Reading stories of overseas travel and deciding “I would like to teach English abroad”. Travelling abroad to teach for a year or for a long period of time takes planning after you have decided this is the right choice for you.
The notion of moving to another country abroad to teach children or adults English requires certain qualifications, skills, experience, finances, motivation, time and a detailed plan to successfully provide a sustainable living as a teacher of English overseas.
How long away from home to teach?
Going away for under 12 months is different to spending years as an English teacher in a number of countries. A change or start of a long term career teaching at schools, universities or language centres will define you as a person, your skills and resume.
Can I obtain a job as a teacher of English overseas?
Yes, of course. Native English language teachers have the best opportunities for gaining employment, although English teachers with a good command of English can get jobs in over 50 countries including Mongolia, Thailand, Argentina, Morocco and Ukraine. An every increasing demand for students to learn English means at anyone time there are in excess of 200,000 teachers of English required abroad. There are not enough native English teachers to fill the teaching posts advertised.
Language teachers can secure a job without a bachelor’s degree in over 60 countries from Russia, Taiwan, Peru, Spain, France, Germany, Moldova, Saudi Arabia and Cambodia. Laws and regulations change over time with individual countries teacher work permit and residency requirements.
Yes, many countries including China require foreign teachers to have at least a bachelor’s degree in any subject and an additional English language teaching qualification such as a CELT or TEFL, TESOL. Native English speakers also are in great demand for their knowledge of the English language.
Did you know?
Almost all countries will issue a work & residency permit to teachers that qualify
No other language ability is required
New teachers and first time overseas travellers are welcome
Prior teaching experience is not always required
Over 18 years old
Under 67 years of age
No criminal record
I am at a certain age
Let’s talk about age requirements for jobs, visa, work and residency in countries.
For me at 52 my options are good as a native speaker, although for many employers being over a certain age matters. Best opportunities at nursery, elementary, high school and language schools are for teacher’s 25-45 age groups.
Some countries and employers perceive you as too old to be a teacher in your 50s. Forget China, Vietnam, Thailand if you are 60+ and the Saudi Arabia government will not issue a work visa and residency permit to foreign teachers aged 58 and over.
Once you reach 60 the best options to start or continue as an English teacher is to apply for jobs in Europe, North & South America up to 67 years old.
Think first before leaving and plan should you be looking at working as an English teacher in different continents around the world.
Language teacher qualified
Good idea to first gain an accredited language teacher’s qualification that will provide you with a great amount of opportunities as a teacher. Recognised qualifications such as a CELT or TEFL are required by many employers and to secure a work permit.
You will learn about planning lessons, presenting, group work, pace and general instruction of how to be an effective English teacher to students of a foreign language.
Attendance in classes is your best option as you will find an ever decreasing pool of countries where an online TEFL for example is accepted as a teacher qualification. Europe, Middle East, Gulf and Korea employers generally only accept classroom based assessed certificates.
Aim for a course that provides 120+ hours of course work and assessment.
CELT: Rigor in relation to written assignments, class hours and assessed teaching observations accredited by Cambridge English.
TEFL: Well known. Teaching English as a foreign language.
CELT and TEFL certificates are appropriate for teaching in countries where English is not a primary or secondary language. (Better options)
TESOL: Teaching English to speakers of other languages. Good for many countries and possible for your home country also. Not always accepted for a work visa and by employers.
Choose a course and provider that is actually accredited by a recognised body:
British Council (Global)
Cambridge English (University of Cambridge)
A good course can be taken by intensive residential study in 14 days, although will cost you £1200-£1500. You can also study over 3 or 6 months while still in education or with work commitments.
Language teacher training courses are also provided by employers where you are employed as a teacher and train at the same time.
Some example organisations
Language link (Russia)
ESL Starter (China)
Bridge Abroad (Brazil)
There are a good few other language schools that offer paid employment and accredited training courses around the world.
What type of qualities do English language teachers have?
Being able to plan, organise, motivated, independent thinker, considerate, good communicator, initiative, time management are just a few.
Getting on with others at different age levels and backgrounds is also required.
Finding and accepting a job
Qualified English language teachers that have the required soft skills, manners and reasonably groomed can find full or part time work any time of the year abroad.
Search online for ESL teaching jobs and you will see many from around the world. Language centres, state schools, colleges, universities, governments and training organisations.
Applying direct to employer’s advertisements could give you negotiating room for a better salary package as they will have less employment costs.
Going through a recruitment company is another option where you can state what, where, when, salary and they will contact prospective employers on your behalf. Never pay a recruiter any money anytime to find a job.
Online job boards also provide the chance to upload your resume and schools contact you.
Requirements for you as a teacher of English to meet will depend on the country you wish to teach in. Common are:
- Native English speaker
- Must be from USA, South Africa, UK, New Zealand, Canada, Ireland Australia
- Recognised teaching qualification
Look at job descriptions and see if you could meet all the requirements of the employer, work permit and residency. Good idea to also check on the embassy website for residency documents, age, experience needed for foreign teachers.
Standard requested documents could include:
Resume, photograph, medical report, education certificates + transcripts, data page passport copy, criminal record check from your home country. They may also require to be certified and legalised.
Takes time to gather all the paperwork, so do not say to an employer you can start next week unless you have all documents ready.
Skype, telephone or face to face in person interview.
Choose wisely the country, employer, sector and age of students you want to teach. Salaries and benefits are much greater in Taiwan, South Korea, UK, Spain, Germany, and Sweden.
Check to see if accommodation is provided, flight ticket, medical insurance in advance and other benefits.
Research the location of the school depending on town, city, rural and transport.
What is the salary and how the package is made up?
Never sign or agree to a contract until you have asked questions/receive answers and are happy with the terms and conditions.
Remember you may require a work visa/permit issued by the government in your new country. Z visa for China.
Starting costs as a teacher
A budget of around £1,500-£2000 will help you through to your first wage payment for many countries. Think about:
- Cost of flight you need to pay yourself
- New clothing
- Documents & processing, medicals
- Food, travel and spending money
- Medical insurance
- Accommodation rental you might have to fund
Take this from a wiser older person (Me). Save part of your salary each month in case of emergencies, job loss and for the future. Yes, have fun by all means, but there comes a time when life after teaching English abroad is over for you. Have a sizable savings fund to return home or start a new chapter elsewhere in your life.
With a realistic plan that includes allowing enough time to become qualified as an English teacher you can set yourself up for years of sustainable teaching in the countries of your choice. Take time to find out what age group and type of employer works for you from schools, training centres or teach English to adults at university.