“Making a big life change is pretty scary. But, you know what’s even scarier? Regret”

Did you know that more and more teachers are choosing to teach outside the UK?

There's a growing market for English speaking teachers around the world. In fact, teaching English abroad is arguably the most popular job for British expats - with over 100,000 TEFL jobs opening every year (TEFL, by the way, standing for Teaching English as a Foreign Language). Once you've attended a TEFL course and got your TEFL certification, you can start teaching your mother tongue to foreign students who are learning it as a second language. (And if it isn't your mother tongue, you can teach it too!)

That said, not all TEFL courses are the same or accepted everywhere. The CELTA is far more widely accepted than an online TEFL qualification. There are also international teaching opportunities for plenty of subjects.

While an English teaching job is probably easier to find when looking for jobs abroad, there are plenty of rewarding jobs abroad for those interesting in teaching overseas in other subjects.

However, moving abroad to teach is sometimes harder than it looks. The first question you need to ask yourself regards the administrative steps you'll need to take before you can start teaching abroad.

Fortunately for you, we have the answers in this article.

But, Why Bother Teaching Abroad?

Firstly, however, it's worth thinking about why you would bother to teach abroad in the first place. So, why do so many people do it? What are the benefits for you?

Honestly, there are so many amazing things about travelling and teaching English abroad that we could probably dedicate a whole article to the subject. However, just to give you a quick idea, here's a little list.

  • See the world. - Teaching abroad let's you travel, and it can take you to almost every continent on the planet. Considering that there are nearly two billion people speaking and learning English in the world, the market is huge - and can take you to pretty much any country you would like to go.
  • Travel differently. - Whilst you could see the world on your own steam, teaching gives you a completely different experience of a place. It puts you in touch with real residents of places (students, parents, other teachers) and gives you a peek into different cultures that you are rarely ever going to get if you are merely backpacking.
  • And earn whilst you travel. - The other thing is that, if traveling is your priority, teaching on the road can keep you traveling forever. Teach, earn a living, and move on.
  • Meet and teach amazing people. - There's nothing like leading a class of students. Whilst it can be a little nerve-wracking to begin with, it is always an incredibly rewarding experience in the end. Helping people to learn is inspirational - and you'll undoubtedly build strong relationships during your time teaching.
  • Looks great on your return. - People are always dead impressed with people that move, live, and teach abroad - whether that's your parents, friends, or the bloke or girl you fancy. But, on a more serious note, employers too rate the spirit of adventure, dedication, and adaptability pretty highly. So, if you don't intend to stay away forever, the CV might be something to consider too.
  • A personal challenge. - Teaching abroad is great fun. Yet it can be pretty tough too: you're going to a place you don't really know, teaching people who speak a different language, working with people you've never met before. The CELTA course, too, is an incredibly demanding experience, in which you will be stressed, nervous, and tested. However, at the end of it all, it'll be worth it.

As we said above, we could go on. But let's get on to the more practical side of things. If you're convinced that you're going to do it, we need to help you get there. So, what do you need to consider?

Which Qualifications Do You Need to Teach Abroad?

Whether you want to teach English, modern foreign languages, PE, etc., you'll need to get the necessary qualifications and experience.

However, before you start any application process for heading abroad, you should know that there are different ways to get tutoring jobs in other countries:

  • You could teach in state schools.
  • You could teach in private schools - which include language schools.
  • You could teach privately as a tutor.

Each of these jobs comes with different requirements in terms of experience and qualifications.

How do you become a teacher?
Sometimes being a teacher can be stressful. (Source: JESHOOTScom)

Teaching in Language Schools: The Classic Option for Teaching Abroad.

Whether you're looking for ESL teaching jobs for your gap year or starting a new career abroad, the first step you should take is finding out what you need to do and in which order you'll need to do it.


The most important thing to consider is your CELTA qualification. CELTA stands for Certificate of English Language Teaching to Adults - and is also known as the Certificate in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages. This is the benchmark for TEFL training in the world, and only this is guaranteed to be held in high regard by language schools across the world. 

There's a thing with TEFL that is both a blessing and a curse. That's that it's now a massive industry. This is a blessing as there are so many opportunities across the world. However, it is a curse because there is a bit of a risk of prospective tutors being scammed.

So, when you Google things like 'CELTA' or 'TEFL', you'll see lots and lots of sponsored content. This means adverts - and it's important to remember that, just because something appears first on Google, it doesn't mean that it is reliable. Remember that Cambridge English is the best place to go to find reliable, quality qualifications.

I would personally advise against any language schools that isn't recognised by Cambridge - or by the British Council. This counts for online courses too - yet, to say this as clearly as possible:

It is highly recommended that you take the CELTA training in person, rather than online. You will need to teach in front of people when abroad. Get the practice in then whilst you can.

To get onto the CELTA course, by the way, you will need some GCSEs and some proof that you can speak English.

What Else?

Otherwise, individual language schools may well ask for different qualifications, levels of education, and levels of experience.

Experience is a key thing here, because schools prefer if you went straight into a job after finishing your CELTA. If you wait too long before your first job, the schools might be a bit puzzled. And, as with any job, the more experience, the more likely you are to be hired.

In some cases, establishments may be willing to accept candidates who don't meet all the necessary bureaucratic requirements. A lot of those who want to teach English abroad can find teaching positions where the language school will help them gain a work visa and start teaching English overseas.

Teaching in State Schools Abroad.

Teaching in the state schools of a different country is much like teaching in state schools within the UK. This is the toughest route, and you are most likely to need formal teaching qualifications relevant to the country to which you are applying.

So, PGCEs or PGDEs - the English and Scottish teaching qualifications required for state school teaching in the UK -  aren't usually accepted abroad. If they are, they usually need to be translated. What you will need is the qualification of the different country - which will come most likely with language requirements of their own.

To do this, you will find that living abroad either permanently or for an extended period of time is the best way to find a teaching career in a given country. Sure, you can do interviews over the phone or by using video conferencing services such as Skype. That said, you'll still need to have the right qualifications as well as - crucially - some teaching experience.

Establishments may require their employees to be residents - or even citizens - of that country. For those that do, you probably have to provide proof of this either during the application or before you start work. The trouble is here that, generally, it takes around five years of permanent residency in the country to be entitled to residency status.

If you are committed to a given country, having residency there will entitle you to more rights and, in certain circumstances, the better working conditions and benefits.

As you'll have understood, there are plenty of different administrative hoops you'll have to jump through - particularly when talking about state schools.

Private Tuition Abroad.

Finally, another option is to become a private tutor abroad - or else, take your existing private tuition business abroad with you. There are a couple of ways to do this.

Firstly, if you are hoping to work in Europe, you can keep your Superprof profile and hop on over to the continent without any trouble (at least for the moment - but subject to change due to Brexit). It all works exactly the same there, and you can find clients immediately. The qualifications you need for this will be the same as the ones you need in the UK. 

If you are heading to a different country, however, you will have to check the immigration rules - as you may need a work permit to receive cash.

Secondly, you could do a thing whereby you talk to an agency in the UK which can set you up with tutoring opportunities abroad. This could be for home schooling, for being a resident tutor, or for being a teaching nanny. Qualifications for this will depend on the level and age of those you are hoping to teach.

You will probably need a criminal record check though if you are intending to work with children.

Teaching Abroad by Country: Rates and Things to be Aware Of.

Now, we're not going to go through every country in the world and tell you the pay rates, but we'll try to give you a general idea. As might be expected, rates change dramatically by country - just as you'll find that costs of living change dramatically too. So, whilst you might get more cash in France than in Vietnam, you'll find that you are probably spending much less in the latter. 

A lot of people, fresh from their CELTA qualification, tend to head to places in east and south-east Asia. We're talking here about Vietnam, Thailand, Malaysia, and up to Japan. These have a developed TEFL scene, and you probably won't have too much trouble finding work out there.

South and Latin America have a growing TEFL market, but you might find that there are less jobs advertised than in other parts of the world. This is because schools hire face-to-face. So, if you are in South America and want to teach English, go into a language school and ask what's what.

The opportunities for paid work teaching English in Africa can be a little slim. This is not to say don't try, however! It's worth knowing though that it is more common for teachers to volunteer doing TEFL in Africa.

As you might imagine, teaching English in Europe requires you to apply for jobs as you would in the UK.

Below, there's a little comparison of different rates across the world.

Teaching English Abroad Rates

Hong KongYou can earn as much as $7,500 a month!
KazakhstanMaybe surprisingly, pay for TEFL can be up to $5000 a month.
UAE, Oman, Saudi Arabia, KuwaitThese Arab countries have rich populations, and their rates for English teachers reflects this. Expect as much as $5000.
VietnamYou can expect around $1000-2000 for teaching a month.
EuropeStarting salaries can be around $1500 a month.

Establishments for Helping you Teach Abroad

The British Council: The Kings of English Learning and Teaching

The British Council, for example, has plenty of useful resources for those living, working, or studying outside of the UK. They also have plenty of useful resources for those teaching English as a foreign language (TEFL), one of the most commonly taught subjects by British teachers living outside the UK.

From their website, you can do things like:

  • Apply to be an English language assistant around the world.
  • Find resources for teaching English as a foreign language.
  • Learn more about different countries around the world.
  • Get practical information on aspects of life in other countries.

Similarly, the British Council is a great point of contact for anyone needing more information about teaching outside of the UK. Additionally, they also have information about living abroad and in different countries.

Cambridge Assessment English

These are the guys that design, advertise, and run the CELTA course. But they do a bit more than that too - hosting, as they do, the database of all the Cambridge-associated centres across the world (they have nearly three thousand centres across 130 countries).

For those who are teaching, they have lots and lots of English teaching resources for you to download - which will take a bit of pressure off your time away.


The website known simply as TEFL is a great resource for those away and those looking to go away - as it is absolutely packed with advice.

Get help with writing the best TEFL CV, scroll through their massive database of jobs, or sign up to their teaching semester in Vietnam to see what this whole TEFL thing's about.

So what steps do you need to take in order to start teaching abroad?

The Administrative Steps to Start Teaching Abroad

You need to make sure you're prepared to move to another country. Different jobs come with different requirements and different processes. It's important to respect the application procedure for the job that you are applying for:

  • Complete the application forms as instructed.
  • Remember to include your qualifications.
  • In order to command a higher salary, make sure to include your past experience.
  • Don't forget to attach any proof of your language skills and your CEFR level.
  • If requested, you may need to attach copies of your qualifications (or translations of them).
  • You may also need to attach copies of all other documents requested.
How long does it take to become a teacher abroad?
You need to plan carefully if you want to become a teacher abroad. (Source: TeroVesalainen)

In addition to standard qualifications you may have, it might be useful to include whether or not you can teach disabled students, students with special educational needs, are first aid trained, etc. It won't hurt to have previous teaching experience, either.

Instead of an entire year teaching, there are also placements and training programmes you can do. These are a great way to gain professional experience while improving your teaching skills.

If your application is successful for a given job, you also have various legal requirements to meet before you can live and work in certain countries. However, you should be aware that some countries have very stringent visa requirements and procedures for immigration. In fact, the administrative procedure for many countries can be an absolute nightmare.

Additionally, these procedures can be completely different from one country to another. For example, the procedure in Korea won't be the same as it would be Spain, Thailand, or Vietnam.

Of course, even after you've done all this and got a job, there are still there other things you have to do.

Additional Steps for Teaching Abroad

You need to keep in mind that being accepted for a position doesn't mean they have completed all the necessary steps for becoming a teacher abroad. There are also administrative steps that your new workplace may need to take in order for you to stop working with them such as:

  • Requesting visas.
  • Preparing accommodation (if this is included in your contract or provided by the establishment).
Where can you teach abroad?
If you want to teach in state schools abroad, there are usually a lot of steps to take. (Source: Wokandapix)

Not forgetting the administrative steps that need to take place before you can start working:

  • Finding accommodation, contracting water, electricity, and gas, for example:
  • Opening a bank account and using it.
  • And getting an international driver's licence, if you're going to need to drive.
  • For researchers, you may have a different visa to complete.
  • In some cases, you will also be expected to register upon your arrival in the country.

Don't forget that you also need plenty of useful teaching resources to effectively do your job. Your new job may be completely different to what you're used to, which may mean changing, replacing, or developing the teaching resources that you usually use.

Don't forget that your new job may also be a stepping stone towards greater things.

So are you ready to develop your professional skills in a foreign country in either in primary schools, secondary schools, private schools, or universities?

If you can't get a job as an English teacher, you could always volunteer or do a placement as a teaching assistant. This is where you work in a classroom alongside a qualified teacher. This might be a good experience for teachers who are interested in working abroad or in an international school as it gives them an opportunity to see what TEFL teaching involves and the methods that an ESL teacher can use to teach English to those who don't speak it as their mother tongue.

Whether you go to Africa, Asia, Europe, or the Americas, you can earn a living in a foreign classroom and travel abroad to enjoy new languages and cultures.

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