7 Tips for Finding the Best TEFL Jobs

 | Teaching House Nomads Blog

As I sat in front of my laptop screen, scrolling through webpage upon webpage, I repeatedly asked myself, “Where should I go?” Deciding where to teach English abroad was a such an overwhelming task and the sheer number of options of where to live and work abroad were mind-boggling.

So how does one choose where they want to go? For me, the answer was not an easy one. I was pretty open to going anywhere, so instead of focusing on the dozens of places I would love to go to, I decided to figure out where I didn’t want to go and why.

Really, it all boils down to what kind of adventure you’re looking for. But here are some things to consider that might make your search easier:

1. Where can you go? What countries will allow you to work there?

Before you start throwing darts at a map as a method for deciding your next location, it’s important to figure out where you can actually get work.

Do you meet the minimum qualifications for the job? Is it even possible to get a work visa for that country? Some countries require that you have an undergraduate degree plus your TEFL certification in order for you to qualify for a work visa. Some countries don’t. Some countries also require a minimum and maximum age for employment.

If you don’t meet a country or job’s minimum requirements, you may want to consider looking elsewhere.

2. Do you need to pay off student loans or other debts?

There are great jobs abroad where English teaching wages can afford to buy you a comfortable lifestyle in the country where you teach. But only some of these jobs can also allow you to save substantial cash to pay off debts accrued in your home currency.

For example, if you’re teaching in Peru, you can expect to make anywhere from $500-$700/month while a comfortable lifestyle will cost you about $350/month. This leaves you with a few hundred dollars of savings, if you budget well, but probably not enough to pay off any debts. Whereas, in places like the Middle Eastern Gulf States, you might make $3,000-$4,000/month with accommodation provided for you, which means you’ll have a lot more money left over each month to pay off debts with.

Make sure you do your research on the country you want to move to, and compare job salaries to the average cost of living in that country using resources like this Expatistan Cost of Living Index. And if you’re short on cash, you might want to consider a job that provides flight and/or accommodation packages.

3. What excites you about going to a particular country?

Expats teaching English in a different country can also learn the local language while they're there
Learning Chinese was one reason I chose China

Are you interested in a particular culture or religion? Have you always wanted to learn Spanish? Chinese? Do you have a thing for hiking and the outdoors? Do you love big, cosmopolitan cities?

Your interest in a particular culture, language, food, or environment a country has to offer is a big deciding factor in where you’ll be happiest. Your feelings and interests may change as you continue to travel and experience the many lifestyles available around the world, but it’s important to go somewhere you initially feel excited about exploring. It will make a big difference in how well you adjust to your new surroundings.

4. Are the job offers you’re applying for legit?

As you browse the job listings on the Teaching House Jobs Database and TEFL.com, the wheels will be turning and you’ll start imagining yourself in your new life in Oman, Mexico or South Korea, depending on what job ads you’re reading on any given day.

Just be aware that though most job ads on these sites are legit, you may come across some phony offers. And they often have telltale signs. For example, be wary of any job offer from Nigeria. Like the email scams this country is famous for, they’ll often offer something that sounds too good to be true. Because it is.

If the salaries being offered are ridiculously high compared to other job offers from the same country, or the employer is asking you to pay a job application fee, or even to pay for your work visa before you even arrive on the job (which may sound reasonable, but is not), you can be pretty sure that job is bogus.

If you have any doubts whatsoever, simply Google the name of the school and scroll for mentions in forum discussions, or post a question in the country-specific forums on ESLCafe.com. If someone has been scammed or ripped off by an employer, you’ll most likely find out with a simple search.

5. Okay, so the job is legit. But is it a good job?

This is also not a tough question to answer. Again, if you Google the name of the school and scroll through forums, you’ll start to recognize the names of schools with good reputations and you’ll read enough to know which schools are dodgy.

But keep in mind there are always some bad reviews of good schools (written by disgruntled employees or students) as well as good reviews of bad schools (often written by owners or directors of the school). Like anything, though, there are easy-to-spot signs of a good school.

Start with the job ad itself – do they specifically ask for teachers with the CELTA or equivalent certification? Or do they say “no qualifications necessary”? Does the school offer teachers professional development? A school that asks for good qualifications and offers to train teachers regularly shows that they care about their teachers, their students and the quality of education being provided. They’re not just a money-making venture.

What do you know about the work conditions and salary? If there isn’t much info about a particular school on the forums, are you able to email or talk to currently employed teachers? If so, ask them to be frank about the non-sugar-coated aspects of working for their school. Every job has a down side. It doesn’t mean it’s a bad job — you just want to know what you’re getting into.

If the salary or the contract isn’t what you’re looking for, or you’re uncomfortable with the responsibilities of the position, chances are this job isn’t the right one for you. Make sure wherever you end up going feels like a good fit.

6. How important is it that you get to travel?

A big advantage of teaching ESL in other countries is that teachers can explore and travel frequently
I love traveling around China when I’m not teaching

Some countries and cities are great hubs for exploring the surrounding region on the weekends or on school holidays. For example, Singapore is only an $80 flight from Bali and just a hop away from Thailand, Vietnam and Cambodia. If frequent travel is an important aspect of your desire to go abroad, then consider working in a town or city that is easy to travel to and from.

Also, you may want to consider if it is cost-effective and possible to travel with your work load and schedule. Determining where you’re interested in living and if you can do all the things you want to do while there are very important factors. If traveling every weekend is a priority for you and the school you’re applying to expects you to work six days a week, then that may be a deal-breaker.

7. Do you have to return in a certain period of time? Does your school offer contracts that allow you to return within your time frame?

Sometimes the visa application process alone can be quite lengthy, and that may be before you’ve even gotten to the country you’re going to work in. If your time abroad is limited because you’re going back to university or you have a family obligation you need to be home for, visa processing time as well as contract lengths can be determining factors in which job you accept.

Final word of advice: Just go

The truth is, every job and country has its advantages and disadvantages. By deciding beforehand what type of job and experience you want, it will help narrow down your options and make the search less daunting.

Keep in mind, however, that it’s not possible to predict or plan for every pitfall or aspect of your life and job abroad. Sometimes you just have to make the leap and alter your course later. Remember, the imperfect adventure you’re having now is worth much more than the perfect plan that never comes to fruition.

So, go! Have a blast! Do your research, but accept you will make mistakes. Even those are part of the adventure and the great stories you’ll tell later.

What other questions do you have about finding TEFL jobs? Leave a comment below!

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