Running out of money? Want to change your life? Keen to keep on traveling?
At some point in your travels, it is likely that you will want to slow down for a bit, to ease into something a bit more ‘normal’ without going home. On the other hand, maybe you want to start traveling but want a reliable source of income and a base in another continent to come back to.
Teaching English abroad offers you just that. It provides backpackers with the opportunity to earn some money, have a good standard of living for a few months, and recuperate from months on the road.
However, teaching abroad is not for everyone.
You don’t just walk into a classroom and take over (that would be strange and possibly illegal). Before you become an English teacher abroad, you need to get certified and then hired by the right company.
In this English teaching guide, we’re going to cover some of the steps involved in your job search and how to score a job teaching abroad. We’ll talk about using TEFL and teach abroad programs, where to look for an English teaching job, and what it’s like to teach abroad.
Let’s get to it!
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Quick Answers: What Will Be Covered in This English Teaching Guide
- Getting Certified with TEFL
- How to Find an English Teaching Jobs Abroad?
- The 10 Best Places to Teach English
- How Much Can You Save Teaching English Abroad?
Why You Should Consider Teaching English Abroad…
Teaching abroad is a fantastic way to recover your bank account after you’ve splashed out on too many beers. It’s also a great way to earn money and see the world at the same time. Being an international English teacher has, for a long time, been my back-up for when I run out of funds on the road.
I know a lot of people who have scored English teaching jobs in China, which is one of the best places to earn a decent income whilst exploring a truly amazing, truly different, culture, and thoroughly enjoyed the experience. However, there are new regulations in China that make it harder to land English teaching jobs there, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t opportunities available to you.
I’ve already covered the topic of how to teach English abroad a LOT on my site as I truly believe that this is one of the best cheats for people who have limited funds and want to explore the world.
However, I do feel strongly that people should have some interest in teaching too, as some students in other countries will rely on you to be their teacher, so it’s not fair to just play English songs on YouTube and take a nap. It is still a job, and you are required to work.
If you’re truly interested in finding out what it’s like to teach abroad, check out my interview series with ten TEFL teachers to learn more about what you can expect from a job teaching abroad.
So if you really are interested to teach abroad and want to sign up. Hold your horses! Before you hit the road in search of an English teaching job, you will first need to get a TEFL qualification.
Before you pack your bags and book that one-way ticket, you need to get some teaching qualifications – ideally a TEFL certificate!
In order to teach English abroad, most schools and language schools require at least a 120-Hour TEFL certification. TEFL is an acronym for Teaching English as a Foreign Language, and it’s an online or face-to-face teacher training certificate that allows you to teach almost anywhere in the world.
There are dozens of online TEFL courses available, so you have to make sure you go with a reputable (and affordable) company. There are many phony companies, and most employers are aware of them, so don’t think you can get away with buying a TEFL certificate and not doing the work. You can’t.
There are several types of TEFL courses available – some involve face-to-face teaching time and others are completely online. If you’re already traveling, then I recommend choosing an online TEFL course as it’s simply easier to complete and you can work on your TEFL qualification in your spare time.
If you haven’t left for your travels, a face-to-face TEFL course is absolutely worth it. If you want to teach in China or Hong Kong, so example, you will need to prove that you have done a practicum (live teacher practice), which you don’t get doing an online TEFL course. But, most companies only require you to have completed the online part, so best to look at where you want to teach before making this decision.
I recommend obtaining your TEFL certification with MyTEFL. It’s fast, easy and one of the cheapest options.
MyTEFL offers a whole repertoire of online TEFL courses ranging from basic certifications all the way to business teaching. There are even courses for non-native English speakers, which is perfect if you’re wanting to brush up on your English and get a qualification that shows you can teach English.
We would highly recommend the 140 Hour TEFL course, as it has the standard 120 Hour TEFL course needed for most positions around the world, plus an additional 20 hours that solely cover online teaching. The online teaching industry has really boomed over the last few years and if you’re able to teach English online, it’s great to provide you with a little additional income in your back pocket.
As an added incentive, MyTEFL also includes a list of teaching positions all over the world in order to help you find work. On top of that, MyTEFL is dedicated to giving back to the global community and so a percentage of all sales goes to worthy causes around the world.
These TEFL courses are not only designed to teach you the fundamentals for teaching abroad, but they also ensure you feel prepared for walking into the classroom, covering things like classroom management and lesson planning too.
As someone who has taught abroad for many years, I can say that the best way to understand what it’s like teaching abroad is to read up on some personal experiences of TEFL teachers.
Back in 2018, I interviewed Becky, an English teacher in Japan with five years of experience, and Tyler, head honcho over at MyTEFL on the ins and outs of online TEFL courses and how to teach English while abroad; check out the article on teaching English in Japan.
Can I Teach English Abroad without Certifications?
Sure thing; there’s always someone out there who needs help with their studies. Some schools and language schools even have a teach abroad program, where you can obtain your TEFL while you work.
If you’re staying in a hostel while traveling, you can most likely ask the owners and find someone that could do with a little help. Learning new languages is hard, but if you feel confident, even without a TEFL certification, then why not help out a little bit? This is also a good experience before landing a proper TEFL job. However, this is not promised to bring you a consistent income, and technically tutoring while on a tourist visa is a big no no in most countries.
Having a livable salary while teaching ESL abroad without certifications isn’t guaranteed. Most likely, you’ll end up teaching at an unofficial school and receive far fewer benefits or wages than someone who went through TEFL and got accepted into a good institution. Teaching in Costa Rica is a prime example where you can land yourself a teaching job without a degree but you still need a TEFL certification. In fact, most countries in Latin America don’t require a degree. Teaching in Mexico is also super easy to get into and doesn’t require a degree.
Because the market is becoming quite saturated and more and more people are cottoning on to the sweet deal that overseas teaching jobs actually offer, institutions are becoming more competitive and have tougher requirements. In most countries in Asia, they require TEFL certified teachers to have at least a bachelor’s degree, just to obtain a visa.
So in short, no one’s going to stop you from teaching English abroad without a bachelor’s degree, but you won’t get very far either.
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Gaining a TEFL certificate is a small investment considering how much money can be made through TEFL jobs abroad, especially when you consider that the cost of living is likely to be very low and you get to save A LOT. Having a TEFL certification really does open doors, and we guarantee you’ll make that money back within your first three months (if not earlier).
The great thing is that, since you can complete the TEFL course online, you can do it over a period of time whilst travelling. When completing the online teaching course section of my own TEFL certificate, I would often sit down on a beach, my travel laptop to hand, and get a couple of hours done whilst chilling with a beer.
I never found it particularly challenging to complete and you can study at your own pace. At the end of the day, having a TEFL qualification offers so many opportunities that it’s a good back-up option to have when traveling when you eventually run out of money.
Teaching English abroad is a particularly good way to supplement your income if you’re trying to break into the blogging game or are interested in becoming a digital nomad.
So, once you have looked through some online TEFL courses and chosen one that works for you, what next? Upon successful completion of your TEFL course, you can then start your job search for teaching English abroad positions.
Finding a teaching job abroad is relatively easy, especially if you use the directory of positions listed at MyTEFL. If you fancy a more direct approach, I recommend choosing a city that looks appealing and to you and start sending out emails to various schools and language centres in the region.
Depending on the country, schools are often so desperate for English language teachers that many of them will offer you an interview right away. In general, I recommend trying to find a teaching job when you are already in the country – this will mean you are in a better position to actually check the school out, negotiate your salary and find a decent apartment.
However, if you’ve not left for your travels yet it does not mean you won’t get offered teaching jobs in another country. It is quite usual for schools and language centers to offer interviews online.
The hiring process is usually very straightforward. You submit an application, you get a job offer and contract, once you have signed that you’ll have to sort the visa paperwork (usually done by the employer), and then you can book your plane.
When choosing a school, see if you can find blog posts or reviews from past English teachers about that specific job – it will give you a better idea of what to expect. Glassdoor is a great place to start as former teachers love to bash companies who have messed them around. If there are no bad reviews on Glassdoor, you’re in for a win.
If you’re not sure you want to settle down in one place, why not make money from anywhere and teach online!
Be sure that you have the all the requirements for a visa for teaching English. Like China, there are a lot of documents EFL teachers need to teach there and you will save yourself a real headache if you sort this before you go.
In other countries, particularly in Central and South America, for example, Colombia, it is relatively easy to arrange your English teaching visa once you are in the country and have your job all lined up.
So if you have your TEFL certificate and are ready to teach abroad, then you’re ready to start applying for teaching jobs.
Here are the best countries to teach in…
Teach English in South Korea
Of all the teaching abroad programs for EFL teachers, the ones in South Korea have to be among the most lucrative. Being the industrious and technologically thriving country that it is, English is a very useful language to have if you’re a Korean businessman. If you are good at teaching them how to properly speak the language, you can make a killing.
South Korea is a really cool country in its own right. Cities like Seoul and Busan are among the most exciting in Asia, the drinking is copious (we all know teachers love to party), and the hiking opportunities are myriad. The fact that you can be a part of all these and still support yourself definitely makes South Korea one of the best places for teaching abroad.
As well as that, it’s a good base to travel to other places in Asia. It’s easy to take trips over to Japan, Taiwan, or Hong Kong for weekend trips when you get time off.
Since the TEFL certification is seen as a high-ranking qualification, you shouldn’t have to struggle too much with finding a teaching job in South Korea. The better your results, the higher the chances are to get a better position. They do prefer native-English speakers though, so if you are a non-native, you might have a lower salary.
Teach English in Taiwan
Like South Korea, teaching in Taiwan is one of those experiences where you can make a lot of money as an English teacher. This is not necessary due to high wages though, but more because of the low cost of living.
If you’re living anywhere outside of Taipei, the prices of living are dirt cheap. You can rent an apartment in some smaller cities for a couple of hundred a month and the food is never expensive. This means you can pocket more of your cash and save it.
You’ll also get the chance to explore Taiwan, which is more than just factories and urban sprawl. East Taiwan seriously has some of the best surf in Asia and the mountains here are impressive at times.
TEFL jobs in Taiwan do not come up as often as other Asian countries like China and South Korea, but there are many language schools that are always looking for teachers.
Teach English in Spain
Spain is an extremely popular place to teach for many reasons. Aside from having the chance of teaching ESL in Europe (benefits, socialism, and history galore), Spain alone is pretty rad.
Teaching ESL in Spain can be a lot of fun, but can also be challenging. Wages are often not enough to allow comfortable living and there’s usually a surplus of teachers. However, according to reviews of other TEFL teachers, Spain’s students are incredibly open to learning English and make you feel like you’re a part of their country.
If you can get yourself into a good private school in Spain, you can be really taken care of. Find a sweet gig and soon you’ll be eating all the tapas and hitting up all of the beaches.
However, teaching jobs in Europe are not as easy to secure as the Asian market, given that the locals can already speak really good English (well enough to teach it), so you will really need to compete if you want to get TEFL jobs in Spain. If you want to teach English in Europe, then you will find more jobs teaching Business English in Germany.
Teach English in Rwanda
If money isn’t your goal and you’d rather give something back, then maybe you should consider volunteering to teach English abroad. There are lots of poor countries out there who are in need of teachers and people who could use some extra skills to support themselves.
Rwanda has always had established teach abroad programs and is very welcoming to volunteers looking to teach abroad. The demand for teachers far outstrips supply as well, so they need all the help they can get. This makes Rwanda a good place for teaching English abroad without a degree because no one really minds here.
Teaching English in Rwanda will give you a very special opportunity to not only do something good but provide you with essential experience that will help you get paid teaching jobs in the future. You’ll get to experience raw village life, gain a greater understanding of a very complex continent, and feel the hearts and souls of the people. Totally worth it if you ask us and you can be very proud of yourself afterward.
Teach English in China
China is one of the fastest-growing nations on Earth and has a labor force that is becoming increasingly skilled. However, while China has a huge need for English teachers to meet the huge demands of their population, regulations that were enforced in 2021 have made it harder to land jobs there.
If you are one of the lucky ones who qualify to teach English in China, then you can certainly earn a pretty penny. Depending on where you live, you can save a lot as well; living in Shanghai or Shenzhen as a teacher is never easy because of the cost of living.
Teaching ESL has become such an enormous business in China and is highly competitive. You should also know that your working expectations are quite high. If you are to teach in Thailand, for example, you can work a few hours in the morning and then relax on the beach. There will be no relaxation in China. Because the pay is so good, they expect you to work hard for it.
However, China is a good base for travel in Asia. You can get to pretty much any Asian country by a direct flight from Beijing or Shanghai, so if your love of travel is your reason to teach, then definitely consider China.
Because of the pay and means to travel, in my opinion, it is hands down one of the best countries to teach English in and is a great place to get started – one job in China can open many doors to you in other countries.
Teach English in Japan
Japan is one of the most popular places to teach, but the competition is fierce. Like China, if you are looking for teaching jobs in Japan, you should know that you are expected to work hard. This is not a country where you can bluff your way through your role as an EFL teacher, you gotta know what you’re doing. But it still makes for an amazing place to work.
Crucially, Japan is a much more affordable place to live in these days. The culture is utterly unique, extremely hospitable, and holds teachers in very high regard. So you might work hard, but they will respect you for what you’re doing.
If you can find a good job and afford to live there, teaching English in Japan could possibly be a major highlight of your life.
Teach English in Colombia
As Colombia becomes more and more present on a global scale, so does its rising need for English teachers. Reportedly, there is a huge demand for English speakers in Colombia as the locals are eager to join the international community, and more and more teaching jobs are being listed on the market.
The need for English teachers is so great that you might not even need a degree to teach English here – a lot of schools just want a TEFL certificate, which is reasonable.
Teaching English in Colombia is a bit different compared to, say, teaching English in Europe. Culturally, Colombia is still a hectic place, albeit one that is trying to shake its violent past. For adventurous teachers, Colombia could well be the ultimate experience.
And if you fall in love with teaching in South America, then it can open more doors for you and you’ll be in a better position when applying for teaching jobs in Peru and other South American countries.
Teach English in Vietnam
Vietnam’s economy is growing at an alarming rate and the country aims to become of the most powerful in Southeast Asia. English teachers are in high demand in Vietnam because as the population speaks more English, more business opportunities present themselves.
Business aside, Vietnam is a gorgeous backpacking destination. The north is mountainous in a way that can’t be described; the beaches are plentiful and far less crowded than Thailands; finally, there’s amazing food and culture to be gorged upon here.
You’ll probably need a degree and definitely a TEFL certificate to land a teaching job in Vietnam. Be sure to check up on current regulations.
Teaching English in Senegal
Volunteering to teach English abroad usually means that you don’t need any sort of certificate or degree to join a program. This is good if you’re just traveling around and want to settle down or do some charitable work.
One of the best places to volunteer and teach English abroad is in Senegal. This Western African nation, sandwiched between Guinea, Mali, and Mauritania is an extremely fascinating place. Here, you’ll have the chance to experience such cultural gems as La Lutte, Wolof food, and the heavenly guitar music of West Africa.
Interestingly, Senegal was a French colony and a decent amount of Senegalese still speak French. English is becoming more and more popular though so I wouldn’t get caught up with the francophonics.
Teaching English in the UAE
If you’re looking for a good salary while teaching English abroad, this is the jackpot.
The UAE has a lot of money these days and is more than willing to spend it on good English teachers looking to teach abroad. If you can land a job here, you can make a shit ton of money and have the chance to live in one of the world’s most advanced cities.
To teach English in the UAE, you have to be well-certified though. You’ll need more than just a bachelor’s degree (preferably an MA), former teaching experience, and additional TEFL certification to go with them. You will also need to get an HIV test for your visa application. It’s that serious.
This isn’t a casual backpacker job; in the UAE, it’s a career. You’ll often be required to commit to a few years teaching in the UAE, BUT you can earn SO much money and it’s tax free, so you can save it all and splurge out on a good few years of traveling.
If you’ve got the patience and the skills, do it!
If you choose your country wisely, it is possible to save upwards of $15,000 in just one year whilst still living a decent life. That means you can have a nice apartment, eat out a few times a week, and have a really good standard of living, all while you teach abroad.
Teaching English in South Korea is ultimately one of the best places to teach English in the world with backpackers frequently managing to save around $20,000 in a year whilst working just thirty hours a week!
If you want to save a ton of money, your number one destination is in the UAE. But it’s not always about earning money, you want a good quality of life too.
To help you save money and avoid unnecessary expenses, here are a few things to keep in mind:
- Just because you’re making money, doesn’t mean you can spend money frivolously. Remember, you’re traveling still and need to be just as frugal with your cash.
- Avoid teaching English in big, expensive cities, such as the capital city. You’ll make a little more in these and the costs of living will be way higher. Teaching in a more “local” city, like Taichung City in Taiwan or Daegu in South Korea, will be much more fruitful.
- Get certifications! The more you have, the higher your salary. Teaching English abroad is like any other skilled trade and be more skilled means more money.
- If you want to make the most money, stick to the Asian countries – these generally have a higher demand for English language teachers and have the money to pay them. The lower living costs mean you get to keep more of what you earn and save for more travel adventures.
FAQ on Teaching English Abroad
Final Thoughts on Teaching English Abroad
Having a TEFL certification offers you the opportunity to not only travel the world, but LIVE amongst other cultures that you could never normally afford to explore; such as Japan!
There are lots of different ways to become a nomad: you can become a travel blogger, travel the world as an au-pair or even have a crack at freelance photography. The beauty of teaching English abroad though is that pretty much anybody can do it.
English doesn’t even have to be your native language (although it does help). If you’re off backpacking for the first time, having the necessary teaching qualifications in your back pocket makes for an excellent safety net for when you run out of cash.
I can also tell you, as someone who has taught abroad for many years, it is super fun! Especially teaching children. Kids say the most hilarious things and you can teach in a really fun and energetic way that makes you feel like a big kid again.
It’s not just a means to travel, it’s a rewarding job too.
And, if you fancy staying on the road long-term, it’s one of the best digital nomad jobs you can have.
So, what are you waiting for? Visit MyTefl today, use the PACK50 code, and try your hand at an exciting new career that lets you gallivant around the world!
Do you have a story of your own from teaching English abroad? Please share them with us in the comment section!
And for transparency’s sake, please know that some of the links in our content are affiliate links. That means that if you book your accommodation, buy your gear, or sort your insurance through our link, we earn a small commission (at no extra cost to you). That said, we only link to the gear we trust and never recommend services we don’t believe are up to scratch. Again, thank you!