What Do You Need to Teach English Abroad?

Join a global community of over 200,000 TEFL teachers working throughout the world! Enrol me!

Do you feel stuck in the same 9 to 5?
Are you sick and tired of waking up every day and doing the same-old same-old?
Dream of starting fresh somewhere completely different?
If you’ve answered yes to any of these questions (or all of them!), then you’re probably already thinking of teaching English abroad. And why wouldn’t you? Living in a fabulous city, having a fun job, and getting paid to do it – what’s not to love?
So the next question is, what do you need to teach English abroad?

What do you need to teach English abroad?

A sense of adventure

First things first, before we even look at the nitty gritty of qualifications, you need to have a sense of adventure. Moving abroad to start a new job in a new city can be challenging even for the most hardcore travellers. Culture shock, settling in to a new job, leaving friends and family behind – all at the same time – can be difficult to say the least. 

If you are totally freaked out by these things, then maybe a TEFL life is not for you. But if you’re excitement and anticipation for the travelling you’ll do, the food you’ll eat, and the people you’ll meet outweighs those challenges, then you’re good to go.

Read more: How to Deal with Culture Shock

A can-do attitude

Living abroad can bring with it its fair share of challenges. Unfortunately, it’s not all colourful cocktails and sandy beaches. Teaching English as a foreign language is a job rather than a holiday, and while it can be exhilirating and rewarding, it can be challenging and exhausting in equal measures.  

You are expected to prepare your lessons and carry them out with professionalism and enthusiasm. You need to be able to manage your classroom effectively, no matter how many students turn up. You may also be required to cover for another teacher. If a colleague calls in sick, you’ll need to be able to think on your feet and cover their class at a moment’s notice. As a TEFL teacher you need to be a team player and be able to step up to the plate when needed. 

Start up cash

If we’re brutally honest (which we always are), we can’t forget to include some cold hard cash. You will need some capital to cover a deposit on accommodation and your first month’s rent, as well as living expenses until you get your first pay cheque. Not to mention the funds you’ll need to pay for your TEFL course and your flights and visa. 

Because you’re never really 100 percent sure of what your living and working situation will be like until you are there, it’s always a good idea to make sure you have enough funds to not only start the journey but look after yourself until you can support yourself.

Read more: Your Budget for Going Abroad: A Short Guide about Money

A TEFL certificate

While a Bachelor’s degree is not essential – though it will open many more doors for you job-wise – a TEFL certificate is non-negotiable. You will need to have an accredited, internationally recognized 120-hour TEFL certificate behind your name before even starting your job search or else you needn’t bother looking.

Many people might scoff at the idea of a 120-hour qualification, but the TEFL course is so jam-packed with learning theories and teaching methodologies that it provides you with a solid understanding of teaching English as a foreign language. The practical side too gives you an idea of the logistics involved in teaching a class of students who don’t speak your language.

Read more: 7 Things to Consider When Choosing a TEFL Course


English proficiency

While we most certainly don’t subscribe to the idea that if you speak English you can teach English, a certain level of English is still important for a TEFL teacher. You don’t need to be a native speaker but you are, after all, teaching English so you need to have a good grasp of the language. If you’re not a native speaker you need to prove you have at least a C1 level of English in order to be a TEFL teacher.

You also need to have a thorough understanding of the language so you will be able to teach vocabulary and explain grammar effectively to your students. Your TEFL course will give you a chance to brush up on your linguistic knowledge, but be sure to take along a resource book of some sort for reference.


Don’t leave home without it! But it’s not only a valid passport you need, you’ll probably also need a visa for wherever you are going. Make sure you know exactly what visa you need to work in the country you are jetting off to, and make sure you apply for it in good time. 

Read more: Do You Need a Visa for TEFL? Visa Requirements for TEFL Jobs

female traveler at airport

A teaching toolkit

No self-respecting teacher would set foot into the classroom without their own teaching toolkit. What’s in it, you ask? Pens, pencils, blu-tak, whiteboard markers, notebooks, stickers, a USB – those sorts of teacher-y things. But also resource books that you can refer to whenever you need some grammatical advice or lesson inspiration, and an arsenal of games and activities for you to use in the classroom.

This is by no means a comprehensive list of what you need to teach English abroad, but these are the essentials. If you make sure you’ve got these in your suitcase before you set off on your TEFL adventure then you’re A for Away. (Don’t forget to sign up for one of our TEFL courses to make extra sure you’re putting your best foot forward). Bon voyage!

Note: This post was originally published in August 2019 but was updated in September 2022.


I am looking forward on grabbing this interesting opportunity to teach English in China but my concerns are, how and where will i study to get the TELFL certificate, how long will it? I would like to to get more details on how can i be the part of teachers.

Ndumiso Khayelihle Nyawo, 18th August 2019

How do one obtain a C1 English certificate?

Sara Mothibedi, 17th August 2019

Get Social

Follow us on social networks, join our newsletter - get the latest news and early discounts

Sign up to our newsletter

Follow us on social networks, sign up to our e-newsletters – get the latest news and early discounts

Accreditation Partners

The TEFL Academy was the world’s first TEFL course provider to receive official recognition from government regulated awarding bodies in both the USA and UK. This means when you graduate you’ll hold a globally recognised Level 3 (120hr) Certificate or Level 5 (168hr) Diploma, meaning you can find work anywhere and apply for jobs immediately.

Product added to your cart

You have added to your cart:

Request call back

    Please leave your details below and one of our TEFL experts will get back to you ASAP:

    captcha Type characters on the left:

    Would you like us to update you on TEFL opportunities, jobs and related products & services?

    Yes, keep me updatedNo, but thanks anyway!

    Thank you! Your message has been sent!

    Download the TEFL World Factbook

      Please enter your details in order to download the latest TEFL World Factbook.

      Would you like us to update you on TEFL opportunities, jobs and related products & services?

      Yes, keep me updatedNo, but thanks anyway!

      Thank you for downloading the TEFL World Factbook!

      If the TEFL World Factbook did not download
      > Click Here To Download <

      Download the Online Teaching Guide

        Please enter your details in order to download our Online Teaching Guide.

        Would you like us to update you on TEFL opportunities, jobs and related products & services?

        Yes, keep me updatedNo, but thanks anyway!

        Thank you for downloading our Online Teaching Guide!

        If the Online Teaching Guide did not download
        > Click Here To Download <

        Download Prospectus

          Please enter your details in order to download our latest prospectus.

          Would you like us to update you on TEFL opportunities, jobs and related products & services?

          Yes, keep me updatedNo, but thanks anyway!

          Thank you for downloading our prospectus!

          We hope you enjoy reading our prospectus, we have tried to make it as useful as possible! Please get in touch if you have any questions.

          If the prospectus did not download automatically
          > Click Here To Download <