One of the many great benefits of earning your TEFL TESOL Certification and teaching English abroad is the diversity within the job market and the versatility it offers you when it comes to how long you actually work in the field. There are literally hundreds of thousands of jobs teaching English in more than 80 countries worldwide in different types of educational institutions from pre-schools and grade schools to private language institutes and summer camps.
Some people teach English abroad for many years or even as a career, while others work simply over summers or part-time. There are hundreds of thousands of different English teaching jobs worldwide and contracts for such jobs will vary from job to job, school to school, and region to region.
While there almost always exceptions, here are some of the most typical contract lengths for paid TEFL positions based on region:
Europe: 10 & 12 months + summer camps
Most employers in Europe hire for a full year or 10 months, with the option to renew based on satisfactory performance. Some English teachers take time off during the regular summer holiday season (or work with private students) from July-August, when many language schools close for vacation, while others work at summer camps/classes through those months. Most language schools in Europe interview and hire new teachers in September (and into October in Spain) and again in January for positions that last to June.
Government programs, such as the assistantship programs in France and Spain, take applications in January (France) or March (Spain) for 7-9 month assignments that begin in August/September and last through May or June.
Summer camp positions (usually 4 - 8 weeks from June - August) are typically filled in the winter and spring. There are also many short-term volunteer opportunities as well, many of which entail living with a family and providing the children with English lessons.
Asia: 6-12 months + summer camps
Most employers in Asia offer full-year contracts, with the option to renew. "Full year" usually means 10 - 12 months. There are a lot of perks to be found in the largest TEFL marketplace on the planet. Six or 9-month contracts are sometimes offered in countries like China and Thailand. If you are looking for a contract in a country like South Korea, that includes free airfare and free housing, anticipate committing for 12 months.
There are also shorter-term, summer month contracts to be found as well in some summer camps and summer schools. In Asia, demand for English teachers is so high that schools and recruiters are interviewing and hiring year around. In most cases (exceptions include schools in Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam), schools in Asia will interview and hire you in advance from your home country and you will sign your contract prior to your departure for Asia.
Latin America: 6 and 12 month contracts
Most schools hiring English teachers in Latin America hire for 6 and 12 months with the option to renew, however there can be other variations. In Nicaragua, for example, many language schools offer 6-8 week classes and will hire teachers between sessions (year-round) as needed, and will also hire teachers by the session
Are you from the northern hemisphere and want to have 2 summers in a one year? Latin America is a great option for people who have less than 1 year at a time to teach abroad. You can even find regular 3 month contract lengths in Peru and many English teachers throughout the region work as independent contractors, which provides yet more freedom over how long they work at one school or in one particular location.
Middle East: 9-12 months or 2 years
Those seeking contracts to teach English in Persian Gulf countries of the Middle East like the United Arab Emirates (including Dubai and Abu Dhabi), Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Oman, should expect to sign contracts for 9-12 months, or in some cases, 24 months (two years). Schools in these nations offer some great benefits for teaching in those countries, including free airfare, housing and paid vacation, and so anticipate signing on for at least a year to receive such benefits.
For shorter term options in this region, look outside of the Persian Gulf Peninsula to North Africa, where you can find 6 month options more regularly in countries like Morocco, Egypt and Tunisia, particularly if you are in those countries interviewing for jobs in person.
Remember your TEFL/TESOL Certification is lifetime and recognized the world over so you will have options! If you are interested in just working part-time, there are many language schools that will be likely be keen to employ you and you can often find many private tutoring abroad and even in your home community in the U.S., Canada or wherever you may live. Remember, however, that in many locales you may need to work full time to earn enough to support yourself.
Another way TEFL grads use their training is to add online English language teaching, which enables you to work part-time from anywhere in the world while honing your skills and adding an extra revenue stream to your bottom line, now to mention more experience on your resume.
Can I Leave My Contract Early?
Teaching English abroad is typically like any other field in that from time to time people need or want to leave their job before their contract is up and they are able to do so. As always, you want to handle such a situation in a professional manner (giving notice if at all possible, for example), and you need to be aware that you will lose pay and benefits and if you possess a work visa, it will likely be canceled.
To learn more about this question, please read: Can I Leave My Contract Teaching English Abroad Early?
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- Choosing a TEFL Country: Can I choose where I teach English Abroad?
- What is a visa and do I need a visa to teach English abroad?
- Can I teach English abroad in the summer?
- Where will schools hire me in advance to teach English abroad?
- What are hiring seasons for teaching English abroad?
About the Author: Shay Ames
Since becoming disillusioned and bored with his old corporate job in Chicago more than five years ago, Shay has made it his life's work to help others travel the world by teaching English abroad as an admission advisor with International TEFL Academy.