Teaching English abroad is a fantastic opportunity to travel, learn about a new culture and get paid while you’re doing it. With few exceptions, anybody who is a native English speaker and has a degree can find an ESL job overseas. However, most language schools only hire teachers for a minimum of one-year contracts.
If you have school, a career or other commitments, a one-year contract may not be realistic. So what do you do if you want to teach English abroad but you can’t commit to a full year?
Luckily, there are lots of short-term ESL jobs out there, ranging from just a week to six months. These temporary teaching gigs are a great way to fund your travels or to dip your toes in the ESL waters. Who knows? It may even be the beginning of a rewarding long-term career as an English teacher.
What kinds of short-term English teaching jobs abroad are out there?
There’s many different ways you can teach English abroad on a short-term contract. We’ll go into lots more detail below, but at a glance, these are the sorts of roles you’ll be likely to find.
Type of short-term ESL job
Most common regions
Latin America, Africa, Asia
Au pair work
Summer camp jobs
Stay realistic about short-term ESL jobs abroad
Are there short-term ESL jobs available abroad? Certainly! But you are going to have to be realistic about your expectations. Short-term contracts probably aren’t going to pay as well as long-term ones. Also, don’t expect to get the same perks and benefits that you would get with a one-year contract (like airfare and accommodation).
That said, the demand for ESL teachers in some countries is insatiable, so if you search hard enough or if you have the right credentials, anything is possible! For most people, the flexibility of a short-term contract requires some sort of trade-off in terms of pay or other benefits.
OK, so what kind of short-term teaching can I do?
Short-term teaching will require you to be a little more creative with the type of classroom environment or teaching you are willing to do.
1. Volunteer teaching
If you are open to volunteering, then your options will open up considerably. Volunteer ESL positions can be found for just about any length of time. Of course, you won’t get paid for the experience, but you will usually be provided with accommodation and meals. Volunteering is also a fantastic way to make a meaningful contribution to the places you are visiting in your travels.
2. Au pair work
Another option is to work as an au pair, which is basically a live-in babysitter and tutor. While au pairs are rare in North America, they are ubiquitous in many parts of the world. The advantage of this route is that you will get free accommodation and, in many cases, you will also receive a wage. Living with your host family is an unbeatable way of learning the local language and integrating into the culture in a way that most tourists can only dream of.
3. Summer camp work
Summer camps are another reliable option for short-term ESL jobs. You won’t usually get paid for working at a summer camp, but they do allow you to gain invaluable teaching experience during the summer months. Even better, summer ESL camp positions are often available in countries that, for North Americans, are otherwise hard to get work visas in (like the European Union).
Finally, in some countries, the best way to find a short-term paid ESL job is to simply be in the country you want to work in already. That way you can start handing out your resume to private schools. This option won’t be realistic in countries that have strict work visa laws. But in others, it’s a low-risk option for both you and the school since they won’t have to waste resources flying you over. It also gives you the chance to see how well you’ll fit in at a school before committing to a more extended contract.
Read this: Can I teach English abroad for the summer?
Where can I teach English short-term?
Generally speaking, the sort of short-term teaching job available will depend on the region you’re in. You can pretty much find a position anywhere.
Volunteer teaching in Latin America, Africa or Asia
If you are willing to volunteer, then Latin America, Africa and parts of Asia present the best opportunities. Volunteering is less common in countries where private language schools and paid contracts are the norm. So while you probably won’t be able to volunteer in Japan or South Korea, you can definitely find short-term volunteer positions in Cambodia, Colombia or Peru. Again, there are exceptions: Vietnam, for example, provides opportunities for both paid and voluntary ESL work.
Au pair work in China or Europe
In terms of working as an ESL au pair, China is a top destination. You’ll get free accommodation and meals with your host family and usually a small stipend for spending money. Many au pair programs in China also include Mandarin or Cantonese lessons to help you better integrate.
Au pairs are also common in Europe and even North Americans can work in EU countries as au pairs, which is usually not the case for most European jobs. In some countries, you will need to apply for a special type of au pair visa, which usually has a maximum age limit of 30.
Summer camp jobs in Europe
Another fun way to work in Europe is with a summer camp. Summer camps are volunteer positions, but they will usually provide you with free accommodation and meals. The time commitments are also reasonable - usually about 4 or 5 hours of teaching per day along with participating in the occasional camp activity. That means you’ll have plenty of spare time to explore and travel.
You may find that your university or college is a great resource for finding short-term ESL jobs abroad for the summer. Check out your university’s career guidance service or student union to see if they are partnered with any summer camps or language schools overseas.
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Is it easier to find a short-term English teaching job if I’m already in the country?
If you are already in the country where you want to work then knocking on the doors of private schools may be the best way to find short-term paid work. This probably won’t be an option in countries like China, South Korea, and Japan that have strict visa requirements and background checks for teachers.
However, in countries where the rules around teaching are a little laxer, such as Vietnam or Brazil, handing out your resume directly to schools is considered normal and may be the best way of finding either long- or short- term ESL jobs.
Private tutoring is another way to teach abroad for a shorter time!
Finally, you may want to consider private tutoring or teaching English online part-time. Private tutoring, online or in-person, isn’t usually a standalone type of job. Instead, it is often used as a supplemental source of income for those who are already on ESL contracts abroad.
With private tutoring, it is very easy to negotiate how long you will be teaching for and at what rate. You can usually find these jobs through word of mouth. For instance, check out online discussion boards that cater to the expat community of whichever country you are in or ask fellow teachers at a school you already work at.