The market for English as a Second Language instructors has blossomed over the last few decades and so too has the number of TESOL Certifications options. Would-be international educators that are wondering how to teach English abroad are now confronted with a veritable alphabet soup of competing acronyms like TESOL [Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages], ELT [English Language Teaching], and TEFL [Teaching English as a Foreign Language].
Fortunately, however, the astounding number letter combinations that have popped up in recent years are largely interchangeable. The acronyms, born out of competition among certifying institutions, are not globally standardized and are frequently seen as equivalent. Thus an employer will typically consider a TESOL certification to be the same as a TEFL certification and vice versa.
That is not to say, however, that all programs are created equal: while a given ELT certification may be seen as equivalent to a TEFL certification, the pedigree of the certification is becoming increasingly important. Thus the letters matter less than where they came from. Every employer is different but, generally speaking, an online TEFL program is less-well respected than an intensive on-site one – but a generic on-site one is itself less prestigious than one which also features classroom experience. Of course, the CELTA [Certificate in English Language Teaching to Adults] in general and the DELTA [Diploma in English Language Teaching to Adults] in particular remain the gold standard of ESL education. The DELTA, for example, the professional qualification in English language teaching backed by the University of Cambridge, is widely respected throughout the world.
At the same time, however, it is important to remember that ESL positions are like snowflakes – each one is unique. As a result there is still considerable appeal to even the simplest of online certifications. Applicants and employers alike know that it may well be just the first step in a long time of TESOL certification and ESL success.
English language education usually comes in one of two forms: public or private. Major ESL centers like South Korea, Japan, and even China follow this model and, for the jobseeker, this means opportunity comes in two forms as well: employment through government-run schools or for-profit providers. As we at ESL Directory have often noted before, however, there are advantages and disadvantages to each. Despite being consistently voted one of the most lucrative (and popular) places to teach English as a Second Language, the Taiwanese ESL market is different. Indeed, unlike many of the other popular destinations in East Asia the vast preponderance of ESL schools in Taiwan are privately run. This can have dramatic implications for those seeking to teach English in Taiwan.
English education, driven by its high regard and the economic strength of Taiwanese parents, starts early. Very early. The bulk of private ESL schools in Taiwan are designed to cater to children and preadolescents from 6 to 12 years of age and usually come in the form of buxiban or “cram schools”. Because most of their clients are enrolled during the day in school (be it public or private) classes rarely begin before 3 or 4pm. Of course there are many teenagers and working professionals also interested in improving their English proficiency but the sheer number of children enrolled in such programs means that almost any buxiban position will entail at least some classes catered towards children.
Thus, if teaching children – or edu-taining in general – isn’t for you, you may want to look carefully before you apply to any ESL school in Taiwan. At the same time, if you enjoy children then a position in Taiwan may be the perfect fit for you. After all, many people believe that the well-earned reward of a child’s smile is the most satisfying thing in the world – and the same might be true, too.
Although many Southeast Asian countries will allow native English speakers to teach English abroad without a degree, far more doors are open to those with a TEFL certification. In fact, a number of would-be travel destinations in South America could be the site of your new career – and life – teaching English as a Second Language.
Mexico, thanks to its proximity to the United States and burgeoning economy is a perfect example. The demand for English teachers – driven by the demand for English-speaking citizens – is at an all-time high and rising. Across the length and breadth of the country, from school children and businessmen, almost everyone sees English as the pathway to prosperity. Due to this seemingly insatiable demand, the Mexican government allows native English speakers without a degree but with formal TEFL certifications to work in the country. That makes places like Mexico City, one of the largest and most cosmopolitan cities on the planet, and even quiet Oaxaca some of the easiest places to teach English abroad without a degree.
Costa Rica is similarly opening its doors to native speakers of all stripes. Long known for its tranquil lifestyle and scenic beauty, the country is also home to a number of the region’s most tech-savvy companies. Companies like Intel, Acer, and Microsoft have opened facilities in the country and actively pursue English-speaking employees. This, coupled with the English-speaking demands of Costa Rica’s famous ecotourism, mean that more and more people are pursuing English proficiency.
Argentina, too, has schools throughout the country that are actively seeking TEFL certified instructors to educate its citizens. With no formal degree requirements in place from Buenos Aires to Patagonia, Argentina presents a variety of locations to teach English abroad without a degree. Whether you are interested in working with school children or working professionals, opportunities abound in this South American nation.
If you are interested in finding schools in Mexico or South America, check out our ESL Directory that offers local English language programs.
Teaching English in Korea, as always, is broken down into two main camps: public school programs and private school positions.
Among the three major public school programs geography plays a crucial role not only in their naming but in their compensation (albeit indirectly).
When evaluating the capitol’s SMOE* program, the surrounding GEPIK* program, or the country-wide EPIK* program, the small differences in salary are superficial. Likewise, the benefits – which include roundtrip airfare, accommodations, medical insurance and paid vacation – are essentially the same for all three. What does vary, however, is the cost of living. It should come as no surprise to you that the cost of living is higher in urban centers than in more isolated areas. Although the fact that your housing and accommodations will be covered by your employer should insulate you from regional variation, the Seoul metropolitan area is more expensive than the its surrounding suburbs. For the same reason, although private school positions are somewhat more lucrative than their public school counterparts, because they are often located in the country’s biggest cities, you shouldn’t base your decision on salary.
Instead of focusing on salary, try to concentrate on the total package offered by a particular location. Although the cost of living may be higher in Seoul, it is truly a world-class city with the kind of infrastructure and types modern conveniences that Western-raised English teachers have come to expect. As a result, many ESL teachers find the social and personal opportunities afforded by their proximity to the capital more than an ample trade-off for the higher cost of living. Other teachers, eager to save money in order to pay off student loans or travel abroad during vacations, prefer the slower pace of life and unique cultural experience afforded by truly rural locations. Somewhat paradoxically, some rural locations even pay a bonus to teachers willing to work in more remote areas, meaning that rural locations (which their lower costs) actually pay better than many urban positions!
In the end, whatever you chose, make sure you consider all of your options when applying. Tell your ESL recruiter what you really want and make it happen. After all, at the other side of the contract is the adventure of a lifetime!
*Acronyms are defined in our Public School Programs in Korea: Decoding the Acronyms blog