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How to Become an ESL Teacher

Updated on June 2, 2015

Do you want to Teach English Abroad?

It can be a fun and exciting adventure to teach English overseas, filled with new experiences and people. You can learn and grow by experiencing a new culture and gain insight into your home that you never could unless you went overseas. It can also be an excellent way to travel and see part of the world that you've never been before.

While it's not that difficult to become an ESL Teacher, at home or abroad, but there are some qualifications that you will need to meet and some simple steps to follow in order to have a successful few years teaching abroad, or even making a career out of it. I've been an ESL Teacher in South Korea for 10 years, and have followed the ESL industry closely during that time. Read on my for advice on how to become an ESL Teacher and 5 simple steps to land that job that you want and start your adventure abroad!

1. Get a Bachelors degree

A bachelors degree in anything is the basic requirement in order to get a working visa in most countries. 10 or 20 years ago, it was easy enough to get a job without a bachelors degree in a lot of countries (especially China), but now most of those opportunities have dried up. If you plan to just teach abroad for a year or two as a bit of a break, then get your degree in what you plan your future career to be in. However, if you plan to teach English for a while, consider getting your degree in English, TESOL or Education and you'll find that many doors are opened to you. And if you want to continue on teaching ESL as your career, it's not a bad idea to do a Masters degree as well.

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2. Do a Celta Course

If you're serious about teaching English abroad, you should consider doing the Celta course. It's the most widely respected English teaching Certificate in the world and far more widely recognized than things like a TESOL or TEFL certificate. The quality of those courses vary widely, but the Celta is respected without exception. It takes a month to do it full-time, or about 4 months part-time. The Celta will open many doors for you in terms of employment and it will also make you a much better teacher so that you're able to actually help your students and make your employer happy. Happy students= a happy life for you teaching abroad.

Brush up on your skills before you Teach ESL

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3. Volunteer at home to get some teaching experience

It's best to get some experience in teaching at home, and especially in teaching English as a foreign or second language students to see if it's really for you before you go abroad. Many people think it's pretty easy and you just have to talk to the students, but it's actually a lot more difficult than that and not easy to actually help your students improve. And you really should have a basic understanding of English grammar, and how to explain it clearly before you ever set foot inside the classroom.

Plus, if you volunteer at home you'll have something to put on your resume, which will help you get a better job abroad. And hopefully you'll pick up a few tips about what works and what doesn't work in the classroom.

39 ESL Speaking Activities for Teenagers and Adults

4. Research, research, research

In order to get that prime job you want in a country that works for you, it's necessary to do A LOT of research. Plan to spend at least 100 hours online narrowing down what kind of company or school you want to work for and which countries you want to teach in. Most countries have a specific forum or site that the expat English teachers use to network and get information. Read all the forums so you have an idea of the situation there.

5. Apply for jobs, interview and choose the one you like

After you do a lot of research and narrow down where you'd like to teach and which age group you're interested in, apply for jobs and have some interviews via Skype or the phone. When you get an offer, spend some time researching that particular school in that certain city to see what their reputation is with the expats in that city. Then, if you like what you see, sign the contract and start your adventure!

6. Brush on your teaching skills and grammar

Depending on the age group you're going to be teaching, have a list of games and activities that would be suitable to pull out on the fly if you're short of time for planning. Also, make sure you have a few "fillers" if you find yourself with some extra class time but nothing planned.

And especially if you're going to be teaching adults, it helps to brush up on your English grammar, so that you're ready for any questions your students might throw at you.

7. Make some connections before you go

Most cities where there are expat English teachers have some sort of Facebook group for networking. Find it and start by introducing yourself and asking a question or two. But, don't ask too many or you'll get a bad reputation before you even get there!

You can also do a bit of research and see if there any clubs in your city that you could join. Most bigger cities have things like Toastmasters, professional teaching organization or athletic clubs. That way, when you arrive in your new place you can hit the ground running and have a group of friends in no time.

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      Melani 2 years ago

      This was such a wonderful idea! I think hands on lenriang and getting messy is the best way to have students learn. It's not only memorable for the students but it's interactive and fun!I had a similar experience in the classroom I am teacher aiding in. Many of the students are Arabic so they had never celebrated Halloween before. Not only was dressing up very exciting for them, but the teacher had great hands on activities planned. Only one or two students had ever really seen or carved a pumpkin before. So the tacher brought in a huge pumpkin for the class to carve. After we cut open the top the students got to come up one by one to reach in and take out the pumpkin guts. The studens absolutely loved it!It would be amazing to try this Thanksgiving feast with the students in my class. Espescially since there is so much history to share about Thanksgiving. I really like how you made the meal so authentic. It sounds like a lot of cultural boundaries were broken down and shared that day!

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      Kate 2 years ago

      Inghtiss like this liven things up around here.