Major Career Moves: Teaching English Abroad

One of the best career moves today is teaching. That idea may seem counterintuitive, given the crisis in education many countries are currently experiencing, but, that’s exactly why teaching is such a smart career move. It allows you to fill a gap in the marketplace while doing something you love to do.

Plus, if you’re native language is English, it will be one of the most fun and satisfying careers you could ever choose in your lifetime. You have the opportunity to change people’s lives forever by teaching them a new language. In order to make such a career and life-changing goal come true without complications, here are specific steps you can take.

Getting Started: Education Requirements

Just because you speak English, it doesn’t mean you’re qualified to teach it. In most countries, you must hold at least a bachelor’s degree or equivalent in order to teach English as a second language to adults. Otherwise, you may find it difficult or even impossible to get a work permit to teach.

In addition to the bachelor’s degree and a work permit, you may also need a teaching certificate. These certificates give you the privilege of teaching English to young students. Some states and countries also require you to hold special licensing in order to teach. Since it varies depending on the location, you’ll need to check with the local licensing board or education department for specific details.

The Necessary Paperwork: Getting Certified

The certification process usually involves acquiring one of these two types of certificates:

    1. Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL)
    1. Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL)

You also have two choices on how to obtain your certification:

    • Take courses online. An online program should cost you several hundred dollars, depending on which school you attend.
    • Go to a traditional in-class college. The in-class programs are a bit more expensive and can cost upwards of several thousand dollars.

Make Your Move: Choose a Country

Getting an MA in TEFL makes sense now, as the demand for jobs in this sector has skyrocketed. However, not every country offers the same opportunities, so choosing a country is an important step. For some people, a secondary goal of teaching English to non-English-speakers is a chance to travel the world. For others, it’s a life-changing event and the country will become their new permanent home.

If you’re looking for guaranteed job placement, Southeast Asia and Taiwan is where you should head, according to associate director of marketing at LanguageCorps, Steve Patton. The job market in Western Europe is almost certainly more competitive, so those jobs have a tendency to go to people with a lot of experience in the industry.

The pay you earn is also dependent on where you live. If you travel to Vietnam, for example, expect to earn up to $1,500 per month in equivalent USD. If you want an opportunity in Costa Rica, expect between $400 and $800 a month. It’s quite a difference in income; however, the quality and cost of living varies, too.

Various parts of the world have different standards and living expenses. In third-world countries, you can expect $400 USD to go a long way. In European and other western countries, that kind of pay will keep you in poverty. This is why you need to research and choose where you plan to live and teach with great care, checking all aspects of life there.

One final consideration before you choose a country — wherever you move will determine what language you will have to learn. Yes, when you take up a job like this, you’re going to be faced with having to learn a second language yourself. While many countries now speak English as a second language, you can’t always count on that.

There may be many times when you need to know the native language to get by. So, if you plan to move to Rio de Janeiro, for example, start taking Portuguese now. If you move to Taiwan, learn standard Mandarin.

Time to Teach: Locate a School

You need to find the right route in order to locate the best schools to teach at, so you’ll want create the best learning roadmap to accomplish your goals. Most foreign governments check and accept educators from only the best certification programs. Not all colleges offer them, so make sure you check with admissions before you sign up for any classes. Your best bet is a MA in TEFL, but the ultimate decision depends on the course and curriculum details that suit your goals best.

Start a New Life: Relocating Yourself

Before you move, there are a few things you’ll need to take care of first. Most importantly, you’ll need to secure a passport. This process can take between four and six weeks to complete. You’ll also need a place to live, and basic living supplies like food, along with a bank account and a mode of transportation. So, check with your school about whether the placement program helps you get all of this in order. In general, you should start planning for the move at least six months ahead of time.

If teaching English in a foreign country is your dream, then go for it. You can make your dream come true with some research and proper planning. By following these steps, achieving your career goals can be exhilarating and fulfilling, instead of stressful and disappointing.

Donna Martin is a passionate language instructor with a heart for world cultures and languages. She often blogs about living and teaching abroad. Her writing mainly appears on career and education blogs.

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