How to Start Teaching English Abroad or Online

Whether you’re thinking of a full-time career, funding a gap year, or earning whilst job hunting, teaching English as a foreign language can be both lucrative and stimulating. Qualified TEFL teacher, Linda, describes the steps you’d need to take.

Photo: Money Magpie

Unlike many other industries, teaching English as a foreign language continues to grow year after year. According to the British Council, there are over 1.5 billion English-language learners worldwide, a figure so enormous it’s over 22 times more than the population of the entire UK. Adding to that is the fact that there are currently more vacant positions globally than certified English teachers to fill them.

Requirements for teaching English as a foreign language

It’s easier than you might think to kick off a career in teaching English – abroad or also online! While the requirements do vary from country to country and teaching platform to teaching platform, the basic requirements usually look like this:
An undergraduate degree in any subject (but there are also many positions available for those without a degree)
A TEFL/TESOL certification of over 100 hours
Having a passport from an English-speaking country/being a native English speaker. (However, there are plenty of options for those who aren’t native English speakers as well)
Granted, if you want to teach online, you will also need a laptop/PC, a headset, and a stable Internet connection.
If exploring faraway countries and cultures and/or a career away from the usual 9-to-5 office job sounds appealing to you, read on for 4 easy steps towards starting a career in teaching English as a foreign language.

Step 1: Choose a TEFL/TESOL course

The first thing you will need is an internationally accredited TEFL or TESOL certificate.
The two acronyms involve the same training; the main difference is that technically speaking, TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) refers to teaching English in countries where English is not the native language, and is more commonly used within Europe; while TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) refers to teaching English in countries where English is the native language, and is generally preferred in Australia, New Zealand, and North America.
There are many different TEFL/TESOL course options, including a variety of online, in-class, and combined options. Having said that, online courses have become the most popular format because they offer high flexibility. Whether you can devote 100% of your time to your studies, or you work full-time, the flexible layout and course period of up to 6 months, allow anyone to get certified and study at their own pace.
You can also choose a general teaching qualification or specialised certificates, courses with or without tutor support, and some offer access to lifetime job support, helping you land a job in the location of your choice, whether that is immediately on completion of your course or at a later date.

Step 2: TEFL/TESOL Specialisations

To increase your employability in the English teaching field and to boost your salary, specialised TEFL and TESOL courses are a great option. These include, for example, a certificate in teaching English to young learners, Business English, test preparation, or courses specifically for online teaching that cover techniques for the virtual classroom.

Step 3: Apply to multiple schools/platforms

Most schools abroad hire teachers online via Skype interviews. This means you don’t even have to leave before you have a job lined up! However, if your dream destination is Latin America, where employers prefer face-to-face interviews, you might have to head out there to land a job.
You can either do an independent job search via online job sites and forums, or you can reach out to a TEFL/TESOL recruiter. The advantage of choosing a recruiter is that you can benefit from their knowledge of the local teaching market and their network, without having to pay anything (the school pays the recruiter fees upon hiring you). They act as a sort of mediator between the teacher and the school and will also help you with your paperwork.
For teaching online, you just have to pick the teaching platform of your liking and pass their interview process. You’ll usually start by filling out an online CV, add your virtual TEFL/TESOL certificate to your profile, and are then invited to a video interview via Skype or Zoom. Once any necessary checks have been carried out, your profile is activated, and students can book your lessons.

Step 4: Start teaching!

This final step is pretty straightforward but will involve a little more effort if you plan to teach abroad rather than online. Moving to another country can be very exciting and may be something you have dreamed of for a long time. Congratulations – it’s finally happening!
Starting a career entirely online can be equally rewarding! Gone are the days of desk warming at your 9-to-5 job. You can decide where, when and how much you work. Embrace your new lifestyle – you worked hard to achieve this!

A final note

One final tip for all new teachers is to recognise that your first lesson isn’t going to be perfect. Neither is your second, third or fourth – and that’s okay. Teaching is a skill that develops over time. The training you will have received in your TEFL/TESOL course will make the climb a lot easier. So, embrace the new challenge and take every day as it comes. It will be worth it!

About the author:

Linda is a German/American travel writer and TEFL teacher with a permanent base in South Korea. She graduated from California International Business University in San Diego with a Bachelor’s in Management and Foreign Languages. She works for International TEFL and TESOL Training, while running a travel platform about her life in Asia.


Find out more:

Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) – Online or Abroad
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5 Benefits of Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL)
Pearl discusses the benefits of TEFL, as well as the requirements you’d need to meet

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