Interested in teaching English abroad as a career? Are you thinking of TEFL for the long term or even permanently? 

Can you make a career out of TEFL?

Yes you can, but you should know that most people do not teach English abroad for the long term.

Most people who teach abroad only do it for a year or two and most contracts are for one year.

TEFL is a field that has a high turnover rate and that any average joe with a degree can do (not necessarily well) for the most part. Although many just do it for a year or so, some will do it for much longer or as a career.

Why do most teachers only do it for a year or two?

Some of the reasons are:

  • They want to take a gap year.
  • They want an adventure and to travel the world.
  • They don't like it (because they don't like teaching, the culture, their employer, overall experience, etc.)
  • It wasn't what they expected.

So keep all of those things in mind especially if you are thinking about teaching English abroad "permanently". There are a lot of variables and the grass is always greener on the other side of the world.

Your first step is to get there and sign up for a year. Then take it from there because how you feel now and then will be different.

Can you get a contract for longer than a year?

It is possible to renew a contract if you and the school agree on it. But again a year or occasionally two is normal and shorter term contracts are also rare.

But if you want to do it long term then let's ask a different question.

Which major should I choose to teach English abroad?

Many people may tell you that you should study linguistics, literature or major in English. Those are helpful, but there is a better major and I am going to tell you what it is and why you should study it.

Of course you don't have to study it as it isn't required in many schools, but if you're really serious about teaching English for the long term then this would be best.

You should study education and become a licensed teacher in your home country.

Why is this degree best?

1. If you are a licensed teacher you will qualify for some of the best teaching positions abroad. For example, you will be able to teach English or any suitable subject for that matter in international schools across the globe. These can be really nice positions.

2. It's better because it's far more versatile than any short term TEFL course. A good TEFL course could help by giving you some specialized training, but TEFL/TESOL/CELTA qualifications are mostly only good for teaching English abroad. 

3. While most ESL teachers with bachelor's degrees teach in private language schools and a fewer amount in public schools and universities. You'll also be qualified to teach English in a public school in Taiwan, UAE, and Dubai. These are just some examples of the positions - which are often higher paying than most, that you will be qualified for.

TEFL certifications and regular old bachelor's degrees won't cut it in these schools.

You don't necessarily have to be a licensed teacher of "English". You can be a licensed teacher of any subject and still be able to get into these positions. Of course being a licensed teacher of English would be better if you do want to teach English.

Being a "licensed teacher" carries a sense of esteem with it. People will respect you more for it and see you as a "real teacher".

So simply said being a licensed teacher has a few advantages.

  1. It's versatile. You can teach abroad with it and/or if you decide to you can teach in your home country.
  2. You'll be qualified to teach English in some of the best schools.

Having those qualifications is a great start to a career as a teacher if that is what you want to be. Later you can always decide to study TEFL more, by taking a course or even getting a master's degree.

Can you do TEFL long term? (3 other people reply)

These 3 replies were taken from the Reddit post here.

1121123 says:

"Very viable but you have to get properly qualified. The best route is a home country teacher's licence and that'll let you teach English in an international school."

yamashina_desu says:

"Absolutely, just don't get suck in shitty language schools. Get a Masters degree in Applied Linguistics/TESOL, or get a teaching license from your home country. You'll have the potential to make great money, and also be set up for a job in your home country if and when you return. It takes a bit of effort/money/time to get qualified, but once you do, it'll pay for itself in a year or two.

I work in Japan at a university, the pay is great, vacations fantastic (5 months a year...), and although my contracts are for 1 year, they are usually renewable."

Comicsys says:

"Technically, you could. I wouldn't recommend it, though. In my opinion, there's a point where it comes time to go home and find a way to make a living back home." 

What about TEFL courses?

Most schools will consider a licensed teacher a better qualification than a CELTA, TEFL or TESOL certificate. I mean one of this courses can be good for getting some specialized training. But they are not a degree and they don't carry much weight. Degrees are required for getting visas and what not in Asia. TEFL certificates are not usually required for visas.

Are education degrees really the best qualification?

You know it depends on the school. Experience is probably the best after the basic ones like a degree and native speaker. Some universities in Asia require master's degrees.

But as a licensed teacher you won't have a worthless degree like some do, such as myself, haha.

I have a degree in fine art.

Which doesn't actually qualify me for many positions. I did learn some valuable skills, however in and of itself a bachelor's degree in fine arts doesn't qualify one for many jobs. Which I don't really want as my goal in life is not to find a good "job".

That could have something to do with why I spent as many years abroad as I did. The other reason was a love of adventure, travel and new experiences. Although teaching abroad is not the same as traveling abroad.


I wouldn't change it though, as that is what I was interested in at the time. At least I wouldn't now because life is a journey not a destination. So first I would tell you to pursue what you are interested in not in what looks good on paper. If teaching interests you and teaching English abroad interests you then study education and become a licensed teacher.