Once you have the qualifications and you know where you want to teach, it’s time to find a TEFL job. There are plenty of opportunities out there and this article explores the most common routes to getting work.
It’s not difficult and with the internet now it is far easier than it has ever been before not to mention quicker. So be prepared to start looking on Friday night and be on a plane by Monday morning!
As you might expect, most vacancies open up just before the start of the new academic year. In most countries this is after Summer in September or October but make sure to check when your destination starts its new year as this can vary a lot.
There are also more vacancies after Christmas in the early new year. This happens because some teachers decide that the school is not for them and go home for Christmas, never to return!
But apart from this, you may well be able to find decent job openings throughout the year if you keep a regular eye on things so regardless of when you are ready to go, start looking for work now and you’ll begin to get a good idea of what is available.
For more on when to go, see the main article: When to Apply for Work.
Make Yourself Employable
The first step is to make yourself as employable as possible. This means:
- Getting some sort of qualification to show the school. If you turn up without a single piece of paper then it won’t do you any good. At minimum you should have a TEFL Certificate to show that you have had some instruction and will know what you are doing in the classroom.
- If possible, get some kind of experience be it volunteering at a local immigrant center or teaching private lessons with the children of a local family who have just moved to your country. Anything to put on your application is better than nothing; and of course maximize it!
- On this point, take some time now to check your CV/Resume and cover letter so that you’ll be able to email them off to a school at a moment’s notice.
- It may sound very obvious, but you also need to look the part. Teachers are often highly regarded overseas and turning up at a school wearing grubby jeans and a t-shirt will not do you any good; think about what to wear.
- As we mentioned above, you could land a job in a matter of days so it’s best to be prepared by making sure that things like your passport and credit cards are in order. It would be a shame to miss a job because you are waiting for a bank clerk to transfer some money into your account so you can buy a plane ticket.
These basic steps covered, there are 4 main methods to find work.
1. Online Advertisements
This is perhaps the most common way teachers find jobs. Start by going online and checking out the advertisements there. There are a number of websites which list jobs and although none of them are brilliant, by going regularly you’ll build up a good idea of what jobs are available in your country of choice and what is on offer.
Simply begin with a Google search for the country of your choice plus efl job. Do this each day and begin to make notes about what pay and conditions are like. You’ll start to build up a picture of what to expect in the country and this also helps to avoid scams. If, for example, all the jobs you see offer around 2,000 per month and suddenly you see a similar job offering 8,000 per month this should set alarm bells ringing!
When you see a job you like, simply write off to them. It’s as simple as that. And don’t worry about writing off to several different jobs at the same time – just keep on sending out your applications and see what comes in!
Another tried and tested way to find work is through an agent. An agent acts as a go-between finding teachers to work in schools. An agent may, for example, advertise independently and find several hundred teachers to work in as many schools in China.
Agents can often be a good idea if you are a little unsure about moving overseas and would like someone who can answer all your questions and help you out if things go wrong. (Bear in mind, though, that they are employed by the schools so their first loyalty is to the school and not the teacher.)
By all means write to all the agents working in the country of your choice and see what their terms and conditions are. However, there is one golden rule when it comes to agents: never pay a single penny to them to find work for you. Agents are paid by the school to find teachers, not by the teachers themselves.
For more on this, see the main article, Agents.
3. Emailing On Spec
This can be surprisingly effective and is well worth a shot, especially if you have a very specific place in mind to teach such as a small city or region of a country.
Basically you trawl the internet to find a list of as many schools as possible in that location. Then simply compose a decent cover letter and send it all of them on spec. It can work regardless of the time of year as your email may well arrive at a school who has just lost a teacher and you will be in prime place to replace them.
4. In Person
Many teachers have found work simply by turning up on a school doorstep and discovering there and then that the school is in need of a teacher. This is often the only way if you do not have the usual qualifications to get a job (e.g. if you are looking for work without a degree).
Of course this means you have to already be in the country to apply for work. Go there with as much money as you can collect and stay in as cheap a place as possible and then make a planned assault on every single school in the town and visit every single one in person and try to speak to the owner or at least leave behind your business card and a copy of your CV/Resume.
Sooner or later a school will be in need of a teacher either part or full time and will be happy to employ someone there and then.
A few useful ideas here:
- Make sure you have enough money to tide you over in your country of choice for a few months in case work doesn’t come through. And make sure you have a return ticket or the airfare home so you can get home if the worst comes to the worst.
- Fly in to the country just before the start of the school year; this is when demand for teachers is at its greatest.
- Check the visa conditions – you may have to go in on a tourist visa.
- Get a cell phone with a local number (pay as you go) so schools can contact you easily.
Plan it well:
- Make copies of your resume/CV and certificates and staple sets of them together in clear plastic envelopes to leave at the schools; do all this beforehand because you don’t want to be traipsing round town looking for a photocopy shop the day you arrive.
- Get some cheap teacher business cards (this can be done online) with your cell phone number and email so you can leave them with schools. They might not have a job now but tomorrow they might need a replacement teacher for a couple of week and need to get in touch with you.
- Go to the largest city and get a cheap room in a hostel, for example.
- Get the local equivalent of the Yellow Pages and get the address of every single school. Mark them out on a map.
- Start walking and take the first job that is offered you!
- Find the local online forums for expats and join this to see what locals say.
Also, don’t forget to find the local Irish/Australian (or whatever) bar where foreigners hang out and talk to the staff there; they may well be able to point you in the right direction and, if all else fails, they may be able to suggest work outside teaching (e.g. in the Irish/Australian bar!).
Some countries also run government-sponsored programs which place (often younger and new) teachers in schools. They are well worth looking into as they’re mostly very well run and offer a safe, reliable year teaching, occasionally with extra training.
See the EPIK and TaLK programs in South Korea; the JET program in Japan; and the MoE & CAPS program for jobs in Spain. It may also be worth contacting your local embassies to see if they run smaller programs which could help.
EPIK – an overview of this South Korean English Teaching Program
TaLK – an overview of this South Korean English Teaching Program
JET – an overview of this Japanese English Teaching Program
MoE – an overview of this Spanish English Teaching Program
CAPS – an overview of this Spanish English Teaching Program[ratings]