Teaching English Overseas

On this page about ‘Teaching English Overseas’ you’ll find:

If you want to work abroad in industrialized countries that are hard to get into, one of the easiest and most popular alternatives is to teach English to adults.

English is the international language of trade, science, the internet and air traffic control. Having English is a much sought after skill.

The demand for native English speakers is such that, by teaching English overseas, you can find jobs in these otherwise inaccessible countries.

The newly liberated countries of Eastern Europe turned to English after rejecting Russian domination. Even in China, Japan and Ethiopia, you can find English teachers in demand.

What kind of person does well overseas?

Are you the kind of person, who is a free spirit, a risk-taker, who feels like they can be at home anywhere? Do you wake each morning with anticipation, curiosity, and enthusiasm for the day ahead? Are you patient, observant and tolerant of differences? If you can answer yes to all of these you have the makings of a wonderful life overseas.

On the other hand, if your reaction to these questions is that this is a Pollyanna view of life, that no one in their right mind can have, then you may not be ready to make the move overseas into the teaching profession. Yes, you’d better believe it, there are real people who have this positive attitude.

Successful International Teachers see the need for flexibility in their roles as teachers.

  • They focus on fitting in, rather than standing out.
  • They work at teaching, are not unsettled by unfamiliar ways.
  • They can deal with the frustrations, of not getting to accomplish all they had intended to do in a day, because of the limitations of the culture they are dealing with.
  • They put the emphasis on the interactions that happen between people.
  • In some cultures, that’s what it’s all about.

For more on the best personal traits for expats to cultivate, see ‘Living Abroad’ in Foreign Cultures

Leveraging Your Teaching Skills

You can use teaching English as a stepping stone to landing another type of job overseas. For example, if you are a specialist in Informational Technology or Banking, offer yourself to companies in your specialty, as an English Teacher. You’ll easily make the contacts you need, in order to find out where the jobs you want are. It’s all about networking, getting known and establishing a basis of trust.

The range of teaching opportunities abroad ranges from private English Language Schools, to international and American schools, universities, technical institutes, multinational firms, professional organizations, and religious schools. Some English speaking backpackers, have even negotiated giving private English language lessons to individuals as they move around.

You can work from a few months to a few years. Many find teaching English overseas a viable lifestyle, select a place to settle down, and make their home there. The beauty of being a native English speaker, in a world where a billion people are looking to learn English, is that you can find employment in virtually any country in which English is not the first language. This is a job that is in great demand.

Common Acronyms Used in English Language Teaching

  • TESL – Teaching English as a Second Language – in a country where most people speak English.
  • TEAL – Teaching English as an Additional Language – among multi-lingual populations.
  • TEFL – Teaching English as a Foreign Language – where English is not the language of the country.
  • TESOL – Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages – this is replacing TEFL.

Don’t get confused by the variety of acronyms, basically, they all refer to the same thing – Teaching English to people of other languages. TESOL seems to be one most commonly used.

Getting the Right Training

Anyone who can speak English fluently, and has a positive attitude has a chance at teaching English overseas to adults who are willing to pay them.

However, even if you can get hired without any training or experience, it would be unwise to wade into English teaching without some training. You would not be doing yourself a favor. Teaching is not easy. I speak as an experienced teacher.

You can learn the hard way, through trial and error, but why put yourself through that, when you can take a short professional program like CELTA (see below), and get the benefit of all the help and resources that come with it.


Many English speakers who travel abroad for any length of time, support themselves by taking a certificate that qualifies them to Teach English as a Second Language (TESOL).

One certification is recognized worldwide for its quality. It’s called CELTA. CELTA stands for: “Certificate in English Language Teaching to Adults”. This is the world’s largest teacher-training organization for entry-level qualifications. It also provides a job-placement service.

This certification is the one that is most highly recognized, in all countries. It gives people with little or no training, the practical knowledge, awareness and skills to begin a career in the field of English language teaching.

Programs are:
Full-time: 4-5 weeks.
Part-time – from a few months to over the course of a year.
Online – a blended learning course, combining online self-study with hands-on teaching practice.

Find a teacher training centre near you at this link: Teaching Qualification Centres.

Why CELTA is Recognized Around the World

More information about CELTA certification.

How Well Does Teaching English Overseas Pay?

If you have a degree, you can teach English overseas, and pay off your student loans in a year or two, depending on where you teach.

In fact, with any degree, you can get an TESOL certificate and become a qualified English Teacher, thus positioning yourself for overseas employment.

Once you get some experience teaching English, you can enhance your value even more, by taking courses in extra curricular specialties, and quickly advance into higher paying jobs, among the better paying schools.
It all depends on how ambitious you are.

If you are looking for a well-paying position, look in large cities in Asian countries like Japan, Taiwan, Korea, Hong Kong. Latin America is also opening up.

What standard of living can I expect, teaching English overseas?

Hmmm. . . That depends on a number of factors. For example, your qualifications – a teaching degree or a TESOL Certificate, whether you choose a volunteer or salaried job, and where in the world you choose to work, are the determining factors.

If you are living in a developing country, as a volunteer on a stipend and your savings, you will generally have the standard of the people you are living among.

If you are a salaried professional, in a Western European financial capital, you can live well. Or you can decide to bank your income. You choose your lifestyle according to your own priorities.

Face it, if you live overseas in a beautiful city like Rome, Paris, Frankfurt, or Vienna, you may be tempted to indulge yourself. Gas, housing, cars, food, and the little extras, may be worth paying more for.
The lifestyle can be very comfortable, and rewarding. Maybe that’s why so many decide they prefer to just visit back home periodically, which can actually be a nice compromise.

So you can spend what you earn traveling, living in high-end accommodations, frequenting the arts and other entertainment, and having the best of everything. It’s a great way to live – and why not, you deserve it!
Saving that nest egg to bring home, may be a goal you’ll need to revise.

Other Options for Professional Teachers
– Teacher Exchange Programs, the Benefits of Volunteering

Whether or not teaching English overseas is your preference, you can still teach overseas. Opportunities are available through international development programs, seeking people to Teach Life Skills to needy villagers. The organization will provide the training. This could be one of the most rewarding experiences of your life.

Teacher Exchange Programs

Qualified classroom teachers have the option of joining a Teacher Exchange Program, and arranging to exchange places with another teacher in another culture for a year. They end up taking each other’s teaching assignments in their local schools, and living in each other’s homes, as part of an unforgettable experience.

The Sabbatical Year

You can take a year of your working life off, and donate it to a worthy cause. Professional teachers might want to take a sabbatical year or several summers and spend them in one of the volunteer programs like CUSO or the Peace Corps. Your students, both at home and abroad, will be enriched by your experience.

The Benefits of Volunteering

If you go on a posting with a Volunteer organization to a third world country, you may not have all the technical aides, audiovisual equipment, or lab facilities you are used to back home. In fact, in some places, you may not have enough text books.

But you’ll more than make up for it, with motivated students, who are eager to learn, because they know that’s the key to a brighter future for themselves and their families.

These jobs offer you the chance to be creative, and give you the freedom to experiment with new ideas, in ways you’d never dream of back home. They will take your teaching to another level.

Main Websites for Volunteer Teaching Opportunities Overseas

  1. The Peace Corps – 2 year assignments.
    – Offers one of the best overseas experiences available.
    Teaching English is their most popular program.
  2. Teach Around the World – Year long Internships Teaching Life Skills
    – Asia, Latin America, Eastern Europe, Africa.
    – No formal teacher training required.

  3. CUSO-Volunteer Service Overseas2 yr postings for teachers to mentor local teachers abroad
    – developing teaching materials, and passing on new teaching methodologies and practices
    – in places like China, Ethiopia and Mozambique.

Where are the Jobs for English Teachers?

For Experienced TESOL Teachers with an Education Degree

The market is wide open for teaching foreign embassy staff, American-sponsored overseas schools for dependents of US citizens, International Language Schools in large cities, universities and colleges, multinational corporations and elite private schools.
Of course, you can also check out the list below. Because of your qualifications, more options will be open to you.

Certified Teachers (CELTA or other Short-term Certification)
For Those With or Without a Degree in an Unrelated Field

You can be creative and find work teaching entrepreneurs and business people who want to learn English to do international business, scientists, researchers, academics, live-in private tutoring of children. You never know where you’ll find a job.

The big demand in Eastern European is in Hungary, Poland and Czechoslovakia. The only problem is that there are acute accommodation shortages, and low salaries, in those areas. They prefer qualified ESL teachers, but they will also take untrained English speakers to use in the High Schools, in particular.

Other places like Turkey, Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Thailand, Indonesia, China, Japan, Spain, Portugal, Greece offer the greatest opportunities for native English speakers, who can quickly upgrade themselves with CELTA Certification.

In Latin America – Costa Rica, Chile, Peru and Venezuela, you will find private schools looking for English teachers.

Job Search Websites for Teaching English Overseas

  1. AEON – specializes in recruiting for Japan
  2. Assoc. of American Schools in South America
  3. – recruits teachers for over 40 American/International schools located in South America
  4. European Council of International Schools
    – a US non-profit based in the UK – a placement service for English teachers. Over 450 schools in Europe, Middle East, Asia & Africa.
  5. Teacher Placement Service – many jobs never advertised. Annual Job Fair.
  6. Directory of all Overseas Schools for Dependents of US Citizens. Search for schools by region.
  7. Non-profit site, with a Great Job Board, certification program, gives you an edge in competing for overseas ESL positions.
  8. US based International Educator’s Institute. – Not just English teaching jobs, all kinds of teaching jobs available. Submit your resume online.

CAVEAT: While an overwhelming majority of teachers find their teaching English overseas experiences to be rewarding, if you are running away from something here, a bad teaching record, problems in your personal life, etc., they may not magically disappear overseas.

Why? Because you take your problems with you, wherever you go. And you can’t escape from yourself.

So, if you are suffering from boredom, burnout, depression, marital problems, a poor social life, or more, you need to come to terms with this before you leave, or you could find yourself facing more than you bargained for.

The adjustments required in a new culture, can tend to intensify things.

Information on Teaching English Abroad

Footprint Recruiting – based in Vancouver, Canada
Teach Away – based in Toronto and Vancouver, Canada

Related Links on Living Overseas
Select from the links below to find out more about Living and Working Abroad

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