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 or financial plan before you.
Teaching English abroad offers an absolutely fantastic chance for backpackers to earn some money, have a good standard of living for a few months, and recuperate from months on the road.
You don’t just walk into a classroom and take over though (that would be strange and possibly illegal). Before you become an international English teacher, you need to be sure 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 scoring an international teacher job. We’ll talk about using TEFL, where to look for an English teaching job, and ways that you can save money.
Let’s get to it!
Table of Contents
Quick Answers: What Will Be Covered in This English Teaching Guide
Why you Should Consider Teaching English Abroad…
Teaching English while abroad is a fantastic way to stretch your funds and to 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 jobs teaching English 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.
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. Check out my interview series with ten TEFL teachers to learn more about what you can expect from a job teaching English abroad.
Before you hit the road in search of a job teaching English, 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!
In order to teach English while abroad, you are going to need a TEFL certification. TEFL is an acronym that stands for Teaching English as a Foreign Language. There are dozens of online TEFL courses available, so you have to make sure you go with a reputable (and affordable) company.
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 over a classroom course; it’s simply easier and you can work on your qualification in your spare time.
I recommend obtaining your online TEFL certificate 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 from The Philippines, for example, and want to teach English.
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.
The best way to get to grips with teaching English 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 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.
Having a livable salary while teaching English abroad without certifications isn’t guaranteed though. 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.
So no one’s going to stop you from teaching English abroad without a 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 international teaching jobs, especially when you consider that the cost of living is likely to be very low. Having a TEFL certificate really does open doors.
The great thing is that, since you can complete the TEFL course online, you can do it over a period of time whilst traveling. 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 and having a TEFL qualification offers so many opportunities that it’s a good back-up option to have when traveling; after all, you will 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 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 look for a job teaching English abroad.
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 start sending out emails to various schools in the region.
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.
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.
Be sure that you have the correct visa for teaching English. In some countries, like China, you will save yourself a real headache if you sort this before you go. In other countries, such as Colombia, it is relatively easy to arrange your English teaching visa once you are in the country and have your job all lined up.
Teach English in South Korea
Of all the programs for teaching English abroad, 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 can teach 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 to teach English in the world.
Teach English in Taiwan
Like South Korea, Taiwan is one of those countries where you can make a lot of money as an English teacher. This 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.
Teach English in Spain
Spain is an extremely popular place to teach for many reasons. Aside from having the chance of teaching English in Europe (benefits, socialism, and history galore), Spain alone is pretty rad.
Teaching English 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.
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.
Teach English in Rwanda
If money isn’t your goal, then maybe you should consider volunteering to teach English while 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 an established English teaching program and is very welcoming to volunteer teachers. 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 afford a very special opportunity. 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.
Teach English in China
It’s one of the fastest growing nations on Earth and has a labor force that is becoming increasingly skilled. Now more than ever, China has a huge need for English teachers to meet the huge demands of their population.
Thankfully, China has the money to spend these days. You can make quite a lot teaching in China. Depending on where you live, you can save a lot as well; living in Shanghai or Shenzhen as a teacher is never easy.
Teaching English has become such an enormous business in China that you don’t even have to go to work to do it. You can teach young Chinese children all from the comfort of your own computer, thanks to dozens of online teaching programs.
In the end, China is hands down one of the best countries to teach English in and is a great place to get started.
Teach English in Japan
I’ve mentioned my friend who taught English in Japan several times already and if you haven’t read her article yet, you should go read it now.
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 regards. If you can find a good job and afford living here, 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 too does its need for English teachers rise. Reportedly, there is a huge demand for English speakers in Colombia as the locals are eager to join the international community.
So great is the need for English teachers, 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.
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 demand in Vietnam because as the population speaks more English, more business opportunities present themselves.
Business aside, Vietnam is also just a drop dead gorgeous country. 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 teach English 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 certificates or degrees 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. 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 degrees (preferably an MA), former teaching experience, and additional certification to go with them. This is isn’t a casual backpacker job; in the UAE, it’s a career.
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 teaching.
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!
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 the big, expensive cities. 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.
Having a TEFL course offers you the opportunity to live in countries which 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.
So, what are you waiting for? Visit MyTefl today, use the BACKPKR 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!
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Writer and hustler. Adventurer and vagabond. Master of the handstand pushup. Conqueror of mountains, survivor of deserts and crusader for cheap escapades. Will has been on the road for nine years, travelling to far-flung lands on a budget. Today, he runs a number of online ventures. He is passionate about teaching others how to ditch their desks, hit the road and achieve real freedom by earning money online. Currently, Will is based in Bali where he plans to open his first Tribal Hostel in 2019.