Getting your First Job Teaching English Abroad

Nervous about landing that first Job?

Don’t worry about it . . .

Welcome to a new world where the job search and even interviews very rarely have that dehumanizing and degrading aspect that we are all so familiar with from job hunts in our Western world.

Yeah . . . the demand for EFL teachers worldwide is so great that you will find it surprisingly easy to land your first job offer.

They are looking for YOU – not the usual other way around.  But take your time, find the right position and make sure you will be happy.

Whether thinking about a two-year “lark” teaching overseas – or if you would like TEFL to offer you a long-term career – give this website a good read. No, we don’t really have all the answers, because the answers are as individual as each person thinking of entering the field.  But we do have about 100 posts to help you learn more and get yourself up to speed.

If you are interested in trying your hand at teaching English overseas, but don’t yet want to commit to a one-year contract, go over to
TEFL Temp where information about short-term TEFL positions is posted. Some are as short four months and sometimes even include airfare and training. Hard to beat that!

TEFL Newbie was written by a former Peace Corps Volunteer in Botswana from 1989 to 1991 (me!) who designed the site with the complete “Newbie” in mind and answers just about every question you might have about Teaching English Overseas.

Once you land that first job – put what you have learned on this website to work!

TED’s Tips™ #1: Like finding a job in any industry, that first job may not be perfect – nor the one of your dreams. But it is a start. Just because you are heading overseas, don’t let your head get stuck in fantasyland. It is still a job, things are still required of you and your new employer will expect you to deliver. It is all part of growing up – even if you are already in your 60s.

TED’s Tips™ #2: Go on over to TEFL Boot Camp and give that website a good read too.  Much of the content on that website is FREE.

Teaching Internships in China


TEFL Newbie Wins Tripbase 2011 Best Teaching Blogs Award

We truly appreciate the recognition.

Tripbase Awards Badge

The Tripbase Note to us follows:

Tripbase Awards 2011

I am pleased to inform you that your site has been chosen to receive a Tripbase 2011 Blog Award.

This year our panel of judges reviewed hundreds of sites from across the Internet before hand-selecting the best ten for each travel category. Your site is among these elite ranks, and can be seen here:

I would like to congratulate you on your continued hard work and achievement in winning a Tripbase Award – this year, the awards have been featured in CNBC, CBS and AOL News . . .

Well done once again, and keep up the great work.

Kind Regards,

Emma Stratford


TED’s Tips™ #1: Thank you, Tripbase!

Teaching Internships in China


Important Choices for a TEFL Career

Two TEFL Tracks Examined: University or Language School Options

Teaching English abroad, to me, has two different career paths. And they are both important to consider before you seek that first job and even before you take your TEFL Training if getting a certification is on your agenda.

The two paths?

Teaching at a language school or teaching at a college or university. How are they different? Many many ways.

Teaching English at a Language School

Teaching English at a language school often involves a large dose of teaching children very elementary language skills. But it also can involve a fair amount of singing, dancing and what some people might call “being a dancing monkey” to keep the little ones occupied and happy.

Now some people can think of nothing more joyous than filling their days with enthusiastic and energetic young kids, dancing, singing and laughing. Others see it as a very loud classroom with hyperactive screaming kids that present constant discipline problems.

The reality is probably somewhere in the middle, but TEFL newbies are often placed in with the youngest kids, especially if you are a very young newbie. Class sizes can often be small, with six to twelve kids per class relatively common.

Is this setting for you?

Teaching English at Colleges and Universities

Teaching English at colleges and universities usually involves teaching intermediate to more advanced language skills to larger classes of young adults. Some of those students don’t want to be in the classroom, but the class is required by their major. Other students will be enthusiastic English majors with a real curiosity about the language and a desire to improve.

Some people find teaching these students, who already have some good language skills, to be a a lot easier. Others find it difficult to manage the larger numbers of students that are in a university class – sometimes only 15-25, but 35-45 are not unusual – and I once taught a reading class (with a co-teacher) of 100+ students.

How about that setting?

Other Important Differences

A common difference between the two jobs is that university teachers usually teach only about twelve to twenty 45-50 minute classroom hours per week. Language school teachers will find 25-35 hours to be more common. Those classes though might range from only 30 to 45 minutes each.

Paid vacation time is usually significantly different. A typical language school teacher – let’s say in Asia, for example – will get about one week per year of paid vacation time. University positions vary significantly but a month paid vacation is about the minimum and some schools, as you move up the food chain, offer anywhere from 12-20 weeks paid leave per year.

BIG differences, no?

Now, I don’t know anyone who doesn’t like long paid vacation time, but there are probably a few out there. To me the university/college path was always the best bet.

One final difference is important though. Generally university positions will require more education and/or training than a language school job. With only a degree you can get a decent language school job in almost any non-English speaking country.

A degree and a TEFL certification can land you university positions in many countries. Just a TEFL certification with no degree will usually see you in a language school in few choices of countries. A relevant graduate degree and a TEFL Certification and the world is your oyster.

TED’s Tips™ #1: Before you head out decide which path might be best for you.

TED’s Tips™ #2: If you are not sure, give both options a try before committing long term.

Teaching Internships in China

Internships Teaching English in China

TEFL Internships in China

An interesting new program:  Short-term internships teaching English in China.

This is a good way to get your feet wet.

The program is designed for people who:

  • aren’t ready to make a one-year commitment
  • still need some training
  • want only a short-term placement
  • want some experience before making a final decision
  • want to stick their toe in the water to see if it is what they really want

The program includes a 140 hour TEFL certification that – at the end of the program – will also be endorsed with over 200+ hours of on-the-job teaching practice.

If this sounds like a good program for you then head over to TEFL Internships and take a look at what they have to offer.   The stipend (internship wages) is about double most similar programs and the fees are about half of similar programs.  If you decide to stay in China, most of the time you can be hired directly by the school where you did your internship.

TED’s Tips™ #1: I wish they had had these kinds of programs when I first started out!  It would have helped me a lot.  Take a look and see if it is for you.

Teaching Internships in China

TEFL Fantasies and Realistic Expectations

Start teaching English overseas with a reasonable mind set.

As I have been a bit of a website hobbyist for years, people regularly contact me with questions about teaching English abroad.

The reason this post is titled “Realistic Expectations” is because those same people often ask very unrealistic questions about working abroad. It is as if all practical reasoning has been abandoned.

Statements and questions I have been asked include:

“Of course the school will plan long paid vacations as they will want me to travel around their country.” Really! I am serious, someone actually said that!

“I don’t need to wear a suit and tie, do I?” this from someone who will be teaching at a university.

“How will I negotiate my ‘relocation package’?” from someone headed to a country that does not pay airfare, accommodation or other “relocation” costs.

“Should I ask the students any questions?” from someone who will be teaching Conversational English.

“I won’t need any training as we will just chat, right?”

So . . . it is time to set the record STRAIGHT. Teaching English abroad is not about YOU. It is about a school that has students that need your help.

Sorry to say, they don’t plan long paid vacations for you so you can “tour” their country. Nor do they tend to offer “relocation packages” unless you have a graduate degree and lots of experience.

And, sadly, YES, they might like you to wear a suit and tie.

And . . . students need to talk in your class – they will not be satisfied to just listen to you jabber about yourself.

Most students pay what is for them a large amount of money to have a seat in your class. And they will have some expectations about what you are to provide.

WHY would you suspend all the knowledge you have about how to seek work and how to succeed at a new job, just because you are heading abroad?

I would recommend that you still dress for the job you want, not the job you have. Some foreigners in some countries will come to work in ragged jeans and a t-shirt. Does that mean you should? No!

If your host country peers are wearing a suit and tie, you should too (common for university jobs). If they are doing the same job you are, dress as they do, not as your fellow foreign teachers do.

About the, “Should I ask the students any questions?” issue – please know that students need to talk – to practice talking and to get more experience with it. Are you really so interesting that people would pay to sit in a class and listen to you talk about yourself? Sorry to tell you, but probably not. Actual talking experience is exactly how students learn to talk. A bit like learning to ride a bicycle, you need to get on it and RIDE, not just talk about it.

What I am suggesting is that you learn more about teaching English. TEFL eBooks is a good resource. And that you pursue your new career with the same diligence and attitude that you would a new career “back home”.

TED’s Tips™ #1: Dress for Success.
This is YOUR career – don’t dress and groom as other foreigners do. Dress as your local counterparts dress or even one notch up from there.

TED’s Tips™ #2: Arrive prepared to TEACH.
The days of “chatting up” a class are LONG gone. Arrive on the job – ready to teach – ready to impart new skills for your students. Learn how to teach BEFORE you arrive. It’s not rocket science and just a bit of preparation will make you a much better teacher.

Go get ‘em!

Teaching Internships in China