Everything you need to know to teach ESL abroad

Teaching English is quite respected and rewarding job, especially, when it comes to an opportunity to work and live abroad. Depending on your preferences you may travel around relishing tropical climate, immerse yourself in another culture, and get incredible international work experience. An amount of advantages of teaching ESL abroad is almost countless. The question is, «How to make your dreams come true?». Fortunately, teaching isn’t rocket science, however, it takes some time, effort, and energy. An opportunity to work and live abroad is tempting for many people around the world. Needless to say that in this case labor market is overwhelmed. So, in order to stand out from the crowd you must highlight your merits and embrace your mistakes and drawbacks.

Given the fact that English is the most spoken language worldwide, it comes with no surprise that good tutors are always in great demand. That is why it isn’t a problem to find a cushy job abroad. Moreover, it’s possible even for candidates without teaching experience, education, and non-native English speakers. But it isn’t so easy at it seems to be. In order to get a well-paid job having not so many professional accomplishments, you should know where you are going to teach, and what type of students you are ready to work with. Are you taken aback? Keep reading the article to know some common requirements to ESL teachers.

Is education important to work abroad?

While some Asian and European countries have an official requirement to ESL teachers to have a bachelor’s degree, as it has something to do with work visa regulations. Others don’t care whether a candidate has graduated from college or not, in fact, such a decision comes to employers. Obviously, employers are interested in hiring professionals. Even online schools require applicants to have a bachelor’s degree. It makes people believe that you have a basis of higher education and can shoulder a responsibility for results.

However, such a request may be more or less important depending on a type of institution. As long as public schools offer less money, they attract more fresh graduates in comparison with private ones, where the requirements are stricter. But, there are many places such as Cambodia, a part of Asia, Latin America, and Europe, where even non-degree holders get paid well. In other words, you should pick a location firstly, and then check the requirements of a certain country. We have already done this research for you. In this article you may find some countries that have flexible requirements in terms of education.

Is having a TEFL certificate a necessity to teach abroad?

Having a TEFL certification proves your competence to teach English as a foreign language in countries where people don’t usually speak it. Apparently, having sailed through a TEFL course you will get more opportunities rather than candidates without it under their belt. Companies willingly hire TEFL-certified teachers, because they know that such candidates were taught and tested according to high standards. However, there are a bunch of places, where new brands teachers with no TEFL certification can realize their professional potential. As usual, they enroll in volunteering programs to get experience to make up for the lack of teaching knowledge.

Despite that having a TEFL certificate isn’t a necessity to start teaching abroad, we highly recommend getting it. First of all, most of the TEFL courses provide valuable knowledge with regard to teaching people of different ages and practice of applying the most effective techniques in class. So, in this case you are one of the best candidates to land a job. And, even a lack of others skills or experience won’t be a problem.

Is it only for experienced teachers?

Fortunately, teaching experience isn’t included in a typical list of must-have requirements. Obviously, it’s better to have it rather than not, however it isn’t the only feature of a decent applicant. Many schools around the world pay attention to other things before they notice an experience. However, the best option to get experience is to work. Anyway, even a half year of experience is better than nothing in your resume. If there was some relevant experience you might have forgotten about, make it noticeable. Such examples of help your classmates with homework or teaching your little siblings may become a pertinent way of working.

If you are going to work for the first time ever, TEFL certification may help to cover a lack of practice. Such countries as Vietnam and Taiwan hire new brand teachers with a TEFL certificate and without experience. It is highly unlikely to get high salary, but this is way more important because you have a chance to get working experience, which will come in handy down the road. However, if you are into making a fortune, keep in mind that as soon as you get enough practice you may apply for jobs with high salary. Such countries as Japan and United Arab Emirates are ready to pay well and provide lucrative benefits to candidates who fit the bill in terms of all factors.

Can non-native speakers teach abroad?

A certain answer depends on a place where you are going to work. For example, some Asian countries such as China, Thailand, and South Korea prefer to hire only native speakers, as they believe that they are better in teaching English. Whereas some Latin American countries don’t care whether your motherland is an English-speaking country. Also, if you want to apply for a government exchange program, keep in mind that there is a citizenship requirement to participate. For instance, in order to take a part in such a program in Spain, you must be a native speaker.

As usual, the system works like that, if you are a European citizen, you may easily find a job in some parts of the EU, because it isn’t possible for non-Europeans. Let’s elaborate on things you should keep in mind if you are a non-native English speaker searching for an ESL job.

You must have:

  • a high level in English;
  • a good accent;
  • a TEFL certificate;
  • previous experience in teaching;
  • a bachelor’s degree in any subject;
  • your passport.

However, as you remember, some things are flexible depending on a type of institution. We have already debunked the myth that only native English speakers can be ESL teachers. So, check the article to find some companies and countries, which willingly hire non-natives.

Does age matter?

That is quite a negotiable question. Some volunteering and teaching programs sponsored by a government have a strict limit of candidates’ age. For example, most of French programs hire only people between 20-35 years old.

Being younger than 21 you may have some problems with getting a job abroad as a really young candidate, however, you may drastically increase your chances getting some experience in summer camps while working part-time. If you are over 21, it’s highly unlikely to be unemployed, because there are many countries around the world such as China, Vietnam, and Thailand, which make job offers to adult tutors.

Do I need to have «startup money» before going?

Depending on a type of institution and a location where you work, you may expect to get some perks. They come in handy because they let you save more money to travel around and indulge yourself. However, usually, it takes a commitment to a one-year contract. In addition, it depends on your resume, confidence, personal traits, and professional achievements.

Some generous companies may offer to you such lucrative benefits as:

  • flight reimbursement;
  • compensation of transport fares;
  • paid housing;
  • a bonus for a contract completion;
  • free meals at school.

If you are lucky, the only thing you will have to pay for is food, utilities, and entertainment. However, given the fact that it’s quite hard to fit the bill of requirements in terms of all factors, it’s better to have some amount of money to be calm. The sum depends on your preferences and lifestyle, but having about $1,000-2,000 will make you feel comfortable before you get your first salary abroad. As you see, it’s possible and better to pick a company regarding perks they offer.


Teaching English abroad is a rewarding and cushy job, especially for globetrotters. It allows you to make new friends, try exotic food, and get incredible experience with people of another culture. Requirements to ESL teachers change from country to country and depend on so many factors including a type of workplace, and a candidate’s resume. It is vital not to throw in the towel after a few rejections from employers. The world is full of wonderful opportunities.

There are some important factors you should keep in mind before start working abroad:

  • In some countries having a bachelor’s degree is required by most of the employers. However, teaching English with no degree is still possible in such places as Cambodia, some parts of Asia, and Vietnam.
  • In spite of the fact that TEFL certification isn’t a must-have requirement, it’s better to have it to get a well-paid job. Sometimes, it even may compensate a lack of experience. And some TEFL courses provide help with searching a job abroad.
  • Some countries such as Thailand, Japan, and South Korea prefer to hire native English speakers to teach English. But sometimes, it’s quite flexible. You just need to prove your English fluency and level.
  • You don’t have to be a millionaire to change your life. Most of the volunteering programs offer accommodation and free meals to applicants. You just need some money to cover your essential costs and flight tickets.

As you have already mentioned having TEFL certification may solve many problems, especially for non-degree holders. Not only does it help to make up for the lack of experience but also provides valuable knowledge regarding teaching. The thing is a TEFL certificate allows you to work in those countries where English isn’t official. However, TESOL is a perfect addition to it, because it lets you teach people in countries where English is a primary language. So, online TEFL/TESOL course provides a variety of options in terms of duration. But even the minimum 120-hour course is sufficient to get a job abroad.

Online TEFL/TESOL course provides:

  • information about teaching people of different ages, adults, teens, and kids;
  • practice of making lesson plans with modern teaching techniques;
  • giving positive but rational feedback;
  • top-notch support in job searching and making resume;
  • an opportunity to ask a native speaker trainer for help.

We hope you found this article useful and inspiring. But, if you have relevant questions, feel free to leave them in the comments section below. We are always glad to help.


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