Many people dream of spending a few years working and traveling abroad, but don’t know how to get started looking for overseas jobs. Anyone who is from a country where English is the native language has an inborn skill that is in high demand all over the world. Learning to effectively teach that skill is a simple process that almost anyone can complete.
Today’s globalized business environment demands that people in all industries be able to communicate in English. An American corporation may have branch offices in Mexico City and Bangkok. When the Mexico City office needs to communicate with the Bangkok office, the common language is English. The ability to speak English has become a necessity to professionals all over the world, and they are rushing to gain a working knowledge of English as a second language (ESL) in ever increasing numbers.
Teaching English as a Foreign Language
Native speakers of English are uniquely positioned to meet that demand. The first step is to take a Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) course or Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) course. Most TEFL/TESOL courses run from four to six weeks. Upon completion, the training institution will award a TEFL/TESOL certificate that certifies the holder has been trained to teach English to non-native speakers. Every quality job opening will ask for it.
There is a dizzying array of options when choosing a TEFL/TESOL course. The industry standard course is a 120-hour residential course that includes six hours of observed teaching practice. Jenny Johnson gives some insight to the various options in the Guardian article “How to choose a Tefl course.”
Employers usually won’t recognize weekend or Online TESOL Courses if it’s the applicant’s sole credential, but they are great as an introduction before doing a formal residential course, or in preparation for volunteer work.
The next step is to decide where in the world one would like to work. For those with a university degree to go with their TEFL/TESOL certificate, the world is their oyster. They will be able to find employment in any country in the world. The top choices are South Korea, Japan, and the Middle East where salaries top $3000 U.S. per month.
ESL teachers who do not have a degree have more limited choices, but ample opportunities are out there. Indonesia and China are the most popular choices. Expect a salary of about $1000 U.S. per month. That may seem low, but the cost of living in these countries is very low and a many teachers are living comfortably on that salary.
The Overseas Job Search
Two good places to begin a job search is TEFL.com and Daves ESL Café. They list jobs from all over the world. Dave’s ESL Café also has a free teacher forum that is a great place to interact with other teachers and overseas job seekers. Another excellent avenue is English First. Employing over 27,000 ESL teachers in more than 400 schools around the world, they are the largest private language school in the world and offer an excellent opportunity for new teachers.
It is very important to follow the instructions in the job posting completely. Labor laws vary widely around the world. It is very common for job postings specify gender, age, and even skin color, in addition to specific levels of education and experience requirements. There is no point in applying for a position for which the applicant does not meet the stated criteria.
The usual procedure requires applicants to scan the following documents and email them as their application package.
- TEFL/TESOL certificate
Although not usually specifically asked for, applicants should always include a cover letter that explains why they think they’ll be successful teaching English, why they think they’ll be happy living in the country they’ve applied to work in, and the value they will add to the institution.
If the recruiter likes the application, he will respond to set up a time for a telephone interview. The interview will delve deeper into the applicant’s motivations and intentions behind relocating to a country half way around the world. Interviewers are used to interviewing new teachers. The interviewer’s primary concerns are that the applicant will be able to cope with life in a foreign country and is the type of person the school will be able to work with and develop into a better teacher.
Overseas Job Offer
Following a successful phone interview, the school will make a formal job offer by return email. Once the offer is accepted, it’s a matter of finalizing things at home, buying an airline ticket, packing, and heading off into a brand new adventure teaching English as a Foreign Language.
Landing an overseas job is an answer to a dream for many people. It gives them an opportunity so few people ever get: the chance to live and work in a foreign culture and get a sense of what daily life is like for the citizens of that country. Native English speakers have much to offer and it’s fairly easy for them to get started. Almost any reasonably well educated, well-spoken individual can earn a TEFL/TESOL certificate, successfully complete the employment process, and be gainfully employed teaching English as a foreign language in a few short months after making the decision to do it.