How to Get Your First TEFL Job Abroad
by Amy Harris
Start with a TEFL course
TEFL courses are an ideal way to combine a love of teaching with a desire to travel. Courses are usually short and inexpensive and can lead to fantastic opportunities for living and working in different countries, cultures and environments.
Once students complete their course, they are usually itching to put into practice all the theory, the lesson plans and the tips and tricks they have learned. However, securing a first TEFL job abroad can be nerve wracking, especially if you have no idea where to begin. Fortunately, finding suitable work should not be a challenge. Here is some advice on getting your first teaching job overseas.
Choose a top TEFL course provider
Firstly, know that any TEFL course is worthwhile when looking to teach English abroad. Many countries such as Japan and China will accept applicants with either an online or onsite qualification from any accredited provider, as long as you also have a degree. However, if you want to teach in places where the criterion is stricter, such as the Middle East, some European countries and the UK, a qualification from a renowned establishment that includes in class observed teaching practice is going to be a major advantage.
There are really two providers that stand out amongst others; University of Cambridge (CELTA) and Trinity College London. While the Cambridge CELTA and the Trinity CertTesol have a very similar syllabus to other classroom based courses, it is the brand that catches the eye of overseas employers. The two educational establishments have a good reputation abroad, and in countries where there is a lot of competition. Having one of these qualifications could land you at the top of the shortlist.
Research the best places
If you have no practical experience in terms of TEFL, choosing a country where native English teachers are in short supply is often a better option than looking for work where competition is fiercer. Asia, South America and the Arab Gulf States are usually always on the lookout for TEFL teachers, but if you want to stay a bit closer to home, there are some areas of Europe where it may be easier to find work.
Russia is a good choice for first timers. The country’s somewhat turbulent past seems to deter prospective English teachers, but it need not. Russia welcomes new TEFL teachers and schools usually subsidise, or even reimburse, travel, accommodation and visa expenses. Prague is also a popular go-to place for those seeking their first TEFL job. Demand is high, so finding employment can be easier than elsewhere.
There are many TEFL job sites online. Unfortunately only very few such as this one actually moderate the job postings they receive. Free TEFL job posting sites are particularly bad as they are usually swamped with low quality offerings some of which are down right scams. Only use quality TEFL job sites that are frequented by trusted schools and recruiters. Before applying to jobs look for previous teachers’ testimonials online, check the schools’ website and look for other factors that might determine whether the school/recruiter is a quality establishment or not.
Apply through TEFL recruitment agencies
Many foreign educational establishments work closely with TEFL recruitment agencies due to the ease of the hiring process. English language schools in China, Japan and South Korea are particularly fond of using agencies to find teachers. The agencies will verify qualifications, arrange interviews and even help out with contracts and travel arrangements. To be in with a chance of teaching at one of the larger and well-funded venues abroad, you may want to apply through an agency.
Agencies will keep your details on file, so if there is no suitable employment straight away, you may be matched with new opportunities coming in. Agencies should be free and we do not recommend ever paying an agency who promises to find you work. In the UK for instance it’s illegal for agencies to charge those looking for work.
Walk in jobs
This method isn’t a decision to be taken lightly, and it’s not for the faint hearted, but it can be one of the best ways to secure your first TEFL job. The main obstacle first time TEFL teachers face is that they have got little or no practical experience and the distance means that interviews are typically held over the telephone, which does not always give an accurate representation of your ability or personality.
Some countries welcome a walk in, that is, turning up at a school or college and enquiring about any opportunities. In places like Japan, Taiwan and Spain this tactic can work well, particularly with finding work in small independent schools. (For governmental positions and working with large language school chains this is unlikely to work as they typically conduct their recruitment program in the teachers’ countries of origin).
Giving the employers a chance to meet you face-to-face is a huge advantage for you, and could lead to an on-the-spot job offer. Of course, work is not guaranteed and but if you can gain employment in this manner it is a great way of getting work experience in your chosen country before perhaps applying for more mainstream jobs.
About The Author:
Amy Harris writes for Law Training – which helps British and international students find the right legal courses in the UK. She is an American expat who enjoys helping people with their education and career search.