As I am sure many of you have questions about Teaching ESL abroad. This is what allowed me to travel to South Korea and mainland China in the first place and how I was able to travel to many parts of Asia. So I have made this page to hopefully answer any questions that you may have. I originally wrote this as an E-Book but have decided to publish it here for free.
Basic Qualifications (No, these are not set in stone)
- Be from one of the following countries: Australia, Canada, Ireland, New Zealand, South Africa, the United Kingdom, or the United States. (This really does vary from country to country, best to check with the country you want to teach in before being discouraged.)
- Have a passport from one of the above countries.
- Have a Bachelor’s Degree in anything. They say four-year degree and being from the U.S. that means a Bachelor’s Degree. Since the U.S. is the standard that South Korea bases everything if you have a three-year degree it will still be ok as long as it is a Bachelor’s.
Now let us go into more detail about the position itself.
What Does Teaching ESL Entail?
Now that you’re considering becoming an ESL teacher, there are probably a lot of questions floating around your head about the job in general. Teaching any subject is a great responsibility as it’s your responsibility to make sure the students in your class understand and absorb the information you’re presenting them. You want to make sure that you’re doing your best so they can do their best. As an ESL teacher, it’s your job to introduce your students to the English language and equip them with all of the necessary tools to become functional, if not fluent, in the language. You’ll teach them vocabulary, pronunciation, reading and writing skills, as well as conversation skills, to name a few specifics.
If you’re teaching younger children, you won’t just be teaching them English. As a teacher, you’ll be teaching your students how to behave in a classroom environment, how to clean up on their own, how to socialize properly, and problem-solving. All of this will allow the child to properly function in the world and use the skills you teach them.
The Classroom Experience
As for the actual job itself, the idea of teaching students with no basic English language skills might sound frustrating and intimidating, but you’ll see that you can easily reach your class through a variety of methods. As an ESL teacher, you have to be patient and understanding, especially when you’re starting with a new class. It’s best to figure out communication techniques that don’t necessarily involve speaking. Things like role playing, drawing, and charades can allow your students to communicate with you on a non-verbal level that can help them adjust to the classroom environment and make them more comfortable. Your teaching methods should be more interactive and less tutorial. Create a lesson plan that will allow your students to put words into action and think on a higher level than simple memorization of words and definitions.
You’ll also have to realize that your students will need time to process the information you’re presenting and questions you’re asking. You can’t get impatient with them when they don’t respond right away. To better deal with new students, as you may have new ones floating in throughout the session, you may want to implement a buddy system where some of your advanced students can help the newer ones who may be having trouble. You’ll also want to take the time to have one-on-one sessions with your students in order to see how each of them is handling the class.
The Classroom Environment
As for the overall classroom environment, it’s your responsibility as the ESL teacher to create a calm and nurturing environment free of anxiety and fear. Your students might be nervous about this experience or intimidated by the course. This can feed negative energy and affect the class as a whole. By creating favorable classroom conditions, you can neutralize those negative feelings and help your students succeed. It isn’t just about teaching them a list of vocabulary words. Your classroom should allow your students the opportunity to understand the meaning of every word and phrase they’re learning. This is similar to how people learn a first language as young children. The child doesn’t study a list of words; they interact with the world and develop meanings for everything around them.
You know the basis of what your responsibilities as an ESL teacher are, but the best teachers will understand that it’s their job to fully form their students into productive and functional English-speakers who can walk into any room and feel confident in their abilities to speak, read, write, and understand the language.
Different ESL Teaching Jobs Available
The general responsibilities are the same for all ESL teachers, but there are different kinds of teaching jobs available to fit your needs, wants, and abilities. Of course, the available jobs will depend on your location and what your own education and certifications allow you to do.
One of the most common jobs is the paid classroom teaching position. This is where you’ll be teaching in a normal classroom setting in a school. This kind of job offers competitive salaries and come with benefits like free accommodations.
Coaching, Tutoring, and Interning
There are also other less conventional options. For example, you can be a conversation coach. In this position, you’ll work privately with a host family. You’ll tutor them in English and are usually given a room, all meals, and accommodations through the family. This is usually an unpaid position as the accommodations are considered your payment. These are usually short-term jobs that last around three months.
There are also intern positions if you’re just looking to start out but haven’t earned the proper certifications yet. You can earn your Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) certification while gaining teaching experience through intern programs that are offered by some schools. In this case, you’ll usually get free accommodations and a monthly stipend to offset expenses. Here, you’ll be able to gain experience while earning your certification to move on in the industry. Similarly, there are teaching assistant positions available. Here, you’ll be assisting the lead teacher in a school. You’ll have full room and board with a host family in this case.
You may also want to look into private tutoring or teaching. This can be done as your main job or it can be done on the side to supplement your main income. The best way to market yourself here is to offer your service to adults in the business world. Speaking English can be a real advantage in the international business world so there is a constant need for private English tutors.
While teaching abroad is one of the more popular options for ESL teachers, there are ways for you to teach English online. Thanks to modern technology like video chatting and webcams, it’s possible to teach English online as your main form of income or as a side job.
Private Academy/Hagwon: You will start your day generally later and have less paid vacation but the pay is usually higher. One thing to note is that these are a business and it will be focused on making money.
Public School: This is exactly what is sounds like. These are public schools and you will be a subject teacher. The kids will generally learn reading and writing with a Korean teacher and you will mostly be doing conversation. The Hours are a typical school day and you will get more paid vacation.
Why Choose to Teach Overseas Instead of at Home
There are, of course, ESL teaching jobs available in your home country. There are plenty of public schools that have ESL classes for the students and there are opportunities to tutor people privately in your own community. However, teaching English abroad has its own perks and should be a major consideration for you in your teaching journey.
General Salaries and Benefits
One of the main reasons for taking any job is the available salary. This will vary from school to school and is dependent on the program you work through and the country in which you choose to work. In general, ESL teachers in Asian countries usually take home anywhere from $1,500 to $3,000 a month. Usually, the countries with higher living expenses (Japan, South Korea) will offer higher salaries so you can afford those expenses. Whereas if you go to South America or South East Asia the pay-scale will be much lower. In Korea, many parts of China, and possibly Japan your monthly rent and other expenses will be paid as well. Most positions in Korea will also offer an end of contract bonus, medical insurance, and depending on where you are from you will get the pension you have been paying into every month.
While money is always a good motivator, there are other benefits for teaching English abroad. One of the benefits is that you’ll learn about an entirely new culture through your students. You’ll be able to experience new foods, new forms of entertainment, and get to enjoy cultural sights wherever you work. Your students will be more than happy and quite proud to share their local customs and you’ll better bond with them because of this.
An obvious point that is worth mentioning is the opportunity to travel abroad. You’ll be given the opportunity to live in a foreign country of your choosing. You’ll have free time when you’re not working to go out and see the sights that you’ve only seen on television or in books.
Additionally, the experience will open you up to becoming a culturally sensitive person. Once the initial culture shock wears off, you’ll be able to open yourself up to the new world around you and enjoy it. You’ll end up appreciating different ways of life; a quality that you can take home with you and use in your daily life. This will make you a more tolerant person in the long run.
Boosting Your Resume and Furthering Your Career
You’ll also be creating a solid foundation for your career. The ESL teaching industry thrives on word-of-mouth recommendations and advice from one teacher to another. It is also a great way to boost your resume. If you’re looking to make teaching a long-term career this will show that you can successfully teach, but even if you’re not looking to stay in this position for very long it can still help you. ESL teaching can prove that you have leadership qualities and can communicate well, especially across cultures and languages.
Places to Consider
Here is a short list of some of the most popular options for working abroad (note: these are some of the most popular destinations, not the best paying locations or the most in demand locations):
* Czech Republic
* South Korea
Whether you choose to teach ESL overseas or you choose to do so in your home country, you can be sure that you’re taking a great step forward in your life and career while enhancing the lives of every student you encounter.
The Requirements for Teaching ESL and How to Get Them
Typically, you’ll need to earn a Teaching English as a Second Language (TESL), Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages certification (TESOL), or a Teaching English as a Foreign Language certification (TEFL) in order to teach ESL. Usually, a basic certification through one of the many available programs will suffice, but some places might look for higher certifications like a Certificate in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (CELTA). Many places don’t require any of these just the Bachelors Degree I mentioned above. However many places will give you a slight pay raise if you do have one. So I highly recommend getting one. Many can be very easy to gain at a very low price.
The Differences Between Certifications
A TESL certification is for teaching non-English speaking students who are living in an English-speaking country. With this certification, you can stay in your home country and teach students in a local school who need to learn English.
A TEFL certification will allow you to teach English to non-English speaking students in a country where English isn’t the primary language. For example, you’d need this certification to teach English in Japan.
A TESOL certification is basically a combination of the above two certifications. It will qualify you to teach any student English regardless of the country in which you’re working.
A CELTA certification is considered a more prestigious brand of the TESOL. It’s issued under Cambridge University and may be required by more reputable institutions. It is currently seen as the industry standard due to its quality reputation. It should be noted that this option tends to be the most expensive since it’s the most useful and sought after.
There are other certifications available that are all a variation of the TESOL certification that are available in courses both online and onsite. If you are looking to work in a specific country or at a specific institution, see what certification they require and seek that one out.
Other Requirements for Teaching ESL
Some international schools may require a teaching credential as well which will entail coursework other than a bachelor’s degree including student teaching. In most countries, you’ll need a four-year degree just to get a work visa.
Choosing an ESL Location and School
You can make this decision before or after you get your certification, although, as was mentioned earlier, you may want to consider narrowing down your options in terms of countries and programs to teach in so you make sure that your certification is in line with the country/school’s requirements.
You might be making this decision on purely selfish reasons or you might have more altruistic reasons behind choosing the country in which you’d like to work. Here, your main goal is what is going to help you make a final decision. For example, if your end goal is to make a set amount of money, you’ll want to look at the countries that have a pattern of paying higher salaries compared to the cost of living. But, if your goal is work in a dream destination, you might be more inclined to forego a paycheck to live in that specific country. On the other hand, if your reasons are unselfish, you might be looking to see which country is in the most need for ESL teachers and make up your mind in that respect.
Things to Consider
If you’re unsure, take this information into consideration as you make your decision. Southeast Asia currently has some of the highest job placement rates. If you’re looking to simply land any ESL job to get your feet wet and you don’t care about the location, Southeast Asia schools are a good stepping stone. Since the demand for ESL teachers is high, the market isn’t as competitive as that in Western Europe and Latin America.
As for your bottom line ESL teachers in Southeast Asia can make a good deal more than ESL teachers in Latin America. A teacher in Vietnam can make upwards of $1,500 a month while the same position in Costa Rica garners up to $800 a month.
Alternatively, there are countries, like South Korea, that have government-funded programs that offer you benefits as well as a high paycheck. These benefits include a free, furnished apartment, health insurance, and airfare reimbursements on top a paycheck as high as $2,200 a month and sometimes much higher.
How to Find an ESL Job
If you’re looking for a little more guidance on the job search portion of this process, the following information will prove to be helpful. Keep all of the aforementioned tips in mind as you look for a job teaching ESL.
The Job Boards
The internet can prove to be useful in your search as it is with any other job search. Employers will post open positions on job boards and will also reach out to agencies to promote their schools.
Some Websites to look at
I actually made a post specific to the many different sites to check out for finding a teaching job abroad.
Most schools will also interview you over the phone and, thanks to modern technology, Skype interviews are pretty common.
Job Placement Through a Certification Program
Many certification programs have a job placement service once you earn your credential. Use the job placement service that your certification program offers. You’ll not only find open positions through the service, but you’ll be given valuable information about applying for the jobs, writing your resume, and for interviewing for the position. Your advisers will be able to guide you through the process and they’ll give you an idea of what you can expect along the way. As you apply for jobs, with or without the support of your certification program, you’ll probably notice that most schools will offer you some kind of assistance finding accommodations in their country. These are the jobs of which you’ll want to take notice. Some will offer you accommodations while others will offer help searching for housing. You may even find jobs that will pay your airfare and meet you at the airport to help you transition.
Finding Work In-Country
If you’re already in the country in which you’d like to work and are taking courses there for your certification, you can speak to the instructors and advisers there for help searching for local positions. Searching for a job when you’re already in your chosen country can be easier on you in the long run. You’ll be able to set up interviews, visit the schools in question, speak to the staff, and see the general setups for yourself before you make any final decisions.
Applying and Interviewing for the Position
After you’ve collected a list of schools to which you’d like to apply, you can start sending out your resume and applying to open positions. As with any new job hunt, the way you market yourself is what will help you get your foot in the door. In this case, you’re selling an English teacher who is keen on serving their school and students and one who is ready, willing, and able to move abroad and adapt to a new lifestyle for a long period of time.
Your Resume and CV
Update your resume and make sure you feature any previous teaching experiences, no matter how small they may seem. Internships, assistant positions, and training experiences can separate you from other less experienced candidates. You’ll also want to highlight your specific TESOL certification so the school sees that you are qualified for the position and have the necessary requirements. Be thorough when discussing your educational background, as this will usually have more weight than your work experience.
Keep your resume or CV simple and avoid using infographics or special formatting. You’re dealing with international human resource departments and those details might not translate well; this can hurt you during the hiring process. Avoid using abbreviations, colloquialisms, or non-industry verbiage that can be lost in translation. It’d be disappointing to lose out on a job because of a misunderstanding or an incompatible file. In the same international mind frame, remember to include the country code in your phone number so the school in question can contact you if necessary. If you Skype information, it might help to include that, too.
Possible Interview Questions
The following is a handful of questions that seem to come up a lot during ESL teacher interviews:
“How will you handle difficult students?”
“What is the best way to gain the interest of bored students?”
“Why do you want to teach ESL at this school?”
You’ll also be presented with some technical questions:
“What are differences between the past simple and the present perfect and how do you plan to explain them?”
“How is the present perfect simple used?”
You should also expect the ever-present “tell us about yourself” portion of the interview. You’ll probably be asked if you have any questions for your interviewer, so be sure to have some ready to go along with your prepared answers. These questions can be specific to the job and your responsibilities or they can be inquisitive questions about the school and its history. You may also want to ask general questions about working in the local area as a foreigner. The goal here is to clear any confusion you may have about the job or the school. That being said, avoid questions about your pay, vacation time, or benefits as it may seem disrespectful and forward. Consider doing a mock interview with a relative or friend to best prepare for the interview. Practice makes perfect. With this information under your belt and your solid resume/CV and proper certifications coupled with your drive and determination, you’re sure to find a job teaching ESL in no time.
A few more things Specific for Americans and South Korea
- Once you have your degree you will need to have it apostilled. What is an Apostille? (I would recommend making a few copies of your degree and getting them notarized and then sending one of those copies off to be apostilled.)
- A sealed copy of your transcripts. (I would recommend a few copies.)
- You will also need to get an FBI Background check and then get that Apostilled as well. Being from Fort Worth, Texas I actually went to this place to get my fingerprints done. They actually had a digital scanner and sent my fingerprints to an FBI background check Channeler. This means that I got my results by email the next day and the Official paperwork to be Apostilled in a few days. This is important to note because it can take up to six months to get your background check back.
- I sent both my background check and notarized copy of my diploma through a courier service. Just like the background check this allowed me to get everything back much faster than if I had gone the traditional route.
Once you have these things in Order you can now start looking for that job or now officially accept the position that you already found.
- Then you will have to Mail or go in person to your closest Korean Consulate with a copy of your sealed Transcripts, passport, and Confirmation of Visa Issuance Number. If you are teaching at a public school I believe that you will not have the option to mail everything in and you will have to go in person. The closest Korean Consulate for me was in Houston so I mailed everything in.Korean Consulate
Well I know I wrote a lot but I hope this is very helpful for anyone looking to Teach ESL abroad.