Teach English Abroad

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A Guide to Teaching Abroad

Are you more of a Ms. Frizzle or a Ms. Norberry? Mr. Miyagi or Mr. Feeny? Professor McGonagall or Professor John Keating? No matter which fictional (or real life) teacher you prefer, if you’ve made it this far, you are ready to join the pack and try your luck at teaching abroad. You are likely excited at the possibility of doing meaningful work in an exciting new destination, all the while making incredible new friends and learning about awesome new cultures. It doesn’t hurt that you could get paid to do it either! Grab your passport, review your bank’s international fee structures, stock up on lesson plan ideas and supplies, and start your search for teaching jobs abroad!

Step 1. Sort Out Requirements

Not only do different teaching opportunities abroad have different requirements for teachers, but different countries do, too. Research accordingly for specific requirements in your country of choice.

You can guarantee that nearly all countries will require that you have a work visa in order to teach English; however, in some circumstances, you can get away with a tourist visa. Visa requirements vary from country to country, so be sure to do your homework (lest you be turned away by customs!).

Some commonly asked questions about requirements to teach abroad include:

Can I teach abroad without a degree? It is possible to teach abroad without a college degree. Would-be teachers with this pedigree should start their search in Latin America (Argentina, México, Costa Rica, and Ecuador come to mind) or in Asia (like China or South Korea). Countries of Eastern Europe also have less stringent prerequisites for candidates to hold four-year degrees.

Do I need a TEFL, TESOL, or CELTA certificate to teach English abroad? The short answer is YES, and no. Scroll further down this guide for an entire wham-bam section on certifications and teaching abroad.

Can non-native English speakers teach abroad? Absolutely! While some companies may require their teachers to be native speakers, this is certainly not true across the board. Those who speak English as a second language but wish to teach English abroad may have additional requirements to confirm fluency levels.

Do I need previous teaching experience? While it certainly helps and will allow you to succeed as a teacher or while you teach overseas, it is often that no experience is required. 

The minimum requirements for teaching abroad programs are in constant motion. To make yourself a strong contender for a teaching job abroad, come prepared with a resume of shiny credentials that can convince recruiters you can get the job done.

Step 2. Pick a Country

If only it were as easy to pick a country to teach abroad in as it is to pick a new Netflix show to get addicted to. Since life isn’t a menu of B films and one hit wonders, it is imperative that you think critically about where you would like to begin your teaching career abroad.

Consider factors like the rate of pay, the cost of living, the local language (and if you’re willing to learn it and live amidst it), the degree of comfort, and the proximity to super-awesome cultural adventures.

Here are some commonly asked questions regarding teaching abroad programs and choosing a destination:

Where can I earn the most money teaching English abroad? The best paying (and consequently most popular) countries to teach abroad in are concentrated in East Asia and the Middle East. Countries like Saudi Arabia, South Korea, the UAE, Japan, China, Vietnam, Taiwan, and Jordan offer the most well paying English teaching jobs abroad.

Where is the easiest place to get a teaching job abroad? More and more individuals are flocking to countries like Colombia, Turkey, the Czech Republic, Georgia, and Chile to teach abroad. The requirements for teachers in these countries can vary depending on the type of teaching job you seek (hint: you can’t just waltz up and become their next English university professor). All of these locations are proactively seeking native English speakers and make the process fairly easy for newcomers, however.

Do I need to speak the local language to teach English abroad? Not at all; in fact, it would actually be counterproductive if you used the local language in your teaching (it’s all about #languageimmersion, no?!). That being said, if this is your first time going abroad or you have recurring nightmares of language barriers, think through which destination you will ultimately call “home.” Challenge yourself, but be realistic.

Just remember: even if you choose one country and it doesn’t quite jive with you the way you hoped, there are plenty more countries out there hungry for ESL teachers. Be flexible, patient, and willing to adapt.

Be sure to search through our teach abroad directory to find and compare all of your destination options. Go ahead, choose one off the beaten path!

Step 3. Find ESL Teaching Jobs Abroad

Not all English teaching jobs are created equal. 

Consider the following important factors when sifting through your teaching job options abroad: 

Program Length. Are you able to commit to teaching abroad for a calendar year? Six months? A summer season? Whatever your availability, be sure to communicate up front with potential program providers or employers to ensure the teaching job is a suitable match.

Student Age. Do you prefer to work with little rugrats on vocab development and simple grammar structures? Prefer to coach high school students in writing essays and critiquing literature? Or maybe you long to work with ambitious, hard working university students? OR SCRAP ALL OF THAT. Adult learners are the new black. Whatever your cup of teach abroad tea, communicate up front your preferred student age group.

Classroom Environment. Does the thought of spending one-on-one time with students for two to three hours daily sound horrible or exciting? Does the thought of one teacher in a classroom of 20 students for six to eight hours daily sound horrible or exciting? Does the thought of working with four to eight students for many hours weekly sound horrible or exciting? Ask yourself these questions, then choose a teaching job abroad based on your answers.

The more aware YOU are of the type of experience you want for teaching abroad programs, the more likely your provider will be able to find you a decent teaching gig.

We suggest potential-teachers with little to no prior experience teaching strongly consider earning a TEFL certificate. By earning TEFL certification, you will learn more about yourself and your teaching style, and begin to suss out the type of teaching environment where your skills will flourish. TEFL certification can only help you in choosing a teaching job abroad that best fits you.

Step 4. Secure Your TEFL Certification

We get it. TEFL talk can be strangely difficult to navigate; there are a myriad of reputable resources online telling you one thing and forums saying another and your personal network of past ESL teachers saying yet another thing. Everyone’s got an opinion on how to teach overseas with A TEFL.

If you decide a TEFL certificate is right for you, keep these things in mind:

Is a TEFL Certificate worth the money? Any money that you invest in training yourself to be better at your job will ultimately be a worthwhile expenditure! Your students will benefit from a teacher who “gets” it. Your sanity will benefit due to less panic attacks and increased confidence. Oh, and your paycheck will likely be higher!

Should I do an Online TEFL Course or in person? Whether you opt to complete your TEFL certification course online or in-person will warrant positive results; the choice between these two options ultimately depends on your preferences. However, we often encourage individuals to commit to the physical course because it will give you more applicable experience in the classroom. In person TEFL courses are also a good practice run and a safe environment to work out your teaching nerves before taking a stab at the real thing.

Can I get my TEFL Certificate in the country I want to teach in? You betcha. Some organizations will jumpstart your experience with a multi-week TEFL certification on the ground, followed by job placement services. This is actually an awesome option, as it gives you a few weeks’ breathing room to adjust to life abroad before jumping head first into an ESL classroom.

What's the difference between TEFL/TESL/TESOL? TEFL is Teaching English as a Foreign Language. This is the certificate you’ll need to work in a country where English is not the native language. TESL is Teaching English as a Second Language, and is the certificate you’d need if you were trying to teach English to an individual who recently emigrated to an English speaking country. TESOL is Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages; TESOL & TEFL are essentially synonymous.

Keep in mind it IS possible to teach English abroad without TEFL. But how would you feel? Would you like to be taught in a classroom by someone whose only credentials lied in their nationality?

Step 5. Prep for the Classroom

Now that you’ve sussed out your qualifications for teaching abroad, chosen a country, picked the ideal work environment, and decided whether or not to get a TEFL certificate. It’s time to start prepping yo!

Here are some general tips for teaching abroad, so you can hit the ground running:

Ask your provider if they will give you lesson planning guidelines before you teach overseas. In short, max out all of your known resources to collect suggested lesson plans. Gathering new ideas and fall back lessons never hurt.

Ask your principal if there is an established curriculum. Your new school may require certain subject areas to be covered in your classes. Be sure to check in with your supervisor or principal for any insight on ways to stay on track.

Get pinning. Utilize the internet for lesson plan ideas. There is an amazing corner of the internet just waiting to be explored, and now you can turn one of your favorite pass times into something productive!

Think creatively for alternative supplies. You won’t always have boxes of glitter or stacks of construction paper at your disposal. Use what you got. Pro-teachers know to come prepared with certain supplies, but it is unrealistic to expect international teachers to devote a ton of luggage space to pens and pencils. Be innovative!

There you have it boys and girls, I mean, uh, teachers-to-be. Embarking on your grand education adventure requires a pinch of prep, a dash of confidence, a bit of optimism, and four cups of sweet, sweet motivation. Ride the high and enjoy the entire experience of finding, choosing, rocking, and successfully completing your teaching job abroad!

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