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Teaching English Abroad – Essential TEFL Guide

There are endless opportunities around the world for TEFL certified English teachers teaching English abroad. Depending on where you choose to teach English, you’ll get different pay opportunities, benefits and students. Just like any other job at home! Whether you’re looking to teach English abroad in popular locations such as China, Vietnam or Thailand, high salary locations like South Korea or lower paying yet exotic hideaways in the Pacific Islands, you need to understand the differences.

Teach English Abroad: Frequently Asked Questions

British & Irish Citizens Teaching English Abroad

If you’re from Britain or Ireland (meaning you have an EU passport), your skills will be in high demand in the European Continents where the local desire to learn “British English” is high. Because you have an EU passport you’ll be able to find TEFL jobs in Europe easily because you do not need a visa. Spain, Italy and Portugal are very popular destinations. Greece, Turkey and Poland also stand out as having a wealth of TEFL job opportunities, and remember conditions and benefits vary. Czech Republic, Poland and Hungary have now embraced the English language and so are the newest nations to be crying out for teachers.

US Citizens Teaching English Abroad

North American English is in higher demand in Asia and Latin America where trade links with America are stronger. Unfortunately, if you’re from North America you will find it harder to find a TEFL job in Europe, this is simply due to the reluctance for schools to get involved in the visa sponsorship process. It is not impossible however and one way to get around this is by with schools requiring North Americans to teach American English.

Native English Speakers Teaching English in Asia

Due to the huge demand for English in Asia, any qualified teacher from the UK, US, Australia, in fact any native English speaking nationality will be able to find work. Demand is particularly high in China, Thailand, Indonesia, Japan, Taiwan, Vietnam and South Korea.

How Much Money Could I Earn Teaching English Abroad?

Money is often the biggest concern; now don’t get trapped into comparing overseas salaries to those at home! The costs of living are sure to be far lower and; tax, airfare and accommodation may be provided or subsidized by your employer – so take this into account when comparing jobs. Entry level TEFL/TESOL jobs will likely pay anywhere between £300 ($500) up to £1200 ($1600) a month (plus benefits such as flights and accommodation). Some of the highest wages for entry-level candidates are to be found in the North Asian nations such South Korea and Japan; while the lower pay rates are found in poorer tropical hideaways. This is a good living by local standards, yet may not sound like much when compared to the wealthy West. Employee benefits offered are related to demand, and right now the demand in many countries is very high so keep this in mind.

If you rate quality of life and life-changing experiences above the money you earn then the world is your TEFL oyster! Divers and surfers should take a look at Indonesia and Costa Rica – anywhere on the Pacific. If it’s mountain then consider Nepal, North Asia, Chile, Peru, Bolivia or Ecuador. If you’re a spiritual type seeking a balanced way of life then consider any of North and South East Asian countries.

The key is to categorize what is important to you and match your list to potential countries, for example:

  • Cheap living
  • Save lots of money
  • Pursue hobbies and interests
  • Make a difference
  • Being in big, developed cities
  • Culture
  • Living in a paradise
  • Lots of sunshine

Don’t forget – you can move around and visit lots of countries!

How Long Do I Teach English Abroad For?

This is down to you, you’ll basically take on a contract, normally a minimum of 6 months and up to 1 year at a time. As to how many contracts you take on, only you will know what feels right. The majority of TEFL/TESOL teachers stop after a couple of years, most likely because the original goal was to travel and see the world and that desire was quenched. No matter, the skills you’ll gain as a TEFL teacher will help you to succeed in many situations and jobs. Especially ones that require you to be inventive and to think on your feet.

Where Can I Teach English Abroad?

It’s actually easier to highlight the less promising destinations! Where there is less Western influence, yet a desire to still learn English, you might find nations have their own version of English that is taught by the native populations. Such countries include India, the Philippines and Singapore. The list of countries that want you are some twenty times bigger than the list that do not!

Where Are The Best Places to Teach English Abroad?

Thailand – A stunning country with a huge demand for learning the English language, Thailand is a hotspot for those looking to teach English abroad.

Vietnam – With high TEFL salaries and a low cost of living, there’s no surprise this beautiful country is high on the list for people teaching English abroad.

China – With an estimated 300 million people currently learning English its not a surprise that there are more TEFL jobs in China than any other country in the world.

South Korea, Japan and Taiwan – These economies are growing fast with most of their wealth coming from the microchip. The demand for English has risen sharply.

Brazil – The are many opportunities to teach in large corporations, and thousands of language schools scattered around the country from the small villages to big cities.

Ecuador, Argentina, and Chile – The Spanish speaking, developing economies of South America. Language schools are very common providing many teaching opportunities.

Central America and the CaribbeanCosta Rica has the most opportunities with large numbers of private language schools in San Jose. There are a lot of jobs in the wider continent.

Mexico – There are immense numbers of jobs teaching children as well as many positions in universities and the business sector. English language tuition in Mexico is huge!

Ex-Soviet States – the desire to speak English and be associated with the rest of Europe demand is massive – Poland, Slovakia, Czech Republic and even Russia.

Finding a Job Teaching Abroad

Employment prospects are not equal for all budding teachers. The number of qualified teachers has increased alongside the demand. This means that foreign language schools are able to be selective and look for teachers with recognised TEFL qualifications. (Don’t forget that i-to-i offer an internationally recognised qualification, accredited by the ODLQC). It is completely possible to get a job without any TEFL/TESOL certification, especially if you have a degree, yet such individuals are much more likely to endure poorer conditions, pay and benefits – and have a hell-ish first month in the job at your student’s expense.

Timing – as with so many things in life – is important as many TEFL/TESOL jobs begin in the autumn, or fall. So try and get certified in the summer. In the UK, US and other English speaking countries, it is better to be qualified before the summer.

You can explore foreign cultures, languages, climates and peoples and what better way to do this than by involving yourself with local communities and teaching English! So, what are you waiting for, get certified and get overseas!

You can check out the latest global TEFL vacancies on i-to-i’s TEFL Jobs Board here! Apply for as many jobs as you like and find your perfect job in your desired location. Why make job hunting stressful hey?

Real testimonials, from real people


I had become bored with getting up every morning to go to a dead-end job. I wanted to travel, and what better way than to get paid at the same time as seeing Asia?

Robert Clarke


I completed my online course in 3-4 weeks... My dream was to work & live in Milan, Italy... The work was fun.. and I really enjoyed the experience... everyone should live in another country at least once...

Francesco Grandi


I was working as a computer programmer in London... I decided to do an intensive weekend (TEFL) course... I now get paid to teach in Japan, I have been here a few months and I enjoy it...

Richard Guy