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Am I Too Young to Teach English Abroad?
Concerned about being too young to take a TEFL course and teach English abroad? Let's look at how old you need to be to TEFL and how you can make it happen if you're younger than the typical ESL teacher.
Written By: Jeff Penick | Updated: June 28, 2022
Written By: Jeff Penick
Updated: June 28, 2022
Technically, there is not any defined cutoff age for being too young to teach English abroad, but overall, if you’re under 18 years old, chances are that it will be a pretty unrealistic endeavor at this time in your life.
If you’re in the 18-20 age range and wondering if it is possible to teach English abroad, the short answer is yes, it is possible, but continue reading below as there are many key points to consider. Once you are 21 and older, youth becomes much less of an issue, but even then it is not unheard of for schools in certain countries like China to prefer teachers that are at least 24.
If you’re 18-20 years old and have a strong interest in moving and teaching English abroad, having the right expectations is of utmost importance. There are numerous additional factors that you need to keep in mind on top of what anyone interested in teaching abroad needs to know.
With that being said, if you have the right attitude and you’re not discouraged by some of the restrictions associated with being a younger candidate, teaching abroad might just be right for you!
Here are 8 tips for younger teachers interested in teaching English abroad:
1. Check Education Requirements
Roughly half the countries around the world require teachers to have a university degree, and if you are under 21 years old then chances are you do not yet have that qualification.
You will need to focus only on countries where a degree is not required. Refer to this country comparison chart for educational requirements from country to country.
2. Maturity & Professionalism Required
One main reason why schools are reluctant to hire younger teachers is due to their perceived lack of maturity, professionalism, and experience. Therefore, it is imperative that you demonstrate high levels of professionalism, poise, and preparedness. Prove their perceptions wrong!
3. Keep Options Open During Research
Consider many different countries and options for teaching English abroad, especially in the beginning while you are conducting your research. There will be many countries you realize to be unrealistic options for various reasons like educational requirements, the competitiveness of the market, visa laws, etc.
4. Consider Summer Camp Positions
There are many English language summer camps around the world that hire native English speakers to be camp counselors during the summer. Much of the time, people that are 18-20 are encouraged to apply.
5. Be Mindful of Money
Be aware of the start-up costs required for moving and teaching English abroad. Also, the vast majority of the paid opportunities you DO find will be in countries where breaking even is the typical expectation. Do not expect to find teaching opportunities where you will be able to save money after expenses.
No one is going to hand you a job. Many schools will simply not be willing to hire teachers under 20 or 21, so you have to be prepared for this rejection. Cast a wide net and pursue opportunities with numerous schools and don’t give up just because one school is not a good fit.
7. Consider Volunteer Teaching
Being hired as a professional English teacher is certainly more difficult when you’re under 21, but if earning an income is not of great importance, consider volunteer-teaching abroad to get some experience.
8. Get TEFL Certified
Whether you are planning on teaching abroad now or in a few years, many younger students plan on getting their training and TEFL certification out of the way and volunteering a bit in their home country or abroad to get some real teaching experience.
An ITA TEFL certification will never expire and all of our job search assistance is lifetime so once you have completed your course, you have one very important part of the process behind you. In the coming years, many opportunities for teaching English around the world will open up to you once you hit your early 20s and beyond.
Overall, it takes A LOT of guts to move and find a job abroad as someone under 21 years old. With all of the limitations associated with teaching abroad as a younger teacher, one might ask, “why even try?”
If you have the courage, determination, and right expectations, moving and teaching abroad as a young adult can be one of the most profoundly positive and life-changing experiences in one’s life.
Prior to joining ITA in 2011, Jeff spent two years teaching English in Seoul, South Korea. He used the money he saved while teaching in Korea to fund a year of travel in Asia and South America. Jeff has more than 10 years of professional experience in the fields of TEFL & teaching English abroad. As a senior team member, he has published numerous articles about all facets of teaching abroad and he has personally helped hundreds of ITA grads achieve their goals of teaching English overseas.
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