Your First Critical Decisions about TEFL

Things to keep in mind when first seeking a job teaching English Overseas

If you have made up your mind that you want to look for an English teaching job and head overseas, then it is time to think about where you want to work, how much you want to earn or save and get the ball rolling.

Ready . . . Set . . .  Go!

The ‘where’ and the ‘how much’ will be based on your qualifications, the area of the world where you wish to work and the availability of jobs there, as well as your personal financial goals.

Here a few other things to consider as well.


Do you need some training? Do you want to get some training (good for you!)? I would advise you to do it overseas, ideally in the country in which you want to teach and live.

There are food reasons for this. It is generally cheaper to do TEFL training overseas than in developed Western countries. If you add the living cost such as food and boarding during training, it will usually still be cheaper.

It will give you the chance to figure out if you would enjoy living overseas, because living overseas is completely different from traveling overseas.

Getting training abroad will give you the opportunity to mingle with and meet new people doing the same thing you want to do and the chance to network for good jobs.

Another advantage is that you will have the opportunity to do your teaching practice with students similar to those you will teach on the job. This may not be so important if you have a lot of experience already, but if you are a TEFL Newbie it will help you understand what is ahead.

I’ve taught EFL in four different countries and each country’s students have their own unique way of speaking English, with different pronunciation and different grammar problems. Even experienced teachers take a while to get used to and to solve these language problems when changing countries.

The last advantage to consider is that you will get a good idea of what your students want, need, like and dislike.  This too will vary from country to country.

In Thailand, for example, it is important to have some fun English games and activities related to your lesson, but in Saudi Arabia it would be a bad idea.  There are huge cultural differences and ideas about education.  It will be in your best interest to know these details before you have an interview or have to do a demonstration lesson.

In some countries it is common to require a demonstration lesson as part of the interview process, so you can just imagine how far ahead you’ll be if you have done your training in that specific country. You will have an idea of what is going on and understand the common problems in the classroom.   You’ll be ahead of the other newbie-applicants.

The biggest benefit you will get from this will be to network and just getting the feel for your new possible home.

Recruiters?  Useful or not?

There are different opinions about recruiters.  Some people believe you find a much better deal negotiating on your own. Others believe that you should use a recruiter. Both ways are fine to me. I’ve done both.

I used a recruiter to find my first job. As a newbie, using a recruiter was very useful to me. I had a few problems but the recruiter got it all sorted out. It was helpful as I was not yet confident and had little knowledge about the business at that time.

The bad recruiters are out there too. They will not consider or care if you are a good fit for the school.  They will just place you and get their fee from the school and say, “Bye bye”.

It is important to do some research about your new school before going. Get in contact with and talk to the teachers already there. Find out if there are any problems – big or small, critical or minor – find out if they are happy and if not, why not?

Other issues

If you take some time to have a look at the other pages here at TEFL Newbie, you will see other issues to consider as well.  We try to cover most of them so that you will know what to look for.

Before you make the big decision and sign a contract, consider:

What types of students do you want to teach? Are you interested in teaching corporate executives, resort staff, kindergarten/preschool or nursery students?

Should the job be in place before you go?  This will depend on the specific country and your personal self-confidence.  Some countries will hire almost exclusively from overseas and others frequently require that you be in the country for a personal interview to be considered for a job.

TED’s Tips™ #1: If this is your first TEFL job, you might want to consider the countries that are “newbie friendly” and welcoming. It is known that the Middle East and Europe are difficult places to start and get your foot in the door.

Two of the easiest places to get started are definitely China and South Korea. In both cultures you will find that they have a lot of respect for teachers, they will hire from abroad and pay for or reimburse your airfare and accommodation.

Thailand is not just popular for the beaches, food and friendly people, the country is becoming more and more popular for new teachers, but it may not be one of the easiest places to work. You have to be in the country, to interview on the scene to get a job and you will pay your own airfare and accommodation.  You’d earn about the same amount of money as China, but work more hours and get none of the benefits.

Teaching Internships in China


Author: Ted

Semi-retired EFL teacher/teacher-trainer working and living abroad since 1989 in Africa, Asia and the Middle East.