Want to learn more about teaching English abroad?
Want to teach English abroad but not sure where to start? We've put together information to cover everything from where to go, to how much to budget.
We've got our 13 most popular questions listed below and you can search and browse through our articles with the menus at the top.
(We're also looking for people to share their experiences teaching English for the knowledge base, if you'd be interested drop us an email.)
Hopefully it's useful and we're always checking in to keep it up to date, so keep an eye out for new sections!
Where should I teach abroad?
This is the biggest decision you need to make. Where would you like to teach? More than anything else the country you live in will affect your experience. Would you prefer to teach in China, Saudi Arabia, Spain? We have dedicated country profiles for China, Japan & Korea which explore every detail of the countries and we've also written about some of the other popular countries here.
How much can I make teaching English abroad?
There is no right answer to this! Broadly salaries range from roughly $800 to $4000, but this will change hugely depending on where you teach and your qualifications, and you need to account for the taxes in the country too (Saudi Arabia for example has no income tax). We've published average salary data for China, Japan and Korea based on the jobs posted on our site (more on the way!) and we've written another top level comparison that you can find here. But making money isn't the same as saving money, so...
How much can I save teaching English abroad?
To know how much you can save teaching overseas, you need to factor in all the different costs of living as well as your salary. You need to account for benefits like housing and flights, social security and taxes which can change the picture completely. We've put together a cost of living calculator for China, Japan & Korea to help you calculate it in more detail and we also have spreadsheets for some other popular countries which you can find here. If you're less concerned about the money, teaching English also offers plenty of volunteer positions in poorer places like rural Africa, where you won't be able to save anything, but you can often help with English education in poor communities.
Will I enjoy teaching abroad?
That's a hard one, because it's so personal. Just like anything there will be up and downs, but here are some things to bear in mind.
Firstly, remember it's a job. Although it's a job in another country, it is still a job and comes with all the responsibility a job entails. You'll have to plan lessons, mark homework and do all those things teachers do. If you don't actually enjoy teaching, then you probably won't enjoy teaching English abroad!
Secondly it's an adventure. Living abroad, means you can visit new places, have new experiences and explore a new culture. If you're ready to take advantage of it there are huge number of new and unique experiences.
To take the reverse of that, living in a new country can also be challenging. Different cultures can be very different, the language barrier can be a problem and it's completely possible to get homesick.
At the end of the day, if you enjoy teaching and have an open mind, then you can have a fantastic experience and read about other peoples experiences, check out the blogs of other people who've taught abroad.
What qualifications do I need to teach English abroad?
This changes a lot per country. The two most common requirements are:
- A degree
- Being an English native speaker
But this can change per country and even within the country (particularly places such as China).
Typically the degree requirement is one imposed by the visa and the native English requirement is one imposed by the school (the second of these is more common in Asia than in Europe). You can find a list of countries where you can teach without a degree and more information on requirements here for China, Japan & Korea.
Do you need a specific kind of degree?
While it can be benefit to have a specific degree related to English, it's not necessary.
Will I need to sort out visas?
Yes you will. Broadly speaking (as this process is different for every country), most people will find an employer, then apply for a work visa with the employer sponsoring them (this is usually needed for a work visa).
Typically either your employer, recruiter or program you're working with will support you and help you sort your visa.
The other option is to travel to the country and find a job while you're there. Then depending on the visa you arrive on, you may need to switch that visa to a work visa. Whether or not this is difficult depends entirely on the country. In places like China it can be relatively difficult, in places like Japan if you go over on a working holiday visa, you won't need to switch at all.
Do you need to speak a foreign langauge to teach English overseas?
No. In fact most positions teaching English abroad involve immersion teaching, where all the lessons are taught in English. While knowing the local language is an advantage (many teachers will learn it while they're teaching, schools often provide lessons), it's completely possible to teach English without speaking the local language.
Do you need a TEFL certificate to teach English?
No you don't, but it will make you a better teacher. There are many countries, which will hire teachers without a TEFL certificate (this is typically more common in Asia tends than in Europe), but having one will mean you're better prepare for teaching and can get you better positions. Certificates with classroom practice hours like CELTA and the Cert.TESOL are the most highly valued.
If you're doing the course primarily for the better job opportunities, then before signing up to a course you should investigate how well recognised it is. While both the CELTA and Cert. TESOL have excellent brand recognition, many other courses lack even if equal in training don't have it, so find out whether your certificate will be well recognised where you are going to teach. If you're curious about the contents of the top end TEFL courses, there is an excellent one page summary of the CELTA you can find here.
How do I find a job teaching English abroad?
There are two main ways. 1. You can apply for a job on a site like ours either through a recruiter or direct to a school. 2. You can apply for a placement program or TEFL course where they will place you at a school at the end. This will take care of a lot of the admin, but in return you will have to pay for the course/program. If you decide you want to choose a program then you should start reading through reviews, if you decide to find one through a job site, we've written an entire article on the sort of things to be aware of when finding a TEFL job!
There are also government sponsored programs in some countries, where the government will place teachers into public schools. Some of the more well known include In Japan - the JET programme, in Korea - EPIK & GEPIK, in Hong Kong - NET and in America the Fulbright Program which places teachers across the world.
Will I need to pay tax and sign up for social security?
This will be very different depending on your situation. Nearly everyone will have to pay tax (unless you're in Saudi Arabia, congratulations!), social security will depend on the country you move to. If you don't want to pay for it and have private insurance, then often there are ways around it, but it's country specific.
Don't get scared if that all sounds terrifying, your school should help you sort out all of this, but it's worth doing your research in advance so you know what should be happening.
The most common tax situation is you will typically pay tax in the country you move to and then stop paying it at home as many countries have tax agreements to avoid expats having to pay tax twice. We've written about expat tax here.
How long will you need to commit?
There are contracts of all different lengths, however the majority are between 6 and 12 months long, with many schools and organisations often offering an end of year bonus.
Many schools will offer English summer camps (you can find these both in the US, UK and across Asia), which can be a good way to dip your foot in the water and see if you enjoy teaching. Tutoring online (either in English or your own preferred subject), can also give you some experience teaching to see if it's something you enjoy. We've written about teaching English online here.
Will I need to bring money with me?
It's usually a good plan to bring enough money for your first month, as typically salaries aren't paid until the end of the month. Depending on your location you should also check with employer about whether you'll need a deposit for your accommodation. Depending on the country and job, it might be taken from your salary over several months, in others you may need to provide your own. Countries like Japan and Korea have housing that works very differently than what you may be used to in places like the UK or America. We've written about housing in Japan and housing in Korea.