Teaching English as a second language in a foreign country is an increasingly popular option as it is an accessible inexpensive way to travel, and the earnings can be quite good depending on the country. (South Korea, Japan and Taiwan are among the wealthier options). In many cases, schools also pay for travel and accommodations.
How to find a teaching job?
The most common way to find employment is to be hired through an agency or ESL (English as a second language) recruitment firm. In order to make the best choice, you are encouraged to investigate each company thoroughly and speak to ESL instructors in the field. If you tap into your network you may discover there are people close to you who have taught ESL abroad. They can share their experience with you, provide valuable advice and maybe even refer you to a school.
We recommend you reading the book Teaching English Abroad for more information on teaching English abroad. The last edition is available at CaPS. Topics covered in this book:
- What ESL training and qualification are available.
- How to find a teaching job.
- How to prepare before departing to another country.
Some countries require TESL certification or experience but many only require you to be a native English speaker and have post secondary education. TESL Certification programs vary according to length and cost. You can opt to take an intensive 4-6 week program locally or overseas, or pursue undergraduate or graduate studies in TESL. For more information, please consult the Part 1 (Training) of this book: Teaching English Abroad
Find a course
If you are looking for a TESL/TEFL/TESOL course, please consult the following resources:
- McGill School of Continuing Studies: 4-week Certificate in TESOL program
- Department of Integrated Studies in Education: Graduate Certificate TESL
- TESL Canada: The site provides a list of recognized programs across Canada.
- Oxford Seminars: TESOL/TESL certification courses across Canada.
- Verge's TESL Directory: This site provides classroom-based and online certificate courses.
The following resources provides a list of job boards, short-term teaching opportunities and recruitment agencies.
Where to start?
MyWorldAbroad (Registration with your McGill email is required)
This database provides 90+ teaching English abroad job boards, resources and tips you should know before going abroad. Once you are logged in, visit What Do You Want To Do? -> Teach English Abroad for a list of resources.
Short-term teaching jobs
Are you thinking to gain some teaching experience in summer? The option to teach English in short-term period is limited as most language schools look to hire full-time teachers for one year contracts. However, you can still find opportunities by working or volunteering in summer language camps. For more information, read this article at International TEFL Academy: Can I teach English abroad in the summer?
- For a list of short-term teaching job opportunities: Short-term teaching organizations
- For a list of ESL or language camps and schools: ESL camps | Our Kids ESL Schools
ESL teaching job boards
- For a list of job boards and recruitment or placement agencies: Teaching English Jobs
- Before you sign up for any ESL program, it is a good idea to read some reviews: ESL Review
Articles of interest
Below are some key information and advice for for ESL teachers planning to work abroad.
- Quick Facts by Region
TESL job markets and their demands in the different regions of the world.
- Country Guides for English Teachers
Key advice for Canadians planning to teach languages in Japan, Korea, Taiwan, and more.
Teaching English in Chile, by Yasaman Haeri, Education Student
In May 2008, I had the opportunity to volunteer and teach English in Chile. With the help and guidance of our career advisor, Antonella Nizzola, various volunteer organizations were provided. I came across The English Opens Doors Program, an organization funded by the Ministry of Education in Chile and UNESCO. It was a 3-month summer program where volunteers lived with Chilean families and taught English in public schools. Because of the dire need for English teachers in Chile, I was fortunate enough to work with Chilean teachers and students and completely immerse myself in a new culture. This journey inspired me on different levels. It has shaped my outlook on life and has given me a yearning to explore and to discover the unknown. My growth in Chile has helped me flourish as a teacher and has taught me more than any educational institution. Please visit the English Opens Doors website for more information at www.centrodevoluntarios.cl.
Teaching English in the Czech Republic, Lithuania and Germany, by Jan Bottomer, CaPS Career Advisor
A few months away from finishing up my Bachelor’s of Science in Psychology at the University of British Columbia, I wanted to take some time off and work and travel and hopefully figure out what I wanted to do longer term. I’d always wondered about a career in teaching, so teaching English overseas seemed a natural fit.
I wanted to go to Eastern Europe, and through my research I realized that basically any reputable employer in Europe required TEFL certification in addition to an undergraduate degree. Since I was fairly serious about giving teaching a try, I decided to enroll in a Cambridge Certificate of English Language Teaching to Adults (CELTA), one of the most widely-recognized training programs for would-be teachers who have little or no previous experience. The four-week intensive program covered such topics as pedagogical methods, theories of language acquisition, classroom dynamics and classroom management techniques and course design, and included extensive teaching practice of beginner and intermediate students every afternoon. At the beginning of the program I had a hard time even thinking of myself as a teacher, but the learning curve on a CELTA course is huge and by the end of four weeks I was more than ready to go.
I obtained my first teaching position at The Caledonian School, a large private language school in Prague, Czech Republic. I applied for the position from Canada, completed a successful telephone interview, signed a 9-month contract and set off! From an initial schedule of about 10-14 teaching hours a week I eventually taught over 25 hours ranging from group intensive courses, exam preparation work and one-on-one lessons, to business people, teenagers and even a few children. The school had an excellent resource library and while course descriptions often came with a recommended book, teachers were given a fair amount of flexibility in terms of tailoring the courses to student needs and making adjustments and additions to the curriculum as necessary. I found my students very interested in Canada and life there, eager to learn, and generous and open in sharing their impressions and experiences of life in the Czech Republic. It sounds cliché but I definitely learned as much if not more from them than they did from me. Prague itself is a fabulous city – picture-postcard pretty but also a real, gritty and energetic city underneath its beautiful surface. The Czech Republic is a gorgeous and still relatively under-touristed country, with cheap food and transportation, castles, national parks and picturesque towns galore and a fascinating history. My teacher’s salary may not have looked like much when converted into Canadian dollars, but it allowed me to live well and travel a great deal within the country and its Eastern European neighbours.
Next, I landed positions teaching at a series of summer camps based out of an International House school in Vilnius, Lithuania. Teaching kids was a completely different ball game after a year of working with motivated business professionals! It was a huge challenge to rethink practically all of my teaching methods while keeping 15 under 12’s entertained with very few resources. Once I’d settled into things I had an absolutely amazing time. For many of these children, I was the first person they had ever met who did not speak Lithuanian, and their natural curiosity was more than enough to break down the language barriers between us. A camp teacher’s salary is a small one, but room and board and travel expenses to and from the camps (one in Finland and one in southern Lithuania) were included, and I wouldn’t have traded the experience for anything.
At this point in my teaching career I was much too in love with Europe to consider returning home just yet, so moved on to Berlin, Germany, Here again, I encountered a completely different set of bureaucratic logistics and teaching expectations. At that time most teachers worked on a freelance basis, for several different schools. I ended up getting on at four, although the bulk of my work eventually centered around two, the business-focused Linguarama in Central Berlin, and the smaller Dialog Sprachenschule in the western district of Charlottenburg. My German students tended to be well-traveled business people wanting to perfect their communication skills with European and North American clients, or, conversely, beginners who had grown up in the former East Germany and felt their lack of English keenly. In a strained economic climate, the expectations of the students and demands of the employers were both high. Some schools followed set methods and curricula while others gave you free reign with both. Working as a freelancer was definitely nerve-wracking at first, but over time, once I built up a positive reputation with the schools and students I worked with, I learned to value and make use of the wonderful flexibility and control such a situation gives you. I travelled a great deal during this time, taking advantage of my schedule’s flexibility and the cheap airfares from Berlin to the rest of Europe.
My experience teaching overseas has indelibly shaped who I am today. I met people and had experiences I will always remember and made friendships which will last a lifetime. My love of travel and my interest in and curiosity about other cultures, places and ways of life, my teaching abilities, communication skills, confidence, resilience, independence and knowledge of the world all expanded exponentially. Working with such a wide range of professionals, hearing about their jobs, their lives and how they got to be where they are today, cemented my interest in vocational issues and prompted me to apply to the Counselling Psychology program at McGill upon my return to Canada, and to seek an internship and later a job as a career advisor with McGill’s Career Centre (CAPS). While everyone’s experience will be different, I would recommend teaching and living abroad wholeheartedly. You are more than welcome to contact me if you have any questions about my experience or teaching English in general and I wish you all the best in your overseas adventures to come!