Having spent sometime with the backpacking community in Southeast Asia, I’ve come to realize that teaching English is one of the easiest and most cost effective ways to travel. English teachers are in high demand and the benefits are sweet: in addition to your monthly salary (which will probably average around $1000 USD), your employer will often pay for your accommodations and/or flight.
Even more importantly, teaching is an incredibly rewarding job, and an experience unlike any other. If you’re teaching in a small town like me, get ready to be treated like a quasi-celebrity. My students cheered for me when I entered the room, asked for my autograph, showered me with gifts, and snapped pictures of me when they thought I wasn’t looking. They also loved my hair, which is very long and very blonde, and kept sneaking up behind me and stroking it.
Being treated like a Kardashian is a lot to get used to and its definitely not for everyone. All the attention made me super uncomfortable, but once I got used to it, I was so happy to see how much influence I had over my students. They looked up to me so much, and it felt amazing every time I inspired or helped a kid to improve their English.
Getting the job was surprisingly very easy. There are a few things that are helpful , but honestly, for the most part, not mandatory, for securing a job:
- Perfect English: This one is pretty understandable and pretty non-negotiable. The reason these schools abroad are so eager to hire from. Abroad. Is because our English is much better than the teachers here. If English is your first language, you’re set, and make sure to include that when you contact potential employers. If not, you may be able to find a job. Teaching in your native tongue, but jobs teaching English are much easier to find. – so I recommend ensuring that you brush up on your grammar points before applying, if necessary.
- A Bachelor’s degree: I know some people who have jobs teaching English with no degree, so if this is your dream job but you wont or can’t go to college, don’t worry. However, having a degree makes its a helluva lot easier. Note that this degree doesn’t have to be in teaching – if it is, kudos to you, and you can probably negotiate a higher salary. But mine is in Psychology. & Management and I had zero issues.
- TEFL: Again, most employers will say this is a necessity but I know a few people with teaching jobs who don’t have one. However, I recommend getting one just to make your life easier: both in terms of securing a job, and to learn the basics of how to teach if you have zero experience. There are two types of TEFL. Online only is just an online course, it’s the cheapest option but (depending on what program you chose) may not give you the greatest basis for your teaching and you’ll get zero practice. Online + in-class component means you will have to attend classes on how to teach. These are pretty easy to find, depending on where you live, just google TEFL classes near me. This will be more expensive but give you a much stronger base & you’ll feel more comfortable on your first day. There are other teaching degrees that you can get if you want a higher level job or bigger salary. But this is the one you need for your basic, teaching English abroad job.
- Clean criminal background check: some employers will ask for this, some won’t. Some will say you need it, but will never follow up on collecting it. Either way it’s a good idea to keep one on hand. Contact your government about this. If you’re in the US, you need to go to the police station, get fingerprinted, send it off to the FBI, and you’ll receive an email with your results a couple of weeks later.
So. There you have it, what you need in order to secure the ticket into what is sure to be an incredibly memorable and potentially life changing experience.
Stay posted for instalment two, when I’ll share exactly how to go about finding this job and share share the story of the most hilarious woman’s day gift I received from my student.