The Best Times of the Year to Look for TEFL Jobs
If you’re from an English-speaking country in the northern hemisphere, chances are when you think of the “school year,” you’re envisioning the time between September and June. Our students study during these months because, traditionally (long ago in the “old days”) during the summer, many children and teens were required to work on the family farm in the fields or otherwise help provide for their families.
However, other countries with different traditions and varying agricultural seasons and weather patterns often have very different schedules for their school years. Now, all of this may seem just a bit of trivia—unless you’re looking for work as a teacher overseas.
If you want to find work as a TEFL teacher abroad, you’ll need to know what times of year are best for applying—and what times of year you’ll be unlikely to land a job.
First, let’s look at Asia.
In China, schools also follow the September to July schedule, which means that new teachers should look for jobs in July and August to start the new school year. However, schools here often like to hire teachers for summer classes as well, which means they’ll be hiring as early as April or May. A few opportunities can also be found from ads popping up in December or January, for jobs starting after the Chinese New Year (the dates of which are determined by the lunar calendar and vary from year to year, but are usually in January or February).
Japan, however, begins its school year in April or March (again, it depends), so not everywhere in Asia has the same schedule. Japanese schools also seem to hire teachers with more lead time than Chinese employers do. Korea also begins in March, and Thailand schools usually begin classes in May and end them in March.
In Europe, schools mostly follow the North American agricultural-based schedule, though employers here tend to hire farther in advance of the job opening than Asian schools do. That’s a generalization, of course, but it doesn’t hurt to start looking in the spring for European jobs starting in the fall.
In South America, below the Equator, many schools begin their new semesters in January, expecting teachers to commit until the following December. However, depending on the country, some schools hire in January and February for jobs starting after Easter, which is usually in March or April.
Mexico follows the same school schedule as the U.S.A., roughly, but the rest of Central America usually has school schedules beginning in February, with new jobs on offer in January and December.
For jobs in the Middle East, teachers can expect to start in August or September, with the hiring process beginning a few months before. Some jobs also come available in December or January, so look at the job boards in November or earlier to make sure you don’t miss the best postings. African schools also usually follow the September start schedule.
Other Things to Consider
Some institutions, like private language training centers, have classes year-round and so may need to hire teachers at various times throughout the year. So, if you’re looking for work out of the peak hiring seasons, it’s still worth browsing ads. Also, hiring managers at schools are often recruiting year-round, and it can benefit you to be ahead of the pack with your application, as long as you try to make personal contact with the recruiter, and don’t just send generic letters to everyone.
Another thing to keep in mind is that, if you know you won’t be able to travel to the target country in time for the beginning of the school year, odds are the school will not be able to hire you. Most schools need all hands on deck for the beginning of the semester or school year, and won’t be able to accommodate your individual travel plans.
TED’s Tips™ #1: Research the country you most want to move to, and plan to apply for jobs two to four months before you’d begin the job. Earlier is usually better, but not always, as school managers may not know if existing staff will renew their contracts or not until the end of the semester.
TED’s Tips™ #2: Even if you don’t apply for a job this time around, keep track of what country’s schools are hiring when—this will help you anticipate when to apply if you want to change jobs and countries after your first year of teaching.