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Why Teaching English is the Best Job for Digital Nomads & Expatriates
If you seek to live the life of a digital nomad or want to earn an income and make a difference as an expatriate living overseas, you need to consider teaching English as a foreign language (TEFL).
Written By: John Bentley | Updated: June 29, 2023
Written By: John Bentley
Updated: June 29, 2023
With the increasing digitalization of the international economy and more people seeking to expand their personal horizons as the world reopens from COVID, the notion of working abroad as a “digital nomad” or simply as an expatriate living in a foreign country has recently exploded in popularity. For those seeking to work overseas either digitally or in a more hands-on manner that includes more meaningful interaction with a local community abroad, teaching English as a foreign language (TEFL) offers a staggering array of digital nomad job opportunities.
Finding Digital Nomad Jobs: Teach English Abroad & Online
Let's address a couple of questions:
What is a Digital Nomad?
Digital nomads are remote workers who typically work online and can easily move from country to country or city to city while working the same job and living a "nomadic" lifestyle. Teaching English online, web design, and running a remote business are just some fields that offer such opportunities.
How to Become a Digital Nomad?
To be a digital nomad, you need to find a job that enables you to work remotely (typically using the internet), travel, and move from location to location. Some fields that offer such opportunities include teaching English online, web design, running an online business, and even sales.
According to a recent survey on the state of travel conducted by American Express, “54% of respondents said that the freedom and flexibility of being able to live and work while traveling the globe are more appealing now than it was prior to the pandemic.” This trend is confirmed by none other than Google, which reports a staggering rise in the number of searches for terms like “Digital Nomad.”
Interest in working abroad as a "Digital Nomad" has surged in recent years, according to Google Search Trends. Source: Google Trends
Why Teaching English is The Best Digital Nomad Job
If you seek a way to live and work abroad in a manner that allows you to live overseas and explore the world, here are five reasons why teaching English as a foreign language might be your ticket to achieving your digital nomad goals.
1. Global Demand for ESL (English as a Second Language) Instruction is Huge
With more than 1.5 billion people learning English across the globe, the demand for English teachers is seemingly limitless. This means if you want to live overseas, no field provides more opportunities for employment and earning a sustainable income than teaching English abroad. If you want to take your
Consider the following facts:
- In China alone, there are more than 300 million people learning English.
- According to the European Union, 96% of secondary students in the EU receive English language instruction.
- A recent British Council study reports that more than 4,000 schools and institutes specialize in teaching English and other languages in Spain alone.
From business professionals to school children to university students, there is a huge variety when it comes to teaching opportunities.
- Top English teaching jobs markets like Spain, France, Japan, and South Korea all operate large government programs that recruit thousands of Americans and other native English speakers to teach ESL in public schools in those countries, typically as assistant teachers.
- Teaching English online is an ideal option for those looking to work 100% digitally with the ultimate flexibility.
- Tens of thousands of private language schools hire English speakers to teach English. Many cater to business professionals and other adults, but private schools also offer positions to teach children.
- Private English tutoring is a multi-billion market that offers opportunities to English speakers all over the globe to earn a solid income.
2. Lots of Job Opportunities (in More than 80 Countries)
ESL (English as a Second Language) teaching jobs are not limited to a particular region, country, or people from a specific profession, race, or religious background. In the globalized economy of the 21st century, English has become the international language of commerce, culture, travel, and education. As a result, people from all walks of life, from China to Costa Rica, are learning English to enhance their personal, educational, and professional opportunities. In addition, English is often required for admission to top universities in many countries, and top professional jobs in many fields, from medicine to tourism, typically require English proficiency.
For you as an English speaker, this means that there are up to 80 countries or even more where you can viably gain employment if you have a college degree and a TEFL certification. Furthermore, even without a college degree, there are up to 50 countries where you can gain employment as an English teacher if you take an accredited TEFL certification course.
Here are some of the top markets for teaching English abroad:
ASIA - From Thailand & Taiwan to South Korea & Japan, Asia represents the world's largest & most lucrative job market. In addition, many 1st-time teachers receive free airfare/housing & save 30%-50% of their income after expenses.
Learn more: Teaching English in Asia.
EUROPE - Demand for English teachers is booming across Europe, from Spain to the Czech Republic. Most English teachers work in private language schools & as private tutors, while a few work in public schools & summer camps as well. In addition, many English teachers teach English online part-time or full-time.
Learn more: Teaching English in Europe.
LATIN AMERICA - Offering spectacular natural beauty, lively culture & beautiful historic cities, Latin America represents one of the fastest-growing regions for teaching English abroad. It especially appeals to those without a degree or citizenship from an English-speaking country.
Learn more: Teaching English in Latin America.
THE MIDDLE EAST - Stretching from Morocco to the Persian Gulf, the Middle East encompasses a broad array of teaching markets. The Persian Gulf offers some of the best-paying jobs in the world, but these job markets tend to be smaller & more competitive.
Learn more: Teaching English in the Middle East.
3. Teaching English Online Provides Truly Nomadic Flexibility
If you're committed to going completely "digital" in your nomadic pursuits, then teaching English online is definitely a gig for you as a digital nomad to consider. The popularity of online learning has soared in all fields of education recently, especially with the onset of COVID. This is especially the case for online English learning. According to the research firm HolonIQ, the market for English-specific digital learning will grow fourfold between 2019 and 2025.
What's great about teaching English online is that you can do it from anywhere you can get a strong Internet connection, providing the utmost flexibility. As an online English teacher, you can literally work one week in Spain, the next week in France, and then in Italy the following week.
With demand for online English language instruction skyrocketing worldwide, teaching English online provides TEFL-certified teachers with opportunities to earn extra pay virtually anywhere, including their own homes. Most starting teachers can make $10-$20 (USD) an hour to start & hours are very flexible. Your pay will also go up as you gain more experience and reviews.
Here are some ways teaching English online can help you achieve your goals of living abroad as a digital nomad:
- If you plan on teaching English abroad, you can earn extra money and gain experience for your resume by teaching English online before you go overseas.
- You can also teach English online to supplement your income while teaching English abroad.
As an online English teacher, you will likely start out teaching English for an online teaching company, but at some point, you may decide to work independently. This enables you to charge and keep more of what each student pays per lesson, but you also need to do more legwork in terms of recruiting students and developing your own teaching materials.
Check out our Teaching English Online FAQs to learn more.
4. You Don’t Need a Teaching Degree or Experience to Teach English Overseas or Online
Two of the most common questions for those interested in teaching English abroad are: do I need teaching experience? And: do I need a degree in education? The answer to both is “no.” Also, you don’t need a college degree to live abroad to live a nomadic lifestyle abroad as an English teacher.
So, what training do I need to teach English abroad or online?
To teach English abroad or online, you need an ESL teaching qualification like a TEFL (or TESOL) certificate. An accredited TEFL certification training course will provide you with the skills and qualifications you need to get hired as an English teacher abroad.
A standard 120-hour accredited TEFL certification is typically offered in a four-week intensive format or the equivalent in a part-time framework. Online TEFL courses have become very popular during the past decade or so and are usually offered in a part-time format that is more convenient for those who want to take their course from home and want the flexibility to get certified while maintaining their work or school commitments.
IMPORTANT! Please note that not all TEFL certification courses you encounter online and elsewhere are the same. It is critical to take an accredited TEFL course that meets these clear standards, which are recognized and required by most employers, including schools, online teaching companies, and students that want to hire qualified teachers and tutors.
What are the basic standards for an accredited TEFL course?
- At least 100 hours of training and coursework (equivalent to a full-time 4-week intensive course);
- At least 6 hours of live practice teaching (practicum) with actual ESL students (since COVID-19, this can typically be completed in a live classroom environment or virtually);
- University-level instructors teach the course (typically this means holding at least an MA in teaching English as a foreign language or linguistics, a DELTA or extensive professional training and English teaching experience);
- The course employs a curriculum that is accredited and externally monitored by an independent, credible organization in the field.
Hot Tip! We recommend that you take a TEFL course that provides high-quality job search guidance. There are innumerable opportunities for first-time English teachers to have the experience of a lifetime teaching English abroad and online, but navigating the employment market for getting hired can be challenging.
From visas in Spain to recruiters in Korea, there’s a lot to negotiate, so it pays to get certified with an organization that will provide the job search guidance and assistance you need to understand how to actually get an ESL teaching job abroad.
5. You Can Make a Difference in the Lives of Others
There are many ways for you to make it as a digital nomad earning a living while traveling and living abroad. You can sell marketing software, work as a copywriter, design webpages, or work in any of 100 other occupations. That’s all fine, but few things in life are as satisfying as realizing at the end of a day’s work that you’ve truly made a difference in the lives of others, and that makes teaching English special.
“Whether you teach English or any other subject, the satisfaction of knowing you can make a meaningful impact on the lives of your students is one of the great feelings you can have. People need and want to learn English for various reasons. Learning English can help people greatly enhance their educational and professional opportunities and make meaningful improvements to their lives. They can also enjoy much more in the way of music, film, and popular culture. The internet is mostly in English. Also, immigrants in countries like the U.S., U.K., and other English-speaking nations also need to learn English to better assimilate and take advantage of economic and educational opportunities in their new countries.”
- International TEFL Academy graduate, Allen Tunstall.
Whether you work as a paid teacher or a volunteer; whether you teach online or in person; as an English teacher, you will positively impact the lives of your students.
Key Takeaway: Who Should Consider Teaching English Abroad or Online?
- You want a viable way to get paid to live abroad.
- You seek the ability to live as a digital nomad with the flexibility to take your online job with you from country to country.
- You are an expatriate living abroad with your family or partner and want to make some income and get involved with your local community.
- You want a meaningful international experience where you can make a difference in the lives of others.
Additional Resources to Get Started
Teaching English abroad takes planning and there are plenty of logistics to get sorted to make it happen, from getting the right visa to finding housing to figuring out matters like health insurance. To help you get started, here are some additional resources to check out:
- What Documents Do I Need to Teach English Abroad?
- What Are Start-Up Costs for Teaching English Abroad?
- How do I Get Health Insurance While Teaching Abroad?
- Check out websites like Digital Nomad World and Digital Nomad Soul, which offer extensive tips and resources for those looking to live the Digital Nomad lifestyle.
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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