Where international commerce is concerned, while once all roads led to Rome, today all roads lead to English. The empire of the English language, whose "realm" is more geographically dispersed than Rome’s ever was, includes countries as far from the British Isles as Australia, India, and South Africa and plays an increasingly essential role in today’s global marketplace. Indeed, from São Paulo to Seoul, English is now the common language spoken in corporate boardrooms, top universities, and the international community at large.

In recognition of this fact, over the last few decades governments around the world have begun to step up their efforts to teach their schoolchildren English. More importantly, because English proficiency is so well associated with academic, professional, and social success, even as public school English education starts at ever younger ages and picks up speed in countries as diverse as Argentina and South Korea, the private market is stepping in to provide supplemental English education opportunities as well.

For native English speakers, this frenzy of activity has given rise to opportunities of a different sort. Because English education is so widely seen as an important stepping stone to success around the world but the supply of qualified English teachers within non-English speaking countries remains small, the demand for native English speaking teachers has surged over the last decade. The increased demand has given rise a new, international industry: teaching English abroad.

Why teach English abroad?

Teaching English abroad is a truly unique experience. Because of the wide range of job opportunities and locations, the possibilities are virtually limitless. Although English has already begun to spread across the globe there is still quite a bit more ground to cover, giving candidates the freedom to work where you want. Moreover, despite the global recession demand remains high. In short, there has never been a better time to teach English in a foreign country.

Given the sheer range of possibilities, however, at first blush teaching English abroad can seem every bit as intimidating as it is exciting. With so many possibilities available, potential teachers many important factors make up an incredible experience but the basic questions any newcomer must surely ask are:

How do I find a job teaching English abroad?

Because many potential employers are themselves schools, few advertise like traditional businesses. In fact, only a small number of ESL vacancies are actually advertised. Instead, most schools find teaching staff by relying on

  1. Direct enquiries from interested applicants;
  2. References and referrals from existing
  3. Teachers; and ESL recruitment agencies.

Because most schools lack the dedicated human resources departments found in many large corporations that would otherwise evaluate candidates, in many markets recruitment agencies are a major player in ESL staffing. Some recruitment agencies, like Korvia, are country specific while others, like Footprints Recruiting, span the globe.

Where should I teach English abroad?

The answer to this question is different for everyone. Asian countries like South Korea, Vietnam, and Taiwan may offer the most lucrative salaries but newcomers often face significant challenges in adapting to their radically different cultures. By contrast, many ESL teachers find the pace of life in South American countries like Argentina and Chile attractive enough to compensate for their generally lower salaries. In the end, making an informed decision about the aspects that are most important to you is crucial. Do the legwork and the world is your oyster.

Do I need to be certified to teach English abroad?

Strictly speaking, no, but no matter how you define success the most attractive ESL positions go to those with Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) certifications. Demand for English teachers is high but those with the right credentials can pick and choose their positions. Plus, TEFL certification programs help you to be better prepared for your new career. Depending on the program you select, training schools can certify you in as little as one or two months to be a professional English teacher.

In the end, although it is a lot to consider, the future for ESL education looks bright. Having clear answers to these important questions is the first step in a process that will help you begin an exciting new life abroad. Here are some resources to help you navigate degree and certificate programs:

Subscribe to newsletter

Stay up to date with the latest information