Being an English teacher used to be the career destination for B.Ed students who had a love for languages. These days, being an English teacher has become a vocation open for young professionals from all walks of academic life. On top of that, it has become much more than a career choice – it has become a ticket abroad for many people. This is especially important for those who find themselves racked with study debt post-university, as it has become an easy way to pay off loans while experiencing a comfortable international lifestyle
Profiling a TEFL teacher
Teaching English abroad is not the same as teaching English at home. Abroad, you will be entering the TEFL world – Teaching English as a Foreign Language. As such, you will be a foreigner amongst locals. To the delight of some and the distress of others, you most likely do not even need a teacher qualification to obtain a job as a TEFL teacher. Most countries will require you to have some form of bachelor’s degree, but it can be in anything from Arts to Sciences. Other countries, especially in South East Asia and South America might only require a high school diploma, but in a competitive market a TEFL qualification will help you stand out in a pool of hopeful foreigners.
The qualifications you require will depend very much on the country you are going to, and also what level you want to teach. If you are looking for a post in a university, a country like Japan or South Korea will expect to see at least a master’s degree. For most jobs, regardless of the country, people will want to feel like you are a “native speaker of English”, i.e., you should be able to speak English completely fluently.
The world is your oyster
English is fast becoming the accepted international language of business, and people are realizing that fluency in English is becoming a necessity. For this reason, some countries that want to create a global business footprint are willing to pay top dollar to get their people educated in this language. With golden teaching opportunities all across our planet, future English teachers can really pick and choose where to take teach. If saving money is your aim, Go Overseas suggests these countries as top destinations:
- United Arab Emirates (UAE)
The spectacular desert cities of Abu Dhabi and Dubai, built with oil money, are eager to keep their business relationships lubricated, and English teaching is a booming industry there. You can expect salaries of between US$3000 and US$5000 per month, depending on your experience.
Here you will not only get a decent salary of between US$2500 and US$3000 per month, but you will also be in for one of the most fascinating cultural experiences of your life. Japan will require teachers to have a bachelor’s degree, which is also a minimum requirement for the JET (Japan Exchange Teaching) program that brings most foreign teachers to Japan.
- South Korea
Many people opt for South Korea as it has similar remuneration to jobs in Japan (US$2000 – US$3000), but the cost of living is much lower. Keep in mind that living in a city like Seoul will eat into your salary more, but in a program like EPIK you have the option of choosing urban, suburban or rural living. South Korea also requires a bachelor’s degree and/or TEFL qualification.
Where do I sign up?
Being a TEFL teacher can be a dream job, but there are a few nightmare stories in the mix. Before you jump on a plane to a country that you don’t know where you’ll find yourself surrounded by a nation that speaks a language you do not understand, do your research and do it well. It is also essential to make sure you have the minimum requirements specific to the country you are interested in.
To work legally in China, you will need a Z Visa (work visa) that will need to be sponsored by an employer in China. You will also need a valid passport with at least 6 months left on it. To apply for the visa, you’ll need a certified health check that proves you are free of HIV and tuberculosis, and that you have no drugs in your system. Depending on your job, you might need a bachelor’s degree and/or TEFL qualification, and you might be required to commit to a one-year contract.
To gain entry to Taiwan on a working permit, you must be older than 20 years of age and be a native English speaker. Your local doctor will need to give you a certified health check, and you will have to go for a criminal check to prove you have no criminal record. Taiwan only accepts college or university graduates as teachers, and when applying for your work permit, you will need certified copies of your qualifications.
Before you get on that plane
The mantra of TEFL teaching is: E-S-I-D. Every Situation Is Different. In general, it is better to get a position through a government-sponsored program than to go overseas alone and look for a job there. Do your research and speak to people who have been there before so that you can make educated decisions. Then, get ready for the single most exhilarating lifestyle change you can imagine.
About The Author
Marilu Snyders spent over half a decade in Japan, first teaching on the JET program and then for an independent kindergarten. She sees the teaching English abroad experience as something that can teach you responsibility, independence, and which is a great way to travel and save.