Reviewed by Mary McLaughlin, Ma-TESOL; M.S. SpEd
Teaching English Abroad
Opportunities abound for teaching English around the world. Depending upon the location you prefer, you can volunteer for a short-term post, land a paying job for an academic year, or work at a school, language institute, or for a private company in perpetuity.
No single set of rules applies for every location and type of employment. In general, however, you will benefit from having some experience teaching, particularly to individuals who are not native English speakers. It will also help to hold academic credits or a certificate in Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) or Teaching English as a Second Language (TESL). In more competitive job markets that pay higher salaries, you may need additional qualifications, such as an undergraduate degree in English or education, or a teaching certificate.
Prominent Programs for English Language Teaching (ELT)
In your search for the best, fastest, most affordable, or most reputable ELT programs, you will find a dizzying range of options. Approach your search with a few facts in mind:
- Your TEFL certification program should include, at minimum, 120 hours of instructional time.
- Your TEFL coursework should features a minimum of six hours of supervised teaching experience.
- The supervised teaching should involve real ESL or EFL students, rather than your classmates.
- Accreditation and professional affiliations should be factors in your selection process, but check to make sure the accreditation comes from an external body.
- Ignore the phrase “internationally recognized certificate” – this has nothing to do with accreditation.
- Choose your ideal countries first, and then check the country’s typical TEFL certification requirements.
- Read through the extras your course might offer, such as resume support, job placement services, and visa assistance.
The world’s most recognized qualification for ELT is the Certificate in Language Teaching to Adults, or CELTA. The key factor that makes the CELTA stand out is that, no matter where it is offered, the content is standardized and the quality of delivery is consistent. The University of Cambridge’s oversight of the program is what ensures this consistency. Whether you take the CELTA in your home country or abroad, you will receive the same instructional hours and supervised teaching component necessary for proper ELT training. Experienced teachers holding a CELTA might also opt for the Diploma in English Language Teaching to Adults (DELTA).
The School for International Training’s coursework for Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) is a thorough, globally recognized program that consists of 130 hours of instructional time. You can do a month-long intensive in one of SIT’s domestic or international locales, or spend three months completing requirements at one of SIT’s domestic locations.
Trinity College London CertTESOL
The Trinity Certificate in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages aims to prepare students for ELT jobs worldwide. It includes the prerequisite contact hours and supervised teaching component.
University Certification Programs
You do not need a “brand name” certificate to secure employment in ELT abroad. While some competitive markets may ask for a CELTA, it is more typical to require a CELTA equivalent, meaning that candidates have taken the minimum units of coursework covering the fundamentals of English and English teaching and have completed supervised teaching practice. In this case, any accredited community college or university TEFL course that includes the base requirements will suffice.
A Warning Regarding Online TEFL Certification
The names Harvard, Trinity, or Cambridge do not need to show up on your TEFL or TESL certificate. However, the mode of delivery of your course can be a deciding factor for employers. In general, employers around the globe greatly prefer a certificate that was earned onsite, even in a minimum residency program. This is because onsite programs contain the supervised training hours employers typically consider necessary for quality teacher preparation.
Typical Countries for Teaching English as a Foreign Language
Every year, South Korea has plentiful job openings for qualified ESL and EFL teachers who hold at least a bachelor’s degree, and preferably also have some type of TESOL, TESL, or TEFL certification. The best contracts include competitive salaries, airfare, housing, and benefits. Entry-level teachers working full time can save up to $10,000 annually after covering living expenses. Working in Seoul offers urban living and nightlife, while villages have lower pay but provide the rural experience.
Having the greatest number of job openings for ELT, combined with very low living expenses, make China a top destination for teaching EFL. Similar to South Korea, China has some premium contracts that cover salary, housing, and the visa to work. Taipei, Taiwan is a popular city for ELT jobs. Salary and benefit packages vary widely, so research job opportunities thoroughly. Most teachers on full contracts save up to $400 monthly after paying expenses. Native English speakers with an undergraduate degree and quality TESOL, TEFL, or TESL certification are eligible for most positions.
It costs a lot to get by in Japan, but ELT also pays decently here. Tokyo has the most competitive salaries for EFL teachers, but it also has the highest cost of living in Japan. If you live relatively simply, you can still save up to $400 monthly after paying living expenses. The minimum qualification for working in Japan is a TESOL, TEFL, or TESL certificate.
The Middle East
If you have years of EFL or ESL teaching experience and full teacher certification, you can secure a well-paying EFL contract in the Middle East. Language centers and private companies in Dubai pay ESL teachers up to $5,000 per month and include free accommodations and your flight.
Teachers love Thailand for its street food, nightlife, beautiful weather, coastal locations, and dirt-cheap prices. Teaching EFL here will not earn a lot of money, but it will cover your living expenses and travel. Bangkok is the principal location for top-paying opportunities. Minimum requirements to work include a TESOL, TEFL, or TESL certificate as well as a work permit and visa.
Vietnam also offers a low cost of living, but has begun paying higher salaries to English teachers. Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi have a plethora of opportunities, with language schools and centers on every main street. Teachers working on full-time contracts can save up to $500 per month after paying for their living expenses. Native English speakers with teaching certificates or CELTA, TESOL, TEFL, or TESL certificates are preferred.
People do not teach EFL in Spain to make money, but rather to enjoy the incredible urban, beach, or village culture and use their locations as jumping-off points for European adventures. Native English speakers with certification can work as teaching assistants in public schools or in private language academies that cater to college students and adults. If you land a full-time contract, you will be able to meet living expenses and modest travel expenses, but nothing more. Most ELT positions require a minimum of a TESOL, TEFL, or TESL certificate or equivalent.
Proximity to the United States makes Mexico a popular choice among EFL and ESL teachers. The highest paying jobs tend to be with private companies, international schools, or expensive private schools located in Mexico City. In most cases, teachers pay their own airfare and accommodations and can expect to cover living expenses. You must have a TESOL, TEFL, or TESL certificate or equivalent for most positions.