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Choosing a TEFL Country: Can I Decide Where I Teach English Abroad?
Written by: John Bentley
Last Updated: April 22, 2021
Based on your own goals and qualifications, you choose where you teach English abroad. Some TEFL / TESOL graduates have their hearts set on living and teaching English in Madrid, Buenos Aires or Shanghai; others are willing just to experience any destination that is new and different. You may choose to teach English in Spain and then in Italy, or China, or in Thailand. Many newly certified teachers spend a year teaching English in Asia saving money and then move on to teach English in Europe or Latin America the next year. The opportunities are endless – it’s just up to you to make the effort, follow our guidance and pursue your dreams.
When choosing a country for teaching English abroad, it is important to consider that hiring standards do vary from country to country, and in some countries English teachers may be required to hold a degree and/or citizenship in a native English speaking country to gain employment.
Qualifications and Requirements to Teach English abroad:
While it is your choice of where you want to teach English abroad, these are factors that may determine where you are eligible to teach English abroad:
- Citizenship: Some countries have legal requirements that foreign English teachers hold citizenship from a native English speaking nation. These countries are typically considered to be: USA, Canada, UK, Ireland, South Africa, Australia, and New Zealand. In many countries it is not a legal requirement for English teachers to hold citizenship from such countries, but it is highly preferred.
- English fluency and accent: Verbal skills are extremely important and in many cases, a non-native speaker who speaks like a native speaker will be able to gain employment.
- University degree: Some countries have legal requirements that English teachers hold a four-year degree; a few will accept a two-year associates degree and others will hire teachers without a 4 year degree.
- Age: Cultural norms and legal retirement ages mean that language schools in many countries will limit hiring to those English teachers under 55 and in some cases it can be difficult to gain employment for those over 40. At the same time, there are some countries where language schools will hire English teachers into their 70’s.
- Gender: There is generally higher demand for male English teachers in the Middle East. On the flip side, there are also many positions reserved exclusively for female teachers in all-girls schools and English classes.
- Length of contract: Many countries will require a 12 month contract such as Korea and Vietnam. European countries typically take off for their summer months and contracts run 9 or 10 months. Schools in other countries will hire on 6 month contracts. If you are a successful English teacher, you can almost always extend your contract if you wish to stay longer.
For your reference, this Country Chart provides basic information about working and getting hired in approximately 50 countries around the world, including information on hiring seasons, salaries and the interview process.
There are many factors to where someone is eligible to teach, the best way to find out is to speak to our trained admission advisor to help determine some of the best options for you.
John Bentley is Co-Founder & Senior Writer for International TEFL Academy (ITA), the world leader in TEFL certification for teaching English abroad. A graduate of Harvard University and the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern, John is a recognized expert in the field of TEFL. His articles have appeared across the field's top websites, including GoAbroad.com, StudyAbroad.com, InterExchange, GoOverseas.com, Adventure Teaching, & many others. He has also spoken as an expert on Teaching English Abroad & TEFL certification at major conferences like MeetPlanGo and Lessons from Abroad (LFA) in Portland & San Diego.
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