Is Teaching English Abroad a Good Idea?

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Why teach English abroad?

Teaching English abroad is a mixed bag; it has its ups and its downs, and the more you know about them, the better you’ll be able to answer the question, “is teaching English abroad a good idea?” for yourself. So, first let’s talk about the good stuff (aka. why you should even be considering teaching English abroad at all).

Is Teaching English Abroad a Good Idea?

Teaching in another country is one of the best ways to immerse yourself totally in the local culture.

Unlike other travelers who zip in and out of places and hardly scratch the surface, as an English teacher abroad, you get to stay grounded for a longer period. Staying put means you also get to tap into the best resource, locals, to find out the best the area has to offer. Because you’re there living and working as an English teacher, and not a mere tourist, locals will feel more inclined to let you in on secret eating joints and watering holes. Sounds tasty, right?

Teaching English abroad means you get to learn the local language in real life.

In fact, English teachers abroad who learn the native language of their students often have an easier time reaching them because they better understand the similarities and differences between the local language and English.

Being an English teacher abroad is one of the most rewarding experiences you’ll ever have.

You’ll meet so many amazing people: your students, your co-workers, even folks in the local community. You’ll also discover so much about yourself: how patient you can be, how independent you can be, and how flexible you can become in and out the classroom. 

When is teaching English abroad a good idea?

There are plenty of times in life when teaching English abroad just makes sense, and there are other times when it can seem down right essential. Here's a few examples of when teaching English abroad is truly a fantastic idea:

You’re just out of college and you’re not sure what’s next.

If you’re just out of university and have no clue what you’d like to do next, you can always take a couple months or years off and try your hand teaching English. Even if you never majored in English, education, or linguistics, becoming an English teacher can help you figure out what you’re capable of in the big, bad world.  

Teaching English overseas can also help cut the apron strings. You will learn how to really fend for yourself by not just traveling abroad, but by working and living full time in a foreign country (i.e. grown up stuff). You’ll learn how to go grocery shopping and cook with ingredients you never heard of. You’ll become an expert in reading signs and timetables at the local bus or train station. You’ll find yourself appreciating new music, books, and movies. Best of all, you’ll develop new ways to see and understand the world; something you can’t get if you never leave Kansas (or any other place you call home), Dorothy.

steel gate of brown brick university building
You’re just out of school, or maybe you’ve been out of school long enough you don’t even know what a classroom looks like anymore— is teaching English abroad a good idea?

You’re just out of college and you know this is what’s next. 

What if you’ve always known that teaching English was your calling? At college, you were an English or education major and took all the courses you could in Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL). In your free time, you tutored kids in ESL (English as a Second Language). During semester breaks, you traveled abroad and toyed with the idea of teaching full-time in a foreign country.  

Own your dream. Take action. Where do you want to teach? Do you want to make the big bucks in the Middle East, South Korea, or Japan? Soak up local culture in Europe, South Africa, or Nicaragua? Second, what level do you want to teach? Teeny tiny kids, adults, business people, university students? It’s also time to start building that teacher’s kit. Start sourcing stuff you’ll use abroad like funky stamps, lesson plan ideas, props for the classroom, puppets, you name it!

You’re mid-career and need a change of pace.

Suppose you’re like Chandler Bing and have been slogging away at a job you really don’t understand. It’s not something that you’re passionate about anymore and you need a change of scenery. Or, you like your job but at the moment you feel meh. Why not take a sabbatical from the office and try a different work environment? Teaching in another country can be one of the most meaningful travel experiences you’ll ever have, and although it may seem intimidating at first, it’s never too late to get yourself prepared.

If you have no teaching experience, no worries. Some places aren’t fussy about that requirement, and schools will hire you AND provide you with the necessary training. All you have to know is how to get a job without experience.

man and woman in business attire walking together and smiling
You’re walking to work, tired, ready for a change— definitely a yes. 

Is teaching English abroad a good idea for YOU?

So, we’ve cleared away some of the doubt and confusion about whether you should teach English abroad if you’re just out of school and don’t have a clue, if you’re just out of school and rearing to get your teach on, or if you just need a career break. Now ask yourself, is teaching English abroad a good idea for you? 

Are you committed to teaching in another country? This isn’t a vacay.

Teaching abroad is not the same as traveling abroad. One more time for the people in the back: teaching abroad is NOT the same as traveling. Many people think that getting a teaching gig abroad means travel 24/7 and are sorely disappointed when they realize that teaching can be tough, especially if they’ve never taught before. 

Before taking the plunge, ask yourself: am I ready to be a committed teacher or am I going to flake one week into the job? Am I prepared to spend long hours outside of teaching time drafting lesson plans, making classroom props, and marking scripts? If I am hired by a private language school, am I ready to put in the hours, teaching back-to-back classes with little help? If I want to work in the public school system, do I understand that I have to deal with bureaucracy and may not always get my ideas in the classroom? Am I prepared to go back to the drawing board if my ideas don’t work? If you’ve answered no to most of these questions, maybe you aren’t cut out for teaching, especially teaching English abroad. 

woman sitting by seashore in sunlight
You walked across that stage, got your diploma, and said “now what?” — still yes.

Are you TEFL certified already?

If you’re already TEFL certified, are your qualifications enough for the school or company you want to work for? Are they accredited or reputable internationally? For schools looking to hire professional ESL teachers, an online TEFL course won’t cut it because they want to see that you’ve already had real classroom experience. There’s also a hierarchy in the world of TEFL qualifications: some are regarded by employers are infinitely better than others. For example, in many parts of the world, CELTA (Certificate in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) and the Trinity Certificate in TESOL (Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages) are seen as the gold standards in ESL education. 

Do you want to be TEFL certified? 

If you’re just out of uni or on a career break and never taught before, one thing you should do is get TEFL certified. Nothing’s worse than looking like a deer in headlights in front of your first students. TEFL courses help you get your feet wet. You can even do them before you set foot in the country you want to teach in. Look for courses with at least 100+ hours of training. There are countless TEFL courses to choose from. Even if you can’t travel right now, there are also affordable and flexible online TEFL courses to consider.  

man wearing black and white stripes looking at a board with plans mapped out
You walked across that stage, got your diploma, and now you’re on track to teach English abroad as planned— so, yes. 

If you decide you do need to get TEFL certified, check out these highly recommended TEFL programs:

  • ITTT. Also known as International TEFL and TESOL Training, ITTT offers in-class courses (120 hours at many locations worldwide), online courses ( minimum 60 hours) and combination courses for the best of both worlds (120 hours and two weeks face to face training).  
  • OxfordTEFL. This organization provides one of the gold standards in TEFL certifications, the Trinity Certificate in TESOL. This qualification is recognized by the British Council and by language schools and employers worldwide.  
  • Maximo Nivel. This company welcomes students from all ages and stages in life. It also ensures quality control among the teachers it trains. For example, if you’re not a native English speaker, you have to pass their English qualification test before starting the program. Newbie teachers also have to be comfortable using technology in the classroom.

Is teaching English abroad a good idea? Final answer = YES!

Can’t wait to get started?  Start browsing teaching jobs, reach out to different program providers, talk to program alumni, read unbiased program reviews, and compare programs side by side with MyGoAbroad today! 

Topic:  Before You Go