Teach English Abroad

The Definitive Guide

There is no better way to travel and get paid than to teach English abroad.

By teaching English overseas, you can live and travel
in almost any country you’ve been dreaming of.

A brand new adventure awaits!

How To Prepare To Teach English Abroad

Everything You Need To Know

Based on our Facebook Page and Instagram feed, it seems like everyone wants to travel. That's the ice cream. The topping? Getting paid to travel.

There is no better way to travel and get paid than to teach English abroad. By teaching English overseas, you can live and travel in almost any country you’ve been dreaming of. From China, South Korea, Taiwan or Thailand, a job teaching English abroad - and a brand-new life adventure - are just on the horizon.

What is Teaching English Abroad?

Most people, when they think of teaching English abroad, think they will travel to another country, walk into a classroom and start teaching English to children, much the way they were taught in school.

And while that is a very accurate portrayal of teaching English abroad, it is not the only way to teach abroad and get paid. There are countless ways to do it, and this guide is going to show you how to find the type of teach abroad job that fits your working style and your personality. It isn't one size fits all.

Most certainly, going abroad to teach will change your life.

So what are all the different ways you can teach abroad?

Let Me Count The Ways

There are several ways if teaching abroad is something you'd like to find out more about:

A GeoVisions teacher in a classroom in Thailand.Be A Classroom Teacher

Are you a classroom teacher presently? Are you graduating soon to be a teacher? Are you in a different profession and have always wondered if teaching is for you? Teaching overseas in the classroom is exactly what it seems. You have a few classes of students each day in a regular school, and you teach the kids English. You have teacher-meetings, school meetings, after-school activities. You're a real teacher, in a real school, in a real community.

Become A TEFL Teacher

Are you an English teacher? Do you teach ESL? There are great teaching jobs overseas waiting for you. First, get TEFL Certified. Then, find a TEFL school in a country where you want to live and work (and yes, it can be the USA). Begin teaching TEFL classes, certifying people who want to teach English abroad. It's an amazing job with a great deal of satisfaction when you see your students graduate and become English teachers.

Release your expectations. Whatever you thought your experience will be like, it probably won’t pan out like that. Teaching English abroad is not an experience you can micro-manage. Be open-minded, say yes to things, and remember that happiness is a choice.

hs-bentz-1414123082Austin Bentz

GeoVisions Foundation Teacher, Thailand, 2018

TEACH ESL IN A LANGUAGE SCHOOL

If you're an ESL teacher (or plan to be), teaching in a language school typically will pay more money than the traditional classroom where you'd be teaching English. Your hours may also be very different from the typical school day. In fact, you might even have a class or two in the evenings or on a weekend. Even if you're a regular classroom teacher and you want to pick up a few hours during the year, this is a great way to do that.

A GeoVisions homestay tutor with her host mom learning English.TUTOR ENGLISH TO A SCREENED HOST FAMILY AND LIVE LIKE A LOCAL

If you don't have a year to move abroad and teach, this option might suit you. While it doesn't pay a salary, you do get free room and board. By speaking 15 hours a week with your screened host family, you can live like a local for 1, 2 or 3 months. It's a great way to become immersed in the culture and language, leave a lasting positive impression on your host family, and get a taste for teaching English. If you have a love for language, there is no better reason than to be an English tutor and live with a screened host family. A love of language will make you a better teacher.

GeoVisions camp counselors with their camper students using English in an activity.Summer Language Camp Counselor

Being an International Language Camp Counselor will change your life, no matter what country you choose. It’s hard to sit around worrying about what others think of you when you’re playing games, creating world-class art projects, going over words and phrases in English with your campers each day. You will relish in being a role model for the campers and enjoy increased responsibility and awareness. You'll wonder where you got all that enthusiasm.

Conversation Partner

A "Conversation Partner" is someone who embeds themselves in a business or a school and their only role is to speak English with the people who work there or go to school there. There are no formal classes, usually. They hang out in the cafeteria so people can practice their English each day during a meal break. Or they hang out in the lounge ready to speak conversational English. There are set hours but no curriculum. The job is really just that; "conversation" as in conversing in English or "conversational" English and "partner" as in a partner who is going to "partner-up" with 1 or even a few people to practice conversational English. It's probably some of the most fun you'll ever have.

Real Teaching Experiences! Real Awesome!

Become An Au Pair

Au Pairs take care of the children in a carefully screened host family and tutor them in English during scheduled hours. Having an au pair job abroad allows you to use the experience you already have with childcare to travel and get paid. The children's grades will improve, and the entire family will improve their English. You will learn their language too. Also, the stipend you receive and days off you can travel. Au Pair hours are from 20 to 35 hours a week.

Online Teacher and StudentTeach English Online

Enjoy flexibility. Teach from anywhere there's an Internet connection. Commute to the kitchen for another cup a joe! Park in front of your desktop or laptop as your class in China materializes before your eyes. Your wardrobe? Yoga pants if you prefer.

Online teachers enjoy flexibility with no commute and no minimum hours. Moreover, the entire curriculum and online platform are provided.

The more you teach, the more you make.

Teachers have complete flexibility over their schedule and can select their availability. 

Helpful Hint: If you can keep a consistent schedule, so your students know when to expect you, you will earn more money and those students will also schedule private classes with you also, adding to your takehome pay.

Teachers can work from any location with a computer or tablet and high-speed Internet access.

Teach In A Cram School

Cram schools (also called crammers) are specialized schools that train their students to meet particular goals. The English name is derived from the slang term "cramming", meaning to study hard or to study a large amount of material in a short period of time.  You can expect the teaching experience to be slightly different from a traditional school. There will be a bit more emphasis on keeping the students engaged, performing a mixture of high and low energy activities, and sometimes more emphasis on passing exams as well.

Volunteer To Teach In A School Overseas

For people who really want to teach or even try out teaching as a profession, there are many opportunities to volunteer in a local school and teach English. While you won't get paid, you volunteer in almost any country, you can set your hours because you're volunteering, and you can get some great experience.

 

I had graduated from university and was not ready to commit to office life. I wanted a year to figure things out for myself, and I was most familiar with teaching abroad as a way to live and work abroad for an extended period of time. What started out as simply a means to live abroad, ended up being the biggest surprise of all. I completely fell in love with the students and my role as a teacher. Teaching overseas comes with a lot of work, but the payoff at the end of the day is worth it, and then some.

hs-langtry-1436953934Amanda LangtryGeoVisions Foundation Teacher, 2018

Who Can Teach English Abroad?

In this section, we'll explore:

For most English teaching jobs abroad, the qualifications you need can be broken down into the "required" and the "wouldn't it be nice."

Filed under "required" you'll need:

  • Bachelor’s degree (any major)
  • English fluency (Score a C2 CEFR level)
  • ESL certificate (like a TEFL) with a minimum of 120 hours of study

"Wouldn't it be nice" if you had some teaching experience? Yes, but there are some schools who prefer to hire a teacher with zero experience.

ARE YOU SURE THERE ISN'T A WAY TO TEACH ABROAD WITHOUT A DEGREE?

Employers tend to be more flexible with degree requirements throughout Europe and Central and South America. We recommend taking a TEFL course in the country where you want to teach (no degree needed to take a TEFL course) and when you graduate, network and interview with schools in person. Almost all TEFL academies offer free lifetime service in job finding. Once you have the TEFL, you're on your way degree or not.

SO YOU WANT TO TEACH IN:

Asia

  • Bachelor’s degree required.
  • Previous teaching experience not usually required.
  • TEFL certificate with at least 120-hours.
  • Native English speaker or very clear English.
  • Age limit of 60 years. In China, it's getting closer to 50.

Europe

  • Bachelor’s degree required.
  • Teaching experience occasionally required.
  • TEFL certificate with at least 120-hours. In-class TEFL preferred vs. online.
  • EU citizens preferred. It is next to impossible these days to be a non-EU citizen and qualify for a work permit.

Central and South America

  • Bachelor’s degree usually required but sometimes you can use previous experience.
  • Previous teaching experience not required if you have a Bachelor's degree.
  • TEFL certificate.
  • In-person interview. The best way for this to happen is to travel there and take an in-country TEFL for a month and apply to schools when you graduate.

Middle East

  • Bachelor’s/master’s degree in education, TESOL/TEFL or equivalent.
  • 1-3 years of teaching experience required.
  • In-person ESL certificate, such as CELTA, preferred (except for Saudi Arabia, where online TEFL courses from a university are widely accepted).
  • Note: All of GeoVisions Foundation's TEFL courses are CELTA certified.

COME ON! GETTING ME TO TAKE A TEFL COURSE IS JUST A WAY TO CHARGE ME MONEY, RIGHT?

Technically you do have to pay for your TEFL certification. That's true. And The GeoVisions Foundation provides a $100 discount if you take a teaching job through us.

But the vast majority of well-regarded schools around the world will not give your application so much as a second glance if you don’t hold a TEFL certification or equivalent in addition to your bachelor’s degree. Why? Just because you can speak English fluently doesn’t necessarily mean you know how to teach English!

But while you're probably wondering if this is really a thing, be reminded that TEFL Certification is good for life. That means it's a great investment in your future. Take your certificate with you where you travel. Teaching jobs are plentiful and your certification opens doors.

ARE YOU SURE I DON'T NEED EXPERIENCE?

All you need is your degree and TEFL certification. As always, we advise you to check the country’s visa requirements as well as the job description for the schools or teach abroad programs you want to apply to teach in. But for the most part, you don’t need to have experience to teach in most countries, especially in Asia, Europe or Central and South America.

WHAT LANGUAGES DO I NEED TO SPEAK TO QUALIFY TO TEACH ABROAD?

Most overseas schools prefer if you don’t speak the native language.  And you don’t need to bilingual to be an English teacher abroad, either. But let's face it, if you do know another language, you're going to be a much better teacher simply because you will be well attuned to how difficult it can be for your own new students to learn English.

I'M NOT A NATIVE ENGLISH SPEAKER

If you can speak English proficiently and have a degree and TEFL certificate on your resume, you will find a job. Just bear in mind that it can sometimes be more challenging to get hired as a foreign teacher abroad as you’ll have to compete with native English speakers. Having a TEFL certificate (another great reason to get TEFL certified) is a great way to show employers that you have what it takes to be a great English teacher.

Keep in mind that there are visa requirements where teachers must be citizens of the US, Canada, UK, Ireland, South Africa, Australia, and New Zealand. No one can do anything about that because those are simply the visa regulations of that particular country to qualify for a work permit to teach legally in that country.

Always check out the visa regs to any country where you want to teach abroad.

WHAT IF I'M OVER 50? I WANT TO DO THIS TOO!

Certain countries do set either minimum or maximum age restrictions for teaching English overseas. Some Asian countries, for instance, set an official maximum age of 60 for visa applicants. Eastern Europe and Latin America, on the other hand, are great picks for more mature teach abroad candidates - especially if you’re already an experienced educator.

And just so we're making sure we're being fair, if you're under the age of 21, you're going to find it almost impossible to get a job teaching overseas.

GETTING PAID TO TRAVEL! HOW MUCH AM I GOING TO MAKE AS AN ENGLISH TEACHER OVERSEAS?

Countries in Asia, like China and South Korea are known for offering highly-competitive compensation packages and a high standard of living to new teacher arrivals. With free housing packages and free flights to get to your new school, you can sign a contract for over $40,000 US in your first year.

In Europe and Central and South America, your salary will be nowhere like that. But you probably will be able to rent a decent apartment, eat out some and travel in your free time. You probably won’t have much leftover at the end of the month.

We always recommend that you supplement your income by teaching in a language school, tutoring friends, teach online or give private lessons.

Some of the highest-paying countries to teach abroad include Saudi Arabia and the UAE. Just remember that although you get benefits like free housing, paid vacation, health insurance, and round-trip airfare covered ... these jobs are usually only open to teachers with classroom teaching experience who have completed a formal teacher training program.

MOVING COSTS

Here are some items you are going to need to budget for when you make the decision to move abroad and teach English:

  • TEFL Certification. $1,000 online. More in-country.
  • If your new school is going to pay for your flight, most will only reimburse you a set amount AFTER you arrive or AFTER you successfully complete a few months. You'll need to budget for the airfare to report for your first day of school.
  • Set up a bank account. You'll need to arrive in your new country with plenty of funds to open a bank account. In some places, you'll need to prove you have a teaching contract to open that account. Keep a close eye on the exchange rate so you can get the most bang for your buck.
  • Make sure you have plenty of backup funds to cover:
    • 1st month's rent and security
    • Internet
    • Utilities
    • Transportation
    • Food
    • Funds set aside for an emergency

TAXES TAXES AND MORE TAXES

You’ll be required to pay local taxes in your new country. In Korea, for example, you pay around 3% tax on income earned.

If you’re a US citizen (or a green card holder) and earn over $10,000 USD living abroad, then you’ll need to file an annual US federal tax return for every year you’re abroad. There’s no getting around that.

However, using the FEIE (Foreign Earned Income Exclusion) you won't owe US Federal taxes.

CAN I TRAVEL WITH MY FRIENDS, FAMILY, AND PET?

You certainly can travel with your friend or a family member. Just let the school know in advance. You can also sometimes teach together. You'll share an apartment and the utilities and bank more money than you ever thought possible. Many schools will hire a couple because they're getting 2 teachers for the price of 1.

Pets can be worth the hassle if you're going to stay abroad for a long time. Most countries will require a quarantine period of up to six months. Do you really want to put your pet through that if you're going to be abroad a year? Probably not.

The transportation process can stressful for your pet, so think carefully about this. It’s worth doing some online sleuthing to figure out if the place you’re moving to is dog-friendly.

Recommended Reading

Here's some information we recommend reading if you're doing research on teaching abroad:

When Can I Go Abroad And Teach?

When you find out if you're qualified to be a teacher abroad, you can start to think about the best time to travel for your first day of school.

Most schools around the world are going to be so excited to get a new native-English speaking teacher, they will have a position for you anytime. Inside that general rule, you need to keep in mind:

  • the start-dates of the academic year and the academic semester.
  • If you start during either term, you will be at a disadvantage because:
    • You will only teach a few weeks before the term break and will be unable to get paid.
    • Your students will not be as motivated because they now have to change-up how they are learning and what they are learning.
    • It's harder to fit in during the middle of a term.
  • In considering your start-dates, also consider how long it will take to obtain your proper visa so you arrive ready to work legally.
  • One of the first questions to ask a school when you're interviewing with them, is when would they "ideally" like you to arrive?

Overall, if you have the students in mind first, you'll always make the right decision. After all, it's why you're going abroad to teach. To impact lives and teach English. If you keep this in the forefront of your mind, your time-frame will guide you to the ideal start date, and just work backward on the dates to submit your forms and begin the process of obtaining the right visa.

Where Can I Teach English Abroad?

How do you choose the best places to teach English abroad? No matter your choice, someone needs an English teacher.

First of all, how about Europe? After all, it's more culturally familiar as a "western" region. Or, maybe you want to go somewhere totally outside your comfort zone.

Many factors come into play when picking the right destination. Are you a hustle and bustle person? Country more your thing? How about the climate? Hot, beaches, mountains or moderate temperatures?

How far do you want to travel? You may want to pick a place closer to home so you can see family from time to time. You may also want to go far, far away. All these personal preferences will help you determine your perfect destination.

It’s also important to think about what you want to achieve from your time teaching abroad. Are you doing this for the money and pay off debts? Or, do you just want to get paid to travel and you're fine breaking even at the end?

LATIN AMERICA

Teaching opportunities abound in countries such as Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Costa Rica and states throughout Mexico. Teaching salaries and benefits are average.

EUROPE

The market for teachers is strong in Europe, but pay and benefits are only average.

In Western Europe, hiring preference is given to teachers who are citizens of European Union (EU) countries, since they have legal status to work in this region. For non-EU citizens, more job opportunities exist in Eastern European countries, which are more flexible on this point.

GeoVisions has been very successful in placing teachers in great teaching jobs in Italy.

ASIA

With GeoVisions, you can teach English in Taiwan and even China, Thailand, and South Korea. Japan is also extremely strong. Positions often pay well & have attractive benefits, like housing & airfare reimbursement.

Teachers can usually get hired without previous teaching experience, so most countries in Asia are a good choice for new teachers.

THE MIDDLE EAST

Demand for very qualified and experienced teachers in countries such as the United Arab Emirates, Qatar or Saudi Arabia is strong. However, exceptionally high salaries in this region mean schools can afford to be very selective when hiring teachers.

After this experience, I've realized that it's not just the journey itself, it's about that incomparable and unexplainable feeling of knowing you're in the right place at the right time. This experience opened my eyes wider. I visited amazing places, met extraordinary people, and experienced unbelievable things; everything was beyond anything I could have ever imagined.

Shanny-1Shanny Neuman

GeoVisions Teacher, 2019

Why Should I Consider Going Abroad To Teach?

Teaching English abroad isn't the right move (pun intended) for everyone. But it might be right for you if you want to:

  • Get paid to travel.
  • Get some international work experience on your resume.
  • Become proficient at another language.
  • As corny as it may sound right now, "make a difference" in the lives of people around the world.

Are you concerned about job security? Consider that by the year 2020, there will be 2 billion English language learners in the world, meaning English as a second language (ESL) teachers are very much in high demand.

Let's compare what's going on in the United Staes and teacher shortages and in China. Right now the US shows a shortage of 350,000 teachers. So if you're a teacher and you want to teach in the US ... there's a job for you.

In China, over 300 million people are learning English currently, in 2019. That’s the equivalent of the entire US population. And the number of people learning English in China is set to grow by around 15% every year. Currently, there is a shortage of 100,000 native-English speaking teachers in China.

There is a teaching job for you if you want it.

Teaching English Abroad Salary

Can you actually make a living teaching English abroad? 

Your salary will really depend on where you’re teaching, what you’re teaching, who you’re teaching, and with whom you’re teaching. Knowing the cost of living will also impact your overall teaching abroad salary. If you’re teaching in Western Europe, you won’t be making as much as if you were teaching in Southeast Asia— where cost of living is relatively low, and demand for ESL teachers is higher. 

You'll earn much more in a place like the UAE, where you could make up to $5,000 a month. The flip side of that coin is Spain, where you might earn $1600 a month. Spain is what we call a "break-even" country. UAE would qualify as a "savings" country.

Are you going to have a travel fund? Based on where you're teaching, that would be something to consider. Find out how much travel will be during your year, and make sure you keep contributing to that portion of your budget with each paycheck.

Will you eat out every meal (very affordable in Asia) or do you like to cook? Look at your debt and student loans and how much that will cost each month. And then consider savings, if you want to go home with money in your pocket.

How much money do you make teaching abroad?

The number one consideration on salary for teaching abroad? Cost of living. Start your research with tools like Numbeo and ask friends who have taught in a similar country or region to weigh in on whether your salary offer is enough to cover an average lifestyle. You also want to look at the benefits. If your school provides free housing, calculate what that adds to your salary and what you'll save in taxes not having to pay for housing. Remember, if housing is free, you don't need to earn so much money. To that free housing add paid time off, national holidays, summer holidays and health insurance.

Which countries pay the most for English teachers?

Hong Kong. Up to $7,400 a month.

Keep in mind Hong Kong was voted the most expensive city in the world. But, outside of this really high salary, benefits include paid vacation, roundtrip airfare and health insurance!

Kazakhstan. Up to $5,000 per month.

Kazakh schools are quickly becoming more advanced and looking to align themselves with a higher-level Western curriculum. These positions are perfect for licensed and experienced teachers who want to save lots and maintain a high standard of living. 

United Arab Emirates (UAE). Up to $4,100 a month.

With an education degree and three or more years of teaching experience, you can expect a monthly salary range of around $3,100 - $4,100 USD. Add to that an allowance for accommodation, health insurance, your cost of flight covered and ample vacation time. 

China. Around $2,500 a month.

With over 300 million English language students in China, you will get a job teaching English. Add to the salary benefits such as airfare, housing and health insurance. China’s relatively low cost of living makes it more than attainable to not only save a large part of your salary, but also to set aside some money for travel.

Get TEFL certified if you want a higher salary

TEFL stands for “Teaching English as a Foreign Language.” TEFL is a type of certification that’s acknowledged worldwide. And, it is a credential that you can earn to teach English in another country. 

With a TEFL certificate you will stand out when applying for teaching jobs. With a TEFL certification, you will be more competitive, therefore you will be more competitive with your salary.

(For 2019: We don't know schools who are not requiring TEFL. All do.) So, get that certificate if having a good teaching job is one of your goals.

The difference between being a teacher and a good teacher is your TEFL certification.

What will you learn? Great communication strategies, lesson planning skills, classroom management skills, and practice teaching.

GeoVisions has an online TEFL Certification for 120-hours taught by real people, not video. You can also attend a TEFL in-class 130-hour course in Peru, Turkey, Italy or Greece. You can apply to any of these courses here.

What qualifications do you need to be an English teacher abroad?

To teach English abroad, you’ll need a bachelor’s degree in any subject/major, and an ESL teaching qualification (such as a TEFL certification) at the minimum!

If you have your bachelor’s degree but no formal teaching qualification or previous teaching experience, you are going to need a TEFL certification.

If you’re serious about being a great English teacher abroad, your main goal should be for your students to be successful. In order for them to achieve their best in your English classes, you’ll need some basic skills and knowledge around effective teaching techniques. You’ll also need to have an understanding of their challenges and strengths in their English classes, depending on their cultural backgrounds, age and education levels.

If you have classroom teaching experience, or you majored in education), you’re a great fit for English teaching jobs in international elementary and high schools around the world. This holds true regardless of whether you’re a new graduate or experienced teacher in your home country.

Can you teach English abroad without a degree?

It is an extreme rarity, but yes. You'll need your TEFL certification at a minimum. Probably 5% of all teach abroad openings around the world will take someone without a degree. As mentioned above you'll need TEFL, but any type of teaching or group leading experience will be a plus.

 

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Our Favorite Teach Abroad Video

Enjoy the screams of delight as student learn English and GeoVisions Foundation teachers earn their TEFL Certification: