Teach Abroad to Start Your Career

October 8, 2015
Teach abroad

I found the idea in a book. I made it a habit, sifting through the travel section of Barnes and Noble, looking for “How To” books. How to travel for cheaper, how to work abroad, how to run away from a useless degree and a waitressing job.

Teaching abroad-it was my UREKA idea. Teaching abroad would bring me travel. It was respectable. Wiping down a chalk board seemed more glamorous than wiping down a bunch of sticky and crumb sprinkled restaurant booths in my then current place of work.

I found the idea in a book and held on to it like a life preserver while I finished my degree.

When one of the main characters in a T.V show I watched (The United States of Tara. You’ve probably never heard of it.) moved to Japan to teach English, I took it as a sign and figured it was meant to be.

One online TEFL course and one application later and I was preparing to leave my life in the states for China.

This decision changed the way I traveled, lived and thought about my career opportunities for ever.

If this idea is new to you or has made an appearance once or twice in your mind, listen up, this is for you.

Teach Abroad

A lot of girl power going on in this class

Why Teach Abroad?

Everyone’s answer to this question is different, but for me, it was a way to salvage what was left of the control I felt over my life and career. There were other reasons too…..

The Career Development
-While the TEFL course I took taught me a thing or two about English and explaining it, the job itself taught me more than I could have anticipated about teaching as a career.

The workshops, office time, in class experience, job training and co-workers helped me develop my career into something marketable that I now feel confident in.

The Career
Having said that, I now can add teacher onto my not-so-long list of jobs I can do. I will make sure to put that one right before waitress, customer service slave and babysitter. With the experience under my belt, my job prospects have gone way up.

Teach Abroad

Celebrating Thai Culture Day with my students in Thailand

The Benefits of Teaching Contracts
This one absolutely depends on the job and the country but the benefits enjoyed are typically meaningful ones. The first teaching job I took in China offered a completely paid for and furnished apartment, health insurance, partial flight reimbursement and assistance in obtaining a visa.

The Travel
While my love of travel precedes my love of teaching, this one is especially important to me. Before all else, I mapped out which cities and countries I would visit while living and teaching in China for a year. If you go somewhere that is not too isolated, travel to neighboring countries will be cheap and attainable.

My holidays were transformed from dodging seaweed and trash at the Jersey Shore to wandering around Beijing, Seoul, Taipei and Kyoto.

A Better Life
This, of course, is subjective to what kind of home life you are leading before teaching abroad.

Teach abroad

Adopting the infamous Chinese photo pose

For me, waitressing 5-6 days a week to pay hundreds of dollars in student loans, rent, car insurance and health insurance per month with little left over for travel, the life experienced in China was pretty dope.

With a lower cost of living, a job that didn’t take up all of my time and most of my major bills taken care of, I was left with money and time to travel, buy what I wanted and spend time with friends.

The Experience
Teaching English abroad is an experience. Even if you hate the job or don’t end up liking the country you’re living in, it is something that you will always remember. Trying to understand culture differences, meeting all new friends and adapting to a new environment makes every day exciting.

(Another reason to educate students abroad….you can teach Chinese kids the “Day Man” song from It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia)

The Resume Cred.
If you want to get into teaching, a job abroad will make your resume look bad ass! Even if you end up ditching it and going into sales, it still looks impressive to employers that you braved living and working in a foreign country.

What Qualifications do You Need to Teach Abroad?

Do you feel a little excited after reading the benefits? I don’t blame you, there are some fantastic things on that list. Here’s what you’re going to need to hop on the teaching train.

You Are a Native Speaker of English
If you have a U.S, UK, Irish, Canadian, Australian, New Zealand or South African passport and speak English as your first language, you already have an advantage over everyone else who may want the job. Most schools will have this requirement.

Teach abroad in Thailand

End of the year parties mean free snacks for the teacher

A College Degree in Anything
While the best of the jobs are most often had with a degree in teaching, majority of the ESL jobs out there only require applicants to have a bachelors in any subject.

If you want to make yourself feel better about your useless Liberal Arts degree, here is your chance. This is about the only time mine ever came in handy.

A TEFL Certification
It stands for Teaching English as a Foreign Language and can also been seen as TESOL or CELTA certificate which is more or less the same thing.

This is basically just a course to train you in how to teach ESL on a general level. It can be done in person or online and can be cheap or expensive depending on which one you choose.

I found my TEFL course on Groupon ( A website that offers discounts on various things ) for $80 USD and took it online for the duration of two months. When I finished, they sent me a virtual certificate and boom, I could start applying for teaching jobs.

Teach abroad in China

Chinese students love to shower their teachers with gifts and that is OK by me

There are some courses that can cost up to $2,000 USD and require in-class training. If you don’t have the money, or even if you do, this one isn’t really all that necessary. Seriously.

And that’s it folks. Just these two pieces of paper and your native tongue and you are ready to start your job hunt.

OH, and a little secret. I have met multiple people (including a former boss of mine ) who had these kind of jobs without having some or even all of these requirements. Even if you don’t have the credentials, just apply anyway. Schools need teachers and you are pretty awesome so there is always a chance.

What Steps Should You Now Take to Get a Job Teaching Abroad?

OK, so the benefits look good, you have the qualifications (or don’t) and you are now ready to take the first step into the direction of your new career. Here is what you should do.

1.) Get Your College/University Degree
If you are in high school and planned on going to college after anyway, just go get that degree. If you are in high school and don’t want to go to college, try your hand at finding something without one. If you are already in college, finish up!

2.) Get a TEFL Certification
Look online for courses that can be taken either in person or over the internet and decide on one that you can afford and one that fits your personal style.

3.) Apply For Jobs
Start looking online for job listings and get applying. The international job board on Dave’s ESL Cafe is a good place to look as well as TEFL.com.

4.) Wait
Either the school itself or a recruiter will get in contact with you about the applications you sent in and will call/email you to set up an interview which may or may not involve you teaching a demo class over Skype to see how you will do.

5.) Interview
After previously arranging an interview, someone from the school will either voice or video call you. It isn’t often that interviews are done in person because you will be applying for jobs in other countries.

6.) Wait For a Job Offer
Sit around and wait to see if the school offers you the job.

Teach Abroad

Squad deep in silliness with this crew

7.) Get a Job Offer and Start Preparing
You got offered the job! Way to go! Now the school’s HR person will give you all of the information you need to get to the school and country it’s in and what you must do to start your position.

While the benefits of teaching English abroad just keep rolling in, the most useful thing I got from it was the teaching skill itself.

I learned how to do it, how to be good at it and now that it’s on my resume, I have no problem picking up other teaching jobs as I travel.

It was the change that I needed in my life. Could it be the one that you’re needing to?

Feel free to let me know your thoughts or questions on how to teach abroad!

Any other teachers out there who can add on to the benefits of teaching abroad?


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  • Reply Arun October 19, 2015 at 12:09 pm

    Good Work 🙂

    • Reply Livesabroad October 20, 2015 at 6:59 am

      Thank You so much for reading Arun!

  • Reply Hikurangi November 7, 2015 at 10:44 pm

    Reading your blogs have been absolutely amazing! I found you through your Bali post on facebook (because I am going there next month). Finding this post about China couldn’t have been anymore perfect because I just accepted an offer to teach English in China next February. Great read!I’ll definitely be keeping tabs on this blog.

    • Reply Livesabroad November 8, 2015 at 4:00 am

      Hey you! Thanks for reading! That is so exciting that you are moving to Bali! Where will you be staying? I am living in Ubud and I love it, although it is far from the beach. I will eventually write an epic post about it so maybe that can help you too! Also…CONGRATS for getting a job teaching in China! I KNOW you must be excited for that! Where in China will you be living? If you have any questions about teaching ESL or living in China as an expat, just let me know and I can give you some help!


  • Reply Sasha November 18, 2015 at 11:46 pm

    While I agree with most of what you have written, I think you do your students a disservice by choosing the 100% online/cheapest TESOL course. Would you want a mechanic who had only done an online course to fix your car? Perhaps you’d want someone who had been in a garage/studied with experienced mechanics?

    Similarly, I think you’d probably want a teacher who had multiple face-to-face teaching sessions with real students + feedback from an experienced teacher as part of their course.. As an experienced teacher/teacher trainer, the difference at the end of the training course is often immeasurable

    I’m not discounting enthusiasm and willingness as teaching attributes, but a teacher also needs to know how to teach! That skill is not inherent, it’s honed and fine-tuned through teaching experience, self assessment and external feedback. Being a native speaker is an advantage for getting a job, but it isn’t everything.

    So perhaps, instead of choosing the cheapest course, choose the one that best prepares you to be a teacher. Both you and your students will appreciate the difference!

    • Reply Livesabroad November 19, 2015 at 8:32 am

      Hey Sasha! Thanks for your input. I agree with what you are saying but I also think that a lot of it can be learned on the job. I did a cheap TEFL course online but learned the bulk about being a teacher through my hands on experience at my job. When new teachers started at the school, they went through training and team teaching as well as multiple observations with feedback a month. The teaching was ESL for young learners so most of the class was playing games to teach things like colors and simple expressions. As teachers got more experienced, they took on higher level classes and always had support and workshops to improve. I just want people who don’t have a lot of money or financial support from parents/partners to feel like they have a chance at a career and life change that teaching abroad gives. For people who are really down on their luck and looking to change their lives, a $1,000 price tag on their first step towards getting there may be a huge obstacle for them and cause them to just throw the idea away. Those are the people who especially need to know that they have options and that this life change can be possible for them. I know everyone is different but with my Groupon, $80 TEFL, I was able to get three different teaching jobs in three different countries, including two very popular schools in their city, one of which being a bilingual school. Every situation is different and I think that if you can afford the expensive class and really want to take teaching seriously as a career, the TEFL classes you are referring to are certainly worth it.


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