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How to get an ESL Teaching Job

Updated on June 2, 2015

Teaching ESL Abroad is a Rewarding, Exciting Way to see the World

Sometimes, it can be quite difficult to get the Teaching English as a Second Language job that you want. There are lots of things that you can do to improve your ESL Teaching Job prospects such as getting some ESL experience, doing a CELTA course or getting a Masters degree (Tesol is best, but also consider subjects like English or Education). Also, it can be quite complicated to tie up all your loose ends at home in preparation for your big move abroad. This site has lots of information about preparing yourself in order to Teach English Abroad and how to actually go about applying for and choosing an ESL Teaching Job. Good luck on your ESL Teaching journey.


Step #1: Decide if Teaching ESL Abroad is really for you

There's no sure-fire test to tell if you're a good fit for teaching abroad or not, but there are a few things to keep in mind:

1. Are you flexible, or set in your ways? If you're set in your ways, and need a certain brand of toothpaste or coffee or your life will be over, then teaching ESL Abroad is not for you.

2. Are you a picky-eater? If yes, your life will be very difficult and you probably shouldn't teach ESL Abroad. The food will be very different and even finding common ingredients to cook with might be a big challenge.

3. Are you open to new cultures? Do you have international friends? Are you interested in ethnic food and cultures? If yes, you will probably love teaching abroad. If you've never had a friend from a foreign country, then this is probably a sign that you're not very open to new cultures and experiences.

4. Do you know anything about teaching ESL? Have you read some books or some blogs? Taken a class? It's harder than it might seem!

5. Are you interested in learning languages and willing to put a bit of effort into studying? If yes, teach abroad and it will be your best chance to learn a language fluently. If not, your life will be quite difficult if you don't have a basic understanding of the local language.

6. Do you make friends easily? When you move abroad you will be starting at ground zero in terms of your social network. If you're the kind of person that is friendly and outgoing, you'll probably love teaching abroad. If you take a very long time to warm-up to people, you'll probably find it quite difficult.

Teaching English Abroad


Step #2: Get Qualified to Teach ESL

Most countries around the world require at least a BA (in anything) to legally Teach ESL. If you're in uni, finish your degree. If you're not, either enroll or pick a different profession. You'll have an uphill battle without a BA. If you're serious about making ESL a career, do a degree in English, education or ESL.

Besides that, there are a few others ways to improve your chances of getting a good job:

1. Experience. Volunteer, or seek out paid ESL employment in your home country.

2. Celta/TEFL Certification. The Celta is a month-long course that is regarded as the best in the industry. It's well worth your time and effort. A TEFL Certification comes in varying degrees of quality, so be wary.

3. Start a Masters degree (online is great), if you're finished your BA. Almost everyone will look favorably upon someone who is on their way to obtaining a Masters degree in TESL.

4. It's not really a qualification, but you should have a professional head-shot done in preparation for your applications.

What are your qualifications for teaching ESL?

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Step #3: Prepare for your big move Abroad to Teach ESL

There are a few things you can do to get ready to teach ESL Abroad:

1. Simplify your life at home. Start canceling things you don't really need such as insurance policies and cable TV. The less last-minute things you'll have to do, the better. Sell your car if you plan on being abroad for at least a couple of years. Sell things you have lying around and don't use, such as electronics, movies, books, and CD's.

2. Do some basic research about the countries you are planning to teach ESL in. What kinds of things should your bring with you? Get organized for this.

3. Get a passport, if you don't already have one. Same for your diploma parchment and official transcripts.


Step #4: Start looking at ESL Job Boards

My 2 favorites are:

ESL Cafe

ESL Teacher's Board

Look at the jobs to get an idea of what is out there and start applying for a few that look good to you. Stay organized and keep track of your correspondence with each organization.

Where are you thinking of teaching ESL?

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Step #5: Choose an ESL Teaching Job

Decide on a job. This can be a very difficult decision but here are some things to consider:

1. Work hours. More than 30 hours/week contact time can be very tiring.

2. Vacation time. 2 weeks is standard, even more is icing on the cake.

3. Age group. If you don't like kids, don't think that teaching kindy will be a good thing for you.

4. Other teacher's recommendation: try to talk to former and current teachers to get an idea of the working and living conditions.

5. Do your research on the forums. Each country has a popular forum where you can check out your prospective school. Even put your contract up there and let the veterans offer their advice.

6. Get some pictures of your accommodation and school. This will help you make your choice.

7. Set up a Skype interview with your prospective boss, if they haven't done so. Find out their level of English and ability to communicate.

What age group do you want to teach?

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Step #6: Make final preparations to go teach ESL Abroad

Finalize all the last minute things such as canceling your cell-phone contract and making sure you have internet banking set-up. Make sure you've done your research and pack a few helpful things from home that are hard to get in your destination. Make sure you have enough clothes and shoes to last you a year because "Western Sizes" might not be available.

Say your goodbyes, pack your bags and go!

Step 7: Getting set up in your new country

When you get to your new country, it can be a bit overwhelming and chaotic, but here are some tips to make a smooth transition:

1. Get a cell-phone set-up as soon as possible. This will help you stay in touch with new contacts. Same with internet at home.

2. Speaking of contacts, make some quickly. Go out and about, and be friendly. The sooner you make friends, the easier and happier your life will be.

3. Put time and effort into teaching. Your new employer will look favorably upon this and hopefully you will have a year of smooth sailing.

4. Get your bank account set-up.

5. Make sure you do all the paperwork to get your residence card, as well as things like health insurance.

6. Spend a bit of money making your home a "homey" place. After all, you'll be there for a year and need an enjoyable place for your downtime.


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