Teaching English abroad can be a career in its own right, but is also a popular option for graduates looking to take a year out. There are a variety of dedicated English language schools, and it can be a good way to live in a different culture and learn a new language before you settle upon a career.
There is something of a geographical hierarchy in teaching abroad. Salaries are relative to the standard of living in each country, so as teachers gain more experience a "pay raise" is often affected by a move into a developed country. As such positions in Western Europe often require a TEFL or TESOL qualification as well as two years' experience. In developing countries you may not need any qualification or experience at all.
The exception to this is summer work, when British and European English Language schools frequently hire recently qualified teachers. Typically they pay a good salary and give free accommodation for two or three months.
In developing countries you will receive a high salary relative to the real wage and normally get your airfare reimbursed. Just don't expect have to have saved much on your return!
Teaching with a qualification
Most established schools require a their teachers to have a Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) qualification - known as the UCLES CELTA - or a Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) qualification - known as the CertTESOL.
Training typically takes a month. There are schools which can train teachers all over the world, so you could combine a holiday in a foreign country with gaining a qualification.
The Europea-pages gives you more information on where to find TEFL courses..
Trinity College lists the providers of the CertTESOL qualification.
You will normally receive advice on finding a job at the end of your training: some schools will help you find employment afterwards.
Teaching without a qualification
In developing countries in particular, having English as a mother-tongue is considered a teaching qualification in its own right. While a TEFL or TESOL qualification is likely to give you more confident in the classroom, some schools do not require one.
TEFL.com is the main website listing job vacancies for teaching English abroad, and a good place to start your search for a job.
If you are thinking of accepting a position, be cautious. While the majority of teachers encounter no problems in a country where you do not speak the language - you could struggle to get legal representation to secure promised pay or plane tickets.
Good advice is to:
- Do a web search of the school before you apply. If the school treats employees badly it is likely a disgruntled teacher has already posted warnings on a forum somewhere.
- Get a copy of the contract in both English and the foreign language and ask an independent native speaker to check that they are identical.
- Ensure you enter the country on a work visa. If the school offers to transfer your visa once you arrive then you have no guarantee of getting paid.
The British Council
A more organised way to teach abroad is to become a language assistant with the British Council: assisting in English lessons in schools. Successful applicants can be placed in seventeen countries all over the world - including countries in Europe; their overseas territories; as well as Africa; Latin America and China. Salaries vary according to the country, but you would typically help teach between 12 and 20 hours of classes a week. To apply you need to be able to speak the language of the country, except for China, to which anybody can apply.
The JET scheme
The Japanese Exchange and Teaching Programme (JET Scheme) is an official Japanese government scheme to recruit temporary foreign language teachers in Japan. Typically participants assist or team-teach with a native Japanese teacher in a secondary school. While a TEFL qualification and knowledge of Japanese will help an applicant secure a place, they are by no means requirements for the scheme.