How hard is it to get a job teaching English abroad? Well, it depends on you and where you want to teach.
In this post I'll cover a few factors that can determine how hard getting a job teaching abroad actually is.
I can only speak from experience so I will be focusing more on teaching in East Asia: China, Korea, Japan and Taiwan.
For starters lets focus on the basics...
Are you qualified and/or experienced?
The requirements to teach in Asia are that you need a 4 year degree and to be a native speaker to get a legal working visa "most of the time".
Now other than that some schools may prefer experience, TEFL certification, related degrees, teaching licenses, master's degrees, etc.
Teaching licenses are often a good qualification to have and can enable you to teach in some schools where others can't.
Now if you have the basic requirements then you can get a job somewhere because some schools hire teachers without experience.
Most people only teach abroad for a year or so which means that there is a lot of turnover especially with entry level jobs.
Questions about TEFL certificates...
- Will an in-class course be considered "experience"? No.
- Will an in-class course give me an advantage over someone with an online course? It probably won't make a difference.
- Will I make more money with a certificate? It's possible somewhere, but unlikely. Experience (in terms of years) is usually the best tool for negotiation and it outweighs any certificate.
- Will I get a better job with a certificate? Highly unlikely. As mentioned before experience outweighs any certificate.
The more experience and better qualifications you have the easier finding a job will be, but there are always jobs for those without experience.
It depends on where you want to teach
If you want to teach where everyone else wants to teach then it will be harder.
For example, if you want to teach in Seoul, Korea well guess what? So does everyone else. And that makes finding a job in Seoul, Korea harder.
The same can be said for big cities around Asia like Shanghai, Taipei, Seoul and Tokyo. There are more jobs in these places, but there is also more competition too.
It's easier to get a job in a place where there is less competition. So if you are flexible with your location then it will be easier.
It depends on what kind of school you want to work at
If you have no experience or related qualifications then it's going to be awfully hard trying to get a job teaching in a more "prestigious" school.
The law of scarcity is at play here. The fewer the positions there are the harder it is to get in.
If you are flexible and don't care too much about the kind of school that you work at then it will be easier.
Are you a young, pretty, caucasian female?
Well, then it's going to be easier for you. Some employers have preferences for various types like:
- females or occasionally males
- young teachers
- American teachers
These preferences are common in East Asia.
They are discriminatory, but that's the way it is. I think employers have these sorts of preferences even where I grew up (the USA), but the difference is that in the US these preferences - which are discriminatory are never openly advertised like they can be in Asia.
Schools have different preferences for teachers. If you are not young, pretty, handsome, caucasian or not from Canada or the USA it doesn't mean you can't get a job it just means that at some schools it will be more difficult.
How hard is it to get a job in "Korea"?
I'd say it's not that hard, but it depends on you and where you want to teach. If you want to teach in Seoul in a public school then it's going to be harder because a lot of people also want to do that.
If you are not that picky and you are flexible with your location then you can get a job pretty easily.
It's generally easier to get a job in a hagwon compared to EPIK and that's because there are more positions in hagwons.
You can get a job from outside the country that includes paid flights. That makes getting set up in Korea pretty easy compared to getting a job in other countries.
But getting a job in Korea requires a bit of paperwork which can take a few months to complete. You should do that before you apply for jobs otherwise schools or recruiters won't take you seriously.
How hard is to get a job in "Japan"?
I think this is the harder place to do it in East Asia because there is more competition and fewer jobs compared to China or Korea. Many schools will prefer teachers already in Japan who have visas too.
If that is not you then you can try to get a job from outside of Japan. Some of the bigger companies (AEON, Interac, ECC, etc.) do some hiring from abroad and these positions are often the easiest to get into in Japan.
There is also the JET program that hires from abroad, however the process for applying and getting in takes almost a year.
If you wanted to go and look for a job most recommend having $5000 in savings, but I live here now and it's pretty cheap to get started in Japan if you do it like I did. The cost of living in Japan is high compared to other Asian countries.
How hard is it to get a job in "China"?
Although the requirements may be stricter than they used to be I think it's still the easiest place to get a job in East Asia.
The requirements can vary from province to province and city to city. The largest cities like Shanghai, Beijing, etc. will be the strictest and most competitive.
Visas in China can be expensive (like $120 or so) if you are an American. So if you want to enter on a tourist (L) visa and look for a job you are going to have to pay for a couple of visas until you get a Z visa (legal teaching visa).
How hard is to get a job in "Taiwan"?
Most teachers get jobs in Taiwan by going there to look. Many schools won't even consider you if you are not in Taiwan. Some will, but they are fewer in number.
It's easier now to get a job in Taiwan largely because the visa rules have changed. Now US citizens can get 3 free months just by showing up.
It's easier to get into a buxiban compared to a public school or university where you will need to be a licensed teacher or have a mster's degree.
What are you like?
Your personality comes into play here. Getting a job teaching abroad isn't that different from getting a job in your home country. You may think the above preferences are racist or discriminatory and they are, but everybody has preferences.
Everyone is biased.
If you have a likeable personality then it's going to be easier. If you are really picky (like me^^) then it's going to be harder.
Factors that may make finding a job teaching abroad more difficult
If you have been applying and are not having any luck then here are some things to consider.
- What does your photo look like?
- What does your resume look like?
- Do you have experience?
- Do you have any qualifications?
- Where are you applying to?
1. Are you smiling in your photo? A smiling photo works best. Another thing to consider is your race or nationality. What's your race? Employers discriminate.
2. Make your resume look better.
3. Get experience.
4. Improve your qualifications. You usually need to be a native speaker and to have a degree. If you don't have those then you'll have problems.
As mentioned before you can take a course too.
5. Maybe you should change the place or the kinds of schools that you are applying to.
Maybe you set the bar too high. For example, if you are trying to find a job teaching in Saudi Arabia and you have no experience or related degrees then you are going to have problems.
The bottomline is that it largely depends on you. It also depends on where you want to teach and that includes the country, city, and school.
- If you are not flexible with your location and school then it's going to be harder to get a job.
- If you don't have the basic qualifications to teach abroad then it's going to be harder.
- If you don't have experience then it's going to be harder (but everyone started somewhere).
- If you are not young, caucasian or one of those other preferences mentioned above then it might be harder.
- If you are picky then it will be harder.
If you want to go to these places and look for a job - which is how I always did it then you will have to do a visa run after you find a job to change your tourist visa to a work visa. But that's not true in Japan. It's possible to change a tourist visa to a different type of visa in-country in Japan as long as there is enough time (maybe 4 weeks+).
Generally I'd say in East Asia the easiest countries to get a job teaching in are in this order:
But again, it all depends on you, your situation, school, etc. I went to Taiwan with no experience. And remember that it's not always best to just take what you can get too. Sometimes it helps to be more discerning.
- Go where other people don't want to go. Everyone wants to be in the big cities, but sometimes you can find a nice job/experience in an off the beaten path place.
There are advantages to being in a big city. There are more comforts there and more foreign things there that you are used to like foods and people (other foreigners), but there's more competition in those places.
So it's easier in some sense if you don't try to do what everyone else is doing. You could always change after you get some experience or not. It's up to you.
I don't think it's that hard to get a job, but getting a job is the easy part. The hard part is the teaching.
Are you considering taking a course?
ESLinsider's course is a specialized course focused more on teaching children in Asia (the largest part of the job market) and if you really want to have fun and feel confident in that classroom then take this course.
- How hard is it to "teach" abroad?
- How to get a job teaching English abroad in Asia (and avoid the horror stories)