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How Do I Start Teaching ESL Abroad?

Emily Smith

Are you experiencing wanderlust and want to get out of your comfort zone and see the world? If you are and you happen to be a native English speaker then becoming an ESL teacher abroad might be the perfect way for you to travel. People from many fields of study become ESL teachers; once I even met an aerospace engineer who took a year off from his job to teach university teachers in Thailand! So how do you take the plunge and start teaching? Here are a few tips to jumpstart your career as an ESL teacher abroad.


1. Check with your university. If you are about to graduate, you may be surprised to learn that your university has a programme to teach ESL abroad. In fact, some have programmes for current students that allow you to earn college credit. Check with your university to see if any ESL programmes are available.

2. Decide which country you want to teach in. Many countries all over the world are looking for native English speakers to teach English. Do a little research and decide which countries excite you. Are you interested in South America? Then you might want to teach in Chile or Argentina. Does the Middle East appeal to you? There are many jobs in Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and Dubai.

3. Find out the qualification requirements. Each country has different requirements in order to get a visa for teaching ESL. Countries in the Middle East require a bachelor’s degree as well as a certification such as TESOL or CELTA. South Korea requires original copies of your Bachelor’s diploma and a notarized criminal background check. In addition to the qualifications for a visa, different schools have different internal requirements. Spend some time doing research to see which countries you qualify to teach in.

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4. Decide if money is a factor. Do you want a life experience or quick cash? If you are simply looking to make money, then the Middle East has some of the highest paying jobs. If your motivation to become an ESL teacher is to make a difference, then there are plenty of underfunded schools in rural towns all over the world looking for volunteers. You can also be a volunteer ESL teacher at organizations that work with orphans, victims of trafficking, and many others in need.

5. Decide what age you want to teach. ESL teachers are in demand for just about every age group. Jobs as a kindergarten teacher are typically easier to get than as an ESL teacher for university students. But teaching jobs are in demand for all ages. Consider your strengths and weaknesses and choose accordingly. If you hate working with young kids, don’t become a kindergarten teacher just because you got offered a job. Take a bit more time and choose wisely. Remember, this will be your job day in and day out throughout the duration of your contract, so choose a job you will enjoy.

6. Prepare for the jump. Moving overseas is fun to talk about, but it can be a little frightening to actually do. But all you have to do is put one foot in front of the other and start the process. Start collecting your documents. Fill out applications online. Go through phone interviews. Sooner or later it will be time to buy your plane ticket, board your flight and settle in to your new job.

Moving overseas is fun to talk about, but it can be a little frightening to actually do. But all you have to do is put one foot in front of the other and start the process.

7. Consider going with a friend. Many new ESL teachers make the move with a friend or significant other. There are many schools offering jobs for couples. You can also simply get jobs in the same city. For some people, making the big move is a lot easier with a friend, sibling, or significant other.

These are just a few things to help you get started as an ESL teacher abroad. If it’s something you have been thinking about for a while now, why not just do it? Chances are, it will be a life-changing event that you will never forget.

Have you already taken the big jump to move abroad to teach ESL? Wish there was something you knew ahead of time? Share it with us!

About the author

Emily has taught English to ESL learners in four Asian countries. Although she taught students from 3-60, she has a definite affection for preschoolers and college students. She has also worked as an ESL curriculum writer and is TESOL certified. When she is not teaching, she loves watching and making films.