Teaching English Abroad in Australia

We know several people who’ve worked as English teachers in Australia, so when Jamie from ESL Teacher 365 offered to write a post for us, we were very excited. Teaching English abroad in Australia on a working holiday visa is one way to experience living ‘down under’. Read on to find out more.

When it comes to teaching English abroad, destinations like Spain, South Korea, and Japan usually top the list. However, did you know you can teach English abroad in Australia? While teaching English abroad in an English speaking country may seem strange, I was able to teach at two English language schools in Brisbane, Australia on a Work Holiday Visa.

Have you considered teaching English in Australia? Read this post by an American English teacher in Australia to find out more

What visa will I need to teach English abroad in Australia?

To begin, the easiest way to teach English abroad in Australia is on a Work Holiday Visa. After finishing up two years at an International school in Spain, my partner and I headed to Australia. While most travelers use this visa to work and travel around the country, you can use it to get a more stable job.

Read more from Jamie about teaching in Spain

Our first AirBnB host recommended that I apply to English language schools. I contacted a few schools via email and was told that I would need a TEFL certificate in order to teach. Up until this point, I had taught in France, Spain, Costa Rica and Egypt with my US teaching certificate and Spanish master’s degree.

Teaching English abroad in Australia

I ended up signing a contract with a language school that allowed me to teach as long as I was completing a TEFL certificate at the same time. I did a part-time CELTA course at Lexis English and worked at Browns English Language School at the same time for the first 6 months of my visa.

Wondering what CELTA is? Find out what TEFL qualifications we recommend you take.

Australian Work Holiday Visa Information

The AU Work Holiday Visa application is extremely easy and quick. Of all the places I’ve taught abroad, this visa has been the cheapest, fastest and most straightforward! However, there are some restrictions:

You have a limit of 6 months per company that you work at – I ended up working for one language school for 6 months, job searching for only ONE DAY, and signing a contract with a second language school for the second half of my visa. I taught at this second language school for three years. If you choose to teach in a larger city, there are often several language schools to choose from, so it’s easy to find a second contract.
Australia Work Holiday Visas are only available for specific countries and have different policies and restrictions for each country – For example, Canadian citizens must be between 18-30 years old, whereas French citizens can be up to 35 years old. The visas are often updated, with new countries being added to the list. Some countries allow you to renew your WHV for an additional year. Check the official Australia Immigration website for details on your country.

There are two different kinds of Work Holiday Visas: subclass 417 and subclass 462. Since I have American citizenship and my partner has Italian citizenship, we actually got two different WH visas. Mine required a chest x-ray (tuberculosis test) whereas he didn’t have to do any medical examinations. Additionally, his visa was approved almost immediately while I had to wait a week for mine.

If you aren’t eligible for a Work Holiday Visa, you’ll need to get a sponsored work visa. This is a much longer and more challenging process.

What are English language schools like in Australia?

There are many English language schools located in larger cities like Sydney, Melbourne, and Brisbane, as well as smaller schools located near tourist areas like Noosa. These language schools offer general English as well as test prep programs for IELTS, Cambridge and sometimes PTE.

Working as a TEFL teacher in Australia
Teaching in Australia for Halloween!

These language schools mostly cater towards young adults. However, there are some schools that offer classes and programs for young learners. These young learners are often from Asian countries, with China being the most popular. Schools will require a Blue Card if there are students under 18 on the campus. This is similar to a background check and shows that you are able to work with children.

Additionally, some Australian language schools offer study tour programs for Asian school children. Groups from Japan and other countries come to English language schools for English lessons in the morning and cultural activities in the afternoon. Study tours usually last a week or two at a time.

Not sure what kind of TEFL job you want to do? Read our post on different types of TEFL jobs abroad.

My experience teaching at English language schools in Australia

At the first school I worked at, I taught general English to levels A1, B1 and B2. I taught adult students, with the majority being around 20-25 years old. In the morning, students took their level course. After lunch, students came back for “skills” classes which changed by day. For example, Monday was speaking, Tuesday was writing, Wednesday was listening, etc.

The idea behind the skills classes was that while someone may be intermediate (B1) at listening, they could be pre-intermediate (A1) at writing. This allowed students to practice these skills at a more suitable level.

At the second school I worked at, I taught both Cambridge exam prep and general English for levels A1-C1. Again, my students were adults with an average age of 20-25. The most common nationalities were Colombian, Brazilian, and Spanish. During my first year of teaching, both schools had contracts with Saudi Arabia meaning there were lots of Saudi students. However, once the contracts finished, all the Saudi students left.

The second school that I worked at also had a schedule where students had their regular level in the morning. After lunch, students had “Option” classes that they could choose. I taught many different Option classes with themes like Cambridge prep, Intermediate Writing, Discover the USA, Film Making and Speaking.

English teacher in Australia with students
With students on their graduation

What is the pay like as an English teacher in Australia?

The pay at Australian English language schools is on a step system. Using a set scale, the school takes your teaching credentials and experience into account. For example, I was able to start at a higher step because I have a master’s degree in Multilingual Education.

Unfortunately for foreign teachers, any teaching experience obtained outside of Australia only counts for half. This means that a foreign teacher with 4 years of experience will be earning the same as an Australian teacher with 2 years of experience.

I started at around $48 AUD per hour, which is pretty decent pay. You are only paid for teaching hours, however, so planning time and breaks are unpaid. You are automatically up for a raise once you reach a certain number of teaching hours.

One way to increase your income while teaching English abroad in Australia is to teach online. Find our more in our handy guide to online English teaching.

The pros of teaching English abroad in Australia

I’ve now been teaching in Australia for 5 years and just like every teaching job, there are both advantages and disadvantages.

Here are some of the pros of working as an English teacher in Australia:

  • Flexibility – when teaching general English, teachers are able to request time off quite easily. I’ve been able to see a lot of Australia as well as visit foreign countries at the times that were convenient for me. I even took off 7 weeks to travel and was able to come back to my job.
  • Pay – when compared with some of the other places that I’ve taught, the pay has been great. The cost of living is higher in Australia, but I’ve found it much easier to save money here.
  • Teaching students from all over the world – I’ve had classes with up to 10 different nationalities. This makes discussions really interesting. It makes me feel like I’m teaching a mini version of the UN!
  • You don’t need to be a native speaker – at both of the schools I worked at, I would say that only half of the teachers were native English speakers! There were some fantastic teachers who were Russian, Brazilian, Argentine… you name it! If you aren’t a native speaker, you’ll definitely need a TEFL certification.
  • Resources and technology – both of the schools that I worked at had libraries of available resources, educational subscriptions and screens in the classrooms. Both schools also had planned activities and trips for students. We were able to accompany our students on trips of our choice as long as they connected with our lessons.

If you are a non-native English speaking teacher looking to teach abroad, our guide will give you lots of advice on what you need and where to apply.

The cons of teaching English abroad in Australia

  • Lack of flexibility for test prep teachers – while teaching general English was flexible, teaching Cambridge exam prep courses was not. I was not allowed to miss any days unless I was sick.
  • Issues with students – the most common issues with students are immature students who just want to party during their time in Australia and not learn English, well-off students who can be very demanding of teachers and admin, students who worked early hour jobs to pay for school and were exhausted by the time classes started, as well as close-minded students who have never been around other nationalities before and made harmful comments to teachers and students.
  • Casual job – teaching English at a language school is considered a casual job. This means that your hours can be reduced or stopped at any time and without warning. Additionally, you are not entitled to sick pay, holiday pay or benefits besides contributions to your super fund (retirement fund.) However, this retirement fund is taxed 65% if you are on a Work Holiday Visa, meaning that you’ll only keep a small portion of it.

Teaching English abroad in Australia during Covid-19

Currently, due to Covid-19, Australian borders have been closed to international students for almost a year. This means that English language schools have had to close their doors as government support runs out. Likewise, Work Holiday Visas are currently paused due to border closures.

While now isn’t the best moment to teach English abroad in Australia, once the borders open back up I expect there to be a surge in international students and therefore teachers. Many students are going to other countries like Canada and the UK to learn English at the moment, but they will come to Australia once it’s open and ready.

In the meantime, read our post on different places to teach English abroad to find another option.

I always asked my students why they had chosen Australia to study English instead of other countries. Their responses? The weather, friendly people, ability to study and work at the same time and the ease of getting the student visa. Australia is truly a great place to work and study.

Jamie from ESLteacher 365 working as an English teacher in Australia
With some of the local wildlife!

If you’re interested in teaching English abroad in Australia, I highly recommend keeping on top of border openings, monitoring English language schools in Australia, getting a Work Holiday Visa, and coming “down under” to give teaching a try.

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Author Bio:
Jamie Gajewski is a certified teacher and teach abroad coach and consultant at ESL Teacher 365. She’s lived and taught in 6 different countries and currently calls Australia home. She loves helping people live an adventurous life through teaching English abroad and online. You can find her at www.eslteacher365.com

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