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Tefl Guide: Teaching English as a Foreign Language Explained

Teaching English as a foreign language (TEFL) is the term used to describe teaching English to non-native speakers in countries where English is not the first language. This is one way in which you can be paid to live and work abroad. Some people even get the bug for this and use this to travel the world, living and teaching in one city at a time.

Why Should I Tefl?

Teaching abroad can be an eye opening and rewarding experience. A lot of people worry about not knowing a second language (you don’t need to), culture shock and fitting in but thousands of people lead this lifestyle all over the world for a number of years.

Teaching English as a foreign language is not just for students or recent graduates. There is no age limit and anyone can do it.

Just remember that you’ll be teaching abroad, experiencing their food and culture, picking up their language and have the opportunity to explore their country. It’s a rather unique way to explore the world whilst also having the security of a paid job.

What Do I Need To Teach English as a Foreign Language?

The criteria is pretty simple:

  • Speak English as a first language
  • Have a bachelors degree (for some countries that require a degree for a work visa)
  • Have a TEFL certificate (recommended)

Prior experience isn’t always required but it will make it easier to get the more sought after teaching positions.

What Schools Can I Teach In?

Government schools – These usually pay the least but are reliable in the fact that they are run by the government so you know you’ll be paid and will be seen through to the end of your contract. Teaching at a school like this is like teaching at one back home where you’re not just paid for classroom time but also the extra curricular activities that come with the position.

Language schools – These are seen as a step up from government schools as usually your pay is based solely on your classroom hours and you have greater flexibility. There could be a slight risk though as some language schools have been known to go bankrupt!

Private schools – These are much like what you would expect in the west. Your work load will be similar to working in a government school in the form of prep outside of classroom hours. As parents usually spend a lot of money paying for their child to attend a private school they are usually better behaved.

International schools – Positions here are the most sought after as the student body is comprised of the children of expats or very rich locals. A lot of these children will be looking to do further education in the UK or USA. Working at an international school has the best pay and the better perks.

You can also try your hand at online English teaching jobs which will offer more flexibility to move around and travel, provided you have a stable internet connection!

How Much Can I Expect To Be Paid?

How much you get paid for teaching abroad depends on teaching experience, duration of your contract, the country you teach in and the employer. Don’t be put off by what may appear a low wage. In developing countries your wages will go a lot further.

Where Can I Teach English Abroad?

The possibilities here are endless. Perhaps you want a big city or at the opposite end of the scale you want to work in a remote village. Popular destinations include South Korea and Japan due to the higher salaries. Other popular destinations include Spain, Thailand, Brazil and China.

Don’t rule out other countries though, we’ve met teachers in places like Honduras and Colombia who are incredibly happy with their teaching positions.

Can I teach English remotely?

There are many benefits to teaching English online. You can try teaching English before you commit to moving abroad, become a digital nomad, work however and whenever you like, and it can also just be a job to fill the gaps between other work. offers a 120-hour Premier Online TEFL course over a six-month duration with an experienced teacher, all course materials and lifetime access to their TEFL job centre.

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Tuesday 22nd of October 2013

I taught English in Thailand and Ecuador. Would HIGHLY recommend it. Met some great people and the kids are lovely.

Barry O'Leary

Monday 12th of August 2013

Great article on how to get into TEFL. Been TEFLing for 10 years now, taught in Ecuador, Brazil, Australia, Thailand and now live in Spain. Love teaching and how it helps you meet locals around the world: that's how I met my wife too, and got a baby boy on the way! Great article!

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