How To Teach English Abroad; A Guide for Digital Nomads

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English is the most widely-spoken language in the world, with over a billion people (roughly 17% of the global population) having some degree of fluency.

75 Countries (39%) currently have English as one of their official languages, becoming increasingly mandatory for the new generations in education systems across the globe. And it’s clear why – English is the language of choice for the science, business and multimedia we all digest.

With the prevalence of English only continuing to go one way, the demand for learning the language has become one of the most lucrative hustles for nomads.

Teaching English abroad gives those fluent in the language the opportunity to travel the world, whilst simultaneously lining their pockets and enjoying one of the most memorable experiences of their lives.

Join us here at Your Lifestyle Business as we take you through everything you need to know about how to teach English abroad with our comprehensive digital nomad guide!

How To Teach English Abroad

Teaching English Abroad In 2023

Is teaching English abroad a viable option for nomads in 2023? Absolutely!

The opportunity of living overseas and teaching is an option for people from all walks of life, regardless of whether they have a background in the education sector or not.

Borders have continued to open up, giving recruiters more flexibility when it comes to hiring; in total, there are roughly 375 million English language learners across the world, and about 100,000 jobs in the space opening up every year.

For further context, in China alone, there are 300 million people learning English currently. That is the equivalent of the entire population of the United States of America, and the latest reports are that the country is still 100,000 positions short of where they want to be in terms of fluency targets.

That is just a glimpse into the blossoming demand there is in this space right now.

Why Look For A Job Teaching English?

  • Travel: The cornerstone of why any digital nomad does what they do. Teaching English gives people the freedom to travel the world and earn while they do so. Even if the job is strictly remote, its flexibility usually allows workers to pick it up and go.
  • Lifestyle: Typically, English teachers abroad make a decent wage that sees them live comfortably above the standard cost of living for the country they are working in. For some, teaching English abroad can reward extremely comfortable existences immersed in an exotic new environment.
  • Money: With English teaching jobs in hot demand, recruiters make it a point of keeping hold of their workers when they arrive, usually in the form of salaries that are considerably above the average cost of living per month in the country. For some, teaching English is a way of saving up money, and returning home far wealthier than when they left.
  • Experiences: It might sound a little mushy, but teaching can be one of the most enriching experiences. Jetting off to a new country, getting to know the people and making connections that stay with them forever is a huge factor behind people’s decision to begin teaching.
  • Career Progression: Teaching English abroad isn’t just a bucket list item for a gap year. There are real opportunities to become a professional in the industry, with further positions in lecturing, training, management, blogging and influencing and materials development all on the cards with experience.

What Do You Need To Teach English Abroad?

As we mentioned above, teaching English abroad isn’t a job reserved exclusively for those with prior teaching experience.

Generally speaking, most recruiters and job postings will only ask for an ESL (English as a Second Language) qualification such as a TEFL certificate and a valid passport if the position requires in-person teaching.

Certain programmes will also ask for a bachelor’s degree, though a fluency in English, some form of TEFL certification and, of course, the right attitude remain what employers are really on the hunt for!

qualifications to teach english

Holding The Right TEFL Certification

To those outside the world of teaching English abroad, the intricacies of TEFL certificates are and which ones are required to teach where can be a little confusing.

Meeting the TEFL certification requirements is a fundamental part of the recruiting process for teaching across Europe, Latin America as well as the Middle and Far East.

tefl academy

Image credit: The TEFL Academy / Alt Text: One of The TEFL Academy’s graduates teaching English in China

In the teaching English world, a TEFL certificate from an accredited course provider is evidence to an employer that a candidate is a proficient speaker, as well as qualified enough to take a class.

A TEFL course gives those looking to teach English abroad the skills to manage a classroom and provide students with the best learning experience possible.

There is, however, a lot of misinformation and scams hanging around the TEFL world. It is always worth remembering that a legitimate TEFL course will have at least 100 hundred hours of coursework, 6-20+ hours of in-person learning with non-native speakers, taught by higher-education professionals and be accredited by a Government-level body.

How To Apply (And Nail!) A Job Teaching English

Holding the right TEFL certification and a valid passport is a chief requirement for teaching English abroad, but how do the best teachers stand out from the crowd when it comes to the application and interview process?

Depending on the location, research should be done into the length, format and level of detail a resume or CV should contain. For example, resumes are used in North America and are considerably more concise compared to CVs in Europe.

Aside from the standard practice when it comes to writing these crucial documents, references and tailoring things to the job are incredibly important in the world of TEFL.

Just like with ‘normal’ job hunting, casting a wider net and applying for as many jobs as possible is best practice for would-be teachers, once they have an idea of where it is they want to teach.

Programs, Recruiters and Independent platforms are all great avenues when it comes to the application process, as they will provide legitimate opportunities that are updated daily.

Do You Need A Degree To Teach English Abroad?

In some more competitive, higher-end markets, an employer might ask for a bachelor’s degree along with their TEFL qualification.

Japan and South Korea are two examples of where most recruiters look for a higher-education degree.

Elsewhere, Middle Eastern countries such as the UAE offer some of the best-paying English teaching jobs, however, the competition for places means they are more likely to favour those with a master’s degree and prior teaching experience.

How To Teach English Abroad

Passports And Visas

It goes without saying really, to travel anywhere abroad a nomad needs a valid passport.

Applying for a passport is a relatively short and painless experience, however, it can take up to three weeks for a new valid one to arrive so leaving room to ensure everything is in order is something someone looking to teach English should overlook.

But, passports alone aren’t sufficient for those looking to work overseas. Making sure the right visas are in place is a fundamental part of beginning to teach English abroad, so taking the time to understand visa processes is something most recruiters will assist with.

Some of the key questions worth considering when preparing for a position abroad include:

  • What type of visa will the position require?
  • How long does it take to apply for and obtain a visa?
  • For how long will the visa be valid, and when will it need to be renewed?
  • Does the visa cost anything and, if so, how much?

Country-Specific Documentation

Every country has different laws and requirements when it comes to living and working abroad. Before trekking out to see the sights and making a difference in the classroom, it’s always worth being aware of what legal documentation is required with a role.

For example, positions in Asia can require anything from the official background and health checks to college transcripts. In some circumstances, workers may even be asked to supply proof of financial solvency either through bank statements or evidence of a certain amount of funds.

In countries such as the Czech Republic or Germany across Europe, the documentation process can take an awfully long time to fully clear. The student visa program, a popular route for those looking to teach English, may even require an employee to launch their application six months in advance.

teacher with child abroad

Understanding Start-Up Costs

There’s that idyllic picture people often conjure when they think of teaching English abroad where they waltz out of their 9-5 grind and jet off for a beach somewhere.

Sadly, this is not the case. Being financially prepared is one of the most vital parts of preparing for life teaching English abroad, with everything from the start-up costs of securing TEFL certification to the cost of flights, transportation, insurance and the average cost of living versus the advertised salary all key components to keep in mind.

We tapped on it earlier, but teaching English abroad can be a stellar way for people to save up some extra savings. Destinations such as China, Vietnam, Thailand and South Korea are all popular countries to teach English, and most positions allow teachers to save up to $600-$1000+ per month after breaking even.

For those looking to pay off student loans, these are no small figures.

However, elsewhere in the world, salaries more closely resemble the average cost of living. Typically, countries in Europe, the Middle East and Latin America don’t have as many options to rack up sales, however, there remains the option of picking even more teaching jobs tutoring online.

The Mentality To Teach

Whether it be teaching in a public school, online, in a volunteering capacity or even something more exotic like the Peace Corps, having the right mentality is a part of the TEFL experience every recruiter wants to see.

Taking the lead at the head of a classroom full of children overseas sounds like an easy gig on paper but, when actually being up there day-after-day things can turn south very quickly. Stepping into a new culture, having left everything behind, with twenty students needing to be taught with a language barrier is one of those things that can leave anyone sweating.

Loneliness, reverse culture shock and anxiety can all be unwelcome side effects of jetting off and teaching English abroad, especially for those who haven’t braced themselves for just how alien it can all feel.

Ultimately, whilst the benefits make it one of the most alluring jobs in the world, the priority for anyone looking to teach English abroad is the students, and enriching their lives with the best learning experience possible.

How To Teach English Abroad

What Are The Best Countries To Teach English In 2023?

There are a slew of reasons why one would be interested in teaching English abroad, with different destinations offering different benefits. Here are some of the best TEFL destinations in 2023:

image of south korean temple

Image credit: G Adventures / At Text: South Korea remains one of the most popular TEFL destinations

For Making Money: South Korea / United Arab Emirates: South Korea has been one of the popular destinations for teaching English, and the demand for teachers has continued to help the country offer some of the most lucrative salaries in the business.

With that, however, comes greater expectations when it comes to applicants. A bachelor’s degree and TEFL certification are both required, and the strict working hours mean workers will certainly be putting in a shift for their pay cheque. Despite this, plenty of schools offer benefits such as a free apartment and free round-trip airfare from a home country”.

The UAE, in comparison, is a more contemporary destination for teaching English, but undoubtedly one of the most luxurious. The tax-free salary is obviously a huge plus for those looking to stretch their earnings as far as possible, though the requirements do tend to see the more experienced teachers being given the top positions.

For Teaching Without A Degree: Argentina / Spain: Teaching without a degree is one of the most commonly-faced dilemmas would-be teachers face when looking for their first position.

For those looking for TEFL jobs without a degree required, Argentina still stands as one of the top spots. The ski slopes, wine farms and tango hills are all alluring hotspots, and there are plenty of universities in the country specifically looking for native speakers to teach business English.

A degree is also not required to teach in Spain, one of the most popular tourist destinations in Europe. A TEFL certificate is required to teach English in Spain, and workers will need a valid EU passport or eligibility to work across the Union.

The average salary for jobs in the country is €1,200, which is not the highest in the TEFL world, but more than enough to live comfortably in the land of Flamengo, food and fiestas!

For Teaching With No Experience: Vietnam: Vietnam is known for being a backpacker’s paradise, which makes it a great destination for those looking to teach English abroad. Teaching opportunities are widespread across the country and the low cost of living makes salaries competitive for the region.

It is obviously one of the biggest hubs for expats and nomads from all walks of life, which is reassuring for people who have never taught English before, and there are plenty of communities in the country made up of people already leading in the country.

Classroom preparation remains extremely strong, especially for those working in the public sector, helping the country stand out as one of the best launch pads in the world.

For The Digital Nomads: Online: Whilst most people think about having to actually be in the classroom teaching English abroad, perhaps the best option for digital nomads remains tutoring online.

Teaching English online remains arguably the most stacked facet of the industry and the jobs can vary from freelancing privately to working with specific online providers.

The flexibility of setting their own hours and choosing where they teach makes teaching online one of the most appealing jobs in the digital nomad community.

Teaching English provides what most digital nomads would consider the opportunity of a lifetime. The freedom to travel the world, and line their pockets whilst also making memories with different people and cultures is what those with a burning feeling of wanderlust look for and, with the right mindset, qualifications and planning, these dreams can easily become realities.

Let us know what you thought of our guide to teaching English abroad, and where you want to kickstart your teaching career!

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Guest Author Bio

James Metcalfe has been working with The TEFL Academy helping thousands of students fulfil their dreams of teaching English abroad and online. He is an avid traveller with his favourite destination being Naples, and has worked with several leading lifestyle sites including LadBible and Readers Digest!

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