TEFL Contracts: Your Complete Checklist

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They say that Nothing in this life is certain, except death and taxes. But let’s add TEFL contracts to the list!

If you’re considering a teacher contract for teaching English abroad, congratulations! This means you must be the proud owner of a teaching English as a foreign language (TEFL) qualification – as well as a sense of adventure and a fair amount of bravery!

What is TEFL Certification and why is it important

To recap, these are the steps you’ve already taken to find a TEFL job:

  1. Browse jobs boards – like The TEFL Academy’s  
  2. Find a suitable job
  3. Apply for a job
  4. Have an interview
  5. Have a second interview (possibly)
  6. Receive rejection email (sorry!) and go back to #1 OR
  7. Be offered a contract

Going through these steps can be a tough and time-consuming process.

Now that you have a TEFL contract in your hands, do you know what to do with it? Do you know what to look for in a TEFL job contract?

Let’s look at the important points to consider when considering a job contract, before you grace it with your autograph.

But first, some common questions we get regarding TEFL contracts.

How long are TEFL contracts?

A common question is: how long are TEFL contracts?

The standard TEFL contracts are:

  • Schools: an academic year or two
  • Universities: a semester (three months) to a year
  • Language schools: a month, on a rolling basis

The most common TEFL contracts are for an academic year. These contracts can include benefits like flights, visa costs and housing. Plus, if you renew these contracts for another year, you’re often given a renewal bonus and/or a salary raise.

Can I get a short-term contract?

Short-term contracts are available but are few and far between.

The shortest-term contracts are for summer camps. These last for 8 to 12 weeks, sometimes even less. But you might need to commit to more than one camp. To bag these positions, it’s helpful to be in the country at the time of application.

Semester contracts are available for certain positions in universities.

If you’re set on a short-term contract, consider volunteering or applying to an internship programme.

Now let’s get down to the nitty gritty of TEFL contracts.

TEFL contracts: Salary

Yes, let’s start with the important bit: how much money are you going to make?! While this is definitely something to consider, there is more to your salary than the number. Your TEFL contract should outline the following:

  • Is your salary amount inclusive or exclusive of tax?
  • Are you paid weekly/monthly?
  • Are you paid a salary or an hourly rate?
  • Does the school pay your tax?
  • Will it be paid into a local bank account?
  • How much will you be paid overtime?
  • Are you paid only for teaching hours, or for administrative tasks/preparation/other duties?

Read more: The Average TEFL Salary: The Lowdown

What are the start up costs when teaching English abroad

TEFL contracts: Working conditions

If you’re not familiar with the country you are moving to, working conditions can be a tricky topic. The working conditions in a country might be very different to in your home country. However, you should be able to tell if the working conditions are outrageous. These are the points you should think about:

  • What are your working hours?
  • How many contact hours will you teach?

[For a full-time job, 20 – 25 teaching hours is the norm. Be sure to check how many hours you are legally allowed to work on your particular visa.]

  • How many students are in your classes?
  • What administrative duties are expected of you?
  • Is there a probationary period?
  • Do you have a teaching assistant?
  • What else is expected of you on top of your usual lessons e.g. leading extra mural activities, staff meetings, paperwork?
  • How many holidays are there?
  • Are holidays paid or unpaid?

Classroom layout for ESL teachers

TEFL contracts: Accommodation

Accommodation is one area which might affect the actual figure on your paycheque. Sometimes schools will offer you accommodation or a housing allowance. In these cases, your salary might not be as high as other teachers’.

Generally speaking, accommodation can be a big chunk of your salary, so if it is included in your contract, this may affect your salary quite a lot.

Here are few other things to make sure are clear in your contract with regards to accommodation:

  • Is accommodation provided? Is it shared? Are you expected to pay bills?
  • If accommodation is not provided, are you given an accommodation allowance?
  • Will the school help you find accommodation?
  • Where is the accommodation in relation to the school?

TEFL contracts: Visa

Chances you will need to organise a work visa to work in a country. This doesn’t need to be complicated – it is quite straightforward if all your documents are in order. If your contract doesn’t mention anything about a visa (and you know you need one) this immediately is a red flag. Be sure your contract deals with the following:

  • Will the school help you organise your visa?
  • Who will pay for the visa?
  • What visa do you need to work legally?
  • How long will it be valid for?

Read more: Do You Need A Visa For TEFL?

TEFL contracts: Extras

Last but not least, there are a few more issues to consider: 

  • Will you be paid a contract completion bonus?
  • Will the school pay for your flights?
  • Will you be reimbursed for your flights?
  • Does the school offer medical insurance?
  • Are you allowed to teach private students?
  • Are there opportunities for Continued Professional Development, such as workshops and conferences? Are these optional or mandatory?
  • What happens if you break the contract?

Note: if you want to end your contract before the stipulated end date, there is usually a fine. This will be taken out of your last paycheque or you may forego your flight re-imbursement. You also won’t receive an end-of-contract bonus. 

The bottom line is: make sure you do your due diligence and read the fine print.

Find out everything you can about your new employers. Do an online search to find out if they have had any bad reviews. Make sure their website is legitimate and if possible, find the contact details of someone working there.

All of this may seem like a lot of work before you’ve even started your job, but rather safe than sorry!

20 reasons to do tefl


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