My classroom, and gateway to a life overseas

Though it may have never been a job that you’ve considered, or even have any experience in, teaching English to speakers of other languages (TESOL), can be a great way to earn a living overseas, and see the world.  Because of the strong presence of English in today’s business, scientific, and political world, the demand for English teachers has grown exponentially since the start of the new millennium. There are countless schools currently looking for English speakers to come and teach, and the job could literally take you anywhere.

To find out if you’re qualified to be an English teacher, simply answer these three basic questions:  Do you have a bachelor’s degree in any field?  Were you educated in an English speaking country prior to attending college?  Do you have a pulse? If you answered yes to all of the above, congratulations!  You are qualified to be an English teacher.  While opportunities depend largely on where in the world you want to teach, and how much you make is generally based on your qualifications or experience (some one with a bachelor’s degree in linguistics of TESOL will make more than someone who majored in economics), getting a job as an English teacher is not a difficult thing to do, and it can open a lot of doors for the adventurous traveler.

That being said, just because the job is easy to obtain, doesn’t mean that it’s easy work, and it’s certainly not for everyone.  Being a teacher overseas requires a fair amount of confidence, flexibility, and positive thinking in order to be a gratifying experience, and there are a lot of external factors that figure into this.  Cultural views on education may differ drastically, and you will rely heavily on your school’s support to ensure that your time working in [insert country here] is a positive experience.

Once you’ve decided that you want to teach English, there are several different routes you could take to finding a job overseas.  Many of these options involve a recruiting company, which may or may not charge a fee in exchange for getting you a contract.  There are pros and cons to all of them, so find what’s right for you, and which option makes you feel the most comfortable.

  • Look for jobs on your own – Websites like Dave’s ESL Cafe have job boards where you can either upload your resume and wait to be contacted by schools and companies, or scan the boards yourself and find a job opening that looks appealing.  Pro – You have the opportunity to directly contact your future employer instead of relying on a recruiter.  Con – There are less guarantees that the school will follow through with their promises, as they may not have a recruiting company who has sent foreigners to them to work in the past.  Their credibility may not yet be established in the ESL market.
  • Pay a recruiter – CIEE is one of the many recruiting companies that can help find you a teaching position overseas, in one of their operating countries.  You will apply directly to the recruiter, and they will forward your information along to potential employers until they find you a job that suits your needs.  Pro – You will have access to your recruiter’s in-country support after arrival, and the application process is not as extensive.  Con – It is quite expensive (you have to pay $50 to apply, and $1800 for programming fees).  Also, the program places it’s workers in private schools which for many countries can lead to an undesirable working experience.
  • Find a free recruiter – There are countless free recruiters out there who will manage your files, and help facilitate as you apply to whatever governmental or private positions interest you.  I used Footprints Recruiting to help me apply to the Seoul Metropolitan Office of Education (a public school position), and they essentially work as the bridge between you and the country to which you are applying.  Pros – It’s free and you get the same service as you would from the recruiters who charge you two grand.  Also, for those applying to teach in Korea, these recruiters can help find you a position with a public school instead of a private (called a hagwon).  While there are some fabulous hagwons, and some bad public schools, working public gives you the security of having a labor board to go to if your school isn’t complying with the terms of your contract.  Also, public teachers generally earn the same amount, but work half the hours and get twice the vacation days.  I would always recommend public over private unless you know someone currently working with the hagwon to which you’re applying.  Cons – The public school application process is a nightmare, and literally takes months to complete.

So whether you choose to teach at a public school, or a private school; find your own job, or enlist the help of a recruiter, it’s important to be connected to the international teaching community.  Look for a forum or lesson sharing website in your country (for those in Korea, Waygook is amazing), and be sure to have a supportive group of other expat teachers to grab drinks with, share ideas and vent when thinks are a little stressful.  Teaching overseas can be a wonderful way to connect to a new culture, learn a new language, discover something new about yourself, and earn a decent amount of money!  So if you’ve been looking for your next overseas adventure and think you’d enjoy passing on your impressive knowledge of English to the youth of the world, start looking around for a teaching gig, and enjoy your year abroad.