Teaching English Abroad: Everything you need to know

Are you interested in teaching English abroad? Well, it is quite easy for fluent English speakers to start a teaching career abroad. Countries like China, Japan, Korea, Turkey, Argentina, Spain and many others provide you with great employment opportunities. Before you look into the various options available, here are some basic things you should know.

What is TEFL certification?

TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) certification is a teacher training qualification that gives you the confidence needed to teach the language, plan your lessons, and choose or create activities and other materials for teaching. While some countries demand a teaching degree and work experience, there are several other countries where a teaching experience is not required, but emphasize on being a native English Speaker. With an accredited  TEFL certification you will get a nice professional status, better job placement and a good income.

Also Read: Can I teach in Hong Kong without a degree?

How to get TEFL certified?

There are several TEFL certification courses available. For instance, both Trinity CertTESOL and Cambridge CELTA courses are highly acclaimed, preferred by most employers worldwide. These courses equip you with all the necessary skills and expertise required to start a teaching career.

Among the several TEFL courses available, you have to select a course that is appropriate and matches your specific plans for teaching. The professional grade TEFL certification requires you to complete a coursework of a minimum of 120 hours along with 6 hours of observed teaching. This course is identical to an intensive course of 4 weeks full-time classes or up to 13 weeks of part-time or online classes.

The long-term course is one that provides a substantial and solid income for which you need to acquire in-depth certification.

However, an internationally accepted TEFL certification requires you to put in a minimum of 100 hours of study. The course covers important topics such as assessment strategies, English grammar and classroom management.

The courses can be taken as in-class or a combination of short on-site classes and distance learning. Before you choose a course, make sure the provider meets with internationally accepted standards in teaching English. The certificate should be internationally acceptable, and the course should give you the confidence to venture into a career in teaching English, irrespective of the location you select.

Open your world to lucrative and exciting job opportunities

While TEFL certification provides a gateway to good job opportunities as a whole, some countries offer better opportunities than the rest. For instance, the countries in the Middle East Asian region such as the United Arab Emirates and Qatar, and South East Asian countries like China, Korea, and Japan offer high paying jobs, provided you have the right certification and experience in teaching English.

On the other hand, jobs in the African region, especially in the sub-Saharan, are more of volunteer type with minimal payment. To know more about the countries with the best opportunities, you need to conduct thorough research.

Going abroad

Teaching in a foreign country involves several adjustments and preparations on your part, such as:

  • Choosing a country: To select a country of your choice, you need to do a meticulous search online and offline. This will open up new possible locations which you were not aware of before. Most often, the teaching jobs are located in major cities, which have language schools and disposable funds for training. In some Asian countries such as Cambodia, Vietnam, Thailand and also in Latin America, you have to attend the interview in person to be hired. For countries like Indonesia, Japan, China and South Korea, you can be hired from home prior to your departure to the country.
  • Visa arrangement: Teaching English abroad requires you to know about the visa rules and other related legal procedures which differ based on the country you have been hired for the job. Work visas are usually provided in most countries except for countries in Latin America and Western Europe, where you are given a tourist visa, although a tourist visa is not legally acceptable for working. Therefore, you need to know about the visa practices thoroughly. You can have a look at the embassy websites of the countries you are interested in to know about the latest updated information on availing valid visas.
  • Preparation tips for staying abroad: While taking the TEFL course of your choice, you have to start on the necessary preparations for working and staying abroad such as:
    – Taking care of personal affairs
    – Availing a passport
    – Making arrangements for air travel
    All of the above-mentioned tasks take anywhere from a few weeks to months. Usually, TEFL course enrollment, certification, job search, travel arrangement and other related tasks take about 6 months. So, you need to plan accordingly.
  • Culture and your health: And once you are abroad, you need to get used to the new culture and language of the country. Taking good care of your health is another important part of living abroad. Food poisoning is a common condition you can suffer from when you work in one of the developing countries, as you get exposed to different types of bacterial infections. Whether it is food poisoning, flu, allergies or a fracture you are suffering from, you should be able to access proper medical care.

Teaching preparation

Once you have started your career teaching English, you have certain considerations to mull over, such as:

  • Dealing with children of different culture: It is natural to encounter cultural differences when you are in a foreign country. But in reality, children are the same in whatever part of the world you teach. They have the basic love for sports, movies and TV shows, and hate tests. All kids worry about scoring good grades and making an impression. So, your job is not that difficult.
  • Lesson planning: To ensure you create the appropriate lesson plans, get help from online resources. With digital learning aids available now in most cities, you can easily create lessons that are interactive and keep the children interested and well engaged. TEFL courses have integrated lesson planning curriculum to make your job easier.
  • Be flexible and patient: Since a classroom is an eclectic mix of all types of personalities, patience is a big requisite, irrespective of the age group you teach. While you are bound to be frustrated, many a time keeping your cool will be truly rewarding. Moreover, you need to manage with irregularities such as impromptu lessons without time for planning, power outages, and other disruptions and learn to be flexible.

Getting support from family and friends

If your family and friends find it difficult to understand your decision to teach abroad, you can explain your passion and drive to teach in a foreign country. And in case you have relatives or friends living in the country you have been hired to teach, you can get their help in finding the best places to stay and eat, and to access transport and health care. Family and friends can also provide you valuable advice regarding the location you choose.


Teaching English abroad can turn into a highly rewarding and satisfying experience provided you prepare yourself to the eventualities. Planning well, taking each and every aspect of your job into consideration can easily turn your job into a liberating and enriching experience that you will cherish forever. And the first step towards this enlightenment is taking up a TEFL course.

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This article was originally published on April 20, 2018 and was last updated on December 10, 2020.

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