hard earned money to travel much longer and don’t just blow it on meaningless things.
  • Immerse Yourself in Culture – as a teacher you can be completely immersed in the culture, much more so than as just a traveller.
  • High Turnover Rate – don’t be disappointed if you can’t find work straight away. There is a high rate of turnover so there are constantly jobs becoming available.
  • Not For Everyone – be aware that teaching isn’t for everyone and those with limited patience, vacation time from home, or English skills may find more enjoyment in other jobs abroad.
  • Make Extra Money Teaching on the Side – it’s quite possible that once you actually get to the country you’re teaching in, you’ll probably have many opportunities to make extra money as a private tutor.
  • Don’t Be Book Heavy – don’t just rely on the book to do the teaching for you. Think up fun and creative ways to help your students learn the English language.
  • It’s not all Easy – it’s not all fun and games, there are lesson plans to be prepared, unruly students to deal with, and paying ‘customers’ to be taught. Most teachers spend 1-3 years in the workplace after receiving certification.
  • In-Class Experience – when looking to get qualified, search for a TEFL program that offers in-class teaching time. That way, you know what you’re doing before you step foot in the front of a classroom.
  • Career Change Without University Costs – TEFL can be your career change that costs a lot less than going back to university. It’s a great way to combine travel, exploring and learning a new skill.
  • Not just for backpackers: Teaching English isn’t just for backpackers. Retirees and people looking for a career change or break and those who wish to pursue English as a Second Language (ESL) degrees are also popular candidates for TEFL programs.

8. Teaching English Courses

  • TEFL Institute – all your TEFL courses and information.
  • i-to-i – the world’s leading online and short course TEFL provider.
  • EBC International TEFL Certificate – accredited online and residential courses.
  • TEFL International – accredited courses and job placements.
  • Oxford Seminars – the leading provider of TESOL, TESL and TEFL certification.
  • American TESOL Institute – internationally recognized teacher training organization.

9. Jobs Boards, Teach English Abroad Programs, and Volunteering

Global Work and Travel

Want to teach and travel around the world?

Since 2013, Global Work and Travel have been helping travelers work and fund their travels through cultural exchange programs both paid and unpaid.

One of the elements of a successful working holiday is to find local, seasonal employment to use as a means to fund your travels around the country. This is not easy, but Global Work and Travel makes it so as they have spent years with hundreds of local businesses that do hire travellers.

We are enthusiastic partners of theirs as we believe in what they do, avid lovers of working abroad, and know they can help you!

Their Teach trips give you the chance to take part in a 3-4 week class-based TEFL or TESOL course where you’ll learn how to teach English to foreign students.

You’ll be provided with accommodation, transfers and cultural activities and excursions throughout your course. Upon completion, you’ll be awarded an internationally-recognised accreditation which will give you the freedom to teach and travel all over the world or land a local teaching placeme

Read more in our full post on the Global Work and Travel opportunity. 

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How to Teach English Overseas

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