6 Reasons Why You Shouldn't Pay for a Job Teaching English Abroad

teach english abroad jobs

By: Matt Birgy

Myths, misunderstandings and misinformation. As you embark on your journey to teach English abroad, you will encounter many questions, one of the most common is: should I pay a company for a guaranteed job?  There are certainly some cases where paying a fee for a job placement or to pay for participating in a teaching program will be the best way for you to achieve your goal of living and teaching English abroad.  

Indeed, International TEFL Academy enjoys special partnerships with many excellent companies that assist and place TEFL-certified Engish teachers in jobs around the world. However, in other cases aspiring English teachers often find themselves paying up to thousands of dollars for a job that they didn't need to pay for.  Here's a sensible article intended to set the record straight and provide insights into the job market for English teachers abroad so you can avoid the costly mistake of paying for job placement when you don't have to and understand when paying for might be appropriate.

Regardless of whether you do end up getting a paid job placement, TEFL certification is key for providing your with the training and guidance you need to get the teaching job you want to fulfill your duties as a professional English teacher.  Here at International TEFL Academy, we fundamentally believe the following:

  • All students have a fundamental right to receive instruction from a trained professional teacher.
  • All teachers have a responsibility to their students to provide them with the best possible educational experience, which requires professional-level training.
  • English language education enables millions of global citizens to enhance their lives by learning English and makes our world a better place by promoting tolerance and mutual understanding through cultural exchange.
  • Teaching English as a Foreign Language provides English speakers from all walks of life with one of the greatest vehicles and most realistic opportunities to live an extraordinary life abroad.

teach english abroad

 Reasons why you may not need to pay for teaching job placement:

1. The Job Market for Teaching English Abroad is Big Enough that You Probably Don't Need to Pay for a "Guaranteed" Position

Before looking into the notion of paying for placement, blind guarantees and what this could ultimately mean for you, let's consider the extent of the job market and huge demand worldwide for TEFL certified English teachers. According to the British Council, the largest provider of English classes worldwide, more than 1.5 billion people are currently learning English across the globe. They want to take English lessons from you, the native speaker.  

Such demand creates hundreds of thousands of job openings for TEFL certified teachers worldwide in more than 100 countries every year!  In China alone, an estimated 300 million are taking English classes and in many countries demand for English teachers is higher than supply.  That may seem difficult to quantify because we simply don't have a parallel for such an industry domestically.  So let's break it down, play with some numbers and have a little fun.


Consider these Stats:

  • 50% of English teachers spend 1 year abroad, then return home, which means there is a revolving door of open jobs as language schools are required to recruit new teachers each year.

  • Madrid, Spain alone has approximately 5,000 teaching positions in nearly 300 language schools.

  • In Asian mega-cities with 15 to 20 million residents like Shanghai, China, or Seoul, South Korea, there can be approximately 15,000 jobs per city.

  • Major cities in Latin America and Europe are typically home to 50 – 100 language schools.

  • Private language schools typically employ between 10 – 50 English language instructors each.

teach english abroad

If you’re a fluent English speaker and earn an accredited TEFL certification, it's not really a question of whether you can get a job teaching English abroad, but which one of those jobs in which country is a good fit.

For just a taste of the thousands of jobs that are advertised around the world, just visit a job board like www.eslcafe.com.

2.  How Will You Feel When You Realize Your Colleagues Got the Same Position for Free?

That's right.  The position you paid for, your colleagues usually got for free!  "Wait...what?!?  You paid how much?!? " they ask.  On day one of your new life abroad, as it occurs to you for the very first time that you voluntarily shelled out hard earned cash that could still be in your pocket.


It's important to remember: This is NOT a Study Abroad program that entails tuition, housing fees and similar expenses.    

You are looking for a paid, professional teaching position, so pay close attention, because you'll need to do the following to land the job:

  • Apply for the Job by Submitting/Leaving Your Resume.
  • Interview for the Position.
  • Accept or decline the offer.

Hmmm....that seems totally....normal.  The laws of physics don't cease to exist just because we're talking about applying for a job in a foreign country!

Getting TEFL certified will give you the credentials schools abroad look for in serious candidates, but like any other job in you've had or applied for in your home country, the application process for teaching jobs/programs are...FREE!  

teach english abroad

3.  Schools and Recruiters Actually Profit off of English Teachers

Private language institutes make money by offering a service which is in high demand: English lessons.  You are the medium which enables the school to deliver a quality service.  This, my friend, makes you a monetary asset to the school.  On a social level, your jovial spirit and sense of humor may endear you to your colleagues and students, but we're talking numbers here.   

Recruiters and recruiting agencies actually make hundreds to thousands of dollars when you sign a contract with a school!  This is routine business for many schools/programs in Asia and the Middle East.  It's not incorrect or shady business.  It's just the way it works.

So if all these schools and recruiters already make money off your work, let's ask ourselves again...Why pay for a job if you don't need to?

4. "Guaranteed" Jobs Can Limit Your Opportunities (and Perhaps Your Paycheck as Well)

In many cases, signing up for a "guaranteed" job teaching English overseas is like agreeing to (and paying for) an arranged marriage. In both cases, your fate may be out of your hands, your options may be limited and you may not be lucky enough to find that your match is a good fit for you.  Here are a couple of questions to ask yourself:

  • What kind of school would offer a professional teaching position to someone whom they have never met or spoken with?  The answer, quite simply, is not many at all.  You may be limiting your options severely, and for schools willing to hire just anybody, this has to raise questions as to the quality of the institution.
  • As a teacher, would you rather be placed in any old situation or have the knowledge to choose a school that is right for you?  

Paying for placement or accepting the blind guarantee is like saying:

  • Any school will do. 
  • Any types of students are fine. 
  • Any rate of pay is cool. 
  • Any number of teaching hours/week is okay. 
  • Any location in the city is fine. 
  • Any schedule (days, nights, whatever) works for me!

You're moving overseas. It's a big deal! Wouldn't you like to have some say in the matter?  After all, only you know what's right for you!  

5. Play the Field

There's nothing wrong with keeping your options open and entertaining multiple job offers.  In fact, you'd practically be crazy not to, especially given how many opportunities there are in so many different countries!


  • If you are applying for a position in a specific government program, apply for positions with private language schools as well!  There are many countries that offer both types of positions.  Again, applying for positions is FREE!
  • If you're undecided on a specific location, apply for positions in multiple countries.  People change their minds as to where they want to teach all of the time.

When you pay for placement, you've given up this freedom.  Keep all of your options on the table!

6. Paying for a Teaching Job Does Not Guarantee an Ideal Teaching Experience

Certainly many English teachers, including graduates of International TEFL Academy, pay for a the support of an established organziation to secure teaching position and go on to enjoy the experience of a lifetime. However, it is incumbent that research extensively to enjoy the following issues, which teachers in paid placements sometimes encounter:

  1. Being underemployed, with not enough hours or a high enough hourly wage to cover living expenses.
  2. Getting overworked in a less than ideal teaching environment that will burn you out.
  3. Working for a lower wage than your co-teachers.  Uh-oh!  This may stir feelings of resentment towards your school or colleagues and taint your experience.

There are so many great schools out there and students eager to learn that you owe it to yourself, your students, and employer, to have an opinion about these matters and work in a situation that fits everyone's mutual interest!

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Cases Where Paying for a Teaching Placement Abroad Can Make Sense

The several reasons why our ITA certified graduates would use a paid program:

  1. Short -term opportunities like tutoring and au pair jobs in Europe are most commonly operated by study and work abroad companies that specialize in such placements. Often these positions are 1-3 months which are great for the "intro" to teaching abroad. 
  2. Volunteer Experience - Volunteer opportunities, particularly in poorer areas of the world - where the paying job market is small or non-existent - often requirement payment to cover administrative and logistical costs like food, housing and support stuctures.
  3. You seek a teach abroad program with more support & structure. International TEFL Academy provides extensive Job Search Guidance and many resources, support & networking opportunities to assist our graduates enjoy a fantastic experience abroad, but if you're looking for a chaperoned experience, that is not what we do.  Again, ITA enjoys relationships with some of the top companies in the world for structured programs that our students & graduates can use to obtain positions. These are teaching "programs" with a group departure, orientation and networking on certain start dates.  This may be just what the first time abroad person is looking for to meet like minded people in a group setting abroad.
  4. Some government public school programs rely primary on such companies for recruiting. Placement fees can vary widely for such opportunities.

Still confused? Questions about your options?

Speak with an advisor and attending a Webinar are terrific first steps for learning about job markets and opportunities, as well as TEFL Certification for teaching English abroad, and will certainly help as you figure out what’s the best way to pursue your dream of living and teaching overseas!

 

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About the Author: Matt Birgy

About the Author - Matt Birgy

Now working as a member of the ITA Advising team, Matt has taught abroad in South Korea, studied in Germany, worked with adult ESL students in Chicago and visited over 20 countries worldwide.  A few highlights include a 5 a.m. sushi feast in the world famous Tsukiji Fish Market in Tokyo, galloping through the Rajasthani deserts of India on an overnight camel safari, and every time he let himself get lost traversing a new city or landscape in a distant part of the world. Recently, he has grown increasingly proficient and comfortable writing about himself in the third person.  Because who knows me, better than me?!

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Jobs, 250000 jobs teaching English abroad, job interviewing, Teaching English Abroad, Job Markets, English teaching job markets, job search guidance, job guarentee


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