Teaching English abroad is a field that has something to offer everyone—from undergrads to recent grads, from career changers to retirees. The job itself is just as diverse as those who do it. You might teach a classroom of kindergarteners in South Korea, or a small group of business professionals in Brazil. You could live in a bustling urban center like Bangkok, or in a quiet village tucked in the Andes Mountains. What all teach abroad jobs have in common though, is a chance to expand your worldview, enhance your resume with international experience, and challenge the person you are today. This is teaching abroad.
Where are English teaching jobs?
Everywhere! There’s hardly a place in the world you can’t teach English. From Central and South America to Asia, the Middle East and beyond, the world needs qualified English teachers. Choosing where to go is a matter of identifying your goals as teacher (i.e., to live in a certain country, save money, learn a language, develop professionally, etc.) and matching your teaching location to those goals. The following are specific examples of the jobs you could do:
Teach at a language institute: This is the most common teach abroad position. Language institutes are specialized centers where people go to study English (and sometimes other languages). Classes tend to be on the smaller side—from about 6 to 12 students. As a teacher here you’ll work with students ranging in age, but most will probably be young adults (preparing for college entrance exams perhaps) or professionals needing to learn English to get ahead. You’ll work about 25 hours a week in this position, often in the evenings, since your students will come after work or school. You will either teach your classes there at the institute, or travel to your students’ place of work, and teach busy professionals “onsite.”
Teach at a public or private school or university: Depending on the country where you choose to work, this may or may not be an option, but in Asia it’s pretty common. In this position you’ll teach classrooms of students, grades kindergarten to high school. You may be the assistant teacher or run the show on your own. Teaching jobs can be at bilingual or international schools, where all the classes are in English, or you may teach English as a subject at a school where all other subjects are taught in the local language. In this position you could work up to 40 hours, including planning, but you’ll likely make more money than at a language school, and you’ll have weekends off.
Volunteer Teach: There are lots of programs out there that combine teaching English with various volunteer opportunities. This could be as simple as being offered room and board in exchange for teaching in a rural location (a great way to pick up the language!) or it could be more tailored to your interests. For example, you might volunteer teach in the Amazonian rainforest as part of a conservation project, or combine teaching with working with orphans, protecting sea turtles, or just about any cause that speaks to you.
Nanny/Au Pair: Parents interested in raising their children to be bilingual seek English-speaking nannies and au pairs to expose their kids to the language from a young age. In these positions you’ll be part teacher, part caretaker, and pay and benefits range dramatically—from room and board only, to a generous salary and paid vacations with the family.
Intern: Teaching internships are a great way to get training plus valuable work experience within the boundaries of a structured, supportive program. In a typical internship you’ll receive teacher training (often in the form of TEFL certification) and then a placement under the guidance of a head teacher or mentor. Like all internships, sometimes these positions are paid; other times you’ll have to fund it yourself.
Private tutor: In countries all over the world, people want to learn English, so many opportunities exist to provide one-on-one instruction to students. This can be done either through a language institute, which offers individual instruction, or by advertising yourself on a freelance basis. Just make sure you are not breaching any contracts you signed with a school or institute that may not allow you to teach on the side for extra cash.
When can I teach abroad?
Teaching abroad can fit nicely into just about anyone’s plan. You might get started while you’re still in college, perhaps as part of a semester abroad program or over the summer. Or you could take a year to teach in the gap between graduation and grad school, gaining some valuable international experience before applying for that first job. Teaching abroad also draws mid-career professionals in unrelated fields that might be ready for a new challenge or change of direction.
How can I get these jobs?
First you’ll need to get qualified, and it’s simpler than you think. You can earn your certificate in teaching English as a foreign language (TEFL) via a 4-week intensive, a part time or even an online training course. It’s important to match the type of certification (onsite or online, number of hours) to the hiring requirements of the country where you’d like to teach. Ask an advisor for help, or start researching TEFL job sites online to learn more. For those looking to make a career out of teaching English, consider taking a TEFL certification course which has been recommended for college credit, or getting a graduate certificate in teaching English as a second language (TESOL) from your university.
Hiring requirements will vary from country to country and school to school. Some positions will require a bachelor’s degree (or even master’s), but others won’t; some will require experience, but most will not. As you can imagine, many of the qualities that make a good teacher have nothing to do with the things you’ve learned in school! Patience, flexibility, inventiveness, organization and perhaps most of all, a sense of humor, will go a long way toward your success as an English teacher.
Once you’re certified, getting a teaching job abroad is much like getting a job at home: you can use the job placement resources of your TEFL provider to find open positions, or you can find them on your own using online TEFL job sites. Then you’ll polish your resume and send it directly to employers or recruiters, lining up interviews that will be conducted in-person or via Skype.