Published 12th October 2015
There is a common belief out there that if you can speak English then you can teach English. While this might sound logical, it’s not. Teaching is not the same as speaking, just as teaching English is not just standing in front of a class talking about your favourite movie or what you did at the weekend. People do not learn English by osmosis. So, if you are wondering whether you can make a career out of TEFL, the answer, in short, is: of course. But you have to be interested in the teaching part of it, not just the travelling the world part of it. You have to want to learn how to teach, or at least be aware that there are good ways and bad ways of doing things and bad English teaching will ultimately result in, well, nothing.
On the other hand, English is undoubtedly the global language of communication (at least for now) and the most popular foreign language to learn. There are so many non-speakers of English there will be no shortage of students in the near future and so you will always be able to find a school that needs a teacher. Again, though, that doesn’t mean you should take the first job offer that comes your way, because not all jobs are created equal, but rather it means that you should have a few options to choose from.
TEFL teaching can be addictive, it must be said, and if you are that way inclined, there is no reason why you cannot do TEFL until you decide not to. The more you teach, the more experience you get, the better jobs you get, so it’s actually quite likely that once you’ve got the hang of the teaching you’ll want to experience a few different jobs before you call it quits. Since there are so many different aspects to TEFL too – teaching Business English, Young Learners or exam classes, for example – you may find it is a long time before you get bored or feel unchallenged by the profession.
Besides teaching, there are opportunities for writing and materials development, or you could get involved in managing or the administrative side of teaching. TEFL is a vast industry and there are numerous positions available in it, many of which don’t include teaching. So if you find you enjoy the industry – the travel, the multicultural atmosphere, the adventure – but you realise you’re not cut out to be a teacher, you can still put your TEFL to good use in another way.