Beat the Recession: Teach English Abroad

Teaching English Abroad:  Recession-Proof Jobs

Many readers of this blog already know that I help people find jobs in China, more as a part-time hobby than anything else. I quite enjoy helping people get started in the the TEFL life.

One thing many people aren’t aware of is that there are still a huge number of unfilled TEFL jobs around the world and the three largest markets: China, Korea and Thailand are still looking for you. In spite the rush of college students who can’t find jobs because of the high unemployment rates in their “developed” economy home countries, there are still plenty of jobs open.

For your consideration, the chart below reflects economic growth and unemployment rates in the three countries that provide the greatest numbers of EFL teachers and the three countries that hire the most teachers (China and Korea, for sure – I am guessing about Thailand as #3).

Country Unemployment
Rate: July 2010
Estimated Economic Growth
January 2010
USA 9.5% 3.2%
UK 7.7% 1.9%
Australia 5.3% 2.9%
China 4.2% 11.0%
Korea 3.75% 7.0%
Thailand 1.6% 12.0%
Data by

Wow! The numbers speak for themselves. The developing world is booming while the so-called “developed” countries are struggling.  Unemployment rates in the East are low – they are high in the West.

And – even if things did turn bad in the developing countries – most countries of the world tend to invest more heavily in education during bad times. So you get good news both ways.

TED’s Tips™ #1: If a sour economy is giving you a beating in the “developed” world – head overseas and find yourself a good job, a good life and a whole new world.

The BEST EFL Teaching Jobs in China: Government Colleges, Universities and Secondary Schools offer the most reliable and worry-free jobs in China. Click on the Link if you would like to Teach English in China

Teaching English Abroad: Short- and Long-term Jobs

Is it possible to find jobs teaching English
for only a few months?

For a few years? For the rest of my life?


Short-Term EFL Teaching Jobs

In many countries there are considerable costs for schools, in terms of money as well as in time and headaches, to get their EFL teachers legal residence visas and work permits. Therefore, you will find a smaller pool of TEFL employers who wish to employ you for short-term employment.

In the last few years though more and more short-term positions are becoming available. Some even include airfare. Head over to TEFL Temp to scout short-term jobs. If you have trouble finding short-term work (less than one year) in countries where you would like to be located, consider volunteer work in those same countries. TEFL Temp has a page on volunteer programs as well.

One Year – or a Life Time Teaching English Abroad

One-year TEFL jobs are very easy to find and if you wish to spend the rest of your life teaching EFL around the world you will find it quite easy to do so.

One caveat is that age discrimination is much more open in most of the world, but as I write this page, at 58 years of age, with white hair and a wrinkled face, I would not have trouble finding good jobs in several countries. I started in EFL at the age of forty and had no problem at that time either. But, know that the older you get, you may need to use more direct tactics, such as showing up on the scene and interviewing personally rather than applying from abroad.

What about Older EFL Teachers?

Many EFL teachers start teaching English at an older age. I did. In Korea a few years ago I saw many teachers in their 40s, 50s and even a few in their 60s. The same is true in Thailand, Taiwan, and China. If you are concerned, go on the discussion boards and ask about the countries in which you are interested.

Typically, the people who ask get positive responses from older people already teaching there or who have taught there before.

Younger EFL Teachers?

Even more demand for them! Though, you may sometimes find yourself stereotypically slotted for teaching younger students. They will think that you have the energy that kids require and schools often worry that younger teachers will not command respect from their adult students. As the great majority of students at languages in most countries are children, you are all set.

TED’s Tips™ #1: Short-term or long-term, it’s up to you. Go get it!

TED’s Tips™ #2: Older teachers, let’s say 50s and up, might need to show up on the scene to interview to avoid blatant age discrimination. Interviewing in person gives you the opportunity to demonstrate that you are energetic and positive and it will not be unusual to be offered a job on the spot.

What’s up in China? Learn about a great internship program on offer if would like to Teach English in China

How to Teach English Overseas and Secrets to Success Abroad
TEFL Boot Camp  is offering a free download of their new publication Seven Secrets of Success Abroad – and along with it comes a bi-weekly installment and revision of their eBook called How to Teach English Overseas.

Great reviews for the Secrets of Success eBook – in spite of the hokey name – and the How to Teach English eBook is being updated and rewritten and sent out in installments as it is ready.

Here they are – click on the eBooks to get your FREE copies! Great information and the price is right, from our friends at TEFL Boot Camp – CLICK HERE FOR THE FREE EBOOKS.



Please let me know what you think of the ebooks – use the comments section below.

I confess both eBooks are written by yours truly – hoping to inspire others to head overseas and live life BIG out in the real world. I would value your feedback!

Teaching English and Job Security

Is there job security when teaching English abroad?

People often ask me this question and my answer is usually, “Yes, and No.”

To a large extent it depends on your employer and the country in which you decide to work. The English teaching world is not really any different from working in your home country, there are excellent employers and there are shady characters you hope you never work for.

So, just like back home, take your time and select your employer carefully. See Checking your Employer’s Reputation on this blog.

It is up to you to create your “security”.

Easy enough answer, no?

There are many people in this business, and I am one of them, who will tell you that you should always consider yourself a “private contractor”. That you should always think of yourself as working for yourself. Don’t count on any one employer looking out for you or assuring your future. If you do, you will surely be disappointed.

Case in point: My best friend worked for a university in Korea for over ten years, only to find that they had decided to implement a policy which would limit foreigners to THREE years. At first, he was told that they would “grandfather” him into his position.

But the reality was that he had to leave. He had put down roots in the town where the school is and had made himself very comfortable in a good job. He did his best every year for the students and school. Yet, he found himself hustled out the door. Boooooo, bad school!

Year-to-Year Contracts

Year-to-year contracts are the norm in this industry and that should tell you something. Namely, that you should be prepared to hunt down a new job every year (but you won’t really have to). Some jobs, in some countries offer longer contracts. they are not rare but they are not really common either.

Though contracts for teaching English tend to be year to year, lots of people work for many years at all kinds of schools. If you do a decent job, you will usually be renewed.

It’s not all that bad

The good thing about all this is that, as noted in one of the subheadings, you will have to learn to create your own security. You will find a deep sense of satisfaction in building your own employment and financial world that is independent of your employer(s).

Don’t find yourself in the same boat as the people who worked for Enron or Worldcom, CitiBank, Bernand Madoff or even those who relied on defined benefit retirement plans from some of the largest corporations in the world. Take care of your future.

TED’s Tips™ #1: Learn to take care of yourself. It’s not a bad idea, it’s a GREAT idea.

If you intend to spend more than just a year or two abroad or if you surprise yourself and end up spending longer than you thought you would, get moving at educating yourself for long-term financial security.

I bought and paid off several rental properties to help provide for my old age (Yeah! You can do that while teaching English and seeing the world!) I am not rich but I don’t have to worry about my former employer(s) going bankrupt and failing to pay my living expenses.

TED’s Tips™ #2: Find out about medical plans independent of the minimal plans offered by your employers.

While you are young and healthy this may not be too much of an issue, but life can throw surprises and challenges at you at inconvenient times.

Because the cost of medical in many countries is much lower than in Western countries, you may find good quality insurance much less expensive than you had thought.

Carrying your own insurance usually makes it portable, so you are covered even while traveling outside the country in which you are working, which is rarely the case with employer provided insurance. That portability can also mean you are free to change employers and countries when and if you wish and still be covered – even between jobs.

Disclaimer: Sorry, but you know how the world is . . . so here I will say – don’t follow my advice, nothing is my fault if you create problems in your life and please read our legal disclaimer.

Your First Job Abroad

Accepting that First Job Teaching English Abroad

What to ask – How to decide

Getting that first serious job offer is a very exciting thing! But, after you dance around a few moments – stop and catch your breath and start to think about things you must know before making a final decision.

You got the offer, but should you accept it? This section is designed to help you know if you should take that job or not.

Don’t be shy, there are important things to know before moving yourself halfway across the world (if you are to be hired directly from abroad). But, don’t ask all the following questions in one shot. You’ll scare your potential employer. Spread them out a bit.

Some important questions to ask:

What is expected of me on a daily basis?

How many classes a day will I be expected to teach?

How long is each class? Is each class considered “one hour” even if it is only 40 or 50 minutes long? Some schools will pay you for a full teaching hour even if the class is only scheduled for 40-50 minutes. Others will pay you only 5/6th of your hourly wages for a 50 minute class. This often depends more on the country than the individual school.

Will I be expected to stay at the school even when I don’t have classes? Will I have “Office Hours” that I need to keep?

Will I have responsibilities other than teaching? Will I be paid for that time? Like cleaning your classroom or the school, recruiting students, evaluating students for placement, handing out flyers for the school, etc.

Does the job provide housing? Is it furnished? What does “furnished” include? How are the bills paid and who pays them? How far is the accommodation from the school? Is it easy to get to work from there? Do I have to pay a deposit for my housing? How big is it? Will I have to share my accommodation? Are there any required monthly fees I must pay for?

Who is my boss? To whom do I report? Who evaluates me? Who decides if I am doing a good job or not and what criteria is used to decide if I am successful?

How much sick and vacation time do I get? Who decides when I can use it? Can I use my vacation time all at one time? Does it accrue monthly or can I only use it at the end of my contract?

Is there a bonus or gratuity payment at the end of my contract? How much is it? How is it determined? Bonus payments are standard and required by law in many countries but employers sometimes pretend that it is something nice they are doing just for you . . .

What teaching resources does the school provide? Teacher’s manuals? Photocopy machine? Who regulates its use? OHP? Internet? Great for lesson plans and finding activities., Computer? Printer? Paper? Chalk/Markers? Really! Some schools don’t provide even the basics or make it so difficult to access them that you will go ahead and buy them yourself. Not a super big deal if everything else works fine.

Is there air conditioning and/or heating in the classrooms? This can be important! I still remember asking my very first EFL employer in Korea for a heater for the classroom on a bitterly cold morning and my employer with frosty mist coming from her mouth said, “It’s not cold”! So, I taught with a heavy coat, long johns and mittens . . .

How many students are in a class? How are they placed or evaluated for placement? There is a big difference between 100 people or 5 in a classroom – I’ve taught both. One requires a lot more preparation than the other.

How do we decide if the students are progressing or successful? Does everyone pass or are you supposed to implement a strict grade curving system? A grade curving system usually means you will need a very well organized testing system that is thorough and fair. Language schools tend to just pass everyone.

Will I have a work space available at the school? A desk, an office?

Are there other foreign teachers at the school? Can I talk to them before I make my decision? Red flag the job if they don’t want you talking to existing or previous teachers, but do realize everyone has a different experience abroad – so take any opinions under realistic consideration.

Those basic questions should help you get started.

TED’s Tips™ #1: Find out as much as you can about the job BEFORE you accept it. Once you are on the scene is too late.
Obviously you can’t find out everything and much of what you find out will be filtered either by your employer or by the good or bad attitude of an existing teacher.

TED’s Tips™ #2: Understand that each individual’s experience abroad is unique and individual.
What others hate, you may love. Every school – good or bad – will have past and present teachers who love it and hate it. Your job is to interpret what they say and translate it into something that is meaningful and useful to you. I have certainly worked at schools where some of the teachers hated it and I loved it. Much of this is about an individual’s attitude toward life in general and you will need to filter out the attitude to get to the specifics of how a school operates.

Reasonable Expectations

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

The reason this section is titled “Reasonable Expectations” is because those same people often ask very unrealistic questions about working abroad. It is as if all practical reasoning as 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.”

“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 people in some countries will come to work in ragged jeans and a t-shirt. Does that mean you should? No!

If your host country counter-parts 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.