Travelling is one of those experiences that enthuses almost a state of anarchy in many adventurers. The feeling of preeminent wanderlust when you’re at the airport, jetting off, knowing that in two weeks time you’re not returning to your boring nine-to-five is an exhilarating sensation.
Whether it’s backpacking around the world, hitchhiking around Europe, or volunteering in an orang-utan orphanage in Borneo, getting away from the monotony of normality is what drives many people to save their hard earned cash to hotfoot to pastures new. Unfortunately, all things come to an end, and for most people money is that one factor that dictates our escapaeds. Working while you’re away, however, is a great way to extend your trip, and teaching English is perfect for native English speakers to fund such a trip.
English is big business. The whole world needs to learn it. Think about it: If a company in Brazil does business with a company in Vietnam, which language do they interact in? Nine times out of ten, it will be in English. Around the world, there are ‘Learn English’ billboard signs and advertisements dotted around the cities. There are literally hundreds of thousands of schools and language centres on all corners of the globe that desire native English speakers.
In the six years I’ve been teaching, I have been lucky enough to work in Colombia, Brazil and now Thailand, and I have met many colleagues over the years who have worked in many other countries. In this globalised world, being a native English speaker is hugely advantageous when it comes to travel and work.
Without question, the main qualification is your fluency in English. In most countries, however, you will need a university degree, in any subject. Although there are many schools and language centres, especially in Asia, that employ teachers without a degree. Just be warned that you will not be working legally and your wages will probably be lower than at a school where they require at least a degree.
If you have no teaching experience, which most people don’t, I would recommend doing a Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) course. You should aim for the 130-hour course, which involves 100 hours of online grammar coursework and a 30-hour workshop, where you’ll gain some valuable teaching experience and ideas. I did this course, and it is probably the most popular qualification for teaching English abroad. This, added with a university degree, and you’re good to go in most schools throughout Asia, South America and many in Europe.
Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) is another qualification and acronym that gets interchangeably mixed up with TEFL. They are similar courses in length and standing, but the difference is that TEFL is geared towards Standard English, whereas TESOL targets colloquial, everyday English.
TESOL, therefore, is more likely to be sought when a native speaker wants to teach non-native learners in an English speaking country. For example, if an American wants to teach in England, a TESOL qualification is usually required. The TESOL qualification is also integrated into many undergraduate and MA courses, which helps you further your teaching career, if you so wish.
Be warned, some TEFL and TESOL centres have a dubious reputation, however. There are many great centres, but because there is no governing body overlooking the standard, some centres fall below the benchmark and your experience you’ll receive might be rather lacking.
The Certificate in English Language Teaching to Adults (CELTA) is another qualification, but there can never be any doubt about its integrity. The highly recommended teaching certificate is affiliated with Cambridge University so the specification is of a higher quality than the others. It’s a four-week intensive course (not online) and it can be done in most big cities around the world, and many schools, especially in Europe would prefer you to have this than the TEFL or TESOL.
Absolutely not. Many English teachers in all cities around the world have made gratifying careers, and are compensated handsomely. If you decided to make a career out of teaching English, however, I would advise you to get a higher qualification – while you’re abroad and working of course.
An MA in Teaching and Applied Linguistics is a popular course among many teachers and can be done online and at workshops in many cities around the world. There are other MA courses, but make sure ‘Education’ is enunciated in the title of your qualification, as some countries demand that for issuing teaching licences.
The Post Graduate Certificate of Education (PGCE) is a U.K. qualification that is required to teach in the U.K. and this qualification will get you a job in just about any school around the world. However, if you don’t have a PGCE and you prefer to study while you’re working abroad, you could always do the international version: PGCEi.
This is mostly online, research based, with a four-day workshop at certain cities throughout the world. It is MA level and is worth 60 credits, which can be used to gain a full MA (180 credits) at a later date. It’s a popular qualification among many teachers from all over the world wanting to further their teaching careers.
Once you’re equipped with an MA in Education, a PGCE or a PGCEi, the world is your oyster. These qualifications will open the doors to some of the best International Schools around the world, where you should see a significant increase in your salary. Be warned though, like everything else, there are some dubious International Schools, so make sure you do some research before committing to any school.
Asia is definitely the English teaching hotspot. Whether you want to work in Japan, China, Thailand or almost any other Asian country, the schools, universities and language centres are thirsting for native English speakers. Working at schools, you will obviously be teaching young students during normal school hours. If you prefer teaching adults, however, you could opt for working in universities and language centres. Here, your hours are likely to be more varied, but the experience for those who don’t like teaching children is much better.
The salary differs from country to country, but you will always be earning more than enough to get by. Before I arrived in Thailand, I heard that the wages weren’t that good and many websites claimed that ESL teachers were paid about $300 per month. This is absolutely false. I have never heard of anybody earning so little in Thailand.
South America is another place where the work is ubiquitous. Not to the same degree as Asia, but there is definitely lots of prospects. Depending on your qualification, there will be opportunities at International Schools and universities, or if you don’t possess a teaching qualification, you could always get work in a language centre. There are many centres in all the big cities and you can even work for different ones to make sure you have enough hours to make a comfortable living.
The Middle East is crying out for English teachers. The UAE, Saudi Arabia and Egypt are the most popular states to work in but English-speaking natives are in demand all over the region. The wages are fantastic and in many places your earnings will be tax-free. You need at least a degree and usually a couple of years experience to work in most places in the region, and because of the high wages many schools usually demand an MA or PGCEi to teach there.
Europe is also in need for native English speakers. You’ll need at least a degree and a TEFL or CELTA, and in some places an MA to work in Europe. Schools and language centres in Spain, Italy and Eastern Europe carry the best hope of work in Europe, but it is possible to find work in most places. Europe is popular for short-stint teaching experiences, but if you want to make a full time living in Europe somewhere, there are definitely opportunities.
Africa desperately needs English teachers, but paid work, although not impossible, is hard to find. However, there are many voluntary agencies offering a teaching experience in many parts of Africa. There are voluntary agencies offering positions to help build schools before you start teaching. This probably isn’t a long-term option for many, but if money isn’t a worry, or you want a short experience like no other then Africa is definitely an amazing option to gain valuable teaching and life experience.
Freelance work is always an option wherever you want to work. There are many people wanting extra tuition and will pay good money for your services. Private classes can be anything from home visits to coffee shop conversations. The more established you are in a city, the more private tuition you will be offered. In fact, I have found many private students without even looking for it. And the best thing is: you set the price.
The only downside to freelance work is having to organise everything yourself, but there are many websites that offer free and paid material and you can get some amazing stuff for little to no cost.
Online teaching is becoming ever more popular. It’s not for everyone, but if you don’t mind the impersonal nature of video calling, and as long as you have a good Wi-Fi connection, you can basically teach from anywhere in the world. You can basically do it in your bed if you choose to. There are many teaching agencies that offer competitive wages and hours to suit. I know of many teachers who work alongside me at a school and do some online teaching on an evening, and the wages are good if you can get in with the right agency.
Teaching English abroad used to be a gap year thing, but now there are communities of expat teachers living long-term in most cities around the world. You will never get rich teaching, but you will certainly live a comfortable life and meet some amazing people on the way. Knowing you’re making a difference to many young people is also a stimulating experience, and the best thing is, you get paid for it. Anybody with an appetite for travel can do, so what are you waiting for?