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Where to Teach English as a Foreign Language

Luggage. Travel concept, world map.  High resolution.

Next stop, please!

Where to Teach is one of the key questions asked by newly qualified teachers as well as experienced teachers who are looking for a change.

On the plus side teaching English happens in pretty much every single country in the world so there are jobs available almost everywhere. On the negative side, there are certain practical and legal restrictions on where you can teach.

This article looks at destinations for teachers which might just suit you. If any country below peaks your interest, just click on the link to read more about it.

English Speaking Countries

In general, teaching jobs in English speaking countries ( the UK‏‎, Ireland‏‎, the USA‏‎, Canada, Australia etc) tend to be filled by well qualified and experienced teachers. It is not usually the case that a new teacher finds work in a language school in London or New York when there are many highly qualified and much more experienced teachers returning home after years overseas.

Thus, most new teachers head off overseas to pick up experience and have a few years enjoying life!

Europe

Due to European Union‏‎ regulations, schools in Europe tend to favor EU passport holders as this spares them the bureaucratic hassle they would get trying hiring non-EU applicants. In practical terms this means that most English teachers in Europe are from Britain or Ireland (with a small number from America and Australia who happen to have a second Irish passport).

For new teachers looking for their first job in Europe there are positions in Southern Europe: Turkey, Italy‏‎ and Greece‏‎ in particular and to a lesser extent in Spain and Portugal. However, Southern Europe is currently going through an economic downturn with schools closing and many parents not able to afford school fees for English. This means jobs are becoming harder to find.

In Northern Europe jobs are usually given to experienced teachers. Places like France and Germany are looking for professional teachers with a couple of years teaching at least on their CV/Resume‏‎. There are more opportunities to teach adults and Business English‏‎ in the north than the south.

In the north of Europe, especially Scandinavia, English is taught to a very high standard in state schools and there tends to be very few jobs for foreign teachers of English. If they are available, they are usually filled by well qualified and experienced teachers already in country and are rarely, if ever, advertised abroad.

This leaves Eastern Europe. This is a relatively new market (replacing the countries of Greece and Spain which were booming for English teachers some 20 or 30 years ago) and because of this there are many new opportunities there in places like Poland and the Czech Republic where there is good demand for teachers. Internet penetration is not so great in Eastern Europe so finding jobs there is sometimes a little harder while searching online, however.

As far as qualifications go in Europe, you will need a degree and a TEFL Certificate in most countries.

And as far as the language goes, remember you don’t have to speak the local language When you go abroad to teach; everything is done in English so even if you don’t speak a word of Chinese or Greek‏‎ you can still go to those countries and work there.

China

There are a lot of jobs in China. It is the new emerging market for teachers and a simple search online will bring up hundreds of jobs available there ranging from work in the big cities to small towns in the far end of the country. If you work here you’ll find teachers from many different countries alongside you.

You can look at China as the kind of “wild west” of language teaching. It’s huge, to a major extent unregulated, and you will find excellent schools and rubbish schools living side by side.

Theoretically you will need not only a TEFL certificate but also a degree to work in China, however since there are so many schools and such demand, the need for a degree is often overlooked and there are jobs there for unqualified teachers, albeit in the less prestigious schools.

Asia (excluding China)

Outside of China, common destinations are Japan, South Korea, Thailand and Vietnam. In the same way that Europe is a common destination for British and Irish teachers, these countries are popular with Australian, New Zealand, American and Canadian teachers although you’ll still find plenty of British and Irish working there too.

For an English teacher there is sometimes little to choose between these countries in terms of teaching and conditions.

  • Japan, following the recent earthquake, is pushing for more teachers to come over; conditions are sometimes awkward (lifts not working, for example) but things are getting back to normal. To entice more teachers, salaries have been raised and conditions made better (e.g. accommodation included, etc).
  • South Korea has been an incredibly popular destination for Americans (and others) for many years and continues to attract many teachers. Conditions vary from good to very bad in the schools but it is a fantastic place for new teachers to get experience on their CV.

Most countries in Asia require a degree and TEFL certificate and places like Korea are strict in enforcing this. However in Vietnam, Taiwan and Thailand you will often come across teachers without degrees.

Russia

Russia is growing in terms of TEFL teaching and we are seeing more opportunities there. Teachers need a degree and TEFL certificate and although jobs are by no means common yet, it appears to be an emerging market and is slated to expand over the next few years. Most jobs are in the big cities of Moscow and St Petersburg, but work can also be found in smaller cities and towns.

South America and Central America

Mainly popular with American teachers, the more popular countries include Mexico, Brazil and Argentina.

Although not as big as the Asian market, Central/South America does offer a lot of jobs. With the poor economic situation in places such as Argentina and Mexico jobs here do not tend to pay very well but, like Asia, they are a good training ground.

Many of the jobs in Central/South America are found by actually being in-country.

Middle East

Countries in the Middle East arguably offer the best salaries and working conditions. There is still money here but in return the teachers here tend to be well qualified and experienced. It’s not common for new teachers to find work in the Middle East. What might normally happen is that a newly qualified teacher will spend a few years in the usual places (e.g. Southern Europe or Asia) and then find work in the Middle East for a time to earn some decent money.

Africa

Africa is perhaps the largest untapped market. Although jobs here are possible (and often requirements in anywhere but South Africa are very lax) there is no real infrastructure yet and it’s a hit and miss affair. You may be able to find work through online advertisements in the north, places like Egypt or Morocco, but in the center and towards the south internet penetration is far less and little is advertised online. There may be volunteer opportunities but at the moment genuine ones are few and far between.

In the majority of cases, Africa is not to be recommended as a first time place for inexperienced teachers; resources are often limited and new teachers may well find themselves out of their depth in teaching large classes with little help.

Where do you want to go?

Many people have a destination in mind already. Perhaps you’ve fallen in love with someone from a certain country, perhaps you saw a photograph of a city when you were a child and it’s fascinated you ever since. Whatever the reason, if you are desperate to live in a certain place, it will be possible.

Useful Links

Where Can I Teach? – and interactive flowchart showing where you can teach around the world.

Where Do You Teach? – a quick poll on where TEFL teachers work around the globe

CV/Resume‏‎ – all about presenting yourself to a potential employer

Passport – your key to traveling the world

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