How and Where to Start Teaching English Abroad

What to Consider when First Seeking a Job Teaching English Overseas

Once you have made a final decision to look for an English teaching job and head overseas, it’s time to make a decision about where you would like to work and how much you would like to earn/save.

You’ll have to balance the two according to your qualifications, area of the world in which you wish to work, the general availability of jobs in that area and what your financial goals might me.

Here are some additional things to consider along the way.


You’ll also have to decide if getting some training is important for you – or not. If you do decide to get some training (good for you!), I would encourage you to get that training overseas, ideally in the country in which you intend to teach.

There are several reasons for this. First, it’ll give you a chance to live overseas and know better if you will like it (very different from vacationing or traveling overseas). It will usually also give you a chance to meet people who are already doing what you want to do and a chance to network for good jobs.

Another consideration is the opportunity to do your teaching practice with students similar to those you will teach on the job. Once you have a lot of experience this will not be so important, but as a TEFL Newbie – it will help you get up to speed much more quickly.

I’ve taught EFL in four different countries and students in each have their own unique pronunciation and grammar problems. Even experienced teachers take some time solving the new problems they are confronted with when they change countries.

One last super advantage, if you intend to teach in a country where it is common to have to interview in person, is that you will obtain in training a good idea of what students want, need, like and don’t like. Again, different countries and cultures can be very different.

Relevant English games built into your lesson are an absolute must in Thailand – but a bad idea in Saudi Arabia. It is best to know this BEFORE you interview or do a demonstration lesson.

In some countries a “demonstration” lesson is commonly requested as part of the interview process. If you have done your training in that country you will be far far ahead of the newbie who arrives with no idea of the common problems they will be faced with in the classroom.

Finally, TEFL training overseas is generally cheaper than taking it in developed Western countries and can be much cheaper by the time you add in the cost of food and board during training.

I believe though that the biggest benefits are networking and just getting a feel for life in another country.

Recruiters, or not?

One major decision that you must also make is if you want to use a recruiter or not. There are many people who are absolutely adamant that you should never use a recruiter. Some have had bad experiences with them, others believe you will find much better circumstances negotiating a deal on your own. Both ways are fine to me – I’ve done both.

I used a recruiter to find my first job. There were some problems, but the recruiter took care of all of them for me. It was very useful as I was not yet confident and really didn’t know much about the business – I was a true newbie – and the recruiter took some of the pressure off me.

Know that there are some recruiters out there, who just want to place you as quickly as possible and get their fee from the school. They won’t care if you are a good “fit” or not.

Try to communicate with the teachers at a school before deciding to go there, whether you use a recruiter or not. Are there problems there? What are they? Are they critical or minor? Are the teachers happy or not? Why or why not?

Other Issues

Take a look at the other pages on the blog and you will, over time, see many issues to consider and we will try to get to most of them early in the blog to help you know what to look for.

Some issues to consider right away though, before you tie down a job:

The types/ages of students you might be interested in teaching? Do you want to teach corporate executives, resort staff, kindergarten/preschool or even nursery students?

Should you set up your job before you go or not? This can depend a bit on the specific country and a lot on your personal self-confidence. Some countries will require you to be on the scene to be considered for a job, some tend to hire almost exclusively from overseas.

All these questions and many more are important and all will be addressed on this blog.

TED’s Tips™ #1: For your first country you might want to try countries that are well known as being “Newbie Friendly”. The Middle East and Europe are known as being difficult places to get started (argumentative and opinionated students).

China and Korea are probably two of the easiest places to get started. Both have cultures of respect for teachers, typically hire from abroad and pay for airfare and accommodation.

Thailand is a popular place for many new teachers, but is not one of the easiest places to work. The culture, food, friendly people and nice beaches tend to swing the balance to make it a popular destination. But you’ll have to be on the scene to land a job and pay for your own housing and plane tickets.

TED’s Tips™ #2: Sort out and stabilize your finances BEFORE you go. Know what your financial situation will be in your new setting. Not much could be worse than showing up and finding out you can’t meet those student loan payments and it’s back to Walmart for you . . .