Teaching English Abroad

If you are planning to teach English abroad, you should be aware that qualifications and preparation vary widely. In some cases, your BA in English is sufficient, but in other cases, employers may require additional training, such as completion of a TESOL certificate (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages -- also referred to as a TESL, TEFL, or ESL certification) or a master's degree in TESOL, English, linguistics, or a related area of study. Qualifications will be different in different areas of the world, and they will also vary by the type of institution. For example, some private language academies require less preparation, while colleges, universities, and international schools will usually require more. Market trends will also determine what a potential employer will ask of a competitive applicant.

An MATESL degree (Master's in Teaching English as a Second Language) is the best preparation, and if you are planning to establish a career teaching abroad (for more than 1 or 2 years), this is the most sensible route. UA English offers a two year MATESL program, as do other universities. UA English also offers a year-long Graduate Certificate in TESL, done online or on campus, for students who want to gain graduate credit and apply it to a graduate degree in the future.

If you are hoping to teach abroad for just a few years while you travel, however, you can often secure a job without the master's degree or graduate coursework. If you have a BA in English or Linguistics, or in the language/culture of a country you would like to work in, it can be helpful to also complete coursework like:

  • English 255: Introduction to the English Language (offered every semester)
  • English 355: English Sociolinguistics (offered every Fall)
  • English 406: Modern English Grammar (offered every Spring)
  • English 455: Introduction to TESL (offered every Fall)

If you cannot take these courses, or if you want additional training, the Center for ESL offers non-credit Certificates in TESL that can be taken online or in person in the summer, for about $1000.

Experience in teaching or tutoring English Language Learners (ELLs) is also very helpful. If you have an opportunity to tutor ELLs, assist in a classroom, or volunteer at a community organization, you will strengthen your application. Some places to begin to gain experience are volunteer opportunities with local organizations like Literacy Connects (http://www.literacyconnects.org). Take a look at the City of Tucson’s list of resources for ESL learners

In some regions, there are many teaching jobs, while in other areas there are very few. Salaries also range widely. A third consideration is the availability of work visas in a particular country. In general, jobs are plentiful in Asia and in some parts of the Middle East, whereas paid jobs in Western Europe, Africa, and Latin America are relatively sparse. In the case of Europe (especially Western Europe), a work visa can be difficult to secure. In addition, many Europeans already speak English, so there is less demand for English teachers from abroad. The most commonly available jobs will be with private language academies, especially those geared for business people. Paying jobs in Africa, Eastern Europe, and Latin America are scarce owing to economic factors.

There are a number structured programs that recruit new graduates for teaching positions abroad, and many provide orientations, training, and other support. These positions typically cover living expenses and often offer a modest stipend. As you investigate programs, make a note of application deadlines. Whenever possible, make contact with alumni of these programs to ask them about their experiences.

Other useful resources include:

English International: Provides information and advice for teaching English overseas, including a book, Teaching English Overseas: A Job Guide for Americans and Canadians.

Transitions Abroad: Available from many libraries and international newsstands: this magazine often carries articles on the TEFL job market as well as on other topics relating to overseas work, life and travel. The January/February issue each year concentrates on TEFL.

Dave’s ESL Café: Run by Dave Sperling, this is the biggest and best website for EFL teachers. The Job Center section contains many useful pages including: Jobs Offered, Job Discussion Forum, Job Information Journal and Teacher Training Discussion Forum.

TeachAbroad.com: Directory for teaching positions around the world -- educational opportunities, paid and volunteer international teaching positions, searchable by country.

ESL.net: Distributor of ESL (English as a Second Language), GED, and foreign language training software, videos, audio, handheld translation devices, and textbooks. They also have a list of ESL resources.

Teaching English in Asia: List of resources and opportunities in Asia.

GoOverseas: Lists ELL/ESL teaching jobs and other resources.



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