Types of TEFL jobs abroad
Teaching English isn’t the same everywhere. There is a vast range of different types of TEFL jobs out there. You can teach adults and/or children, you can teach in a university, school, language centre or in a business. You can even teach online. You can teach during the day, in the evenings and/or at the weekend. You can teach the same group of students intensively, or have several different classes in a week.
TESOL Jobs are sometimes different in different countries, but there are also different jobs within the same country. In this blog, we try to give a run down of the different types of teaching jobs out there. By no means will it cover every option. I’m sure we will miss some out. But hopefully, it will give you some idea of the options available to you.
TEFL Teaching jobs with Young Learners
The term ‘Young Learners’ includes anyone who can more-or-less talk, up to when they leave school, so as young as 2, to around 18. In some countries over 16s are considered to be adults, in others not.
First, let’s start with something most people are familiar with – school. In some countries, particularly in Asian countries such as Thailand, China and Vietnam, English teachers are employed to teach ESL, or to support the English teacher in local schools. Depending on the country, class sizes may be very big – up to 60 in some places. In some countries – Thailand and China included, you are employed by the school and work directly for them. You have to be at school for the whole day, and teach various lessons to various classes throughout the week. In addition, you often have to go to staff meetings, and school events like sports day.
Sound good? Fancy Thailand? Read our post on how to find a TEFL job in Bangkok
In other countries, such as Vietnam, you are employed by a company. These companies supply teachers to schools to teach the English lessons. You might be in a different school each day, or even a couple in one day. You turn up, teach the lessons and then go again. You’re not expected to join in any of the other areas of the school’s business.
In Europe, particularly Spain, you can work as a language assistant in a government school classroom, helping the local English teacher with speaking lessons and running English clubs.
Read more about language assistant programs in Spain.
Private schools (ones students have to pay to attend) usually have smaller class sizes than government schools, and better facilities. Some just need you to teach ESL while the rest of the subjects are taught in the students’ L1. Others are bilingual schools, where more of the curriculum is in English. Here you may have to teach other subjects. Our first job was in a trilingual primary school where we taught art, PE, health, and guidance as well as English. Some schools will employ teachers just to teach another subject. So if you have a degree or masters’ in science or IT, for example, or you’re really great at art or football, you could get to teach other subjects.
Advantages of government and private schools
- You are likely to be teaching during the day on weekdays.
- You can get good holidays, since you are usually off when the school is off.
- Class sizes can be big.
- Other staff may not speak English, which can cause a language barrier. Sometimes you don’t actually know what’s happening and there isn’t anyone to tell you.
- There might not be many other English-speaking teachers there to get to know.
- Some teachers get frustrated by bureaucracy and/or the education system. In government schools you have to deal with the educational policy of the country, which is some places might mean that no one ever fails (even if they do no work), or that rote learning is common.
Read why Becky loves teaching children rather than adults.
Real international schools run curricula from home and are accredited by international organisations. Jobs here are usually reserved for teachers with credentials and certifications to teach in mainstream schools in their home countries e.g. PGCE. If you are recruited from abroad, you can expect great packages including a good salary, accommodation allowance and lots of paid holiday. There are, however, some TEFL jobs available for ESL teachers, supporting second language learners.
- International school jobs are usually well-paid with excellent conditions and can come with significant holidays.
- They can be hard to get into without the right certification.
- You are usually expected to work very hard.
If you are a licensed teacher, you might be interested in reading about Kenz’ experience of teaching in rural Alaska.
Learning English is big business all over the world. Children are sent to classes either after school, at weekends and in school holidays. In Europe, most of this work is during the week, after school. In Asia, it tends to be at the weekends as well. Some language schools specialise in young learners, and in others you will teach a mixture of them and adults. Class sizes are usually quite small – less than 20, but often around 10. Sometimes you get a local teaching assistant to help you out.
There are lots of language schools in South Korea. Find out more in our guide to teaching in Korea.
Advantages of TESOL jobs in language schools
- You have a big more flexibility with hours. When you are teaching, you need to be on site, but you don’t have to be there all day or for a fixed number of hours.
- In bigger schools, there are usually a lot of other teachers, so a ready group of potential friends.
- There is more opportunity to work part-time, or to do extra hours if you need more money.
- Since kids come to language schools after their normal school, you’re likely to be working slightly antisocial hours, like evenings and weekends.
- For the above reason, you also get less holiday with many language school jobs, because when the kids are off school, they come for extra classes.
Related post: Teaching English in Vietnam: the Ultimate Guide
English villages and camps
English villages seem to be exclusively a South Korean thing, but when I Googled it, it seems they exist in other countries too, but we’ve never met anyone who’s worked in one (have you? get in touch if you have!). Students come for a set length of time – from one day to a month, and live onsite. They are completely immersed in English, and do a variety of activities, including cooking, music, science and sport, all in English. The site is designed to look like a village, complete with houses, school, shops and restaurants. Teachers live onsite and jobs there are less TEFL teaching jobs and more like working with the students on the activities.
English camps are more widespread. As you would guess from the name, they are usually residential programs with English lessons are lots of other activities like project work, sport, and music. Unlike English villages, English camps are usually short-term jobs, as they happen when kids are off school. You can do it during breaks from your TEFL job, or as a short term way to make money while travelling.
If you teach English for any length of time, especially in Europe where there is no work in the summer, chances are you will do a summer school at some point. Many of them happen in English speaking countries like the UK, the USA and Australia, but there are also summer TESOL jobs in Malta. During summer holidays, students flood to cities around these countries to study English. In the UK, summer schools take over boarding schools and university buildings. Often they are residential, although some students stay with host families. Working on a summer school usually combines teaching English with social and pastoral care – such as taking students on trips, organising sports games and performances, and supervising mealtimes and night times.
Advantages of English Villages, Camps and Summer Schools
- You work with groups intensively so you can get to know the students well.
- You can get involved with other activities like sports and arts as well as teaching.
- You often live onsite so you don’t have to worry about accommodation.
- A group of teachers will live and work with you, so it’s very sociable.
Disadvantages of English Villages, Camps and Summer Schools.
- It can be long hours as students are there all the time.
- Living and working in one place can be quite intense.
- English camps and summer schools are usually short term jobs (but many teachers go back to the same one every year)
Find out more about short term TEFL jobs and summer camps
TESOL jobs with Adults
Just like for young learners, English language centres for adults are big business all over. English is an international language – the most widespread, so students want to learn English for work and travel, to emigrate or study abroad, for love or friendship, or just for a hobby. Most language school work happens when the students are not at work or university – so in the evenings and at weekends. Some classes can end quite late – 10 at night or later. There can also be classes before work – so as early as 6am. Split shifts, where you have an early class and then a late one, are not uncommon.
- Just like language schools for young learners, adult language school TESOL jobs can be quite flexible. You don’t usually have to be at the school if you are not teaching.
- You might have to work split shifts – early mornings and then late nights.
- You may have to work at weekends.
Teaching English in Universities
University TEFL jobs abroad vary tremendously depending on the country. As a new teacher, you are more likely to get a university job in a country like China, where they employ English teachers at every university to improve the English level of their students. You can get these jobs without experience, perhaps due to the sheer number of universities there. Some jobs are just communicative English, while others need you to teach academic skills such as writing as well.
Most university TEFL jobs abroad require at least experience, many of them a Masters degree or even a Ph.D. in TESOL or linguistics, as you would need in your own country. In countries like South Korea, Japan, and many countries in the Middle East, these jobs have excellent pay and long holidays.
Universities in English speaking countries also have pre-sessional work. Foreign students who want to study there do an intensive English course before they start, to prepare them for academic study. This is not usually just language work, but academic reading and writing, and dealing with lectures and seminars. These jobs are usually seasonal. You are expected to have quite a lot of experience, particularly of academic English, to get a pre-sessional teaching job.
Teaching Business English
The status of English as the language of business worldwide means there is a lot of demand for TEFL teachers to improve business peoples’ English. In some cases, they just need general English, while in others they need specific language for their jobs – be it marketing, negotiation, presentation skills, tourism, I.T, law or whatever.
Some students come to language centres to improve their business English. You can also get jobs going out to companies to teach groups there. In some situations, companies employ an in-house English teacher to run classes in their office. If you have experience in an area of business, you can apply that.
- Students are usually interested and motivated because they know how important English is to them.
- You can use skills and knowledge from previous jobs.
- Work is likely to be Monday to Friday, with weekends off.
- Sometimes students are forced to attend class by their boss or organisation, and so don’t actually want to be there.
- Lessons can be before and after work, and so quite antisocial hours.
- If you are sent out to different companies to teach there, it can involve a lot of travelling each day.
- Travelling around different companies can be quite isolating, as you don’t see other teachers.
- Some of the language can be new if you haven’t actually done the job yourself.
Anna from Ukraine is an in-house business English teacher. You can read her story in our New Teacher Tales.
This should really be under the language schools banner. There are many different international exams to measure students’ English level, for employment, study or just personal development. This being ESL, these all have acronyms like IELTS, TOEFL, TOEIC, FCE etc. In Europe, the Cambridge main suite (FCE, CAE and CPE) are very popular. In countries where a lot of students want to study abroad, there are a lot of IELTS and TOEFL preparation classes. Students in some countries also take tests such as SATS and GMAT. There are many TEFL jobs abroad preparing students for such tests.
English camps and summer schools
Like young learners, there are English camps and summer schools for adults too. Companies send their employees to camps for a few days to improve their English. Students from all over the world head to English speaking countries all year round, but especially during holiday. At this time, language schools increase their staff and employ extra temporary workers. You can find TEFL teaching jobs for a couple of months teaching intensively.
Teaching English 1:1
All the TEFL jobs I’ve mentioned above have been teaching group classes. Some students want more personalised lessons, and want to study 1:1. This can be organised through language schools, but teachers also have their own private students as well. In some countries this is legal, in others, your visa/work permit is connected to the school you work for and private classes have to be under the table. Check it out before you advertise for private students.
Teaching English online is really taking off right now. I’m sure you’ve seen the recruitment adverts for companies like VIP Kid. If you have a fast internet connection, you can teach online. You can do it using a program like Skype, or some kind of online classroom. There are loads of companies out there recruiting teachers for online work. They might have their own online classroom software and materials. You might just be doing conversation. Many are 1:1 lessons, but there are also groups. It varies. Other people set up independently.
Read our expert guide on how to become an online English teacher.
If you’re inspired to teach online, read our interviews with English teachers working online for different companies.
As I said at the top, this isn’t going to be an exhaustive list of options. There are no doubt more. The range of jobs you can do as an English teacher is wide. That’s one of the great things about the job. It can be very diverse. The work you do in one city or for one company can be completely different to that in another.
Our advice if you are starting out would be to think about what kind of TEFL job you want to do. Do you want to teach adults, children or both? Do you want to work in a school, university, language centre or business? Do you want to work Monday to Friday or at weekends? Do you want to work in one place, or travel around a city teaching in different places? Do you want to be full time or part time?
To get a more specific idea of what kind of jobs are available in different countries, check out our New Teacher Tales blogs, where we interview people teaching around the world. Maybe one of the jobs they mention will tickle your fancy. Or look at our blog about how to find teaching jobs, follow some links and see what is available.
Please pin this for later.