Is Teaching English the Best Path for Your Move Abroad?

Teaching English as a Second Language can be a good starting point for your move abroad. But, despite popular opinion, you can’t expect to land a teaching job just because you’re a native English speaker. 

The qualifications you’ll need to teach English can vary depending on the legal requirements of the country you’re interested in moving to. You also need to consider what you can expect to earn, and the demand for teachers in the area. The most important consideration, of course, is how much you’ll enjoy teaching as a long-term career path.

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What qualifications do you need to teach English overseas?

Most countries require that prospective teachers meet certain requirements to secure an employment visa. Sometimes this means having a four-year degree in English or another field related to education. But in many countries the minimum requirement is a certificate to Teach English as a Foreign Language (TEFL). Some schools prefer to hire teachers who complete a CELTA certificate , which is a more comprehensive program that is not offered online.

The best way to make yourself a desirable candidate for teaching jobs is to have some hands-on teaching experience. If you’ve never taught before you can try volunteering at a school, a rec center, or somewhere in your community. Any type of classroom experience or working with kids will be good practice for communicating with different ages and learning styles. Your people skills and enthusiasm can go a long way as a new teacher. The more comfortable you are in the classroom, the more you can focus on helping your students enjoy learning English.

Do your research before applying for any jobs, so you’ll know which requirements you already have, and which ones you still need to work towards. You don’t want to waste time applying for jobs that are unattainable for you.

How much does teaching English pay?

Teaching salaries can vary depending on where in the world you’re teaching, and the type of environment you’re working in. But in most countries a full-time teacher can expect to earn about an average salary for that specific country and region. In Italy, for instance, you might earn more in Rome or Milan than you would in a rural town. But your cost of living should be much lower in that town, which would make the wages roughly equivalent. 

In some regions, like Korea and Japan, it’s common for a teacher’s salary to include housing and even roundtrip airfare to your home country. That can be a great perk, but the downside is that your employer controls your housing as well as your income. Searching for a new job would mean you’d also have to find a new living situation. 

It’s always a good idea to research the average salaries for English teachers in the country you’re considering in your job search. You can join online groups of teachers in the area, or search job boards to get an idea how much you can expect to make. Once you’ve narrowed down a few cities to focus on, you can estimate the cost of living using a site like numbeo or Nomadlist

Salaries can also vary between public and private schools, primary school versus University, or being an employee vs freelancing. The more open you are to teaching different types of students, the more opportunities you’ll have to increase your income. 

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How high is the demand for English teachers in your target country?

While the demand is high for English teachers is high in many countries, some regions also have a steady stream of qualified applicants for open positions. Spain, Italy and France are popular destinations for tourists and teachers alike.  Schools in these countries may prioritize hiring current legal residents or other EU citizens, and won’t be as willing to sponsor work visas for teachers who need them.  

If you want to earn a higher income teaching English, focus your job search on countries with a greater demand for teachers. These countries put more effort into recruiting, and will often offer generous compensation packages. Some of the countries that offer the highest salaries for English teachers are the United Arab Emirates, Japan, South Korea and Taiwan. Teaching is a highly respected profession in these countries and paid accordingly.   

Do you have a passion for teaching English?

Many people pursue teaching English as a means to move abroad, without thinking much about what the actual job entails. Having the right qualifications is important, but before diving into your job search, make sure you know that you’ll enjoy teaching. Some new teachers move to a country knowing that their visa and housing are dependent on their new teaching career—then decide to go in a different direction. Before pursuing that first job overseas, make sure you get enough teaching experience that you know what to expect. You don’t want to be stuck in another country with limited opportunities if you find that teaching isn’t your ideal career. 

Teaching is far from your only option for working abroad. In my next post I’ll discuss some alternative career paths that may be useful if you plan to move abroad in the future. In other industries you may need to establish yourself for a few years before you have the opportunity to work abroad, but it’s worth it if you’re happy with your career in the long run.  

Premier TEFL

What should I look for in a TEFL certification program?

There are few types of TEFL courses you can choose from: a classroom-based course, an online course or a hybrid of the two. A classroom-based course will give you hands-on teaching experience which will prepare you to run your own classroom. If you prefer to study independently at your own pace, an online course might be best for you. Whichever style you choose, make sure the course is fully accredited and that your TEFL certificate will be recognized internationally.

I enjoyed the online course I took at Premier TEFL because I could work through the course on my own time. In addition to their hybrid and online TEFL certificate options, Premier TEFL offers different modules for your chosen specialization (I took a 30-hour course for online teaching, for example). After you complete your training, you’ll have access to continued support through an online community of fellow teachers, job resources and internship opportunities. 

A few other accredited programs that you can consider are: The TEFL Academy, which offers both online and hybrid courses that include face-to-face instruction throughout Europe, and International TEFL Academy, which offers both online courses and completely live courses in the United States, Asia, Europe and Latin America.

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