Are you interested in teaching English online or abroad, but worried about the endless warnings of ‘TEFL scams’ and trickery? You really don’t need to be: whilst there are some scams out there in the TEFL world, these are very rare, and when you know what to look out for, they’ll be easy to spot! The first thing to be aware of is that with the huge amount of TEFL courses out there, low prices can seem desirable, but when you put into consideration how many hours are required to take a TEFL course, the standard of the course, the tutors, and the overall experience, prices really shouldn’t be THAT low. If something sounds too good to be true, it probably is…
To help you sort out the reputable TEFL jobs from the more dubious ones, we enlisted the help of our i-to-i TEFL experts.
What a good overseas TEFL employer will do:
- A good employer won’t ask you to pay money directly to them before arriving.
- Many TEFL contracts specify ‘airfare reimbursement’ as a great perk. Don’t be put off by the ‘reimbursement’ part – understandably, it would be a risky business for employers to offer pre-paid flights – what if an employee quit after a couple of weeks?
- There should always be someone at the school who has a strong grasp of the English language i.e. who runs you through the interview process. If they don’t have a fluent or near-fluent speaker of English at the school, question it.
- In all formal contact, a good employer will always use letter-headed paper.
- A reputable job should be able to supply you with websites, blogs, and links to speak with current/previous employees.
- A good employer will not pressure you into accepting a job – if something doesn’t feel right, don’t feel you have to sign on the dotted line.
- A good employer will provide their full address – be wary if they only offer you a PO box.
- Be wary of an employer promising you a working visa after you arrive. For some countries, in South America, for example, getting a working visa in-country is extremely common but for others it is illegal and the repercussions can be steep.
Online TEFL scams to watch out for
The online TEFL teaching industry has been steadily growing every year, but recently it’s reached an all-time boom! With more students and teachers moving online everyday, there have been reports of some unscrupulous characters out there trying to exploit TEFL teachers seeking out online work.
Here are some things to watch out for when applying for online teaching jobs:
- No website. All reputable online teaching companies WILL have a website, if they don’t – question it!
- No reviews. If you ‘re struggling to find any reviews online from other teachers or students then that can be a good indication that it isn’t a real company. Check out places like Glassdoor to find reviews!
- High penalties and fines. It’s completely normal for an online teaching company to have penalties for teachers who miss lessons that have been booked, which is completely understandable. But make sure you pay close attention to the terms, there are some online teaching companies out there that have penalties and fines that are so unreasonable it’s almost inevitable you’ll end up losing large amounts of your pay to them each month.
- No payment for first lessons with students. Some online teaching companies will offer students a free first lesson as a way to entice students, this shouldn’t be at the expense of you as TEFL teacher. If this is the case, question it and find out more before accepting a contract.
5 things you should do for EVERY TEFL contract:
- Research your employer – a quick Google search should bring up testimonials and reviews. You might also want to search teacher forums (e.g. http://forums.eslcafe.com/job/) for honest information about people and schools.
- Be cautious with sending personal details
- Think of how you found the job – was it through a respected jobs board? Did the site feel safe?
- Get everything confirmed in writing!
- Ask people you know and talk to fellow teachers on Chalkboard about opportunities they know about and where they’d recommend.
If you end up at a school you’re not happy with, you don’t have to stay there! Breaking a contract is possible, although you might miss out on an end-of-semester bonus and it could potentially affect your visa. Contracts generally run for a year anyway, so at least the end is in sight if you find the job just isn’t for you.