Look out your window, whether that be your office or your bedroom; what do you see?
Is it the same old scene; dreary, boring, cold? Is the nine to five, Monday to Friday ritual just becoming too repetitive, too samey? Wish you could magic yourself away for a while?
If only there was a way to fund your travels whilst gaining valuable work and life experience that would not just bolster your CV, but also your character and social network …
Oh, wait, there is! You can teach English as a foreign language – TEFL for short.
For a while now, people young and old have travelled to other countries to teach English. There are a myriad of reasons why: for the love of teaching, experiencing other cultures, funding globetrotting, gap years, a break from the ordinary… the list goes on.
Fortunately, the demand for English grows as the language solidifies its reputation as the international lingua franca. Business, diplomacy, tourism, trade – all are areas where English is invaluable. All the better for you, an aspiring teacher!
Below is a brief guide on the TEFL industry. Read on if you’re keen to learn more about qualifications, destinations, and valuations!
Teaching English Overseas: A Guide to the TEFL Industry
Getting Qualified to TEFL
Gone are the days when a teacher could get hired thanks to the convenience of being a native or fluent English speaker. While this may have once been the case, as the industry has grown, standards for the bar of entry has risen.
Now, it is strongly recommended that those thinking about becoming a teacher gain qualifications. Without, you would be at a major disadvantage compared with competing job applicants.
So, how do you go about getting qualified?
The best, and simplest, way to get qualified to teach English overseas is by completing a teacher training course and obtaining a certificate from an accredited provider.
There are loads of companies out there, each offering their own courses and qualifications. The more hours a course has the better, or more advanced it is – that’s a general rule.
A ‘standard’ number of training hours is around 120. That’s what is often demanded by employers. Saying that, requirements can differ massively from school to school so it’s difficult to say what the best sort of certificate is.
Usually, 120 hours is recommended because it balances cost with a decent level of training. If you want to teach English abroad, getting the best qualification, at a reasonable price is paramount.
The most important thing to bear in mind when picking a provider is their accreditation. Since there is no single governing body in the industry, a trustworthy and worthwhile company will seek endorsement from relevant educational organisations.
A good example of a trustworthy company is The TEFL Org – they are the most accredited provider in the UK and so their courses are internationally recognised.
With so many businesses and options with varying levels of quality around, it can be all too easy to fall for scammy courses. Oh yes, they exist. So it’s important to be aware.
Websites that offer unbelievable and unrealistic prices or discounts are likely to fall into this category. Ie, those advertised on Groupon are sold extremely cheaply and are typically unaccredited and unrecognised by employers – you truly get what you pay for.
Do I Need a Degree to Teach English Overseas?
There’s a lot of misinformation regarding degrees and whether they’re needed. The truth isn’t exactly straightforward. Thanks to various government policies and employer demands, it can be tricky to unravel the facts from fiction.
Bachelor’s degrees are a necessity to obtain working visas in a number of countries including China, Thailand, Vietnam, and South Korea – all very popular teacher spots. Before you decide to go anywhere, it is crucial you research the government’s laws on the matter.
On top of that, some employers will ask applicants to have a degree. This is becoming more common as the market increases in competitiveness. Outside of the countries mentioned above, places where a degree is more likely to be needed are in Europe and the Middle East.
So, the bottom line is that degrees are far from compulsory, but certainly wouldn’t harm your employability.
The Best Locations for TEFL
One of the more advantageous aspects of English being in demand all over the world is that it means there are countless possible destinations to choose from. Though Asia is easily the TEFL hotspot of the world, particularly East Asia.
Here are some of the other top job locations:
China: By far the largest market with the highest demand, China has attracted thousands of teachers over the years. Recently, they tightened regulation on incomers, but that hasn’t stopped it being a Mecca for EFL tutors.
Thailand: Just to the south of China is Thailand, as popular as it is beautiful. Positions can be found in its cities, coastal resorts, and smaller towns – despite official policies, requirements aren’t always very stringent.
Gulf States: Maybe not the first region to come to mind, the Gulf States (UAE, Qatar etc.) are actually pretty good places to work. Teachers tend to have some of the highest average salaries compared to the rest of the world.
Thanks to the EU, it’s super easy for inhabitants to travel, work, and live in neighbouring countries. That, combined with a high demand for teachers in the likes of Spain, Italy, Poland, and more make it a great choice for EU citizens.
If you’re from beyond the continent then it’s still an excellent place to work. Maybe a little more difficult to get through the paperwork, but well worth it in the end!
Spain: As mentioned, Spain has a large job market – the biggest in Europe for English teachers – and so is a great place to start your job hunt.
Opportunities are most plentiful in bigger cities such as Barcelona or Madrid, however there are more than enough positions advertised in small towns and villages. The peak hiring period tends to be around September.
It’s hard to summarise such a vast continent in a couple of paragraphs, but teaching in Latinn America is a good option if you’re looking for a job with slightly more relaxed requirements.
Then again, there are over 30 countries in the region so that’s quite the sweeping statement!
Mexico: A combination of factors such as population, economic strength, and proximity to the US has led to Mexico becoming one of the best places for tutors in Latin America.
Requirements are generally more relaxed than in the above continents, but a degree is sometimes needed as well as TEFL certification. All sorts of positions can be found here, such as working in private schools, language centres, or Business English.
Ecuador: Thanks to its close economic ties with the US helping to grow its own economy, English is increasing in demand. Ecuador is an incredibly beautiful and biodiverse country that promises to be a life-changing experience for anyone working there.
It also has some of the most lax regulations when it comes to expats living and working there. A TEFL certificate is often all that’s needed to land a job.
Costs Involved With Teaching English Overseas
It goes without saying, that such a massive change in career and lifestyle won’t come without its financial burdens.
Counting the costs of teaching overseas can sometimes waver even the most passionate of would-be travellers. In reality, though, it doesn’t take long to break even and save so don’t lose faith.
Finding somewhere to live can be a pain in the neck. All the good places get gobbled up, leaving you with the scraps.
My advice: either start hunting early or find fellow expats willing to share – after all, two brains are better than one. Conversely, some schools do provide either accommodation or assistance as part of their benefit package.
We discussed the aspect of getting certified earlier on. What was skipped, largely, was the costs of courses.
Costs vary wildly among providers, and variables such as hours can affect the price, so pinning down an average price is difficult.
The TEFL Org’s most popular courses go from £249 – £609, which is a decent reference point for the industry.
Naturally, things like rent, groceries, bills are different from one country to the next – from one city to the next, even – and so a bit of research should be carried out prior to moving.
A good site to use is Numbeo. Make sure to bring enough money to survive at least a month i.e. the period before your first pay!
Flights / Travel Expenses
It’s not uncommon for generous employers to cover the cost of a flight, or at least provide you with assistance. Otherwise, try to book dates that aren’t peak holidaying periods to soften the blow.
Visa costs vary from one country to the next, ie EU citizens staying in the Union don’t really have to worry about this, but other than that, it’s important to research beforehand.
Some employers will offer to sort out the whole thing, which is great. However, this isn’t always the case so go onto the respective government’s relevant page to learn more if you require a working visa.
Check out The TEFL Org for more information on how you can jumpstart your English teaching career.