TEFL is a job that can take you to all the corners of the globe, working with amazing people of all ages every day. In this article we’ll look at what TEFL is, where it can take you, and how to get there.
What is TEFL?
TEFL stands for Teaching English as a Foreign Language. You may also hear the acronym TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages). To all intents and purposes, these are one and the same. The job of a TEFL (or TESOL) teacher is to enable people whose first language is not English, to communicate in English.
The demand for English teaching around the world is huge. Why? English is the dominant language of international business and commerce, a frequent requirement to secure a job or to study, the language most likely to be used when two people who don’t share the same first language meet, and the language of a lot of popular culture.
This means that there is a wealth of opportunity for would-be TEFL teachers. Demand varies from country to country, but look hard enough and you will find an English teaching opportunity in just about every country in the world.
How do I get started in TEFL?
To get into TEFL you will need a TEFL qualification such as ours. This means that you’ll need to take a course that really enables you to teach and equips you with a recognised qualification at the end of it.
Classroom-based courses which include some actual teaching practice, although more expensive than online courses, offer a wider range of employment opportunities in a larger number of countries.
In short, employers expect people who claim to be “teachers” to have taught real students in a classroom as part of their training.
Where can I teach?
Once you’re qualified, you’re ready to apply for jobs around the world. At the time of writing, three of the most popular TEFL jobs sites (TEFL.com, Eslbase.com and ESLCafe.com) were showing jobs available in 48 different countries. Here’s that list of 48, which will give you an idea of some of the opportunities available to you:
- Czech Republic
- East Timor
- Hong Kong
- Saudi Arabia
- South Korea
- United Kingdom
When scanning this list, it’s important to keep in mind the impact that Covid-19 has had on the TEFL industry. Restrictions on international travel have meant that many language schools have been unable to recruit teachers from abroad. Local restrictions have forced many schools to close, either temporarily or permanently, or to switch to online teaching. However, the fact that there are still opportunities to teach in nearly 50 countries is encouraging, and should give you an idea of the opportunities available in “normal” times.
There are many types of English teaching jobs, depending on the country. Here are just a few examples.
- In Italy, most jobs are in private language academies, teaching both kids and adults as well as businesspeople. You would typically be paid by the hour and can expect to work varied “shifts”, perhaps with a class or two in the morning, a long break, and then some more classes in the evening. Many teachers supplement their income with private teaching (or even rely on it entirely), finding their own students and controlling their own schedule.
- In China, a lot of work is teaching kids, either at private kindergartens, in the public primary school system, or at “after-school” training centres. Work is sometimes also available at international schools if you are a licensed teacher in your own country. There are also adult training centres catering to those who need English for work or travel, or to pass an exam to
study abroad in an English speaking country.
- In the Maldives, the majority of your teaching might be with people in the tourism sector who need very specific language (“tourism English”) for their jobs.
- In Egypt, some of the more popular positions are in large international schools. There is also work available at private language schools and teaching business English directly to companies.
- In India, while some paid jobs are available, most English teaching positions are voluntary, for example teaching underprivileged children in socially deprived areas, or perhaps Buddhist monks in the foothills of the Himalayas. You normally pay a fee to the voluntary organisation, who then cover your accommodation, food and transport costs. Some may pay a small monthly allowance.
This is just a flavour of the type of opportunities available. For more detailed information about what to expect in different countries, have a look at the country guides from TEFL Academy, International TEFL Academy and Eslbase.
Salaries and benefits for TEFL teachers
As you browse job opportunities, you’ll also see that requirements vary greatly from country to country and from employer to employer. Although a lot of jobs require some experience or a higher level TEFL qualification (like the Cambridge Delta or a Masters in TESOL) there are still plenty of opportunities when you’re just starting out. Your choice of countries may be slightly more limited (there are very few jobs available without experience in many countries in the Middle East, for example) but you will still have a large number of jobs that you can apply for.
Salaries and other benefits vary too. If you see a low salary, keep in mind that the cost of living might be lower than you’re used to as well. Language schools in many countries in Asia and South America are more likely to offer a package of benefits including accommodation, help with visas and other paperwork, health insurance and covering the cost of flights. Language schools in many countries in Europe are less likely to provide these types of benefits.
The number of online teaching positions has grown enormously since 2020, due in large part to Covid-19. Many new online schools have popped up, and a large number of existing schools who used to offer only in-person classes have incorporated online learning into their offers.
What does this mean for you as a TEFL teacher? Pre-covid, you could very easily avoid online teaching altogether if it didn’t appeal, teaching only in-person classes. Now, it’s wise to be more flexible, and to be prepared to teach online as part (or all) of your job.
The TEFL Toulouse course includes a 2 hour session on how to teach online, and also offers an Advanced Teaching Online course to add on to your TEFL course, if you wish to become an expert.
*Bear in mind that online TEFL courses don’t necessarily give you the tools to teach online yourself!
TEFL is a fantastic way to travel and see the world, while working in what can be a very rewarding and worthwhile job. Get qualified, find that job, pack your bags and enjoy it!
Written by Keith Taylor
Keith is the co-founder of Eslbase.
He has been a teacher and teacher trainer for over 20 years, in Indonesia, Australia, Morocco, Spain, Italy, Poland, France and now in the UK.