I’m Freshly TEFL Certified: Now What?

by Suzanne Bhagan

If you’re serious about teaching English as a foreign language at home or abroad, you know that getting Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) certified is your first stepping stone. Once you’ve spent those 120 required hours doing the coursework (and at least six hours getting teaching practice in a real classroom), you’re a freshly minted TEFL certified rockstar. So...now what?

Teacher in front of a chalk board

Step 1: Suss out your goals.

Before you even think about getting a TEFL job, why not consider your goals? Are you craving some adventure and just want to get out there, meet new people and explore foreign cultures? Do you want to be more than a tourist and immerse yourself in a foreign country for a long period of time? Do you need to make some money to pay off your student loans? Would you ever consider making English teaching a long-term career or do you just want to become a better teacher? Once you prioritize your list of goals and have laid out your clear intentions for travel, you’re now more self-aware and ready to start taking steps to finding an English teaching job abroad. 

Step 2: Decide where you want to go.

Having TEFL certification under your belt can literally take you places. Because certain courses like Trinity TESOL and CELTA are highly recognized around the world, employers are more likely to take notice of your CV or resume. Without it, you’ll realize that speaking English isn’t enough to start teaching English abroad and that the really well-paying jobs are usually reserved for those who have the right qualifications.

First, you should decide where you want to teach. ESL teaching jobs are plentiful (and popular) in China, South Korea, and Japan. But don’t worry, it’s not only Sinophiles who have luck in the ESL job market. if you have your sights set on Latin America, Africa, or the Middle East, there are plenty more options available.

Knowing where you want to go will help narrow down your job search options tremendously. Next, you need to research the minimum requirements to become a TEFL teacher in your chosen location. Some countries may allow you to teach with just a TEFL certificate while others will ask whether you’ve also completed a four-year undergraduate degree (it’s not always required, but sometimes).

You should also explore work visa requirements for the particular country you wish to teach in. In many cases, you can’t just show up and start job hunting. In Japan, for example, some schools only hire individuals who already reside in the country although you will find other organizations who are willing to sponsor work visas for overseas candidates.

You should also take note of the best time to apply for employment as a TEFL teacher. Some countries offer teaching jobs all year round, but others are a bit more specific. For example, if you’d like to be hired as an Assistant Language Teacher (ALT) in Japan at public and private elementary and high schools, it’s best to apply before the start of the school year in April. On the other hand, if you’d like to teach English in Western Europe, you should know that recruiting is most active in August and January. Generally speaking, many international schools worldwide recruit teachers in January, February, and March.

Children in Peru

Step 3: Figure out what type of teaching job you’d like.

If you know what kind of job you’re looking for, it’ll help to laser-focus your search. Here are some questions you should ask yourself to find out your teaching niche:

  • How much time are you willing to commit to teaching? What about running an English club after school or on weekends?
  • What’s your minimum asking salary?
  • Do you want a monthly salary or are you comfortable with part-time or short term employment?
  • Are you willing to work 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., mornings, evenings, weekends, or national holidays?
  • What age group are you most comfortable teaching: young kids, teenagers, university students, or adults?
  • Do you want to teach beginners, intermediate, or advanced English learners?
  • Do you want to teach in a traditional classroom at a school, university, or language academy?
  • Do you prefer teaching at a public school or a private/commercial language school?
  • What class size can you manage?
  • Would you consider tutoring smaller classes privately?
  • Do you see yourself teaching English at a large corporation?
  • Is teaching English online an option for you?
  • Would you like to teach in a big city, small town, or in the rural countryside?
  • Do you want to become an assistant teacher or do you want to run your own class?
  • What kind of English can you teach expertly? Academic English? Conversational English? Do you want to teach students how to pass exams or do you want them to be able to have a conversation with a native speaker?
Family in Thailand

Asking these questions will help you weed out the jobs that don’t line up with your career aspirations. And trust us, if you don’t like kids while waiting in line at the grocery store, you’re probably not going to like them all day, err’ day in a classroom, either (#betruetoyourself).

Step 4: Actually find a job 

How do you find a teaching job abroad? After getting certified, does your TEFL provider offer any recruitment services or job hunting tips? This is a great option if you’re freshly TEFL trained, with little experience working abroad. Can you speak to someone who’s already graduated and has already used the service? What did they think about it? Even if your school does provide teaching placement, you shouldn’t leave it all in their hands. Do your own research for any teaching positions they offer you.

If your TEFL provider does not provide a placement service, the internet is a treasure trove when it comes to looking for English teaching jobs. Instead of doing very general Google searches for TEFL jobs, you should explore job boards and forums specific to the region or country you’d like to work in (psst - GoAbroad is a great resource to find all that and more). For example, if you’d like to teach English in Thailand, check out this link about about teaching in Thailand.  If you dream of teaching English to Japanese students, then make a point to find online resources particularly for you. Alternatively, you can check reputable online expat forums for potential job leads. Again, always research the school or company you want to work for and read reviews to get insider information.

When searching for TEFL jobs online, be aware that scams do exist. If the salary and perks seem too good to be true compared to similar job offers in a particular country, you should think twice. Also, beware of offers that ask you to pay job application/work visa fees upfront. Always cross-check these job opportunities by exploring review sites like GoAbroad or by speaking to a teacher who currently works at the school.


Here is a short list of companies that are hiring ESL teachers right NOW - get ‘em while they’re hot!

Find more hot jobs and current teaching job openings here.

Students in South Africa

Happy Job Hunting!

Now that you know what to do with your freshly minted certification, you’re well on your way to leading a meaningful life abroad as an ESL teacher. With your TEFL certification and good attitude in tow, the only thing stopping you is the difficulty in saying goodbye to burritos (they’re never as good abroad).