When it comes to teaching English abroad, a common misconception is that it is meant only for somebody who is 21 years old and that it is more or less an extension of a study abroad program. This is simply not true.
Let's address some of your concerns about age and teaching English overseas.
Is There an Age Limit to Teach English Abroad?
Generally speaking, there are no age limits to teach English abroad as long as you are over 21. Although many teach abroad programs target recent college graduates and people in their twenties, older adults can leverage their maturity and experience to secure jobs teaching abroad well beyond their sixties.
Can I be 50 Years Old and Teach English Abroad?
Yes, you can teach English abroad in your forties, fifties and beyond. Having a TEFL certification and years of career and life experience can be a major asset. You don't need a teaching qualification or even a degree to teach English abroad as an older adult.
Are You Too Old to Teach English Abroad at 25?
Whether you are 25 or 65 years old, you are not too old to teach English abroad. Although you may face age restrictions in some countries (like China and South Korea), with the right attitude and guidance you'll find a job teaching English abroad at any age.
TEFL Age Limit: Factors in Ageism
There are many factors that contribute to age limitations when teaching English abroad and, sometimes, it is a visa issue. Some countries are not permitted to give visas to teachers above the age of 60 or 65 due to compulsory retirement ages in that nation.
In other instances, potential employers may hold fears that older teachers may not be up to the job physically or that they may not be able to adjust to living in a new country and culture. In some cases, it's just a matter of school administration deciding that a staff of younger teachers in their 20s and 30s is more marketable.
Going Further: Here is a useful website that outlines country-specific age limits for destinations around the globe. There are also personal accounts from a variety of mature teachers.
What This Means for Younger Teachers
How Old Do You Have To Be To Teach English Abroad?
You need to be at least 21 years old to teach English abroad in most countries. However, there are some countries, especially in Latin America, that will hire English teachers as young as 18 as long as they are qualified and fluent English speakers.
If younger teachers want to be taken seriously, they must be prepared to behave in a professional and mature manner both when interviewing for positions to teach English abroad, and when they actually begin their job.
Younger teachers are also more likely to find opportunities to teach English with volunteer programs and summer camps. Another option to consider is being hired as a nanny, a babysitter, or as an au pair who also tutors children in English.
Are There Age Restrictions for TEFL Courses?
Anyone aged 18 and older can take a TEFL course from International TEFL Academy (ITA). However, know that more teaching opportunities will become available to you as you move in your 20s and beyond. The good news is, your TEFL certification & access to job search support from ITA never expire.
Going further: Am I too young to teach English abroad?
Kent Nancollas moved to Chile at age 60 to teach English in Valparaiso. Read his story!
What This Means for Mature Teachers
Be Flexible: Consider Different Regions (Especially Latin America)
There are always exceptions with teaching English abroad, and there are people well into their sixties teaching English in most non-native English-speaking countries throughout the world.
Latin American nations like Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Peru, Mexico, Panama, Chile, and so on, tend to have the fewest (if any) age restrictions for older English teachers.
We highly recommend that you consider Latin America as an option. Not only there are fewer age restrictions but these countries offer tremendous opportunities for you to have a great international experience. They tend to be very welcoming to retirees and other prospective English teachers from the U.S., Europe & elsewhere.
Certain Job Markets Can Be Challenging (Though Not Impossible)
Some countries in Asia and the Gulf nations in the Middle East can enforce strict hiring limitations on teachers that are over the retirement age, which is typically between 55-65.
Some countries, like South Korea for example, tend to prefer teachers in their 20s and 30s in the private sector. Public schools, however, will hire into the mid-50s (especially those with teaching experience).
Teachers older than 50 will find it much more difficult to find jobs. Other Asian countries, like China, Thailand, Vietnam maintain official retirement ages of 55-60 that have been increasingly enforced in recent years.
In Gulf Countries, such as the United Arab Emirates, Oman, and Qatar, well-qualified teachers can secure positions up to age 60, which is the retirement age. However, increasingly strict work permit regulations make it harder to find a position once you’ve exceeded that age. That said, official policy and reality on the ground are not always the same. If you are patient and flexible you can be successful. This is particularly the case if you have a degree, prior teaching experience or if you are already legally living in the country where you want to teach.
Be Prepared to Interview in Person
Schools in countries where more mature English teachers can count on success typically require teachers to interview on location. More than half of the world’s English teaching jobs require in-person interviews for all candidates regardless of age or citizenship. One reason why schools may be reluctant to hire older teachers is that they don’t have as much confidence in their physical health/abilities.
Whether you are teaching in the United States, Thailand, or Ecuador, teaching any subject can be physically and mentally demanding. Interviewing in person and showing that you are in good health is important in many cases.
Plan on Breaking Even Financially
Unless you are an experienced teacher headed to the Middle East, most mature English teachers abroad should not count on saving any significant amount of money. Although there certainly are many teachers abroad in their 50s and 60s earning and saving substantial amounts of money, don't go into teaching English overseas with the assumption that you are going to be saving a great deal of your paycheck or you will be in for a lot of let-downs.
Additionally, don’t depend on supporting other family members financially while teaching English abroad. This is particularly the case if you do not have a professional background in education.
Health Insurance Tips & Advice
In some countries, your school or the government will provide health insurance and/or health care (deducted from your paycheck). However, in many cases, health insurance is not provided for teachers so it is important to investigate international health care options while you plan your move abroad. The good news is that international health care and health insurance is usually much less than it is here in the United States.
Expect a Challenge But It’s Not Impossible
Unfortunately, going abroad to teach English in your 50s, 60s, and 70s is not as easy or accommodating for a variety of reasons. However, if you have an open mind and are flexible to the countries that appreciate veteran teachers, you will have many different options.
Younger teachers are willing to go to many countries and interview face to face and work split shift hours for a livable but modest salary. Therefore you will need to be realistic with yourself to do the same.
Mature teachers with a positive attitude, an open mind and a willingness to succeed are usually very successful teaching English abroad.
Going Further: Am I too old to teach English abroad?
In conclusion, whether you are 25 or 65, teaching English abroad is almost always an extremely rewarding and life-changing experience. However, as an older English teacher abroad you will need to be up for the challenges and not take hiring preferences personally and go where the hiring culture and job market appreciate the experience and talents you will bring to the job.
Additional Notes & Tips:
- Those with previous professional teaching experience and other advanced credentials will have an easier time finding opportunities than those who don't and will also be able to find more lucrative opportunities;
- Also, if you already legally live abroad in the country where you wish to teach, it will likely be much easier for you to find teaching opportunities, including giving private lessons.