How Large Is The Job Market for English Teachers Abroad?

More than 250,000 English teachers work in foreign countries each year. Learn about the ABC's of the English teaching job market overseas.

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So, you're interested in teaching English abroad but wonder how viable this really is? That's a great question! Let's take a look at how large the global demand of English teachers is together.

The ABC’s of the Global Job Market for Teaching English Abroad

Why Are English Teachers in Demand Worldwide?

English teachers are in demand around the globe due to three main factors:

  1. An Enormous demand for English language instruction

  2. An increasing demand for native English-speaking teachers in foreign countries

  3. A turnover each year that results in job openings & high demand for new teachers

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Let's explore these three factors in detail:

A) An Enormous Demand for English language instruction

According to the British Council, one of the largest providers of English classes in the world, approximately 1.7 billion were learning and using English worldwide in 2015. That has risen to 2 billion in 2020.

Chinese Vice Premier Liu Yandong stated in June 2015 that more than 300 million Chinese were learning English

In 2009, Mexico introduced plans for more than 12 million schoolchildren to be learning English within 6 years. According to the British Council, similar plans have been enacted in Thailand and in dozens of other countries worldwide.

According to a 2013 study by GSV Advisors for Pearson English, one of the largest English language training companies in the world, English language instruction for non-native speakers is a $63 billion-a-year industry. 

Japan (a nation of 127,000,000 people) has made English language instruction a required subject in primary education. In addition, millions of Japanese adults also take English classes each year. 

B) An Increasing Demand for Native English Speaking Teachers

Teach English Abroad TEFLAn estimated 250,000 native English speakers work as English teachers abroad in more than 40,000 schools and language institutes around the world.

80% of English teachers abroad in non-native English-speaking countries – particularly in public schools – are not native English speakers themselves because there are simply not enough native English-speaking teachers to meet demand.

According to, there were an estimated 100,000 native English speakers teaching English in China in 2012. That number has certainly grown since.

In major European cities like Prague, Madrid and Rome, approximately 3,000 – 5,000 native-speaking English teachers are working at any given time; each of these cities is home to 50-150 private language institutes with each school employing between 5-25 teachers at a time. A recent manual check by ITA staff found more than 400 language schools in Madrid alone,

These numbers typically triple in major Asian cities like Tokyo, Seoul, and Shanghai which have over 10 million people and are home to 1,000 language schools employing up to 15,000 foreign English teachers.

An estimated 24,000 native English speakers work as English teachers abroad just in the small country of South Korea each year.

In both China and South Korea, approximately 1,000 new English teachers are hired each month. In China, this number will likely double in the coming years.


C) A Turnover Each Year = A Revolving Door of Job Openings

Because nearly half of all English teachers abroad will leave their position and return to their home country each year, more than 100,000 positions for English teachers abroad open each year.  

Think about it.  You probably want to go for a year abroad, see how it goes and stay another year or move to another country or go home.  Most English teachers are just like you - they are not lifers or tenured university professors who hold the same job for 10-20 years.

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  • 50% of the teachers stay for a second year.  
  • Approximately 15-20% go to a new school or a new country after one year. 
  • 30-35% return home after one great year abroad.
  • Only 10% stay for a third year at the same school.

All of this means that schools and language institutes are constantly facing a need to hire new teachers.

For your reference, this link to our Country Chart provides basic information about working and getting hired in approximately 50 countries around the world, including information on ESL hiring seasons, foreign English teacher salaries, extra benefits and the interview process.

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