You’ve got your TEFL certification, your passport and a desire to make a change — in the world, in your life, or in some other way. That’s great! You’re ready to get started, or maybe you’re an experienced teacher looking to make a change, but you’re not sure what options are available to you. Surely TEFL teaching is limited to overseas institutes, right? Wrong!
In my own TEFL career I’ve taught kids, adults, one-to-one, classes of 40 students, in institutes, in state schools, online, abroad, in my home country and in private classes that take me around the city. I’m sure I’m not alone in having such a diverse list of jobs; most people will do more than one type at some point in their career. So here’s my rundown on what types of jobs exist, where to find them and the pros and cons.
For obvious reasons, it is much easier to find a job in a country without native English speakers. Different parts of the world have different preferences for TEFL classes. It’s up to you to decide if the location or job type is more important to you when looking to move abroad. And remember that one job type being more popular doesn’t mean that other types don’t exist! If you want to teach at a state school in Europe, you can! Just know that you might be facing more challenges than if you were looking for a job in an institute.
Most jobs in Asia are working with children. It’s very common to work in state schools. You’ll likely be hired by an institute that works with foreign teachers and sends them to local schools. Depending on the country, the institute, and the schools, you may be teaching classes of 40 or more students. I’ve even heard of classes in China with 80 kids! Don’t let large class sizes scare you. You’ll have a teaching assistant (or two or three!) to help. They will be local and know the best ways to control and teach classes in their country.
Asia also has institutes that go year-round and universities that need English teachers. These jobs are great if you want to live in Asia but don’t love the idea of teaching children.
Jobs in Europe tend to be in institutes. You won’t find a lot of opportunity in state schools. However, these institutes feature students of all ages and levels as well as various class sizes. You don’t necessarily need to choose what type of student or class you want in Europe. This is great for new teachers or people who aren’t sure what they want. You can try a little of everything before deciding what to specialize in, or if you want to specialize at all.
These jobs tend to be more demanding. South American institutes generally don’t have many (or any!) classrooms. Teachers will be sent around the city to the homes or offices of their students. This is great for someone who wants to really get to know a city. It’s impossible to spend your day crisscrossing your city without learning every corner of it! The days are long and can be physically demanding, but the constant movement and changes of scenery are perfect for someone who is active or restless.
The Middle East is home to the university teacher. Most of the jobs you find here will be teaching university or test prep students. This is a great location for someone looking for serious students and long classes. There are also a lot of private companies (usually oil companies) looking for in-house teachers for their staff. That can be a great way to make the move to the Middle East for those without the credentials or drive for university teaching.
Teaching in your country
Teaching at home doesn’t have the glamour of those jobs overseas, but there are definite benefits. You’ll get to know immigrants and refugees in your country and you’ll learn about their cultures. Staying home means exposure to many cultures, not just the one culture that a teacher living abroad experiences. Culture shock is also unlikely in your home country. You can live in your own city and you won’t be limited to two suitcases of your possessions.
There are also a few more options in terms of what kind of teaching you want to do. You won’t be limited in what kind of work your visa allows, you can do whatever you want. Advertise private lessons locally, work for a nearby university, big cities often have institutes for tourists or immigrants – you’re only limited by your imagination.
Teaching at home is also a great way to dip your feet into TEFL. If you’re not sure that it’s the profession for you, observing some classes or offering tutoring will help you see if this is something you’re interested in. And it’s definitely better to learn that lesson before you pack your bags and sign a year contract somewhere far from home.
Recently there have been a lot of online schools opening. There are different types. Some are strictly one-to-one, some are larger classes. Some plan your lessons, some only arrange your schedule. One thing they all have in common? Convenience. You can teach anywhere as long as you have a reliable internet connection. Be sure to check the time zone difference before you choose a company to work with!
These classes take place at an institute which is solely focused on language learning, usually, that means English, but some institutes offer many languages. Before accepting a job at an institute be sure that you ask about class sizes, student ages, and your work week. These jobs tend to work around the students, which means a lot of after school/work and weekend work. You’ll usually still have a weekend, but it might be Monday and Tuesday rather than Saturday and Sunday. Make sure you know what to expect before signing anything!
Finding a job teaching English abroad in a state school can be a bit more difficult than finding a job in an institute. However, it is not impossible! These job opportunities tend to be available in Asian countries, with a small amount available in Europe and the Middle East.
The process of getting a job in a public school is a bit longer and more tedious than the interview process for a job in a private institution. It usually takes from 1 month up to 9 months, so be sure to give yourself plenty of time! They also usually require a 4-year degree from an English-speaking country, a TEFL certification and a lot of documentation from your home country. The best way to get one of these jobs is to work with an organization in the country you’re looking at. Think of programs like EPIK and JET. They know what you need, and they can walk you through the process and answer any questions that come up.
Teaching children can be a lot of fun. They learn easily so you see steady improvement and they’re always excited to show off what they know. They are open to many types of activities which means you can experiment with task types. But teaching them requires a lot of energy. Kids have short attention spans so activities need to be changed a lot and the planning can be difficult. Teaching kids full-time can leave you tired, but you’ll have no shortage of funny stories from work. If you’re interested in teaching kids, check out our teaching English to young learners course!
Adults are usually very motivated, and the grammar and general language instructions can be a higher level than when you teach kids or teens. These are great students; they are hard-working, ask smart questions, and don’t have discipline problems. Your class topics will be varied, and you’ll really get the opportunity to learn about your students as people.