Should You Teach English Abroad? Understanding What's Involved in TESL

Going overseas to teach English abroad is no small matter, but thanks to numerous online and offline resources, searching for and getting an ESL job is much easier today than it was just several years ago. Here are short answers to some frequently asked questions about teaching English abroad.

Is a Teaching Certificate Necessary?

While it's true that a few lucky souls manage to land ESL jobs just because they are native English speakers, you will probably find that most schools will require you to be a certified English teacher. This makes sense; after all, not everybody who speaks English can teach it well. If you want to teach English overseas, it would be in your best interest to acquire ESL/TESL/TEFL certification because you will have a better chance of getting a job that pays well. Plus, it will give you a bigger edge over the competition.

Fortunately, you don't need to invest vast amounts of money and years of your time to become TESL certified. There are schools that offer 100-hour courses, either online or offline. Another alternative is to enroll in a TESL school that will allow you to undergo your training in a foreign location. The good news is that this means you can travel to another country immediately and become a certified English-as-a-second-language teacher there. The bad news is this approach is more expensive than taking a training course at home.

Keep in mind that many ESL schools will help you find a job after you graduate. They could either match you up with the school you'll be teaching at, or lead you to a reputable headhunter or executive recruiter. Another thing to remember when searching for an ESL school: some of them will even shoulder your airfare to the country where you'll be teaching.

What Are the Best Countries to Teach English In?

There's no single answer to this question since every country has its pros and cons. Where you will eventually work depends on a balance among various factors. If you're an American, for example, it would probably be harder for you than it would be for someone from the United Kingdom to find an ESL job in a European Union country because you would have to contend with issues like visas or work permits.

Cost of living varies from country to country as well, but in general, you will find that living and working in the city -- anywhere in the world -- is more expensive than living in a village or other rural areas. That said, the costs of urban living can be managed, especially if you have the good fortune to work for a school that provides you with free accommodation.

One of the factors you can consider is if the locations on your list are compatible with your own likes and dislikes. For instance, if your idea of a good time is to party all night during school holidays, then a country where drinking is frowned upon probably isn't the place for you. If your preference is to take short jaunts to new places during weekends, you'd probably appreciate a central location where nearby countries are just a short flight -- or even a bus ride -- away. In short, do your research and you'll find the best country to teach English in -- for you.

How Much Will I Make as An ESL Teacher?

Again, it depends. But generally speaking, teaching English abroad pays between USD30,000 to USD70,000 annually. This is based on the number of hours you teach in the classroom; this usually does not include the time you spend preparing your lesson plans or grading test papers. You won't become a millionaire anytime soon with these figures, but there are ways to supplement your income. Taking on individuals for one-on-one tutorial sessions or private lessons seems to be one of the most popular methods among expat teachers.

Your expenses can also be lessened if your employer shoulders the cost of your accommodations, provides health insurance, and pays you a salary even when you're on vacation.

These are just some of the most common concerns people have when looking for teaching jobs abroad. As mentioned earlier, there are very helpful resources on the Internet that can give you more in-depth answers to your questions (two of them are Dave's ESL Cafe and ESLEmployment).

Another invaluable resource: teachers of English as a second language who are already working in another country and doing what you are about to do. Their experiences and advice when it comes to living and working abroad will help you more than any e-book or guidebook can.

So make use of the resources available to you and you'll discover ways to set yourself above the competition, find excellent job opportunities, and realize your dream to teach English abroad. Good luck!