Everything I (and you need to) know about Teaching English Overseas

Teaching English in Korea
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Teaching English Overseas is still the most tried and true path to finding a job internationally. Other than some of the other methods I have mentioned for how to work abroad, teaching English is by far the most reliable.

There are a seemingly never ending supply of opportunities to teach English oveseas, require little experience, pay decently well, and provide the ability to travel the world.

Teaching overseas is a wonderful way to get started in the world of International work/travel experience. It’s how the majority of my nomadic friends and I have all started in our paths. There’s a reason why so many people do it.

The majority of people I know who teach English all follow a similar pattern. Teach, travel, repeat. Many of the people I know have been able to follow this recipe for 3-5 years all while paying off student loan debt and building up some savings.

Many have also used this as a springboard into entrepreneurial ventures such as blogs, instagram accounts, products and more. If you’re serious about long term travel, you should seriously consider this route.

Questions to ask before you get started:

Do you have a teaching Degree? If yes, how long have you been teaching?

If you’re already a teacher in your home country, you will most likely qualify to work at an International School.

International schools are English based schools that have students from all over the world. Many of the students are children of parents in the military or diplomats or who travel for business. You will be teaching students of this nature.

They have very high standards of education and these jobs are definitely much harder to find. I only recommend them if you are an experienced teacher.

You can read more about international schools here.

For the rest of us who aren’t teachers, let’s move on…

The next most common question I receive is… should I get certified?

There is a lot of noise on the Internet about getting TEFL certified. There are 100’s of websites catering to this market and a ton of them are absolutely BS.

Here’s my honest opinion:

Upside –

Most of the programs that charge for the TEFL training also have a job placement service of some kind with it. Although you might be paying upfront for the training, you are essentially guaranteed a job afterwards…which is nice.

If you’re going to go the certification route, go with one that can guarantee you a job afterwards. Keep in mind that you don’t have to take the job that they offer you, but at least you know you have a guaranteed job once you’re finished with the program.

TEFL curriculums also do at least familiarize you with what you will need to be aware of in order to teach a classroom full of students. I’ve found that they provide the key background information you need in order to be a teacher and understand what it is like working with/teaching non-native English speakers.

Downside –

It’s not really necessary. If you went to a good school in the US/UK and you’re a native English speaker, you should be able to find a job teaching with little to no experience or certification needed. Most programs will throw anyone in a classroom and allow them to simply wing it and figure it out.

It’s expensive. You often have to spend a lot of money to get one. Why pay money for something you don’t need to? Especially if you’re broke!

What I did

I received my TEFL certification at the University of Arizona. They had a course going on immediately after I graduated so it made sense to stay there and take the course. It was easy and did give me some general background for when I would later go on to teach.

What age do you want to teach?

Think hard about this one. Easy question to overlook, but will make a huge difference in your experience. Teaching 6-7 year olds is a drastically different challenge from teaching 14-15 year olds, or teaching a different age group every hour on the hour.

Do I want to teach the same class all day or a different class of students every hour?

Generally speaking, if you work with younger students you will have the same group of students all day. If you work with older students, you will have a different class of students every +/- hour.

What hours do you want to work?

Are you a morning w nights free type of person, or do you want to work from afternoon to night?

Many schools will give you this flexibility. If you have the clarity of the type of job you’re looking for before you go into your hunt, it will be easier to narrow down a good fit for yourself.

What neighborhood(s) do I want to work in?

This one will be valuable once you select the country you would like to live/work in. The neighborhood you live in will largely determine a lot of your social life. If you’re on the outskirts of a city its much different than being in the heart of the action. Make sure to put in the prior research to know where the best neighborhoods are in each city you’re looking to work in.

Country Breakdown

I’m not going to go too in depth on each country, as teaching English is a widely covered topic all over the internet. I will give a brief overview of what you can expect from that country, and then will give you resources to use that will guide you in the right direction of finding a job or learning more about what to expect there.

South Korea

South Korea is one of the best places to work abroad. Schools you work with will normally give you round trip airfare, pay for your housing, provide medical insurance, and give you a salary that is enough to save $1000 USD/month + an end of contract bonus.

In general you can expect to make about $2000USD/month. Cost of living is around $1000/month, which enables you to save $1000/month if you’re smart with your money.

In a nutshell, Korea is quite awesome for teaching English. Teach, travel all over Korea and SE Asia, and walk away with over $10k USD in savings when it’s all said and done. Korea also has some of the greatest nightlife on earth, and hiking is their national sport. There’s a reason why SK is the mecca of teaching English right now.

***A recent update has told me that schools in Korea are no longer offering round trip airfare, and they may be bringing salaries down.

Public Vs. Private schools

In Korea there are two different types of schools that you can work for, Public schools and private schools.

Public schools are government funded and run. If you can get into them, they give you more paid time off and generally more flexibility. On the downside you have no choice of where you get to work, so any control over your desired neighborhood goes out the window.

You can read about the EPIK Program in Korea here.

Private schools on the other hand, also known as “Hogwans” typically provide more flexibility in work hours, class sizes, age groups, neighborhoods, and so on. It’s a bit of a mixed bag though, as it’s essentially a privately owned school where the owner can do what he wants. Be careful with Hogwans and make sure that you speak to current teachers before accepting a job anywhere.

Some resources for finding a teaching job in Korea:
International TEFL AcademyFootprints Recruiting
TeachAway

China

China was the original mecca for teaching English. They are the ones who invented the “Round trip airfare, paid housing, medical insurance, good salary” offer to attract foreign teachers to come and work there. It worked wonders, until they had an excess of talented teachers. As supply and demand goes, they cut the salaries and the benefits of teachers to even out the balance, and is for the most part how it remains today.

To this day there is an enormous community of English teachers of varying levels, and is a place where many have launched and built their careers. There are a ton of jobs here, and if you’re smart about looking for a job and managing your money you can make as much money (or more) than you do in South Korea

You can still get many of the offers from above, but it will all be negotiable depending on your level of experience. In general you can expect to make about $1000USD/month if you’re just getting started. Costs of living are around $500-1000 depending on where you live in China (huge country obviously), but you can generally expect your savings to range from breaking even to $500USD/month.

Vietnam

Vietnam is the next country to follow suit after China and Korea in the “let’s offer attractive salaries to attract foreign teachers!” They have gained momentum quickly for English teachers, offering competitive salaries and a great quality of life. Their startup ecosystem is also flourishing and getting involved is a great way to build relationships that will transition your career for you.

Thailand

Thailand is a great country to teach English for obvious reasons. On the plus side, it’s very easy to find a job. Opportunities are abundant and you can find a job relatively quickly without much difficulty.

On the downside you’re not going to earn much money. You will make enough to break even on a monthly basis and have your costs of living covered, but don’t expect to save a lot of money while working there.

Brazil

Brazil is another great place for teaching English, despite how seemingly difficult it is on the surface to find a job. The reality of Brazil is that if you want to find a job there, you will need to move there. Once on the ground it’s pretty easy to hustle and create opportunities for yourself.

Similarly to Thailand, you’ll usually make enough money to break even on a monthly basis. Depending on where you live in Brazil, costs of living are around $800-$1000/month.

Argentina/Chile/Costa Rica

If you want to go somewhere else in Latin America, the good news is that you will be able to find a job relatively quickly. The bad news is that you probably won’t be able to make much money. From my experience, teaching in this part of the world will allow you to break even while living an awesome lifestyle. They also seem to be more flexible with shorter-term contracts anywhere from 1-6 months and up.

Middle East

Make a ton of money!!!

I once met a guy traveling who was making over $100k USD TAX FREE while living and working in somewhere like Oman.

He taught for the children of a wealthy oil family and raked in the money while traveling all over. Last time I checked he set up an internet marketing company and is living the digital nomad lifestyle. Kudos to you brother, kudos to you.

In general this seems to be the norm in the middle east. You can make a TON of money there by teaching English.

Other Resources

This PDF has everything you need to know about every country on the planet

http://www.footprintsrecruiting.com/learn-about-teaching-abroad/country-guides

https://www.gooverseas.com/teach-abroad

Websites you need to know

DavesESL café
Gooverseas
Goabroad
Teachaway.com

A note on getting stuck as a teacher

I see a lot of people who get stuck in the world of teaching English because they struggle to transition their career into something new. I don’t want to see you fall into that trap.

So what should you do when you finish? Where to go next?

I recommend things like Ed-Tech startups, democratic schools, online education companies, etc. You can use teaching as a way to pivot into some truly interesting careers.

I also encourage you to document your travels and start a blog – this can eventually lead to a pivot down the road. The important part isn’t the content, it’s building your following early on. By building a following of people who are interested in your life, you can use this as momentum for whatever future projects that you want to launch.

One of the biggest regrets of long term travelers that I know – They didn’t get enough time to document and write about their travels. So many stories that are stuck in their heads never to be shared with the world. Write down your stories and share them with people now, build up your following , start a newsletter– you will thank me later.

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Closing Thoughts

I got my career started as an English teacher overseas. I believe in it. It’s the best way to get your foot in the door of international experience. If you have the ability to do it, I highly recommend you give it a shot.

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