Teaching English Abroad: A Step-By-Step Plan

Oct 15, 2021

Many countries are finally reopening their borders. After more than a year of COVID-19 restrictions, the pent-up demand for in-person English teachers is bound to create a boom of opportunities. There might be no better time to start teaching English abroad, especially if you’re a native speaker! 

Even before the pandemic, the British Council forecasted that there were 2 billion English language learners worldwide. On average, this generates 100,000 new job openings every year at 40,000+ ESL schools and language institutes. That means that anyone with an accredited TEFL certification could teach in up to 100 countries around the globe. 

We want to say choosing where to go is the hardest part, but teaching English as a second or foreign language (TEFL) requires some planning and research. It typically takes 3 to 6 months between starting your certification and going abroad for your first job. Best to start planning now! Here’s a breakdown of the essential steps to get started. 

Get TEFL certified.

You may not need professional teaching experience or a background in education, but you do need some proof of training to work in a reputable school. An accredited TEFL certification course will equip you with the best ESL teaching tools and strategies to effectively engage your students. Plus, many TEFL training programs include job placement assistance — some even guarantee job placement in select countries! 

If you’re a first-time traveler and know where you want to teach, selecting an in-class TEFL certification course is your best option. You’ll get to meet other like-minded teachers, practice speaking the local language, and immerse yourself in the culture right away. Still, there are many fully online and virtual options if you can’t move abroad just yet. 

While course length can vary from 20 to 200 hours, most employers require a minimum of 120 hours to consider you TEFL certified and eligible for a work visa. 

Begin your job search.

Taking an in-class TEFL course will make this step as easy as possible. You can start applying to and interviewing with nearby schools during your training, often with direct assistance from your TEFL training program. Many newly certified teachers can get a job offer within a few weeks, especially if you align your graduation with the region’s hiring season. Certain countries also prefer to interview and hire English teachers in person rather than recruit from abroad. 

Keep in mind that interview and hiring procedures vary from country to country, even city to city. Some like to hire far in advance, while others need to fill English teaching positions ASAP year-round. Research your destination country’s school year calendar, busiest hiring months, hiring requirements, and standard interview practices. Online tools like Teaching Nomad’s job board can help you peruse job listings, minimum qualifications, and the types of schools and language institutes offering employment. 

Obtain and authenticate the necessary documentation. 

Understanding the legal requirements of working in a foreign country can feel quite daunting, so don’t procrastinate. First, you’ll need to get a work visa or permit (be wary of employers who say you need only a travel visa!). The process for this varies by country, but in most cases, you’ll need a passport, proof of employment (through which your employer will act as your sponsor), and completed application forms. Some countries also require a TEFL certification or equivalent, criminal background check, medical examination, and other qualifications. 

There’s one more important step! Many countries — including China, South Korea, and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) — require authentication or attestation of your employment, degree, teaching credential, and background check documents. This can be time-consuming and is typically done with the help of a consulate or placement consultant. 

If you feel overwhelmed figuring out this process, proactively seek out an employer or recruitment company that can help. Teaching Nomad provides document authentication services! Our team can ensure that your documents are done properly, quickly, and reliably. 

Prepare for the costs and logistics of moving.

Teaching English abroad is one of the most affordable ways to live in a new country, but it still requires some startup costs. TEFL certification course fees can go upwards of $2,000, while airfare and transportation costs can be more than $1,000 (the earlier you book your flight, the better!). You’ll need to budget for basic living expenses — housing, food, entertainment, and travel — during both your certification course and your job search, which can last a few months depending on the country. 

If you’re lucky, your future employer may help you cut down on these expenses. Many schools in South Korea and China will reimburse your airfare and cover housing costs as benefits of employment. You can also save time and money during your job search if your certification program offers job placement assistance. Do your research and talk with other English teachers who have lived in your destination country before. They could provide money-saving tips specific to the region that you can’t find online.

Simple enough, right? Although teaching English abroad is not a last-minute decision, the required planning and costs will be well worth the experience. Set yourself up for success now by signing up for an accredited and hands-on TEFL certification course through Teaching Nomad

Our in-class TEFL destinations span Asia, Latin America, and Europe and are connected to quality employers. Under the guidance of our experienced instructors and professional staff, you’ll learn how to be an effective ESL teacher and quickly land your first job with full placement assistance. Sign up today! 


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