Millions who’ve dreamed of exploring foreign lands but lacked the funds to do so have found ways to support themselves while abroad. Blogging, of course, but also establishing themselves as a social media influencer, taking on freelance assignments – anything from remote IT jobs to content writing and, of course, teaching English.
English is currently the world’s lingua franca. It’s the default second language taught in schools and the language of business and science; even the aviation industry has standardized its language requirements. All pilots and air traffic controllers, in every country, must speak an acceptable level of accent-neutral English.
That doesn’t mean speaking English well enough to communicate with the towers, either. As of 2008, all pilots and flight personnel, as well as control tower personnel must be proficient in English.
As English is the world’s de facto language, it stands to reason that countries whose native language isn’t English would need lots of English teachers, preferably native English speakers.
If that’s you and you’ve always dreamed of seeing more of the world, teaching English abroad could be your ticket to making your dream come true. Let’s find out what you need to claim such a job for yourself.
You Must Be a Native Speaker
It should go without saying that schools in other countries prefer English teachers whose first language is English over candidates who immigrated to an English-speaking country and learned the language once there.
Or, for that matter, anyone from a country whose first official language isn’t English.
That’s not to say that anyone who speaks English as a second language isn’t worthy of respect; only that schools looking for foreign teachers generally prefer applicants from the US, the UK, Canada or Australia; countries where English is the first or official language.
With that said, being bilingual – having a CEFRL (Common European Framework of Reference for Languages) rating of C1 or better in English should give you access to teaching opportunities abroad.
You Should Have a Bachelor’s Degree
Not too long ago, it was acceptable to teach abroad with just a high school diploma but, these days, reputable institutions require prospective English teachers to have at least a bachelor’s degree.
However, if you’re planning on a gap year while in college or university, and especially if your declared major is related to teaching or languages, you may be able to land a gig as an English teacher abroad, provided your GPA is on the higher end of the scale.
For older adventure seekers, a two-year degree with some type of teaching experience might be enough to land a position but probably only in smaller, less prestigious schools.
Teaching Experience Is a Plus
Many schools abroad require their foreign teachers to have some experience leading a classroom but many commercial tutoring businesses aren’t quite that strict.
Note that, even for those agencies, you’ll still have to have at least a four-year degree before being considered for hire.
Your teaching experience doesn’t have to be teaching English. If you were a summer camp activities leader or counselor, or taught classes in different subjects – anything from academics to music, cooking or other special interests, that may count as teaching experience.
The only thing is, you have to prove it. So, if you have documentation, especially the type that comes with a description of your duties and accompanied by a letter of recommendation from whoever oversaw your efforts, that should be good enough to meet the experience requirements for the average school abroad.
What if you tutored ESOL students to pay your way through college? Here too, if you can prove it/it may fly applies.
What to Watch Out For
Now that you know the baseline qualifications – native/bilingual English speaker, college-educated and with teaching experience, you’re ready to start looking for teaching jobs abroad.
Unfortunately, some job postings you might run across are for less-than-reputable employers. Those stories about schools holding their foreign teachers’ passports and housing them in subpar living conditions aren’t apocryphal. This foreign teacher has met plenty of adventurer-teachers along the way who were disappointed in just that way.
So the final qualifications you must have to teach English overseas are being clever and resourceful.
Beyond looking out for yourself and being able to spot qualified job offers from the more questionable ones, those two qualities will equip you to teach in classrooms with few tools and resources.
You probably won’t find them listed in any job posting but if you have them and put them to work in your foreign teaching endeavors, you’ll not only make learning English fun and easy for your students but you’ll ensure your reputation as an English teacher of merit – as well as your safety.
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