Teach English Abroad

a world of opportunities

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Introduction

Why teach abroad
Where to teach abroad
Basic requirements
Visa requirements
Teaching experience
TEFL certification
Degree requirements
Non-native speakers
Healthcare insurance
Travel insurance
Start-up capital
Job requirements
Types of jobs
Job market
Highest demand
Average salary
Highest salaries
Cost of living
Common expenses
Saving money
Start your TEFL journey

Keen on travelling and living in a foreign country? Teaching English as a foreign language to non-native speakers is the perfect way to do that! Teaching English as a foreign language (or TEFL, as it’s usually called) isn’t just reserved for teachers.

According to Statista, English is the most widely spoken language in the world - spoken by 1.5 billion people. As many English speakers as there are, there are just as many, if not more, learners - 1 in every 4 people in the world are currently learning English

Positions teaching English abroad are an exciting way to combine your love of travel with your passion for education while making a positive impact on the lives of others.

In this beginner’s guide to teaching English abroad, we’ll look at everything you need to know, including how to get started on this journey!

Why teach English abroad?

The fact that you’re here means this question is already on your mind. Now, allow us to answer your question with a couple of questions of ours:

  1. Would you like a fresh start and the chance to challenge yourself in new and exciting ways to get out of your comfort zone?
  2. How about making a difference in the lives of others while making memories that will last a lifetime?
  3. Any chance you’d like to earn a stable income while fulfilling your wanderlust?

If you’ve answered yes to the above questions, then teaching abroad is an opportunity you don’t want to miss. 

Will it be easy? Not exactly! Will it be worth it? You bet!

Where to teach English abroad?

Popular destinations to teach English abroad include South Korea, China, Japan, Taiwan, Costa Rica, United Arab Emirates, Spain, Chile, and Thailand. Each country offers unique experiences, varying salaries and benefits, and cater to different preferences and lifestyles.

 

South Korea

Good benefits

$1100 - $4400

South Korea is an oldie but a goodie in this business. It’s certainly one of the best places to teach for those who are keen to work hard and earn a lot. 

Read More >

China

Plenty of teaching opportunities

$1200 - $3500

With a population of 1.2 billion people, teaching opportunities in China abound. In addition, many jobs offer perks such as free Mandarin lessons and visa fees.

Read More >

Japan

High salaries

$1700 - $3500

High salaries, free housing and flight reimbursements – what more can you ask for? Japan is a no-brainer when it comes to teaching English abroad.

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Thailand

Incredible experiences

$1000 - $1500

From picturesque beaches to the pulsating streets of Bangkok, Thailand’s low cost of living offers incredible travel experiences for every nomad.

Read More >

Spain

Good work-life balance

$1300 - $1600

Experience food, fiestas, and flamenco in Spain while doing what you love and getting paid for it.

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Taiwan

Saving opportunities

$1000 - $2000

Enjoy bubble tea and save up to $500-$700 a month with a high standard of living in one of the most bustling regions of Asia.

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Costa Rica

Welcoming hospitality

$700 - $1000

Unmatched tropical beauty and a friendly welcome from its Tico population means Costa Rica’s popularity is only growing.

Read More >

United Arab Emirates

Affluent lifestyle

$1800 - $5000

Tax-free salaries, the opportunity to experience its multicultural society and warm climates – the UAE is one of the fastest-growing TEFL destinations!

Read More >

Chile

Laid-back atmosphere

$1000 - $1200

The world’s longest country, Chile is a geographically-diverse land known for its breathtaking beauty and laid-back culture.

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Vietnam

Relaxed island-style lifestyle

$1100 - $1800

With its low cost of living, tantalising cuisine, and warm and hospitable locals, Vietnam is a tropical paradise.

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Mexico

Bustling city-life

$400 - $1000

Mexico is filled with rich Aztec and Mayan history. Living in Mexico is cheaper than almost 80% of countries worldwide.

Read More >

Colombia

Lively, passionate and culturally diverse

$500 - $1000

Colombia is a special place because of the vibrant people, culture, nature and food.

Read More >

With all these options, how do you know where you should go? The more you know about a particular country, the easier it’ll be to decide whether you’d like to teach there or not. 

What are the basic requirements for teaching English abroad?

You can’t teach English without a strong command of the language. Neither can you teach abroad without the right documentation. The basic requirements like these are the bare minimum you need to qualify for TEFL jobs abroad

 

Be fluent in English

Being fluent doesn’t mean you have to be a native speaker. Many countries - like Thailand, Cambodia, Turkey and China - allow qualified non-native teachers to teach English in their countries.

Be TEFL certified

Getting TEFL certified demonstrates to potential employers that you have received training in teaching English as a foreign language, which gives you an edge over other candidates who don't have such certification.

Bachelor's degree

Not all countries require a degree, but having one significantly increases your chances of finding a teaching job abroad. Some of the countries that don’t require a degree include Costa Rica, Spain, Argentina and Mexico.

Valid passport/visa

It goes without saying that in order to travel and teach abroad you’ll need correct travel documents. For some countries, only a passport might do but for others you’ll also need a travel visa.

Once you get over these hurdles, the rest is fairly easy to navigate. From researching teaching programs to applying for a visa, there are many resources available online to guide you through the process.

Do you need a visa to teach English abroad?

Yes, a visa is typically needed to teach English abroad. In certain Asian and Latin American countries (e.g. Taiwan), you can enter on a tourist visa and apply for a work permit in-country. However, in other regions, like Western Europe, obtaining sponsorship from the school is necessary before applying for a visa.

Some countries may require additional documents, like a background check, health certificate or even drug test, before granting a work visa.

 

Asia

In some Asian countries, like China and South Korea, you’ll have to arrange your work visa pre-departure. In others, like Taiwan, it’s possible to enter on a tourist visa and apply for a work permit while there. 

For Thailand and Vietnam you’ll need a work permit sponsored by an employer. You can still enter on a tourist visa and apply for a work permit.

Europe

It’s easy to obtain a work visa in the EU if you’re from a EU member country. Obtaining a work visa in the EU typically requires sponsorship from the hiring school and this process can be timely and costly. 

But there are workarounds!  You can get a student visa which allows you to work part-time while you are enrolled in a study programme.

South America

Latin and South America are known for relaxed visa requirements. For many western countries, you can request a tourist visa on arrival and these are typically valid for up to six months. Once you’ve secured a position, you can apply for a working visa.

Africa

For volunteer programs or short-term contracts, working on a tourist or temporary visa is allowed. Official work visas are quite difficult to get.
Longer contracts of a year or more will require your employer to sponsor you for a work visa. Here you are required to provide proof of your university degree, TEFL certification, teaching experience or English fluency level (if you aren’t a native English speaker).

Do I need teaching experience to teach abroad?

While teaching experience can help secure a job more quickly, it’s not always required. Having teaching experience is almost certainly going to help you land a job faster, but many schools and programs are willing to consider candidates without prior teaching experience, as long as they have the necessary qualifications and skills.

There are other ways you can jumpstart your TEFL career and gain teaching experience:

 

 

Volunteer teaching

Volunteer teaching positions are a great way of bulking up a TEFL resume. Most employers ask for a 120-hour TEFL certificate and fluency in English from their applicants to be considered. Remember, there’s also the option of volunteer teaching English online!

Combined TEFL course

Our 168-hour combined TEFL course includes a 10 hour in-person classroom experience. On this course you teach EFL lessons in an authentic TEFL environment. This a great way of showing an employer you have the ability to conduct lessons and manage a classroom. In TEFL, experience is king!

Internship programmes

Internship programmes are a great way of kickstarting a TEFL career. These positions involve continuous in-country support for everything from your flights to your SIM card, and give you an opportunity to socialise with other TEFL teachers abroad!

Which TEFL certification is best for teaching abroad?

To put yourself in the best position to teach English abroad, it’s important to have a teaching qualification such as TEFL, which is required by most teaching positions. Confused by all the different options? No worries. Let’s break it down for you.

Different TEFL certificates have different uses:

 

Level 3 - 120 hours

Most employers ask for a minimum of 120 hours of TEFL training. It’s ideal for those who want to teach in a more casual situation, such as volunteer teaching, teaching private students, and some online teaching.

Level 5 - 168 hours

The TEFL Academy’s online Level 5 TEFL course is the perfect qualification for applying for formal English teaching work. Giving teachers a 168-hour diploma, the course is ideal for full-time teaching jobs.

Combined Level 5 - 168 hours

The TEFL Academy’s Combined Level 5 TEFL course is the perfect way of taking your accreditation further with a 10-hour teaching practicum. It equips you with the essential skills to teach English as a foreign language.

Can I teach abroad without a degree?

Yes, you can teach English abroad without a degree, but options may be limited. Some countries and programs have more flexible requirements, making it possible for individuals without degrees to secure teaching positions. 

Here are some countries where you can teach without a degree:

 

Spain

$1300 - $1600

Spain allows teaching without a degree, but non-Europeans will need to navigate challenging visa requirements.

Read More >

Argentina

$700 - $1500

Native speakers only need a TEFL certification to find high-paying teaching jobs in Argentina.

Read More >

Mexico

$400 - $1000

In Mexico, you can get a work permit with a professional-level TEFL certification and fluency in English.

Read More >

Costa Rica

$700 - $1000

The pay is lower in Costa Rica but so is the cost of living. Most teachers supplement their income with teaching online.

Read More >

If you’re passionate about teaching and willing to pursue opportunities abroad, the lack of a degree won’t stand in your way!

Can I teach English as a non-native speaker?

Yes, you can teach English as a non-native speaker. However, you have to prove a high level of English proficiency first. Being a native speaker (i.e. coming from USA, UK, Canada, South Africa, New Zealand, Australia, or Ireland) is preferred by some schools and programs. If you’re not a native speaker, you can prove your English skills through an exam like IELTS.

Here are some popular places you can teach abroad as a non-native speaker:

 

China

$1200 - $3500

While you’ll find it harder as a non-native speaker, it’s very much possible if you focus on less saturated markets like Tier 2 or Tier 3 cities (e.g. Xi’an).

Read More >

Turkey

$600 - $1600

Turkey is another country where you can teach English as a non-native English speaker. You’ll jump a few hoops but it is possible to land a job as a non-native speaker.

Read More >

There are different ways to prove your fluency. Having a degree in an English-medium university is one way. Or you can prove you’re at a C1 level or above on a test such as IELTS.

To stand a better chance as a non-native speaker, you need to be TEFL-certified. With the right qualifications, experience and passion for teaching, there is no stopping you from fulfilling your dreams of teaching abroad.

Do I need to purchase my own healthcare insurance?

Health insurance is mostly offered as part of your compensation package. That being said, you’ll most likely have to pay a portion, while your employer pays the majority. You should also know that health insurance won’t cover GP visits or medication, you’ll have to cough that up yourself (excuse the pun!). For countries whose national healthcare programs are not that great, purchasing private health insurance is recommended but could prove costly. 

Public healthcare insurance

This is provided as a public service in some countries. It covers basic medical expenses such as doctor visits, hospital stays, and prescription medication.

Private healthcare insurance

Although more expensive, it covers a wider range of medical expenses, including elective procedures. You may choose your own doctor or hospital.

Employer-provided insurance

This is a common benefit offered by many companies. It includes health, dental, and vision insurance. Coverage and employee contributions can vary.

Do I need travel insurance?

Travel insurance is not mandatory to have, but comes highly recommended. Before your healthcare kicks in, you have no safety blanket to ensure your health and travel needs are met if an emergency arises. Rather safe than sorry, as our moms always used to say.

Here are some examples of what may be covered by your travel insurance:

 

Emergency medical services

If you become ill or injured while travelling, travel insurance can help cover the costs of medical treatment.

Travel delay/cancellation

If your travel is delayed or cancelled due to unforeseen circumstances, travel insurance may provide coverage for related expenses.

Lost or stolen luggage

If your luggage or personal belongings are lost, stolen, or damaged while travelling, travel insurance can help cover the cost of replacing them.

How much start-up capital do I need to teach abroad?

Start-up costs include more than the obvious flight costs. Remember that you’ll only be paid a few weeks or even a month after you start your job, so you need to support yourself until your first paycheque lands in your bank account. These are the start-up costs you can expect.

 

TEFL certification

Start-up costs include more than the obvious flight costs. Remember that you’ll only be paid a few weeks or even a month after you start your job, so you need to support yourself until your first paycheque lands in your bank account. These are the start-up costs you can expect.

Document fees

A TEFL course costs between $100 and $500 for online courses but can go as high as $1,000 for in-person TEFL courses. Be sure not to fall for cheap TEFL courses.

Flight ticket

Flight prices will be different depending on where you are flying from and where you’re going but you shouldn’t pay no more than $1,500 for most flights.

Living expenses

Let’s take a look at the average monthly cost of living in a few top TEFL locations – South Korea: $800 -$2,000, China: $600 -$1,000, Japan: $1,100 – $2,200.

What are the requirements to apply for English teaching positions?

Requirements for teaching positions vary from job to job and country to country. However, there are some basic requirements, such as having a strong command of the English language, that you just can’t skip. Others, like a Bachelor’s degree and TEFL certification, might not always be required but they will always set you apart from the rest – even in countries where they’re not mandatory.

English proficiency

Requirements for teaching positions vary from job to job and country to country. However, there are some basic requirements, such as having a strong command of the English language, that you just can’t skip. Some, like Bachelor’s degree and TEFL certification, might not always be required but they will always set you apart from the rest – even in countries where they’re not mandatory.

Work visa

The higher-paying jobs, in any location, will prefer a native English speaker.

Locations that are not sticklers for native English speakers include: Chile, Argentina, Spain, Cambodia and Mongolia. Being fluent in English will suffice.

TEFL certification

99.99 % of TEFL jobs abroad require you to have a minimum of a Level 3 (120-hour) TEFL certificate. The certification becomes especially important when you have no teaching experience or degree.

Bachelor’s degree

The top-paying TEFL teaching jobs are usually in private schools, universities, and government-funded programs. They ask for a minimum of a Bachelor’s degree in any subject. Here is a list of countries that don’t require you to have a degree: Cambodia, Costa Rica, Spain, Argentina, Mexico and Myanmar.

Criminal record check

These countries require you to pass a background check to receive a visa:

South Korea, Thailand, China, Taiwan, Vietnam, Japan, Cambodia, Indonesia, Hong Kong.

Teaching experience

You can find a job in any location without having any teaching experience. All you need is to have completed a TEFL course that preferably includes practical teaching.

However, in some countries, like UAE, teaching experience is a requirement.

What types of English teaching jobs are available abroad?

There are a wide range of English teaching jobs available abroad: government school, private school, international school, langauge school, university, kindergarten – and that’s just a few! Private tutoring and online teaching is a popular option for teachers to gain extra income, while teaching in-company is possible in some countries. And don’t forget about summer camps or short-term teaching stints!

Let’s look at the different English teaching jobs available abroad:

 

Private language schools

These are the most common types of English teaching jobs available abroad. They cater to students of all ages and levels, and teachers can work after school hours and on weekends.

International schools

International schools are private schools that offer a curriculum based on an international education system such as the International Baccalaureate (IB) or Cambridge International Examinations (CIE). These schools often require you to have teaching qualifications and experience.

Public schools

Public schools in some countries hire native English speakers to teach English as a foreign language. These positions are usually found in primary or secondary schools and require teachers to have a degree.

Universities

Many universities around the world offer English language courses and hire TEFL teachers to teach these courses. These positions often require a Master’s degree or a PhD in a related field. They are very competitive.

Business English

Many companies around the world require their employees to have a good command of English. Teachers who specialise in teaching Business English can find employment in corporate training departments or at language schools that offer Business English courses.

Online teaching

Online teaching has become an increasingly popular option. You need a TEFL certificate and degree in most cases. If you are an independent online English teacher, you are able to set your own rates. The higher your qualifications and the more experience you have, the more you can charge.

Volunteering

Don’t want to commit to a full-time job? Volunteering offers short contracts of anywhere from a few weeks to a few months. Volunteer positions are in schools, orphanages, and community centres around the world.

Summer camps

During the summer months, many countries offer summer camps for English language learners. These can be for a few weeks or a few months. Popular countries for summer camps are the UK, the US, Thailand, Italy and Spain. TEFL teachers are needed to teach English but also lead extra-curricular activities like Art or sports.

How competitive is the job market for teaching English abroad?

The competitiveness of the job market for teaching English abroad varies depending on several factors, including your location, qualifications and experience, and the demand for English language instruction in the country.

Here are the most popular TEFL markets:

 

Asia

– China, Japan, South Korea, Thailand, Vietnam and Taiwan

Asia has a range of different TEFL options. You can work long hours and save your cents in South Korea, or live a good life in Thailand – not earning a lot but not spending a lot either. Asia has something to offer everyone.

Europe

– Spain, Italy and France

The job market can be quite competitive, particularly in Western European countries where English language proficiency is already high. EU citizens are preferred due to visa restrictions.

Latin America

– Mexico, Costa Rica and Argentina

There is a high demand for English language instruction in urban areas, and competition for jobs is moderate to high.

Africa

– Egypt and Morocco

The demand for TEFL teachers is high, particularly in urban areas. However, the job market can be competitive due to the number of qualified applicants.

Which countries have a high demand for English teachers?

China, South Korea, and Japan are all countries which have large numbers of students who are eager to learn English and have a strong education system that values English proficiency. Other countries with a high demand for ESL teachers include Taiwan, Vietnam and Thailand. 

But TEFL is not restricted to Asia! The US, the UK, Spain, Italy, the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Brazil and Argentina all have thriving TEFL industries – which means TEFL jobs!

 

China

$1200 - $3500

English teachers are in high demand in China due to its economic growth and the abundance of English language learners.

Read More >

South Korea

$1100 - $4400

English proficiency is highly valued in South Korea and is seen as essential for international communication, education, and business.

Read More >

Japan

$1700 - $3500

With low English proficiency, Japan has a high demand for English teachers throughout the country, making it a great destination for newcomers.

Read More >

Taiwan

$1000 - $2000

Taiwan’s emphasis on English education, along with parents’ investment in their children’s English education, has led to a high demand for TEFL teachers.

Read More >

Thailand

$1000 - $1500

Thailand’s tourism industry creates a high demand for English teachers. Its easy-going lifestyle makes it a popular destination for TEFL teachers.

Read More >

Vietnam

$1100 - $1800

TEFL in Vietnam is a fairly new industry and has grown vastly in the last few years, due to the large number of language schools that have opened.

Read More >

What is the average salary for English teachers abroad?

In the most competitive countries, English teachers abroad can earn anywhere between $2,000 – $5,000. The average salary for English teachers abroad may vary based on factors such as the country of employment, level of experience, and qualifications.

Have a look at some common benefits and average salary for a few different countries below:

 

South Korea

$1100 - $4400

Benefits: May include free housing or a housing allowance, airfare reimbursement, and paid vacation time

Read More >

China

$1200 - $3500

Benefits: May include paid vacation time, health insurance, and opportunities for professional development

Read More >

Japan

$1700 - $3500

Benefits: May include free housing or a housing allowance, airfare reimbursement, and paid vacation time

Read More >

Taiwan

$1000 - $2000

Benefits: May include health insurance, paid vacation time, and opportunities for professional development.

Read More >

Which countries pay the highest salaries?

South Korea, the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Japan consistently rank as the countries which pay the highest teaching salaries. Other top-paying countries are China, Taiwan and Kazakhstan. But remember, you can’t only look at the number on your paycheque. You also need to take the cost of living and benefits into account to truly understand how much you’ll be earning.

South Korea

$1100 - $4400

South Korea remains one of the best TEFL destinations for making money. The country has an emphasis on hard work, but the long days are often rewarded with benefits such as free accommodation and air-fare.

Read More >

Saudi Arabia

$2600 - $4000

The UAE has become another TEFL destination renowned for its competitive salaries. Teachers earn between $1,800 – $5,000, with earnings in the country being tax-free. Plus you’ll receive flights and accommodation.

Read More >

Saudi Arabia

$2600 - $4000

Another desert hotspot is Saudi Arabia. They offer compensation packages which are just as attractive as the UAE without strict teaching requirements. Salaries are $2,500 – $5,000 a month, with flights and accommodation included.

Read More >

Japan

$1700 - $3500

Tokyo, Osaka and Kyoto are the hotspots for teaching English in Japan. You can expect to earn from $1,800 – $2,200 a month. Many packages include benefits such as flights, accommodation and transport.

Read More >

Taiwan

$1000 - $2000

Another Asian gem for TEFL teachers is Taiwan. You will earn $3,000 – $4,000 a month. Unlike the other countries on this list, this usually won’t include accommodation though it may include a reimbursement of flights.

Read More >

Which countries have the lowest cost of living?

Vietnam, Thailand, Ecuador and Mexico are a few countries which have the lowest cost of living. Even a lower salary allows you to live comfortably in these countries. If you can snag a high-paying job then you’re scoring big time!

Vietnam

$1100 - $1800

Vietnam is one of the most popular countries for teaching English abroad, and its low cost of living means it is possible for TEFL teachers to save up to $600 a month.

Read More >

Cambodia

$700 - $1000

You can expect to pay around $500-$800 a month for basic living expenses. Rent is one of the biggest expenses, with a one-bedroom apartment costing around $200-$300 a month.

Read More >

Thailand

$1000 - $1500

The cost of living in Thailand is remarkably lower than in other countries. Generally speaking, your cost of living in Thailand is approximately $435 – $750 a month.  A simple apartment will only cost you $100!

Read More >

Ecuador

$500 - $800

Outside of Asia, Ecuador is known for its exceptionally low cost of living. TEFL salaries for teaching university and business students can range between $500-$800, but when an apartment only costs $425 a month, there is ample room for saving.

Read More >

What are typical expenses when teaching abroad?

Living costs for teaching abroad tend to include the costs for accommodation, food, leisure, healthcare, cell phone and internet, and transport.

Accommodation

Costs vary widely depending on the country and location. In some countries, a basic 1-bedroom apartment outside of the city centre can cost around $300 a month. This will naturally be higher for apartments in city centres.

Utilities

Typical expenses for utilities vary depending on the country and the specific living situation. Utilities include water, gas and electricity.

Groceries

In some countries, it may be more affordable to eat out than to cook at home, but this varies depending on the location.

Gym membership

Some gyms may require a contract or membership fee, so it’s important to research options before committing.

Personal care

Toiletries, haircuts, and beauty products vary widely depending on the country and location. Some countries don’t have the same products on offer as at home so you may want to take some of your faves with you.

Cell phone and internet

Setting up your cell phone and internet are on the top of your to-do list when you arrive in a country. You will need a new sim card and to choose between prepaid or taking out a contract, which will prove to be cheaper if you are planning on staying for more than a year.

Healthcare

Another costly expense you can expect is medical care. GP visits and medication are not covered by most health insurances, so this will come out of your own pocket.

Transport

Transport is not a huge expense, but getting a public transport monthly pass is a good idea if you plan on travelling a lot within and outside the city. One-way tickets shouldn’t be too costly.

Can I save money while teaching English abroad?

Absolutely. If saving money is your goal for teaching English abroad, then it’s certainly possible to make it happen. Depending on the cost of living and the choice of lifestyle they have living abroad, it’s possible for TEFL teachers to save between $300 – $1,000 a month.

Summer camps

If you have a TEFL job that runs year-round, you may be able to take time off during the summer to work at a summer camp. Be sure to check with your employer to make sure that taking time off is possible and does not violate your contract.

Alternatively, you may be able to find a summer camp job that allows you to work on weekends or during your days off from your regular job.

Private tutoring

Many TEFL teachers supplement their income by teaching private lessons – as a side hustle. You can set your own hourly rate and your own schedule.

Online teaching

The online teaching gig is the most convenient way to make some extra cash and save. That being said, pay can be quite low ($9/hour or less) for those who are not citizens of the US, UK, Australia, New Zealand, Canada and Ireland. However, many online teachers earn $30 to $40 an hour from company-based incentives or bonuses or working independently.

Start your TEFL journey with #1 rated TEFL course provider

By beginning your TEFL journey with The TEFL Academy, you can benefit from our comprehensive and flexible courses, expert instructors, and ongoing support, all of which can set you up for success as a TEFL teacher in your TEFL journey.

Our courses are accredited in both the US and the UK and 200,000+ students have already taken our courses and are now changing lives across the globe.

We have a number of online TEFL courses perfectly suited for your needs! You can do a Level 3 TEFL course or a Level 5 TEFL Diploma with us. If you choose our Level 3 TEFL course you will get a 120-hour TEFL certification. This is an online-only course and a great option if you want casual work teaching English, like volunteer teaching, teaching while travelling, and online teaching.

Choosing our Level 5 TEFL course will give you a 168-hour TEFL certification. This course is the best option if you are looking for contracted teaching jobs, government teaching programmes, or positions in universities.

So, what are you waiting for? Join the thousands of successful TEFL teachers who have kick-started their career with us and start making a difference in the world today!

Introduction

Keen on travelling and living in a foreign country? Teaching English as a foreign language to non-native speakers is the perfect way to do that! Teaching English as a foreign language (or TEFL, as it’s usually called) isn’t just reserved for teachers.

According to Statista, English is the most widely spoken language in the world - spoken by 1.5 billion people. As many English speakers as there are, there are just as many, if not more, learners - 1 in every 4 people in the world are currently learning English

Positions teaching English abroad are an exciting way to combine your love of travel with your passion for education while making a positive impact on the lives of others.

In this beginner’s guide to teaching English abroad, we’ll look at everything you need to know, including how to get started on this journey!

Why teach English abroad?

The fact that you’re here means this question is already on your mind. Now, allow us to answer your question with a couple of questions of ours:

  1. Would you like a fresh start and the chance to challenge yourself in new and exciting ways to get out of your comfort zone?
  2. How about making a difference in the lives of others while making memories that will last a lifetime?
  3. Any chance you’d like to earn a stable income while fulfilling your wanderlust?

If you’ve answered yes to the above questions, then teaching abroad is an opportunity you don’t want to miss. 

Will it be easy? Not exactly! Will it be worth it? You bet!

Where to teach English abroad?

Popular destinations to teach English abroad include South Korea, China, Japan, Taiwan, Costa Rica, United Arab Emirates, Spain, Chile, and Thailand. Each country offers unique experiences, varying salaries and benefits, and cater to different preferences and lifestyles.

 

South Korea

Good benefits

$1100 - $4400

South Korea is an oldie but a goodie in this business. It’s certainly one of the best places to teach for those who are keen to work hard and earn a lot. 

Read More >

China

Plenty of teaching opportunities

$1200 - $3500

With a population of 1.2 billion people, teaching opportunities in China abound. In addition, many jobs offer perks such as free Mandarin lessons and visa fees.

Read More >

Japan

High salaries

$1700 - $3500

High salaries, free housing and flight reimbursements – what more can you ask for? Japan is a no-brainer when it comes to teaching English abroad.

Read More >

Thailand

Incredible experiences

$1000 - $1500

From picturesque beaches to the pulsating streets of Bangkok, Thailand’s low cost of living offers incredible travel experiences for every nomad.

Read More >

Spain

Good work-life balance

$1300 - $1600

Experience food, fiestas, and flamenco in Spain while doing what you love and getting paid for it.

Read More >

Taiwan

Saving opportunities

$1000 - $2000

Enjoy bubble tea and save up to $500-$700 a month with a high standard of living in one of the most bustling regions of Asia.

Read More >

Costa Rica

Welcoming hospitality

$700 - $1000

Unmatched tropical beauty and a friendly welcome from its Tico population means Costa Rica’s popularity is only growing.

Read More >

United Arab Emirates

Affluent lifestyle

$1800 - $5000

Tax-free salaries, the opportunity to experience its multicultural society and warm climates – the UAE is one of the fastest-growing TEFL destinations!

Read More >

Chile

Laid-back atmosphere

$1000 - $1200

The world’s longest country, Chile is a geographically-diverse land known for its breathtaking beauty and laid-back culture.

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Vietnam

Relaxed island-style lifestyle

$1100 - $1800

With its low cost of living, tantalising cuisine, and warm and hospitable locals, Vietnam is a tropical paradise.

Read More >

Mexico

Bustling city-life

$400 - $1000

Mexico is filled with rich Aztec and Mayan history. Living in Mexico is cheaper than almost 80% of countries worldwide.

Read More >

Colombia

Lively, passionate and culturally diverse

$500 - $1000

Colombia is a special place because of the vibrant people, culture, nature and food.

Read More >

With all these options, how do you know where you should go? The more you know about a particular country, the easier it’ll be to decide whether you’d like to teach there or not. 

What are the basic requirements for teaching English abroad?

You can’t teach English without a strong command of the language. Neither can you teach abroad without the right documentation. The basic requirements like these are the bare minimum you need to qualify for TEFL jobs abroad

 

Be fluent in English

Being fluent doesn’t mean you have to be a native speaker. Many countries - like Thailand, Cambodia, Turkey and China - allow qualified non-native teachers to teach English in their countries.

Be TEFL certified

Getting TEFL certified demonstrates to potential employers that you have received training in teaching English as a foreign language, which gives you an edge over other candidates who don't have such certification.

Bachelor's degree

Not all countries require a degree, but having one significantly increases your chances of finding a teaching job abroad. Some of the countries that don’t require a degree include Costa Rica, Spain, Argentina and Mexico.

Valid passport/visa

It goes without saying that in order to travel and teach abroad you’ll need correct travel documents. For some countries, only a passport might do but for others you’ll also need a travel visa.

Once you get over these hurdles, the rest is fairly easy to navigate. From researching teaching programs to applying for a visa, there are many resources available online to guide you through the process.

Do you need a visa to teach English abroad?

Yes, a visa is typically needed to teach English abroad. In certain Asian and Latin American countries (e.g. Taiwan), you can enter on a tourist visa and apply for a work permit in-country. However, in other regions, like Western Europe, obtaining sponsorship from the school is necessary before applying for a visa.

Some countries may require additional documents, like a background check, health certificate or even drug test, before granting a work visa.

 

Asia

In some Asian countries, like China and South Korea, you’ll have to arrange your work visa pre-departure. In others, like Taiwan, it’s possible to enter on a tourist visa and apply for a work permit while there. 

For Thailand and Vietnam you’ll need a work permit sponsored by an employer. You can still enter on a tourist visa and apply for a work permit.

Europe

It’s easy to obtain a work visa in the EU if you’re from a EU member country. Obtaining a work visa in the EU typically requires sponsorship from the hiring school and this process can be timely and costly. 

But there are workarounds!  You can get a student visa which allows you to work part-time while you are enrolled in a study programme.

South America

Latin and South America are known for relaxed visa requirements. For many western countries, you can request a tourist visa on arrival and these are typically valid for up to six months. Once you’ve secured a position, you can apply for a working visa.

Africa

For volunteer programs or short-term contracts, working on a tourist or temporary visa is allowed. Official work visas are quite difficult to get.
Longer contracts of a year or more will require your employer to sponsor you for a work visa. Here you are required to provide proof of your university degree, TEFL certification, teaching experience or English fluency level (if you aren’t a native English speaker).

Do I need teaching experience to teach abroad?

While teaching experience can help secure a job more quickly, it’s not always required. Having teaching experience is almost certainly going to help you land a job faster, but many schools and programs are willing to consider candidates without prior teaching experience, as long as they have the necessary qualifications and skills.

There are other ways you can jumpstart your TEFL career and gain teaching experience:

 

 

Volunteer teaching

Volunteer teaching positions are a great way of bulking up a TEFL resume. Most employers ask for a 120-hour TEFL certificate and fluency in English from their applicants to be considered. Remember, there’s also the option of volunteer teaching English online!

Combined TEFL course

Our 168-hour combined TEFL course includes a 10 hour in-person classroom experience. On this course you teach EFL lessons in an authentic TEFL environment. This a great way of showing an employer you have the ability to conduct lessons and manage a classroom. In TEFL, experience is king!

Internship programmes

Internship programmes are a great way of kickstarting a TEFL career. These positions involve continuous in-country support for everything from your flights to your SIM card, and give you an opportunity to socialise with other TEFL teachers abroad!

Which TEFL certification is best for teaching abroad?

To put yourself in the best position to teach English abroad, it’s important to have a teaching qualification such as TEFL, which is required by most teaching positions. Confused by all the different options? No worries. Let’s break it down for you.

Different TEFL certificates have different uses:

 

Level 3 - 120 hours

Most employers ask for a minimum of 120 hours of TEFL training. It’s ideal for those who want to teach in a more casual situation, such as volunteer teaching, teaching private students, and some online teaching.

Level 5 - 168 hours

The TEFL Academy’s online Level 5 TEFL course is the perfect qualification for applying for formal English teaching work. Giving teachers a 168-hour diploma, the course is ideal for full-time teaching jobs.

Combined Level 5 - 168 hours

The TEFL Academy’s Combined Level 5 TEFL course is the perfect way of taking your accreditation further with a 10-hour teaching practicum. It equips you with the essential skills to teach English as a foreign language.

Can I teach abroad without a degree?

Yes, you can teach English abroad without a degree, but options may be limited. Some countries and programs have more flexible requirements, making it possible for individuals without degrees to secure teaching positions. 

Here are some countries where you can teach without a degree:

 

Spain

$1300 - $1600

Spain allows teaching without a degree, but non-Europeans will need to navigate challenging visa requirements.

Read More >

Argentina

$700 - $1500

Native speakers only need a TEFL certification to find high-paying teaching jobs in Argentina.

Read More >

Mexico

$400 - $1000

In Mexico, you can get a work permit with a professional-level TEFL certification and fluency in English.

Read More >

Costa Rica

$700 - $1000

The pay is lower in Costa Rica but so is the cost of living. Most teachers supplement their income with teaching online.

Read More >

If you’re passionate about teaching and willing to pursue opportunities abroad, the lack of a degree won’t stand in your way!

Can I teach English as a non-native speaker?

Yes, you can teach English as a non-native speaker. However, you have to prove a high level of English proficiency first. Being a native speaker (i.e. coming from USA, UK, Canada, South Africa, New Zealand, Australia, or Ireland) is preferred by some schools and programs. If you’re not a native speaker, you can prove your English skills through an exam like IELTS.

Here are some popular places you can teach abroad as a non-native speaker:

 

China

$1200 - $3500

While you’ll find it harder as a non-native speaker, it’s very much possible if you focus on less saturated markets like Tier 2 or Tier 3 cities (e.g. Xi’an).

Read More >

Turkey

$600 - $1600

Turkey is another country where you can teach English as a non-native English speaker. You’ll jump a few hoops but it is possible to land a job as a non-native speaker.

Read More >

There are different ways to prove your fluency. Having a degree in an English-medium university is one way. Or you can prove you’re at a C1 level or above on a test such as IELTS.

To stand a better chance as a non-native speaker, you need to be TEFL-certified. With the right qualifications, experience and passion for teaching, there is no stopping you from fulfilling your dreams of teaching abroad.

Do I need to purchase my own healthcare insurance?

Health insurance is mostly offered as part of your compensation package. That being said, you’ll most likely have to pay a portion, while your employer pays the majority. You should also know that health insurance won’t cover GP visits or medication, you’ll have to cough that up yourself (excuse the pun!). For countries whose national healthcare programs are not that great, purchasing private health insurance is recommended but could prove costly. 

Public healthcare insurance

This is provided as a public service in some countries. It covers basic medical expenses such as doctor visits, hospital stays, and prescription medication.

Private healthcare insurance

Although more expensive, it covers a wider range of medical expenses, including elective procedures. You may choose your own doctor or hospital.

Employer-provided insurance

This is a common benefit offered by many companies. It includes health, dental, and vision insurance. Coverage and employee contributions can vary.

Do I need travel insurance?

Travel insurance is not mandatory to have, but comes highly recommended. Before your healthcare kicks in, you have no safety blanket to ensure your health and travel needs are met if an emergency arises. Rather safe than sorry, as our moms always used to say.

Here are some examples of what may be covered by your travel insurance:

 

Emergency medical services

If you become ill or injured while travelling, travel insurance can help cover the costs of medical treatment.

Travel delay/cancellation

If your travel is delayed or cancelled due to unforeseen circumstances, travel insurance may provide coverage for related expenses.

Lost or stolen luggage

If your luggage or personal belongings are lost, stolen, or damaged while travelling, travel insurance can help cover the cost of replacing them.

How much start-up capital do I need to teach abroad?

Start-up costs include more than the obvious flight costs. Remember that you’ll only be paid a few weeks or even a month after you start your job, so you need to support yourself until your first paycheque lands in your bank account. These are the start-up costs you can expect.

 

TEFL certification

Start-up costs include more than the obvious flight costs. Remember that you’ll only be paid a few weeks or even a month after you start your job, so you need to support yourself until your first paycheque lands in your bank account. These are the start-up costs you can expect.

Document fees

A TEFL course costs between $100 and $500 for online courses but can go as high as $1,000 for in-person TEFL courses. Be sure not to fall for cheap TEFL courses.

Flight ticket

Flight prices will be different depending on where you are flying from and where you’re going but you shouldn’t pay no more than $1,500 for most flights.

Living expenses

Let’s take a look at the average monthly cost of living in a few top TEFL locations – South Korea: $800 -$2,000, China: $600 -$1,000, Japan: $1,100 – $2,200.

What are the requirements to apply for English teaching positions?

Requirements for teaching positions vary from job to job and country to country. However, there are some basic requirements, such as having a strong command of the English language, that you just can’t skip. Others, like a Bachelor’s degree and TEFL certification, might not always be required but they will always set you apart from the rest – even in countries where they’re not mandatory.

English proficiency

Requirements for teaching positions vary from job to job and country to country. However, there are some basic requirements, such as having a strong command of the English language, that you just can’t skip. Some, like Bachelor’s degree and TEFL certification, might not always be required but they will always set you apart from the rest – even in countries where they’re not mandatory.

Work visa

The higher-paying jobs, in any location, will prefer a native English speaker.

Locations that are not sticklers for native English speakers include: Chile, Argentina, Spain, Cambodia and Mongolia. Being fluent in English will suffice.

TEFL certification

99.99 % of TEFL jobs abroad require you to have a minimum of a Level 3 (120-hour) TEFL certificate. The certification becomes especially important when you have no teaching experience or degree.

Bachelor’s degree

The top-paying TEFL teaching jobs are usually in private schools, universities, and government-funded programs. They ask for a minimum of a Bachelor’s degree in any subject. Here is a list of countries that don’t require you to have a degree: Cambodia, Costa Rica, Spain, Argentina, Mexico and Myanmar.

Criminal record check

These countries require you to pass a background check to receive a visa:

South Korea, Thailand, China, Taiwan, Vietnam, Japan, Cambodia, Indonesia, Hong Kong.

Teaching experience

You can find a job in any location without having any teaching experience. All you need is to have completed a TEFL course that preferably includes practical teaching.

However, in some countries, like UAE, teaching experience is a requirement.

What types of English teaching jobs are available abroad?

There are a wide range of English teaching jobs available abroad: government school, private school, international school, langauge school, university, kindergarten – and that’s just a few! Private tutoring and online teaching is a popular option for teachers to gain extra income, while teaching in-company is possible in some countries. And don’t forget about summer camps or short-term teaching stints!

Let’s look at the different English teaching jobs available abroad:

 

Private language schools

These are the most common types of English teaching jobs available abroad. They cater to students of all ages and levels, and teachers can work after school hours and on weekends.

International schools

International schools are private schools that offer a curriculum based on an international education system such as the International Baccalaureate (IB) or Cambridge International Examinations (CIE). These schools often require you to have teaching qualifications and experience.

Public schools

Public schools in some countries hire native English speakers to teach English as a foreign language. These positions are usually found in primary or secondary schools and require teachers to have a degree.

Universities

Many universities around the world offer English language courses and hire TEFL teachers to teach these courses. These positions often require a Master’s degree or a PhD in a related field. They are very competitive.

Business English

Many companies around the world require their employees to have a good command of English. Teachers who specialise in teaching Business English can find employment in corporate training departments or at language schools that offer Business English courses.

Online teaching

Online teaching has become an increasingly popular option. You need a TEFL certificate and degree in most cases. If you are an independent online English teacher, you are able to set your own rates. The higher your qualifications and the more experience you have, the more you can charge.

Volunteering

Don’t want to commit to a full-time job? Volunteering offers short contracts of anywhere from a few weeks to a few months. Volunteer positions are in schools, orphanages, and community centres around the world.

Summer camps

During the summer months, many countries offer summer camps for English language learners. These can be for a few weeks or a few months. Popular countries for summer camps are the UK, the US, Thailand, Italy and Spain. TEFL teachers are needed to teach English but also lead extra-curricular activities like Art or sports.

How competitive is the job market for teaching English abroad?

The competitiveness of the job market for teaching English abroad varies depending on several factors, including your location, qualifications and experience, and the demand for English language instruction in the country.

Here are the most popular TEFL markets:

 

Asia

– China, Japan, South Korea, Thailand, Vietnam and Taiwan

Asia has a range of different TEFL options. You can work long hours and save your cents in South Korea, or live a good life in Thailand – not earning a lot but not spending a lot either. Asia has something to offer everyone.

Europe

– Spain, Italy and France

The job market can be quite competitive, particularly in Western European countries where English language proficiency is already high. EU citizens are preferred due to visa restrictions.

Latin America

– Mexico, Costa Rica and Argentina

There is a high demand for English language instruction in urban areas, and competition for jobs is moderate to high.

Africa

– Egypt and Morocco

The demand for TEFL teachers is high, particularly in urban areas. However, the job market can be competitive due to the number of qualified applicants.

Which countries have a high demand for English teachers?

China, South Korea, and Japan are all countries which have large numbers of students who are eager to learn English and have a strong education system that values English proficiency. Other countries with a high demand for ESL teachers include Taiwan, Vietnam and Thailand. 

But TEFL is not restricted to Asia! The US, the UK, Spain, Italy, the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Brazil and Argentina all have thriving TEFL industries – which means TEFL jobs!

 

China

$1200 - $3500

English teachers are in high demand in China due to its economic growth and the abundance of English language learners.

Read More >

South Korea

$1100 - $4400

English proficiency is highly valued in South Korea and is seen as essential for international communication, education, and business.

Read More >

Japan

$1700 - $3500

With low English proficiency, Japan has a high demand for English teachers throughout the country, making it a great destination for newcomers.

Read More >

Taiwan

$1000 - $2000

Taiwan’s emphasis on English education, along with parents’ investment in their children’s English education, has led to a high demand for TEFL teachers.

Read More >

Thailand

$1000 - $1500

Thailand’s tourism industry creates a high demand for English teachers. Its easy-going lifestyle makes it a popular destination for TEFL teachers.

Read More >

Vietnam

$1100 - $1800

TEFL in Vietnam is a fairly new industry and has grown vastly in the last few years, due to the large number of language schools that have opened.

Read More >

What is the average salary for English teachers abroad?

In the most competitive countries, English teachers abroad can earn anywhere between $2,000 – $5,000. The average salary for English teachers abroad may vary based on factors such as the country of employment, level of experience, and qualifications.

Have a look at some common benefits and average salary for a few different countries below:

 

South Korea

$1100 - $4400

Benefits: May include free housing or a housing allowance, airfare reimbursement, and paid vacation time

Read More >

China

$1200 - $3500

Benefits: May include paid vacation time, health insurance, and opportunities for professional development

Read More >

Japan

$1700 - $3500

Benefits: May include free housing or a housing allowance, airfare reimbursement, and paid vacation time

Read More >

Taiwan

$1000 - $2000

Benefits: May include health insurance, paid vacation time, and opportunities for professional development.

Read More >

Which countries pay the highest salaries?

South Korea, the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Japan consistently rank as the countries which pay the highest teaching salaries. Other top-paying countries are China, Taiwan and Kazakhstan. But remember, you can’t only look at the number on your paycheque. You also need to take the cost of living and benefits into account to truly understand how much you’ll be earning.

South Korea

$1100 - $4400

South Korea remains one of the best TEFL destinations for making money. The country has an emphasis on hard work, but the long days are often rewarded with benefits such as free accommodation and air-fare.

Read More >

Saudi Arabia

$2600 - $4000

The UAE has become another TEFL destination renowned for its competitive salaries. Teachers earn between $1,800 – $5,000, with earnings in the country being tax-free. Plus you’ll receive flights and accommodation.

Read More >

Saudi Arabia

$2600 - $4000

Another desert hotspot is Saudi Arabia. They offer compensation packages which are just as attractive as the UAE without strict teaching requirements. Salaries are $2,500 – $5,000 a month, with flights and accommodation included.

Read More >

Japan

$1700 - $3500

Tokyo, Osaka and Kyoto are the hotspots for teaching English in Japan. You can expect to earn from $1,800 – $2,200 a month. Many packages include benefits such as flights, accommodation and transport.

Read More >

Taiwan

$1000 - $2000

Another Asian gem for TEFL teachers is Taiwan. You will earn $3,000 – $4,000 a month. Unlike the other countries on this list, this usually won’t include accommodation though it may include a reimbursement of flights.

Read More >

Which countries have the lowest cost of living?

Vietnam, Thailand, Ecuador and Mexico are a few countries which have the lowest cost of living. Even a lower salary allows you to live comfortably in these countries. If you can snag a high-paying job then you’re scoring big time!

Vietnam

$1100 - $1800

Vietnam is one of the most popular countries for teaching English abroad, and its low cost of living means it is possible for TEFL teachers to save up to $600 a month.

Read More >

Cambodia

$700 - $1000

You can expect to pay around $500-$800 a month for basic living expenses. Rent is one of the biggest expenses, with a one-bedroom apartment costing around $200-$300 a month.

Read More >

Thailand

$1000 - $1500

The cost of living in Thailand is remarkably lower than in other countries. Generally speaking, your cost of living in Thailand is approximately $435 – $750 a month.  A simple apartment will only cost you $100!

Read More >

Ecuador

$500 - $800

Outside of Asia, Ecuador is known for its exceptionally low cost of living. TEFL salaries for teaching university and business students can range between $500-$800, but when an apartment only costs $425 a month, there is ample room for saving.

Read More >

What are typical expenses when teaching abroad?

Living costs for teaching abroad tend to include the costs for accommodation, food, leisure, healthcare, cell phone and internet, and transport.

Accommodation

Costs vary widely depending on the country and location. In some countries, a basic 1-bedroom apartment outside of the city centre can cost around $300 a month. This will naturally be higher for apartments in city centres.

Utilities

Typical expenses for utilities vary depending on the country and the specific living situation. Utilities include water, gas and electricity.

Groceries

In some countries, it may be more affordable to eat out than to cook at home, but this varies depending on the location.

Gym membership

Some gyms may require a contract or membership fee, so it’s important to research options before committing.

Personal care

Toiletries, haircuts, and beauty products vary widely depending on the country and location. Some countries don’t have the same products on offer as at home so you may want to take some of your faves with you.

Cell phone and internet

Setting up your cell phone and internet are on the top of your to-do list when you arrive in a country. You will need a new sim card and to choose between prepaid or taking out a contract, which will prove to be cheaper if you are planning on staying for more than a year.

Healthcare

Another costly expense you can expect is medical care. GP visits and medication are not covered by most health insurances, so this will come out of your own pocket.

Transport

Transport is not a huge expense, but getting a public transport monthly pass is a good idea if you plan on travelling a lot within and outside the city. One-way tickets shouldn’t be too costly.

Can I save money while teaching English abroad?

Absolutely. If saving money is your goal for teaching English abroad, then it’s certainly possible to make it happen. Depending on the cost of living and the choice of lifestyle they have living abroad, it’s possible for TEFL teachers to save between $300 – $1,000 a month.

Summer camps

If you have a TEFL job that runs year-round, you may be able to take time off during the summer to work at a summer camp. Be sure to check with your employer to make sure that taking time off is possible and does not violate your contract.

Alternatively, you may be able to find a summer camp job that allows you to work on weekends or during your days off from your regular job.

Private tutoring

Many TEFL teachers supplement their income by teaching private lessons – as a side hustle. You can set your own hourly rate and your own schedule.

Online teaching

The online teaching gig is the most convenient way to make some extra cash and save. That being said, pay can be quite low ($9/hour or less) for those who are not citizens of the US, UK, Australia, New Zealand, Canada and Ireland. However, many online teachers earn $30 to $40 an hour from company-based incentives or bonuses or working independently.

Start your TEFL journey with #1 rated TEFL course provider

By beginning your TEFL journey with The TEFL Academy, you can benefit from our comprehensive and flexible courses, expert instructors, and ongoing support, all of which can set you up for success as a TEFL teacher in your TEFL journey.

Our courses are accredited in both the US and the UK and 200,000+ students have already taken our courses and are now changing lives across the globe.

We have a number of online TEFL courses perfectly suited for your needs! You can do a Level 3 TEFL course or a Level 5 TEFL Diploma with us. If you choose our Level 3 TEFL course you will get a 120-hour TEFL certification. This is an online-only course and a great option if you want casual work teaching English, like volunteer teaching, teaching while travelling, and online teaching.

Choosing our Level 5 TEFL course will give you a 168-hour TEFL certification. This course is the best option if you are looking for contracted teaching jobs, government teaching programmes, or positions in universities.

So, what are you waiting for? Join the thousands of successful TEFL teachers who have kick-started their career with us and start making a difference in the world today!

Download the World TEFL Factbook

We have created a unique TEFL World Factbook of teaching abroad guides in over 100 countries to help TEFL teachers decide where in the world to teach English. Each country profile outlines everything a TEFL teacher would need to know including average pay, living costs, working environments and even the weather!

Download TEFL Factbook
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