How to Teach English Abroad


Teaching English has been a big part of my life and I have taught English full time in South Korea and Turkey, as well as undertaken volunteer teaching placements in Uganda and Poland. Teaching English has allowed me (financially) to travel the world and during full time contracts, I have actually been making money whilst travelling.

When I started teaching English, I did it as a short term thing that ended up playing a far bigger role in my life than I ever intended. It was a ‘bucket list’ dream, if you will, but the memories created and opportunities I stumbled across kept me in the teaching game for longer than I would have predicted. I have many fond memories of teaching English and maybe I’ll do it again one day, but for now I am sharing my knowledge with others who are interested in the topic. This page condenses a lot of what I know about teaching English in order to help you teach English around the world.


This is me teaching English to pre-schoolers in South Korea. I look back fondly on this day.

Teaching English abroad is a great way to travel the world and make money (or cover your expenses) at the same time. By becoming an English teacher overseas, you get to spend an extended period of time in a location and learn what it feels like to actually live there, rather than just visiting as a tourist. If you are interested in learning the language, it is also a great opportunity to become fully immersed in the language learning experience as you will have to use the language everyday, although not in your job. [If you are interested in learning languages, I recommend you read this post about the best and easiest way to learn languages – I rate this guy very highly.]

Still, you might be wondering why you should teach English abroad when you could do it in your own country. For me, the answer is simple. It provides me with a financially stable way to explore the world and to spend a long time in a place. I also find that the students who learn English outside of my typical British school system are far keener to learn English, making the experience more enjoyable. Also, in certain countries, financial benefits such as free accommodation, free flights, and bonuses upon completion of contracts ensure that you can actually save more money teaching in another country than in your own. China and South Korea are good examples of this – see below. For a comparison of how much you can earn and how much you can save teaching English around the world, read this page.


Teaching English in China and South Korea are two of the most popular choices for teaching English overseas right now. Both countries offer decent wages compared to the cost of living, allowing you to live a comfortable life and offering you the opportunity to save money for further travels. I taught full time in South Korea – Daegu to be precise – and then began to apply to teach English in China. One thing led to another, and I actually went back to South Korea instead, but I had been excited for the opportunity to live and work in China. As these two countries are very popular destinations for English teachers, I have a lot of content on this site about teaching English in those two countries. As such, I will not put it all on this page, but instead, refer you to the following pages:

Teaching English in China
Apply To Teach English in China (there are LOTS of jobs available right now)


When you start thinking about teaching English abroad, you start encountering the terms TEFL, ESL, ESOL, TOEFL, TESL, TESOL, and CELTA amongst others. Then you ask, what is TEFL, what is ESL, what is ESOL, what is TOEFL, at which point you lose track of all the letters and wonder how it could possibly be so complicated. Simply put, it isn’t. All of these things relate to the TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) industry, which means teaching English to people with whom you do not share a common language. Specifically, some of the acronyms are qualifications or certifications, while others refer to the same general idea of teaching someone who doesn’t speak your language. I find that TEFL is a good umbrella term for all of the above mentioned acronyms.

  • TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language), ESL (English as a Second Language), ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages), TESL (Teaching English as a Second Language), and TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) all relate to the studying of English between teachers and students who have different native languages. This means that you can go anywhere in the world and teach English, despite not knowing any words from the country that you are teaching in. Although the word ‘second’ is used, the terms do not have to refer to the second language that a person is learning. It could be the third or fourth, for example. The term TEFL is most commonly used and generally refers the industry as a whole.
  • TOEFL (Test Of English as a Foreign Language) is a product developed by the Educational Testing Service and offers online testing to determine a student’s level of English.
  • CELTA (Certificate of English Language Teaching to Adults) is a certification awarded to a new teacher by University of Cambridge ESOL after successfully completing a training course.


Volunteer Teaching English in Uganda
Attempting to teach Pythagoras’ Theorem to student in Uganda as part of a volunteer project – this is the first place I ever taught.

One of the first questions people ask is what qualifications do I need to teach English? In short, it varies depending upon where you want to teach. Schools in some areas, such as the Middle East and Japan, have notably stricter requirements when hiring teachers. In other countries, it is the visa regulations that require you to have certain qualifications. The following factors will all help with getting a job teaching English.

  • Speaking English fluently. It sounds ridiculous, but it is not uncommon for people to try and teach English when they do not actually have a good grasp of it themselves. If you speak good English, you can find a position teaching English somewhere in the world, even if you don’t have any qualifications.
  • Being a native speaker. Unfortunately, this is one thing that you do not have control of. If you hold a passport from a country that uses English as its native language, you have a much greater chance of finding a job and getting a visa. If you are not a native speaker, but you have a native level of English, it could be useful to sit an exam to demonstrate this. Without it, your visa application may hit a stumbling block. At this time many countries only consider citizens (passport holders) of UK, Ireland, US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa to be native English speakers.
  • A degree from an English speaking university. This is a clear indicator of aptitude and English ability, regardless of what country you are from. If you hold a degree from an English speaking university, it will improve your chances of finding an English teaching job in most countries around the world, regardless of teaching qualifications or experience. However, it will not cancel out the requirement to be a native speaker in countries that only grant visas to native speakers.
  • Experience. If you can demonstrate that you have experience teaching English in the past, this makes a huge difference when applying for teaching jobs. Schools and students want teachers who know what they are doing and do not take time to learn how to teach. You can get experience anywhere, from private tutoring in your own town through to volunteering around the world, or even by doing a TEFL qualification. Put a little bit of work in here and it will help you no end when it comes to making applications.
  • Teaching qualifications. Having a teaching qualification can help you get a job easier and entitle you to a higher salary, but it is dependent upon the school. A good teaching qualification can also be beneficial to your teaching abilities which is especially important to new teachers who have no experience of classroom management. Be warned though, a 20 hour online course in teaching English does not make you a good teacher, but there are some great TEFL courses out there that you can do to improve your job prospects and teaching abilities – just be sure to do a 120+ hour course. You might want to read about the benefits of TEFL / TESOL certification, as well as my warning about low quality TEFL companies that are looking to take your money before choosing which course to do. I have included a little infographic that I made in order to help you asses which teaching qualification you need, if any. If you decide to do a teaching qualification, this page about choosing which TEFL you should do will help. It covers issues such as obtaining a CELTA (which is beneficial to long term, career English teachers and costs thousands of dollars) through to different TEFL certifications (with different price ranges), and also addresses times when you don’t need a teaching qualification. If you are not a native speaker or do not hold a degree, it is advisable to do a TEFL certification or an English aptitude test to improve your chances of finding employment.

The more qualifications that you have from the above list, the more likely you are to obtain a teaching job. If you are a native English speaker (and passport holder), you are in the best position – everything else on the list is easy to obtain, with the exception of a degree which takes several years. Many people choose to teach English after graduating from university as a sort of career gap. Many of these people love it so much that they never ever stop and their career gap becomes their chosen career path. I have many friends like this.

Returning to the question, do I need a TEFL teaching qualification to teach English overseas? The answer is, in short, a bit open to debate… it depends upon where you want to teach! For example, a 120 hour TEFL is required to teach in government schools in Korea and for many jobs in China… Yet there are certain provinces in China where you can teach without a TEFL and it is not yet a requirement for teaching in private schools in Korea. However, it will make your life much easier with regards to being offered a position and being granted a visa anywhere in the world that you go. When I started teaching English, I looked around the vast market of teaching courses to see which teaching English course is the best. My conclusion was that doing a CELTA course gave you the best preparation for being an actual teacher (as a career). However, their courses cost multiple thousands of dollars and take a multiple weeks. By contrast, I found a great plethora of online, teaching English qualifications that were much cheaper. Some of them were excellent and some of them were terrible. They would not guarantee to make me a great teacher, but they would help me to get a job and a visa easier. As I indicated previously, I do not believe it is absolutely necessary to obtain TEFL certification to teach English, but it will certainly make things easier and open more doors. I have taught English in several different countries with no teaching qualifications whatsoever, but that was several years ago and the standards are rising. I also found that some countries wouldn’t allow me to teach because a teaching qualification was required in order to be granted a visa. I have covered this topic in other articles and suggest you read my TEFL course recommendationsthe benefits of a TEFL certification, and my warning about dodgy (ultra low cost) TEFL companies.


You must also consider the location in which you wish to teach. Where can you teach English overseas? You can teach anywhere. Almost every country in the world is keen on learning English right now. However, here are a few generalisations about the most popular teaching destinations in the world in order to help you choose your location.

  • The Middle East. Financially, this is the pinnacle of English teaching. However, it is very unlikely that a first timer will get a job in the Middle East. Most positions request two years of experience in addition to an internationally recognised teaching qualification.
  • Europe. Beautiful cities and culture attract people to Europe from all over the world. Because of this, competition is high. Couple this with the high level of English that is already spoken in Europe and it is hard to find teaching positions if you do not already have the right to work in Europe. As you would need a visa to work, most schools will not be interested in hiring you and will look to teachers who are allowed to work in Europe already. Costs of living in Europe are also very high and English teacher salaries are not, so you may find yourself struggling financially.
  • East Asia. This is the mecca for first time teachers. Financial benefits often include free flights, accommodation, and a bonus upon completion of contract. Salaries are relatively high compared to the cost of living and jobs are easier to find than in other places around the world, irrelevant of experience and qualifications. China has lots of jobs available right now, and South Korea is another popular first time option (although the job market is more fierce).
  • South America. The dream location of many people from around the world. South America is not particularly affluent however, and you may find yourself having to spend more money than you earn while teaching English here.
  • Indonesia and the Pacific Isles. Natural paradises that are currently less affluent than other teaching locations. Indonesia is on the up and is currently the lead recruiter of English teachers in this region.
  • Africa. Once again, money is an issue. Although people want to learn English, in many places there are more pressing issues and many African countries already speak English, meaning that they have a supply of teachers. If you are looking for volunteering positions, this is a wonderful place to get experience.

The above generalisations come from my personal experience of looking for positions and that of friends and colleagues. They are based upon internet applications and do not take into account finding jobs when in a location. If you have the financial backing and guts to do it, going to a place that you want to teach is one way to find a teaching position. It means that whoever is considering employing you can meet you in person and know that you are serious about a job in their country. When doing this, you can also start to network with people to help you find jobs and maybe even pick up private tutoring work. Of course the risk with this is that you will spend lots of money and might not find anything. If you want more advice about which is the best country to teach English in or country specific advice, please scroll to the bottom of this page and follow the links to other pages on my site.


If you are interested in learning the local language of the country that you will teach in, you will be in the best possible position to do so as you will have the opportunity to immerse yourself in the language and culture. In many countries this is the only way that you will truly learn to connect with the locals. To kick start your learning experience, I recommend that you read this page about language learning and consider the language techniques.


Another big question is how much will you get paid and how much can you save when teaching English overseas? This varies upon where you teach, your experience, your qualifications, and sometimes, luck. However, I have put together a document which helps to give you an idea of how much you can hope to earn and save when teaching English in different locations around the world. You can view the How Much Will I Get Paid and How Much Can I Save When Teaching English Abroad? pdf file for free by following the link. You are free to share the link and document with others as you please. If you wish to host the document elsewhere for distribution, that’s OK, but please let me know about it.

Some countries offer lucrative financial benefits in order to attract teachers. These benefits typically include free accommodation and free flights. When you consider these factors, it makes teaching English a much more financially attractive option. Some areas, typically Asia and the Middle East, offer a bonus for completing a full contract. Typically a contract lasts a year and a bonus may be a full month’s salary. See the above mentioned pdf for more details about which countries offer free accommodation and housing.


When you start to teach English, you have to think about what type of teaching you want to do. This ranges from government schools through to teaching private individuals, cash in hand. Below I have detailed some of the different teaching options that can be considered.

  • Government Schools. These schools are the most reliable, but might not pay quite as well intially (depending upon the country). You will typically work a set number of hours per week and teach a set number of classes. When classes are running low, you might have to stay at school for all your hours, even though you aren’t teaching – in Korea we called it ‘desk warming.’ Although there is not much flexibility in these jobs, you will be around many other foreign teachers and you know that the school won’t unexpectedly close down and disappear without paying you. In Korea,
  • Private Schools. These schools are not dissimilar from government schools. However, as the students pay money to be there, your pay may be higher. Another plus is that you shouldn’t have to do any desk warming and the schools shouldn’t simply disappear.
  • Language Academies. These schools are a form of private school that typically run during the evenings to teach students or business people who are out of hours and often, they offer the best package. Pay should be higher, hours less, and there even may be some flexibility in the schedule. The major downside of these schools is that they may go under without warning, leaving you without pay or promised incentives. As a foreigner without a whole lot of money or legal standing, you are unlikely to get any financial compensation if things go wrong. Saying that though, I worked for a private language academy for a year and got everything that I was promised for a very small number of hours. In short, my experience worked out really well. There are also ‘after school’ programmes in some countries which run from around lunchtime to mid-afternoon. These offer great money, short hours, and fun classes. If I was looking for a teaching job right now, this is probably what I would be looking for.
  • University Jobs. Often considered the pinnacle position of a travelling teacher, these jobs can offer higher salaries (if you are qualified) for relatively low hours and a vast quantity of holidays. Due to the many benefits, the major downside of these jobs is that they are very difficult to get because everyone wants them.
  • Private Lessons. This is the highest hourly rate for English teachers. However, you are on your own and jobs may be cancelled at any time. Also bear in mind that you have to incorporate your travel time into your total pay and that it is very difficult to get a visa to be a free-lance teacher, unless you marry a local. This is not recommended for visa purposes, but almost every teacher I have ever met teaches private classes at some point. If you get caught teaching English for money without a visa, you might get kicked out of the country or fined.


If you have a rough idea of what’s going on, next consider jobs. How do you find a teaching job abroad? There are three main ways.

  • Apply online. There are an innumerable number of online sites that help you to find a job. Google search ‘English teaching jobs’ and where you want to go and you will find something. Be warned that some of them do not keep to their promises. Right now I am building up a portfolio of trusted recruiters and you can apply for English teaching jobs here. If you have any problems with the recruiters I recommend, please don’t hesitate to get in contact with me. If you apply elsewhere on the internet, you have the choice of applying through a recruiter or directly to the school. Both have their positives and negatives.
  • Network. Social media makes the world a small place. Message people. A friend of a friend might be able to hook you up. This doesn’t really need much explanation, but if you ask, it’s amazing how helpful people can be. When I went to teach in Korea, it turned out that I was teaching at the same school as a guy I played football with six years earlier. We hadn’t spoke in all that time. I come from a village of 700 people and then within a few days I met a second person whose brother I played football with as a fourteen year old. The world isn’t quite as big as we think!
  • Just Go. One way to find a job and have flexibility is to simply go to a place and start asking around. Look up things online, speak to people, and turn up at schools. This takes a bit of luck, but when a headteacher finds you in his office, he knows you’re serious. The only downside of this is that you might need some cash to keep you going before you find something, and you might not find anything at all. If you are already on the road and passing through a place, this is a great way to take the best jobs in town. If you are doing it legally, you may well have to leave the country to get the visa and getting the visa might take some time, so I would only do this as a short term thing for cash. If I wanted to teach for a year (or more), I would apply for jobs in advance using the methods listed above.

If you want to apply for jobs right now, I have teamed up with a couple of schools and agencies that I trust to help potential teachers find jobs teaching English. Apply here!


Next you want to stay legal. How do you get a Visa to teach English? If you pre-arrange a job on the internet, wherever you are working will help you out. Ask them what they need and they will get everything going. If they don’t, they probably aren’t worth working for. If you decide to go it alone, you start out alone. Try your best, keep your fingers crossed, and smile. Nothing is impossible, but immigration around the world is synonymous with irrational. If at first you don’t succeed, try try again. I applied for jobs in advance because the school does all the hard work for you, making the process easy. Just make sure you have a criminal background check because this is almost always required and can take some time to arrive.


Me with the paramedics after breaking my back
I broke my back in a skiing accident and was charged over 5,000 euros by the hospital. As I had travel insurance, they paid it for me and my life could continue.

If there is anything else that you would like to know, please look around the site (as there is loads of information), particularly using the links below. If you can’t find the answer to your question, please leave a comment (or send me an email, although I prefer comments so that others can see the answers). There is just one thing I would like to warn you about….


I can’t reiterate this enough. When I was in France, I broke my back and the medical bills would have ruined my life for a great period of time if I didn’t have medical insurance. And you don’t want to be worrying about money when you are sick or injured. Not only that, sometimes things just go wrong. Having financial security in these situations is of paramount importance and I would not advise anyone to leave their country without travel insurance. This is the main reason that I do not travel completely without money. I can travel on a daily budget of nothing, but I would never travel without insurance because of my past experiences. If you want travel insurance advice, read this page – it lists the only company that I use to buy my travel insurance.


Disclaimer: The views expressed on this page are entirely my own and based upon my experiences of teaching, research on the internet, and stories from my friends. I share this information freely for your learning, but always seek a second opinion who knows more than I do. There are some affiliate links on this page, meaning I will get paid a small commission if you buy their products or services after clicking my link. It will not cost you any extra, it will help to support this site, and I only recommend them because I use them myself.

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  • One cool piece of information on China is that beyond your regular work, you can also make $40-$60 per hour tutoring in cities like Guangzhou in South China. It’s definitely the place to go to make money.

  • Hi Jamie,

    Just wondering; I was looking at a few different sites in regards to working in Korea as an English teacher and I saw a lot of sites stating that you will have to be expected to work over-time all the time, roughly how many hours per day would an English Teacher be expected to work?

    • It varies from job to job, so consider each contract individually. I never had to work over time in my job, never taught more than 25 classes a week, and was never in school more than 30 hours a week.

  • Do you know anything about traveling with animals, or where I can look to find out the laws? I am considering teaching in Japan or South Korea, and would like to bring my dog with me if possible. Thank you!

    • You can definitely take pets to Korea, but you will have to get this approved with your school (as they will provide you accommodation), get the relevant pet passports and vaccinations, and book a flight that allows pets. My partner was meant to take her dog to Korea and all was good until a couple of days before the flight she realised that the airline she was flying with didn’t accept pets. It was a monumental mess up by the school (who booked her flights), so she had to leave the dog behind. I don’t know about Japan, but I would presume that it is the same.

  • Hi. I live in Australia and was looking at teaching english overseas next year. I have many years expirence qorking with children. I would love to teach english overseas and save money. But which country is best to teach english that also has the best exchange rate to Australian dollars.
    Thank you

    • The Middle East offers the highest wages, but the requirements to get a job are higher. A great starting place is South Korea if you hold a degree due to the wages and general quality of life.

  • Hi! I was hoping to get a teaching job in S. Korea after I graduate university. I am a triple major in Music, Psychology and English. I am not from a native English speaking country (which I know is a bit of a deal breaker). I am from India and English happens to be one of the 2 official languages spoken here. I am interested because I really want to see the country and my day to day life at university is also influenced by Korean culture and most of my music professors are Korean including my department head and I also have Korean friends and classmates which has gotten me really interested in Korean culture and would love to live there even if it is for a short period of time. I would be really glad if you help me out with more information!

    • Unfortunately I don’t think that you are currently eligible to teach English in South Korea as an ESL teacher due to the passport you hold. It is a rule that I hope they one day change – potential teachers should be judged on their English abilities, not their passports – but maybe there is another way. If there is, I don’t know of it – sorry I can’t help.

  • A close friend of mine worked as an ALT (Assistant Language Teacher) for the Utsunomiya Board of Education ( “宇都宮市教育委員会” ) in Tochigi, Japan. He worked there for 2 years. The pay was below average and most of the Japanese teachers were allowed to treat the foreign English teachers in demeaning ways. The Japanese teachers were allowed to be racist and xenophobic in their treatment of the foreign teachers, because the Utsunomiya Board of Education allowed it. My friend joined a new Junior high school called Shiroyama Junior High School ( 宇都宮市 立城山中学校 ). He was very pleased to be given the chance to work there so he did his best to be polite and respectful to all of the Japanese teachers. But in the first month of working there a Japanese teacher forgot to ask my friend for a payment of around 10USD. As a result of this lack of communication, my friend was falsely accused of not paying the 10USD. My friend was accused of this in a loud uncivilized manner by the Japanese teacher in front of school students, a few teachers and the vice principal of the school. This happened in the Teachers Room. So my friend tried to explain that the Japanese teacher had forgotten to ask him for the payment. But the teacher refused to listen to my friend. Then a 3rd year teacher by the name of Mr. Akutsu, stood up and started to intimidate my friend. He started shouting abusively at my friend and then started walking in an intimidating fashion towards my friend. When he reached my friend he assaulted my friend physically. My friend was physically injured and in deep shock as he had never been treated like that in his life. He refused to defend himself physically but he did warn Mr. Akutsu to stop assaulting him. The vice principal was watching all of this just a meter away and did absolutely nothing to help. My friend then immediately left Shiroyama Junior High School and he obviously couldn’t continue to work there again. After a few days the Utsunomiya Board of Education tried to force my friend to return back to the school. The Utsunomiya Board of Education said that Mr. Akutsu made a small mistake! Crazy thinking from the Utsunomiya Board of Education! My friend still refused to return back to the unsafe environment of the school. Eventually my friend left the Utsunomiya Board of Education. Mr. Akutsu (the teacher who assaulted and injured my friend) was never reprimanded for his illegal behavior. His physical assault is deemed illegal under Japanese law. He is still employed at the Utsunomiya Board of Education. He is obviously very racist and xenophobic towards foreigners. His uncontrollable violent behavior, makes him dangerous to work around young children and even adult teachers in Utsunomiya. My friend said that working at the Utsunomiya Board of Education was the worst experience of his life. The Utsunomiya Board of Education pleaded with my friend not to tell anyone about what happened at Shiroyama Junior High School. They didn’t want the local newspapers to find out about the violent incident and they didn’t want the students’ parents to find out about it too. The Utsunomiya Board of Education 宇都宮市教育委員会 is indeed a sick place to work in.

  • Jamie,

    Have you found that you can pick up on the language pretty quick if you spend all your day teaching English, which you already know? Do you know any tricks or places that will do a little bit of a swap? You teach English and then you can learn their language?

    • There are loads of people who are happy to do language exchanges and you can find them by asking around or posting online. As for picking up the local language, most people I have met (including myself) don’t do this very well because we speak English all day in our jobs and have many English-speaking teacher friends. If you make a conscious effort to learn the local language, you can do it, as a few of my friends have shown.

  • Hi Jamie am from kenya My name is Emily..
    I have two friends teaching English in China and they both don’t hold a degree in English nor a TEFL or ESL certificates.
    But are fluent in English I really need a job as an English teacher abroad too.
    Looking forward to your reply

  • Hi Jamie,
    I am seriously considering doing a CELTA course at college here in Belfast. My thoughts are to take a year career break and travel the world teaching. I currently work in a warehouse so have no teaching experience at all. I have thought long and hard over this decision. I am 43. So my question to you is. Would I have difficulty finding work at this age? Cheers

    • I met teachers of all ages in the different parts of the world where I have taught, so I don’t think it will be a big problem. Good luck to you!

  • I have been teaching for over a year now. I have been teaching with VIPKID for the last 6 months. I love it!

  • Hi Jamie, I’m about to graduate with a degree in Psychology from a university in Scotland and I’m a bit stuck when it comes to what to do with life afterwards. Teaching English sounds like a great plan – however, I am not a native speaker and most people that I spoke with told me that even with TEFL, my chances of finding a job are small. I did my A levels in English in an English-speaking school in Poland and now I’ll have a degree from Scotland so obviously I’m fluent. Do you have any tips for people like me/ could you recommend any particular countries that you think would be most likely to offer jobs to non-natives?
    (Also, I should add that getting experience as a volunteer is a no-go for me since I don’t have the financial support from my parents nor do I have anyone to loan money from.)
    Thanks for you answer! I’m really enjoying your blog!

  • Nice post mate. Teaching abroad is more achievable than many people think. As this articles shows, it’s definitely possible and I recommend it to anyone wanting to try out a new way of life.

  • Hi Jamie
    Thank you for sharing your experience.
    I am a recent CELTA graduate and I would love to try teaching somewhere for a full year – to gain experience but also to see if I really want to work as a teacher on the long run. I live in Ireland but – the question may seem silly to someone experienced in travels like you – I feel scared about the idea of moving out of Europe (or countries which are culturally very different from mine). This is not about travelling, I love travelling, though I am not so experienced. My fear is that I won’t be able to cope with a normal life and the things I am normally used to (social life, going out, etc..). Do you have any suggestions about where to start – considering that I won’t be able to afford a trip to Asia to see how it looks like? Thank you!

    • Financially, South Korea is a great place to start as they cover all your expenses. There are also large expat communities in Korea – in major cities you can’t go anywhere without seeing English teachers. I would just advise that you should go into it with an open mind and if you don’t like it, you can always leave and go back home. Nothing has to last forever. Best of luck.

    • what are your thoughts on programs that offer TEFL certification online as well as on-site when you arrive in country, such as Greenheart Travel. These programs seem nice- many of them pay for housing for the first month while you finish your certification with them and they help place you in certain schools. What are your thoughts? Im currently looking into South America and Indonesia.

      • Hello Cait, I do not know the company in question, but I looked them up. They claim that to teach in Korea you need a “Bachelor’s or Master’s Degree in any subject with a TEFL/TESOL certification (Minimum 100 hours).” It is not true that you need a TEFL/TESOL certification unless you want to work for a government school. If you want to work for a government school in Korea, I would apply through EPIK / GEPIK directly. With regards to them paying for housing, that simply won’t happen. Either the cost of your course will factor in accommodation or they will be paid by someone else (for example, to train / recruit a teacher). I am always very wary of companies that make people pay to get a job or volunteer as they are businesses and you can save money by skipping them. Saying that, they might give you a ‘safety net’ of stability, so it is up to you if you want to pay the money for that safety net or not. Also be wary of companies that guarantee jobs – the jobs they guarantee are normally guaranteed because nobody else wants them. Best of luck to you.

        • Thank you for your response. I suppose I like the idea of a program just because of the safety net- plus you have the opportunity to meet up with other people in your program and share experiences. The thought of becoming certified online, booking a flight to a foreign country and aimlessly searching for a job there seems a bit scary. I just don’t want to get ripped off by these organizations. Would you recommend getting certified and contacting schools directly? There are just SOO many options out there it is very overwhelming. I think I’ve narrowed down my countries of interest to Ecuador and Colombia. Any suggestions on good programs?

          • I would recommend reading this post about finding a job in Korea. Although it is about Korea, it is the same advice that I would give for applying anywhere in the world. Hopefully you can find a job before you leave, offering peace of mind. That way you save money. There are a lot of good agencies out there too. It is completely up to you, but I would not pay to get a job as I expect to be paid when I work! Saying that though, we are all different and clearly Hindie’s daughter had positive experiences which is great.

      • My daughter and her boyfriend did their certification through Greenhart Travel in Thailand. They enjoyed their training time and the program. They were met by someone from the company when they arrived and they found them housing. They are now assigned to two different high schools in a rural town. An agent helped them find their apartment and scooter. They did discover that the schools hired an agent to help find teachers and the agent is helping them with any other issues that they might encounter.

        • Oh great. Thanks for your response. Greenheart’s program in Colombia is actually free… but it says they offer a stipend of 1,500,000 pesos so I’m confused as to wether I’m working for Greenheart of through the school. I’ve also come across i-to-i to become certified TEFL for a very reasonable price. any thoughts on i-to-i?

          • Most probably they will be an agent who gets paid by the school for recruiting teachers. This is quite common and I know many people who got jobs through agencies without a problem. Most agencies I came across were very small and didn’t have offices outside Korea. Some were simply one person operating from home. Government programs normally offer good security and group orientation, so maybe look into this. As for i-to-i, have a quick read about TEFLS on this page.

        • One more thing- you said when you looked at recruiting agencies for your time in South Korea… were many of these agencies free? Did they have an office in your country or provide an orientation with a group of other individuals?

  • Hello Jamie,

    Great site man. Really interesting read and very inspirational. Keep up the good work. I have a question for you about teaching English in Spain (Barcelona specifically). I am a native speaker from the US and am moving to Spain in the very near future and went beforehand to test out the waters and it really felt like I was getting the run around about needing all these certifications with multiple acronyms I have never heard of and upon looking up cost quite a bit of cash. Do you have any experience with this specifically and what would you recommend for me to take? TEFL? Personally, like you mentioned on your blog I feel that these are all a racket and feel confident that after working as an assistant to a teacher for a bit I could teach just fine with (insert fancy acronym name) qualification. Please help. Thanks for writing up such a helpful guide.



    • Typically a TEFL is enough, but read this post about TEFLs first. Sometimes having the TEFL is simply a formality to get the job. When I was in Turkey, I had to have a TEFL to get a job teaching – although I did get around this in the end as things are not strict in Turkey. As an American in Spain, make sure you have legal rights to work in the EU. Leah and I tried to work in Spain (or anywhere else in the EU), but due to her being American, it became near impossible for her to get the legal documentation to teach, hence why we went to Turkey. If you do manage to get working rights in the EU, I would be very interested to hear how you did it (for Leah’s sake). Best of luck to you.

  • Great Post Jamie! I’m currently in the process of applying for a teaching position in S Korea through CIEE.They also have an expensive program fee.If I could afford to up and go, I would have but unfortunately, I don’t. Could you recommend any other reliable programs.


    • I do not know CIEE, but I would not trust them – never have I heard of someone paying money to successfully get a job in Korea. When I applied, my school paid for all expenses (including flights) and this is common practice in Korea. Sometime you have to pay your airfare, but you get a refund from your school when you arrive. Some schools pay the airfare upfront for you. With the exception of documents (police check, degree notarisation), there should be almost zero expenses of relocating to South Korea to teach English.

    • Hi Jamie
      I am an ESOL & IELTS teacher at Auckland University of Technology (New Zealand) AUT, and worldwide school of English Auckland. As a CELTA certified, holder with a Dip.BA in Business from Waikato University, and M.Sc. In Science from University of Southern California.
      Being a trained language teacher, I possess fun-filled and effective teaching skills and ability to motivate my students towards learning. I would like to teach English somewhere in the world but I am sixty years old do you think this is a problem? do you know how to apply to teach English for colleges or universities?. Thank you for your time and consideration

      • Hany, you are far more qualified to teach than most people – in Korea, most of us got jobs simply because of our passports and because we held degrees (in any subject). I don’t think your age will be a big problem – find out where you want to teach, then start applying and see what happens. This page about how to find a job teaching English in Korea can be applied to other countries too. I hope it helps. Best of luck to you.

  • Don’t forget, if you’re making money teaching in another country, you must file a U.S. income tax return and pay any taxes owed on income earned abroad.

  • Hello,
    I would like to learn about teaching English abroad after I retire from teaching ESL here in the US. I would like to teach business English for a company, not a school. Can you point me in the right direction?

    • Start looking through job forums and contacting agencies. They get paid for finding you a job, so want to help out.

  • Have you heard about a company called Greenhouse Travel? And if so are they a reliable company for training and placing people in legitimate jobs

  • Thanks for the post – really useful. Just looking to do a TEFL course and get the ball rolling now but I’m seeing a fair bit about it being difficult to find work without the CELTA or Trinity’s CertTESOL – do you know if this is the case? Both of these courses are around £900-£1000 so a lot steeper than the others at around £350. Thanks!

  • I have looked so many places online to teach abroad. ALmost had everything set in stone for S Korea and then the very last week when all paper work was due, they THEN tell me about their 300.00 fee.Also was treated rudely when I kept asking questions about living conditionsand flight reeembursement etc etc NEVER once mentioned this fee via phone or email. It was through EPIK.

    **CAn anyone suggest a good 6 month program abroad with reasonable flight costs?

    • You should not have to pay a fee to get a job with EPIK and I advise that you stay away from this. Whoever you were dealing with sounds like a con artist, trying to steal your money. The vast majority of programs are for one year, but take a look at job boards and you might find something for six months.

  • Hi Jamie,

    This post has been so great! I am just wondering if you know much about the added potential of gaining an English teaching job in Europe with an EU passport? As in I wouldnt need a visa to legally work in Europe because I’m a dual citizen in NZ/Croatia until after 3 months of residing in any given place (depending on the country) – do you think this would make for a more appealing application? I hope this makes sense to you haha!

    I am just beginning the process of looking into going overseas to teach so forgive me if this is a bit of a novice question, you just seem to know your stuff! 🙂

    • It makes things much, much easier. Many EU countries won’t even go through the hassle of hiring non-EU teachers as it is a lot of paperwork. Good luck.

  • Hey this was the first link I looked into when thinking about teaching English in other countries and it definitely helped me with all the questions I had about how to do it and suggestions.
    Appreciate your blog and sharing your experiences!
    By any chance you can recommend me to any certain sites to get me going to the right direction?

    • I’m glad that you found it useful. Check out TEFL dot com and ESL Cafe to find some good English teacher communities and job listings from around the world.

  • You say that everywhere is looking to learn English ‘right now’ i mean how long will this go on …. as a long term career i am not so sure it is viable, in a few years the demand will probably be a great deal less , people will want to learn Mandarin

    • The world always changes fast and who knows what the future will hold, but right now English has a strong hold on the world. Many businesses in China are learning English and as the Chinese are speaking English already, it may be that English is already too big to be overtaken by another language.

  • HI, I am teaching English to Korean adults, would like some info on how to go about it.

  • I can only say teaching English in south Thailand has been the best experience of my life! I love it here. We have so much paid time off. We get to discover so many fantastic places. My school Srithammarat has been excellent. I can totally recommend it. I think everyone should give teaching abroad a try.

    • can you give me your resources that you used to teach in thailand? what agency?
      prices to get there etc etc. I’d love to get info about your experience and how much costs were.


  • I need help finding the best site to finding a program to get certified. Would you be able to help me with that? Thanks 🙂

  • Really good advice here… I wish I’d found it before I embarked on my teaching adventure. I now live and teach privately in Budapest. Although I could have opted for in-school jobs I decided to stick to private students to give myself the flexibility to travel and charge what I want. My previous experience is in sales and marketing so I’ve not found it difficult recruiting new students.

    For anyone thinking about teaching in Budapest… especially if you have an EU passport… go for it. You can earn more than enough on 25 hours per week to have fun, comfortable life here… and if you work more than that you can easily save some money.

    • That sounds great. It sounds like you are maximizing your freedom by teaching privately. I taught in Asia for 6 years, but very little privately. I think you have to be a go-getter to find privates. It sounds like you have the experience to help. I also found one on one teaching to be more taxing than teaching classes. That was just me.

      • Teaching privates can be more lucrative per hour, but is also harder to organise and when they cancel, you are left without money. You also have to be careful with the legality of teaching privates as you might be breaking a law. Like you I preferred classes of more than one, but when they got too big, that was a whole new dilemma.

  • Oh my God, I am just devouring your blog pages each and every day 🙂
    Thank you SOOOO much for sharing all your experience, you have NO idea how much this is helping/inspiring me…
    Just kidding, of course you DO!!!
    I’ve been following your adventures since I met somebody that actually hosted you, and now I found your girlfriend’s blog …. I have duo citizenship (Brazilian/American) and am planning to spend some time in Istanbul. Reading all she has been sharing is saving a ton of headache for me, I am sure of that.
    Ok guys, we will definitely be talking here again …. All the good luck and enjoy your fascinating/exciting life 🙂

  • I’m thinking of trying to get some teaching jobs abroad. Japan is the dream location. This post has been infinitely helpful – it’s clarified the whole process so well, and made me even more determined to go for it, so thank you.
    P.S: You have a new subscriber 🙂

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