People often ask us if they can choose the destination where they want to teach. The answer is YES! Native English speakers with a Bachelor’s Degree, have the most opportunities in terms of teaching abroad, but the options are always plentiful. Requirements for ESL teachers vary greatly from country to country, although a minimum of a TEFL certification is a must if you want to work for a legit school or institute. So before making the investment of registering for a TEFL course abroad, here is a list of some things you may want to consider:
WHAT DO YOU WANT TO GET OUT OF IT?
Firstly, give real thought to the reason you want to teach abroad. Moving abroad is no small feat; you want to make sure you pick the destination that suits you best in every way. Some people say ‘I don’t mind where I go, I’m open to anything’. We encourage you to keep an open mind, but let us give you an example – if you’re the kind of person who hates hot and humid climates, you really don’t want to end up teaching in Costa Rica. Ask yourself ‘What do I want to get out of this?’ What do you like to do in your free time? What interests you? Are you more interested in learning about culture or exploring nature? (Maybe both?) Do you happen to love pizza, pasta and good wine? 😉 Is there a certain language that you would like to learn? Are you planning to continue studying after TEFL and are there any countries that are somehow in line with that plan? Did you know that we often have TEFL participants that want to go to a specific country because it’s where their ancestors are from?
Take a moment to realize that although you may only be in the planning stages now, at some point you WILL be living in a new country, fully immersed in a different environment, so we encourage you not to pick randomly. Check out different destinations and see which places fit your interest best and make your heart beat faster.
WHAT IS MY BUDGET?
Moving abroad to start your teaching adventure will inevitably involve costs, so it’s important to plan financially. Start-up costs usually include a TEFL certification course, airfare to your destination, personal expenses while in-country like meals and local transportation (in some locations our accommodation during your TEFL course include meals), possible visa costs, and likely a first month’s rent plus security deposit. It’s also important to keep in mind that it might take a few weeks before you actually receive your first salary, so you need to be able to financially support yourself during this transitional phase. Start-up costs vary per destination, so we recommend that you compare TEFL course fees, airfare and the local cost of living to make an accurate financial plan. Generally, start-up costs are higher for Europe than for most Asian and Latin American countries where the cost of living is much cheaper.
SALARIES AND BENEFITS
With regards to ESL salaries, it’s important to understand that TEFL was not particularly designed to earn tons of money while teaching abroad. The idea is that you can live off your teaching salary and will be able to cover the costs of living abroad (housing, groceries, transportation, etc..) without having to touch your savings while you’re there. Living abroad means living like a local, not necessarily like a tourist. Therefore, in most locations you should not count on saving a lot of money as they are so-called ‘break-even markets’. However, it has become quite popular to private tutor or teach online to supplement this basic income!
Nevertheless, there are certain locations around the world where you CAN set much of your salary apart each month. These locations are perfect if you need to save extra money to pay for student loans or additional expenses outside of your basic costs. In addition, you might profit from certain benefits like flight reimbursement, transportation allowance and free accommodations. Please note that these jobs usually have higher requirements, like a university degree and previous teaching experience. Japan, South Korea and the United Arab Emirates offer some of the highest salaries for ESL teachers.
You also want to consider that in some countries, salaries may seem quite low compared to the salaries you’re used to back home, but the cost of living is even lower. It doesn’t always say something about the standard of living, so it’s important to check out both the average salary AND cost of living.
Native English Speakers VS Non-Native English Speakers
As a native speaker of English, the number of teaching opportunities worldwide is endless as there aren’t enough teachers to fill all the available positions. There are also opportunities for non-native English teachers to teach abroad, but in some cases, language schools are restricted to only hiring native speakers. The reasons for this vary, but usually, it has to do with government restrictions and visa requirements; work visas are sometimes only issued to native English speakers. Other times, native English teachers are only used for marketing purposes, and to gain more clients against the competing schools. Citizens from the following countries are generally considered native English speakers: USA, Canada, United Kingdom, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa.
Degree Holders VS Non-Degree Holders
In some countries, especially throughout Asia, a four-year degree is required to teach English. Visas might not be issued to teachers who do not hold a four-year Bachelor’s degree. In South Korea, the UAE, Oman and Japan for example, it’s not recommended to look for work if you don’t have a work visa for this reason. But don’t lose your good spirits if you don’t have a four-year degree; there are thousands of schools around the world that will still hire you without a college or university degree if you possess an internationally recognized TEFL certificate. Cambodia, for example, is much less strict when it comes to higher education requirements. Other countries strongly prefer, but do not require a degree. And all of Central and South-America is considered to be quite ‘friendly’ for non-degree holders. Argentina, Costa Rica, Mexico and Peru -just to name a few- offer a great market for non-degree holders.
In some cases, there are different types of visas that you can obtain, depending on whether you have a degree or not. In Thailand for example, degree-holders can apply for a ‘Non-immigrant B’ visa once they have a teaching contract, this visa will allow them to work. Non-degree holders can still find jobs, but will have to apply for a different type of visa called ‘Non-Immigrant O’, and will work ‘out of the system’. In China, non-degree holders are often offered an internship-visa and a stipend instead of a work visa and a salary. Cambodia is much less strict when it comes to obtaining visas, with and without a degree and even Vietnam has lots of options for non-degree holders.
In Europe, a degree is strongly preferred, and sometimes schools are limited to only hiring degree holders because of their own accreditation, but the demand for teachers is so high that you will often be able to compensate this with teaching experience. In general, but especially for Europe, we highly recommend taking an on-site course if you’re planning to teach in Europe so you can take advantage of on-the-ground job search assistance to increase your chances of getting hired. The Czech Republic, Russia and Spain offer the most opportunities if you want to teach English without a Bachelor’s degree. Check out the different countries here!
TYPICAL CONTRACT LENGTH AND INTERVIEW PROCESS
In most locations, schools require at least a 6-month commitment but some might require longer, anywhere from 8-12 months. Some countries can offer short-term teaching opportunities, but usually with a minimum 3-month contract. Note that the longer you are available, the more attractive and marketable you are as a teacher! If you are only available for a short period of time, you can choose to complete your TEFL certification abroad, and continue your teaching adventure some time later in the future. LanguageCorps offers lifetime job search assistance and will always be available once you’re ready to use your TEFL Certificate to go abroad long-term!
When deciding the best location for your teaching career, make sure to research the typical hiring procedures in the country, as well. Do schools typically interview in advance or do you need to hit the ground running with a stack of CVs under your arm? In some locations, schools will want to interview you in person and require a face-to-face interview before they hire you. This applies to most (Western) European countries. In Latin America, you could say it’s 50-50. Many schools will want to meet your first, but others are willing to hire teachers via a phone or Skype interview in advance.
In Asia, it is definitely more common to get hired in advance. You can interview from home, but you will typically not start working immediately as some paperwork needs to be taken care of first. However, in Cambodia, Thailand and Vietnam, in-person interviews are still preferred, so it’s best to be in-country for your job-search.
In many Asian countries, employers will help their English teachers obtain a work visa or work permit that allows them to legally work in the country. In some regions, it is quite difficult to obtain a work visa. Because of this, it has become common to get paid ‘under the table’ where a work visa isn’t required by schools. In fact, in Latin America, this is how the vast majority of English teachers work and even in Europe it’s very common to get hired for ‘cash-in-hand’ positions as the bureaucracy makes it both expensive and time-consuming to apply for a work visa. Most schools need teachers immediately and don’t have time to go through this process. In this case, foreign teachers travel to the country on a tourist visa, find a job and overstay their tourist visa.
Some teachers going abroad for the first time don’t feel comfortable with this process and prefer to go to a country where they can apply for a standard work visa for their first teaching job. In this case, extra research is recommendable as you want to find out which countries typically sponsor for a work visa and what the requirements are for their teachers.
In Spain, LanguageCorps offers a special TEFL VISA program. This program is a 7-12 month extension course for your TEFL program and meets the criteria to apply for a student visa. A student visa allows you to work 20 hours per week, so it’s a great way and inexpensive way to ‘legalize’ your stay in Spain, while further developing your teaching skills.
AGE AND GENDER
Some countries have age limitations due to local retirement regulations, limiting the teaching jobs to those under the age of 55. However, there are many schools worldwide that absolutely welcome more mature teachers exactly because of their age. ‘Older teachers’ – excuse us- are usually more experienced, so when it comes to teaching adults, a certain level of maturity is often preferred. In Asia, schools seek to hire younger teachers for elementary aged children as it requires more energy to control a classroom of kids with short attention spans.
Gender is not typically an issue, with the exception of the Middle East, where many teaching positions are restricted to either men or women, depending on the sex of the students.