So, you’ve just finished college and you’re thinking about teaching English abroad when a thought strikes you:
You could go anywhere in the world.
In a few months, you could find yourself in a place you’ve never imagined. With people you don’t even know exist right now. Teaching abroad opens up a world of opportunity that’s as exciting as it is terrifying.
I mean, it’s a big world out there - where to begin?
Well, a great place to start is through a paid teach abroad program.
Finding the best teaching English abroad program for you means getting the international adventure you’re looking for, safe in the knowledge you’ll have a paycheck at the end of every month and support on hand to help you navigate setting up your new life in a new land.
While the best teach abroad programs may provide a smoother transition than just turning up in your country of choice and hoping for the best, and they also require a little bit of admin on your part before you pack a bag and indulge your wanderlust.
Narrowing down a program that ticks all the right boxes for you and maximizing your chances of getting accepted before you apply can set you on track for an unforgettable adventure.
Getting accepted into a teach abroad program
First things first, before you apply for a teach abroad program, you’ll want to check that you fulfill some basic entrance criteria. Not all programs are the same, but there are three things that most programs ask of their future English teachers:
1. A bachelor’s degree
International schools may look for licensed teachers to teach specialist subjects, but the most common general request for English language teachers is for a bachelor’s degree in any field.
2. A TEFL qualification
Many teach abroad programs ask for TEFL qualifications, and doing one is also a great way to gain confidence in your teaching skills, boost your CV and let future employers know that you’re ready to share your knowledge with the world!
A good TEFL course should give you the teaching tips and techniques you’ll need to organize your classroom and get the best out of your students as an English teacher.
There are thousands of TEFL courses out there to choose from, including intensive and part-time options, as well as face-to-face learning or gaining TEFL certification online. As a general guideline, it’s best to pick a TEFL qualification that’s at least 100 hours long, offered by an institution that’s internationally recognized and within your budget - like Teach Away’s very own TEFL course, offered in conjunction with the University of Toronto.
3. Great English language skills!
If you’re a native speaker, you don’t have to worry about proving your skills in this area, but non-native speakers shouldn’t be put off either! Different countries and programs have different requirements. If you’re a non-native speaker, doing a TEFL course can help show that, not only do you have top-notch teaching skills, but you’re also fully at ease with teaching the English language.
Recommended reading: What qualifications do I need to teach English abroad?
Now you’ve got the admin out of the way, it’s time to sign up for your perfect teach abroad program! Except, umm…
Which is the best teach abroad program for me?
The answer to this question really depends on what you want to get out of your experience, professionally and personally. Are you looking for a change in lifestyle, a cultural immersion, or an international adventure?
Here are a few questions to help you narrow down what your perfect overseas teaching job might look like, starting with the biggest question of all…
Where’s the best place to teach English abroad for me?
When you picture yourself living overseas, what comes to mind?
Are you strolling down cobbled streets in Europe, powering through an Asian megacity, or basking in the Middle Eastern sun? Perhaps you’ve always wanted to improve your Spanish or try to get to grips with Mandarin? Do you love Vietnamese food, Spanish guitar music, or Korean movies?
These might sound like small things to base a big decision on, but when stepping out into the great unknown, following your heart a little means you’re sure to enjoy the adventure.
Besides the country that you’ll be living in, think about opportunities in the surrounding areas too. Teaching in Germany, for example, would put you in the perfect position to take weekend train trips all over Europe.
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What kind of lifestyle do I want while I’m teaching abroad?
Beyond your teach abroad fantasy lifestyle, there are a few practical ways to make your decision too.
Thinking about small things like what kind of weather you prefer, whether you’re better suited to working 9-5 than evenings and weekends and whether there are any favorite hobbies you’d like to keep up while you’re away will make a big difference to your lifestyle once you arrive.
If your favorite way to unwind after work is going for a run in the fresh air, then maybe living in a rural setting rather than a super crowded high-rise city would be better for you!
You might not have a detailed idea of the lifestyle you want, but narrowing down a few preferences will help you pick out a program that truly suits you.
What kind of English teaching do I want to do?
Don’t forget a lot of your time abroad is going to be spent teaching English!
Committing to a teach abroad program often means signing up for at least one school year, so make sure you take some time to think about what will make you happiest in your professional life while you’re away.
For example, do you think you’d prefer the structure of working in the state school system or the flexibility of working for a private school? Can you see yourself teaching kids, teens, adults or a mix of all three?
Make sure you read up on the types of teaching different programs to find one that will make your time as an English teacher as fulfilling as possible.
What kind of salary could I make teaching abroad?
If you’re looking for the highest salaries for English teachers, countries in Asia and the Middle East, like China, the UAE, South Korea, Japan and Vietnam, are at the top of the scale. English teachers in these destinations often earn enough to enjoy their time abroad and save money too.
While other destinations may pay less, one of the benefits of teaching English abroad through a program over going freelance is that you are guaranteed to make the same amount every month, making it easier to work out a budget and make sure you don’t miss out on any once in a lifetime opportunities.
An added plus is that most programs also offer other perks like language lessons, free housing, or even flights to and from the country you travel to!
When looking at potential salaries, don’t forget to check out living expenses in your country of choice.
Where is the highest demand for English teachers?
There is a high demand for teachers in China, Japan, South Korea, Vietnam and The United Arab Emirates, to name just a few countries. These are some of the best countries to teach English and save. But don’t worry if the destination you want to go to isn’t on this list; great teaching programs are running in countries all over the world!
The good news is whatever kind of teach abroad program you’re looking for, there’s one to suit just about everyone! Here are some of our favorites:
1. The Jet Program - Japan
Japan’s government-funded JET program has been running for decades - a testament to how much demand there is among foreigners to experience this fascinating country like a local.
And who can blame them?! From Buddhist temples to manga, via ramen and cat cafes, Japan’s unique culture is as intriguing as its people are infamously polite. Multiple positions available in public schools all over the country mean diverse experiences on offer.
A position in the countryside might mean a cultural and linguistic immersion, whereas urban positions could place you in one of Japan’s world-class, 24-hour cities.
Benefits for JET program teachers include affordable accommodation, 5-6 weeks of holiday plus national holidays, round-trip flights and Japanese lessons.
2. UAE Government Schools - United Arab Emirates
Whether you head for world-famous Abu Dhabi or one of the lesser-known Emirates, working in the UAE will make you part of a large international community where you can meet people from all over the world. UAE Government Schools is also a great teaching program for couples, with or without kids.
Working within the national education system also means you’ll get a local perspective on the futuristic cities, ancient culture and stunning natural beauty abundant in this sun-drenched corner of the world. Between exploring traditional souks, poolside brunching in luxury hotels and trekking through the desert, there will be plenty to keep you entertained outside of work hours too.
English teachers on the UAE Government Schools program are required to have a teaching license or CELTA and two years of teaching experience. Benefits for teachers typically include a tax-free salary, round-trip flights, health insurance and housing.
3. EPIK - South Korea
Whether it’s kimchi, k-pop or cutting-edge cosmetics that piqued your interest, South Korea has all that and so much more to offer.
Rural and urban positions are available throughout the country. Wherever you work, South Korea’s compact size means that a mountain ski trip, the dizzying lights of a vast metropolis or serene rice fields are never more than a train ride away.
Nestled between China and Japan, South Korea is also the perfect jumping-off point for exploring other destinations in Asia. Benefits for EPIK English teachers include a settlement allowance, housing, subsidized health insurance and completion bonuses.
4. Teach Away’s Explore Program - China
An ancient culture steaming into the future without losing its rich artistic, culinary and national traditions. If you can picture yourself spending a year in China, then Teach Away’s Explore program might be for you.
There are positions available all over the country and beyond world-famous Beijing and Shanghai, it’s worth checking out lesser-known destinations for a unique cultural experience. Eastern city Suzhou, for example, is known as the Venice of China because of the pretty waterways that fill the city and southern Shenzhen is close to beautiful beaches and the bright lights of Hong Kong.
Depending on the program you choose, benefits on the Teach Away Explore program include health insurance, housing, return airfare and Mandarin lessons.
Note for teachers considering China: The country is currently facing impacts of COVID-19, so please refer to the World Health Organization for the most up-to-date information.
5. CIEE - All around the world
CIEE is one of the most flexible programs out there in that it offers teaching positions in almost every corner of the globe!
If you still haven’t settled on a specific destination for your English teaching adventure then how about narrowing it down to Chile, China, Czech Republic, Dominican Republic, Morocco, Portugal, South Korea, Spain, Thailand or Vietnam?!
CIEE is also one of the most supportive programs – wherever in the world you go, you’ll have 24/7 emergency assistance, iNext international insurance, pre-departure support and an in-country orientation when you arrive.
Depending on the CIEE program you choose, language classes may also be available.
So, which program are you signing up for? If you’re torn between two (or three!), why not try starting the online application process and see where it takes you? The process will encourage you to think more deeply about your motivation for signing up and what each experience might have to offer you.
And if none of these options seem like the right fit, don’t lose hope just yet! Try searching online by location or program type and see which other programs might match your interests. You never know, your perfect teach abroad program might be just a few clicks away!