Published 19th September 2021

Back in the day, we used to finish school, study at university, get a job and stay at that job until the end of time. These days, fortunately, our work environments have changed. It is not uncommon for people to have more than one job in their lifetime – even three or four. In fact, research has shown that the average person these days has 12 jobs in their lifetime! These jobs might even be in totally different fields. 

This is where teaching English as a Foreign Language comes in. 

How to teach English as a Foreign Language

Teaching English as a Foreign Language online or abroad is not yet a mainstream career choice, even though it’s well on the way to getting there. Qualifying to be a TEFL teacher is not the same as with other careers. The qualification you need to be a TEFL teacher is not as long as other training courses or undergraduate degrees. Some TEFL courses are just 120 hours long, though this can be done on a full-time basis over a month or part-time over a few months. 

Read more: What Will I Learn on a TEFL Course?

Who can teach English as a Foreign Language?

Another way being a TEFL teacher is different to other jobs is that practically anyone can do it. If you are a native speaker of English or can speak English at an advanced level, then you can do a TEFL course and become TEFL-certified. Some TEFL jobs require you to have a degree – though it doesn’t matter what field it’s in – while others require only a TEFL qualification. 

What’s the average age of a TEFL teacher?

Because of the nature of TEFL and the fact that anyone can do it at any stage of their career, there is a wide range of ages of TEFL teachers. TEFL trainers all over the world are realising that there is no “typical TEFL trainee”

Some people decide to take a gap year between high school and university. During this year they’ll do a TEFL course and then work abroad for the remainder of the year. These TEFL teachers can be as young as 18. 

Other people have already been working for a few years and are looking for a break. Maybe they were retrenched or maybe they just decided they weren’t passionate about their chosen careers anymore. Maybe they have gone through a life change, like a divorce, and want to make a fresh start somewhere. They would then do a TEFL course and find a job teaching abroad. These teachers can be anything from in their early twenties to their 40s or 50s.

Then there are the TEFL teachers who have worked for most of their lives. They are nearing retirement but they have decided they would like to live abroad. Teaching English is a way to be able to live abroad and still earn an income. These TEFL teachers are in their 50s or 60s. 

Is 30 too old to be a TEFL teacher?

As you can see, 30 is most definitely not too old to be a TEFL teacher. There are no hard and fast rules about how old you need to be as a TEFL teacher. As a minimum, the majority of TEFL courses and TEFL jobs require you to be 18 years old. On the other end of the spectrum, age restrictions will depend on the age of retirement in whichever country you are teaching. 

If, for example, you want to teach English in China and you are 62 years old, you probably won’t find a job because the age of retirement in China is 60. But you could possibly find a job in Japan where the age of retirement is 70. 

The benefits of being an “older” teacher

There are definitely some advantages to being an older teacher. When you are in your 30s you have life experience, more so than when you are in your 20s. You bring this experience with you into the classroom, which will make your lessons more interesting. 

At this age, you have probably had experience working in another field. This means you may be qualified to teach English for Specific Purposes, such as Finance, Hospitality or Medicine. Teaching a course like Business English means you can ask for higher rates of pay, due to your experience.

Read more: What is English for Specific Purposes?

There is also the maturity aspect too. While many people are a bit wild in their 20s, the 30s bring with them some maturity. This can make moving abroad easier, as you are better at adapting to your circumstances. You will cope better and might even enjoy the experience more, as a result.

Of course, if you are deciding to teach English abroad in your 30s or older, you probably have a settled lifestyle at home. If you have a house, you will need to decide if you want to rent it out or sell it. The same with a car. If you have pets you will need to find somebody to adopt them. 

At the same time, you hopefully have some sort of savings by this age, which will make moving abroad easier. You will only get your first salary at the end of your first month of teaching, so you will need to have enough capital to support yourself for the first few weeks. This includes paying upfront for your rent, and often a deposit as well. If you already have this capital available to you, it means you are already one step closer to making the move abroad. In a nutshell, NO! 30 is not too old to teach English abroad. In fact, we don’t think 50 is too old for TEFL! If this is the life you want to live, go for it!

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