Everything You Need to Know Before Applying for Your First TEFL Job

The TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) market is quickly evolving and expanding. Recent TEFL graduates have a lot to look forward to in their future careers or first TEFL job due to the worldwide demand for English teachers creating fantastic and diverse opportunities.

Beginning a career in an ever-growing, the fast-developing market is definitely appealing, especially when you’re fed up with the routine of your current job and are looking to launch yourself into something new. TEFL is one of the few careers allowing you to travel the world right away.

The current climate makes it difficult to attend courses however, with TEFL you can cover everything you need online. There are many benefits of completing a course online beyond the ability to qualify without leaving your home.

You can take your time with the course, factoring in your studies when it suits you. The likelihood is that you’ve decided to take a TEFL course alongside your current job or studies, so knowing that there’s no pressure to complete the course within a set period of time is very reassuring.

Below are a few important points to help you navigate entering the world of teaching English as a foreign language. Having an awareness of these before both purchasing a course and beginning applications will be invaluable. As always, it’s important that you’re well researched before you commit to any course or job. 

TEFL Certification – What to Prioritize 

The quality of your TEFL certification will impact your job search. The endless pages of results following a quick Google search for ‘TEFL’ are evidence enough of its growing popularity and relevance.

This increase in demand for English teachers has not gone unnoticed by ambitious business opportunists catching on to the current learning trends. As a result, there are many course providers offering a range of courses but this also means there are plenty on the market that simply won’t be enough for employers. 

Prioritizing a highly-accredited TEFL provider couldn’t be more important. The accreditation of your provider is everything when it comes to getting TEFL certified. Why? Because it verifies that you’ve completed a high-quality course upholding academic integrity and respect in the world of teaching English.

There is no overarching regulating body for these courses, so at least with accreditation, you can be confident that your provider has been approved by authorities that count.

Some TEFL providers will stretch the term ‘accredited’, so it’s seriously important that you know what to look out for and prioritize when searching for the right provider.

You should be able to do a quick investigation on their site as to where they’ve received their accreditation. Ideally, they are from the government or established education bodies. If this information is difficult to find, you’re perhaps best shopping elsewhere. 

Surprisingly low-cost TEFL courses should also raise some red flags. The cost of a quality course should be reflected in the price, and if it’s very low how can you expect it to cover everything you need to know?

120-hour TEFL courses are standard procedure for most employers and consequently should be the minimum amount of time you commit to your studies. Any less doesn’t uphold much credit with employers and will severely impact your job search.

English Teacher - Career Paths of English Teaching

TEFL Career Options Are Available to Anyone Proficient in English

Newly qualified TEFL teachers aren’t necessarily individuals with extensive experience in the education sector. While experience is a bonus, anyone proficient in English can get TEFL certified.

You could be right out of university, middle-aged and looking to take your career in a new direction, or just looking to find part-time work alongside your current job or studies. There are multiple ways to TEFL, each bringing their own advantages and flexibilities to the table.

You could also use your time living abroad to learn another language. Making the effort in your free time to pick up some of the languages will be greatly appreciated and help boost your confidence. It’ll significantly help you settle in and meet new people, too. Plus, another language always looks great on your CV. 

There are plenty of ways you can make language learning fun and part of your daily routine.  Studying a language will make you a better teacher as you’ll be able to relate to the learning process. Check out this article for some tips on learning a language while you travel.

What Kind of TEFL Teaching Suits You?                            

Beginning your TEFL course with a clear objective of how and where you want to teach will help motivate you along the way, but there is no definitive way to TEFL so if you’re unsure what the best option for you is, you can take your time making a decision. After you qualify to teach English a lot of paths will be an option for you, dependent of course on certain visa and employer requirements. 

1. Teach in a School or Language Centre

Teaching abroad isn’t limited to teaching a certain curriculum to school students. You could also teach in a language center, outside of the typical working day to suit students of all ages looking to expand their learning before or after school or work. 

2. Business English

There’s also a demand for Business English teachers as a decent grasp of English increasingly becomes a standard requirement to navigate international markets. Those best suited to this style of teaching either have a background in business or previous experience teaching adult learners.

Although it’s not a realistic first-time teaching job, with a bit of experience you can work towards it and potentially have a higher income as a result. You’ll find many free educational resources online to help you to plan and conduct the most effective business English lessons.

3. Teach Online and Travel as a Digital Nomad

Most people associate teaching English as a foreign language with relocating to pursue a career teaching abroad, which is also one of the most popular options but not the only one.

Online teaching is quickly becoming one of the most popular ways to teach English and it can all be done without even having to leave your home. Many benefits are associated with home working making it easy to understand why.

Including fewer expenses (no more commuting is one example!), choosing when and how often you work, and being your own boss which comes with its own perks, too.

That being said, you don’t have to stay home to teach English online. Those eager to use their TEFL certification as a worldwide travel ticket is in a great position to pursue the digital nomad lifestyle.

As a digital nomad, you can use your earnings from your online career to fund your travels as you go from one location to the next. You just need an internet connection, a quiet workspace, and a laptop! 

Visa and Work Requirements: What Might They Include?

An awareness of the varying visa requirements across different countries is essential. You want to be sure that you’re eligible to teach in your desired destination before you start planning the logistics of moving there. 

Employers will often have specific requirements too. It’s important that you can evidence that you meet all the correct criteria.

1. A Degree in Any Discipline

Some countries will require you to have a degree in any discipline to meet their working visa requirements. While some employers may also require you to have a Master’s degree, although this is less common. You’d be more likely to see this requirement for jobs at universities or in the Middle East.

Asia is where you will be most limited without a degree, with the exception of Cambodia. However, it’s not a requirement across South America and Europe – so there are still plenty of opportunities. Read more about TEFL opportunities open to you without a degree.

2. Previous Teaching Experience

Some employers will list previous teaching experience as a requirement. For example, to teach in Saudi Arabia and the UAE, which offers some of the highest-paid TEFL positions, you’ll need at least two years of teaching experience before you can apply. Regardless of where you apply, teaching experience will benefit your application.

However, don’t worry if you don’t have previous experience as that’s very common for newly qualified EFL teachers. There are still plenty of options out there– everyone has to start somewhere!

Once you’ve gained some teaching experience with your TEFL qualification you’ll find that many more options will open up to you. Don’t be discouraged if you miss out on your first choice as you may well be in a better position to get it further down the line.

3. Non-Native English Speakers May Experience Bias but Don’t Let That Stop Your Job Search!

If you’re a non-native English speaker, you unfortunately may experience some bias when applying for jobs. However, don’t let this stop you following your aspirations as there are still many countries and employers who do not prioritize this. Again, it’s all about the research you put in before applying as this will spare you from wasted time and disappointment. 

You might be asked to have a passport or degree from an English-speaking country. Or you might have to provide evidence of your fluency with the likes of the IELTS certificate. China, for example, will employ non-native EFL teachers but will also require you to have received your degree from a university in an English-speaking country.

Wherever you’re aiming to go, look into individual countries and employer-specific criteria to get a better idea of your options.

4. Legalized Documents

Making sure you have the documentation to evidence any of the above criteria, plus a criminal background check will likely be required for your visa and/or employer. For example, as mentioned, certification showing your English proficiency could be one of these. 

Collating all the necessary documents is one thing, but you might have to have them legalized so that employers can trust their validity. This will be an extra cost but could potentially be covered for you.

Be Aware of the Job Market in Different Countries

Securing a TEFL position in some countries can be more difficult than others. This can be down to a number of reasons beyond specific visa requirements. The level of demand for teachers, investment in English language education from governments, and employee package benefits are all factors that can influence the competition for positions.

However, don’t let competition put you off finding the perfect job! Your TEFL qualification is designed to prepare you for whatever TEFL role you take on. Be reassured that you have a marketable skill set and have confidence in your ability to communicate this to employers.

A Teacher Infront of a Classroom

Where You Should Look to Find Positions

Once your CV is ready to go, you’ll be keen to start applying for jobs. If you’re aiming to secure a job before you go, your best option is to search and apply online. There are lots of reputable platforms for regularly advertising positions. 

In some countries, it can be easier to find work once you arrive, rather than before you go. It mostly depends on whether it’s possible to secure a working visa while in the country, rather than beforehand. 

Watch Out for Online Scams 

While most of the teaching positions you’ll come across online will be genuine, it’s important that you know how to recognize those that aren’t. 

Do thorough research about employers, search them on the web, check out their reviews, contact details, and general online presence. Ask to be put in contact with a current employee. Compare what is being advertised to other posts for the same company. If it looks too good to be true, that’s most likely because it is.

Plan Your Finances Carefully

You’ll be grateful to yourself for calculating your initial expenses and planning your finances before you arrive. This will definitely help ease the stress of settling in. 

Dependent on your destination and your employer, some of your expenses may be covered or reimbursed. Whether you’re offered any financial support/incentives or not, you’ll still need to make sure you have enough money to tide you over until your first paycheque. 

Costs to consider year-round include accommodation, bills, food, transport, leisure, and health insurance if not already covered by your employer. If you decide to find work once-in country, planning expenses for at least a month is strongly recommended should the search take longer than anticipated.

Your working visa and other legal documents are usually dealt with before you make the move abroad and it’s important to know that it can be costly – potentially more so if done away from home. You then have to think about flights, which are naturally more expensive when flying further afield. Some employers will reimburse your flights but this won’t be done until later on, or at the end of your contract. 

Be Persistent

Finding your first TEFL job will require time and effort on your part. Be prepared to apply for multiple positions and also be prepared to be unsuccessful. It can be a challenge getting started, especially if your country of choice is a competitive TEFL destination. But don’t be disheartened, the demand for English language teachers worldwide is high and the right job for you is out there.

Be willing to adapt and be flexible. You may not find your first TEFL job in your first-choice location, but this doesn’t mean you have to settle. Once you have more experience teaching, you’ll stand a better chance of being recruited for more competitive positions.

Picking up your life to move abroad and start a new job is an overwhelming idea for most. There’s a lot to consider before you start planning your first TEFL job. Hopefully, this article helps to clarify some of your queries. And remember, the more planning and preparation you do, the easier the application process will be – and the sooner you can get started teaching!

By: Naomi

Naomi works as a Digital Marketing Assistant for The TEFL Org. She is also in her final year of studies at the University of Glasgow. She previously taught English in France as an English Language Assistant and loves to travel at any given opportunity.

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