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Teaching English

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(Government recruiting programs)
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A few countries have government-run programs for recruiting foreign teachers:
A few countries have government-run programs for recruiting foreign teachers:
* Japan's JET []
* Hong Kong: NET []
* Hong Kong's NET []  
* Japan: JET []
* South Korea: EPIK []
* South Korea: EPIK []
These generally take new university graduates and do not require teacher
These generally take new university graduates and do not require teacher
training or experience.
training or experience.  However, you may be posted to a rural school where you're the only foreigner for miles around — great for experiencing local culture, not so great if you wanted to move in with your girl/boyfriend in Tokyo/Seoul.
==University programs==
==University programs==

Revision as of 08:52, 20 May 2007

    This article is a travel topic

One way to travel – or to pay for your travels – is to get a job overseas teaching English. If you want to spend several years in a destination, this may be the only way to do that.

Since the main job qualification is proficiency in English (you may not even need to be conversant in the local language), it's not necessarily as difficult to get these jobs as you might assume.


Qualifications vary from none at all to certificates to post-graduate degrees in specialized education.

In general the better jobs require qualifications and experience. However, especially in remote areas, anyone who looks foreign and speaks some English can get work.


The field of work is usually call ESL (English as a Second Language) or EFL (English as a Foreign Language). Put a T in front of those to get TESL and TEFL for "Teaching English as a ... Language". To confuse things further, the largest professional association calls itself TESOL [1] (Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages) and a well-known qualification is CELTA (Certificate in English Language Teaching to Adults).

A recent trend in the field is to do a lot of ESP (English for Specific Purposes), designing custom courses depending on what the learners need to use the language for. One branch of this is EAP (English for Academic Purposes), preparing students for study abroad.

The widely-used English tests have their own acronyms:

  • TOEFL [2], for admission to US universities
  • TOEIC [3], a business English test from the TOEFL people
  • IETLS [4], for British, Australian and NZ universities
  • BULATS [5], a business English test from the IELTS people


Anyone contemplating more than a bit of casual work in this field should seriously consider getting some training. Training can make it a good deal easier to survive in a classroom and a certificate will make it easier to get a job. Also, in some countries a degree is legally required to get a working visa; there is some hope of negotiating your way around this if you have a TEFL certificate, but almost none without it.

There are a number of different ESL/EFL teaching certificates available.

  • Many schools give their own courses to staff.
  • Various companies in Western countries offer programs, often including job placement help.
  • There are online courses.

Most programs include some classroom experience and can be completed in one to three months.

You should be careful about finding a good quality course: some few are worthless and many are unknown. Managers are not generally much impressed with a certificate from some place they have never heard of, whether it is an English school in Volgograd or a training company in Vancouver.

One certificate that is very widely accepted is the Cambridge CELTA [6]. Short of an MA, this is the best qualification to have. Courses for it are given under license by centers all over the world, 237 places as of April 2006. The CELTA course is generally both more difficult and more expensive than other courses, but of similar duration — anywhere from a very intensive four weeks to a year part-time. Trinity College London [7] has a CertTESOL that is also taught in many places and widely accepted.

Quite a few universities also offer ESL/EFL training, often both a Certificate program and a Master's degree. A few offer a Master's program designed for teachers working overseas, with most work done by correspondence.

There are directories of courses at ESLonline [8] and ESLbase [9]. Neither is complete. Both sites also have job ads.

Teachers from other fields

If you have teaching qualification in your own country — but as, say a biology or history or even English literature teacher — then many English teaching jobs wiil happily accept you, but some will demand an ESL certificate as well.

With such qualifications, consider looking for work at International schools. These are for the children of expats. They generally demand the same qualifications as primary or secondary schools back home. Pay and conditions are often much better than language teachers get.

Many of those schools teach the International Baccalaureate program, so one way to find them is through the IB site [10]. Other ways include asking embassies and companies with many expat staff.


Paying positions — ones that at least can support you during the employment period and may even let you put away some savings — usually involve contracts for a full year or a 10-month school year. Generally airfare costs make it uneconomical for employers to hire for shorter periods, though one-term contracts are sometimes seen.

It is also common for schools to hire on a short term basis for summer programs. These jobs typically do not cover airfare.


Popular destinations for paying English teaching jobs include

  • Japan's eikaiwa (aka "conversation school") range from small schools to major chains that hire native speakers from abroad;
  • South Korea's hagwon do the same.
  • Eastern Europe - Britain and Ireland are in the EEC so their citizens do not need work visas; many employers are reluctant to hire anyone who does need a visa
  • China and Taiwan
  • Thailand

For country-specific information, see the Work sections of country entries.

Pay and conditions

The best pay for language teachers is in the Middle East.

Nearly all ESL jobs that hire from overseas include benefits like a free apartment and either annual airfare home or some money toward the cost. When teachers are hired locally, these benefits may or may not be available.

In lower income countries a language teacher's pay is generally enough to live well there, but not much by the standards of higher income places. For example, $500 US a month plus a free apartment lets you live well in China, travel some in the holidays, even visit nearby low-cost countries like Vietnam. However it would be difficult to pay off debts back home, or to plan a trip to Japan, on that income.

There is some risk in taking any overseas job. The risk is generally higher for private language schools than for universities or highschools, especially in Asia. Some schools are greedy businesses exploiting both teachers and students; some recruiters are thoroughly dishonest. Many schools and many recruiters are just fine, but there are enough of the bad ones that being careful is absolutely necessary. There are plenty of horror stories — horrible accomodation, large classes, unpaid overtime, broken contracts, etc. Of course there are lots of happy teachers in other schools, sometimes even in the same school. Check for web reviews of potential employers, and ask to talk to current foreign teachers, before signing a contract.

Looking for work

Many web sites offer English teaching jobs. The best known is Dave's ESL Cafe [11].

TESOL [12] publishes journals (available in university libraries) which carry job ads, and provides an online job hunt service. Their annual conference includes a hiring fair. IATEFL [13] are another professional organisation with similar services. Both organisations have regional affilates in many areas.

The British Council [14] is the British government's educational and cultural department. Among other things, they are the largest English teaching organisation in the world, running schools in many places. They also handle recruiting for various foreign governments' English programs. Jobs can be searched on their web site or look for ads in the Guardian and the Times Education Supplement or Higher Ed. Supplement. Some, but by no means all, of their jobs are restricted to British citizens. Most interviews are in London. British Council schools may also hire locally wherever they are, but these jobs usually do not have benefits like airfare and housing that the London-hired ones do.

The US State Department also has an English teaching program [15]. Another program [16], paid for by government and run by Georgetown university, sends teacher trainers and other experts abroad; it requires a masters degree and US citizenship.

Government recruiting programs

A few countries have government-run programs for recruiting foreign teachers:

These generally take new university graduates and do not require teacher training or experience. However, you may be posted to a rural school where you're the only foreigner for miles around — great for experiencing local culture, not so great if you wanted to move in with your girl/boyfriend in Tokyo/Seoul.

University programs

Many Western universities offer some sort of year abroad program, often in co-operation with a foreign university. For students of the language or history of some remote part of the world, these may be a fine opportuntity. Typically there are fees which you would not pay if you went on your own, but on the other hand you get credits from the Western university for your foreign studies.

There are two main types of program; examples here are from China but similar things are available in other places.

  • Some programs. e.g. [20], offer full time study of the foreign language. Often these are fairly flexible about time; a year, a semester or a summer are all possible.
  • Others, e.g. [21], give some language and teaching training, then place you as an English teacher in the host country. Usually these require a longer commitment, typically a year. The advantage is that you make at least enough to live on.

Volunteer work

Volunteer positions are usually for a shorter term and may or may not include room and board. In many developing nations, resources are not available to even support a volunteer and you may need to pay for food and lodging.

Various agencies of Western governments send volunteers abroad: the US Peace Corps [22], British VSO [23], Canadian CUSO [24] and so on. These are among the best volunteer jobs. All expenses — immunisations, travel, lodging, etc. — are normally covered and there is support — training, medical insurance, emergency evacuation if needed — and some sort of small salary. When you come back, these organisations look good on a resume. On the other hand, these positions are harder to get and usually require a heavier commitment, typically two years.

There are also various other organisations that recruit volunteers. These may not cover the major expenses such as travel. Some charge a fee for placement. A few of these are:

  • Volunteers and Interns for Balinese Education [25]
  • Year Out Group [26], a British organisation promoting gap year volunteering
  • Overseas Working Holidays [27], an Australian organisation that offers guaranteed placements in regions such as Africa and India.
  • Travel to Teach [28] with jobs in Southeast Asia and Latin America.

If you feel strongly about religion, ecology or politics, then it is worth checking whether groups you support need volunteers somewhere.

Teaching other languages

Of course English is not the only language for which there is demand. There is some demand for teachers of any major world language.

Various governments sponsor organisations to promote their nations' languages, and offer jobs for speakers of those languages.

  • French: Alliance Francais [29]
  • German: Goethe Institute [30]
  • Spanish: Cervantes Institute [31]
  • Chinese: Confucius Institute [32]


  • Wikigogy - a wiki specifically for English teachers.
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