Aside from the basic qualifications, 90% of the time the best qualification to have to teach English abroad is experience. If you already started looking for a job then you may have seen some advertisements like this...
But if you are a new teacher just starting off you are probably wondering, "Do you need experience to teach English abroad?" or "How can I teach English abroad without experience?" or "Who is going to hire me to teach English abroad with no experience?"
Here you will find a few ways to get experience before you even secure a full time job. These can of course be put on your resume to enhance your prospects. Some of them you can do from your home country and others you can do abroad.
There are advantages to just going abroad to find work. You can start on a tourist visa and suss it out before making any big commitment. You'll need some start up cash to do this, but I think it's generally a better way to begin. It's the way I've done it in China, Korea, Taiwan and Japan.
Here are 7 practical ways on how to get TEFL experience
Let's look at your options...
1. Substitute teach
This is how I started off teaching in Taiwan. I flew to Taiwan without much of a clue of how to teach English. I had a lot doubts and fears. However, starting off as a sub is a way to begin without much pressure.
A sub job is temporary. Maybe you would only be doing it for a day or maybe a week, so there is not much pressure to perform. For my first few months in Taiwan this is what I did. And as I gradually got experience I added it to my resume.
Since there is not much pressure and you are not under contract it's going to be easier which is good as it can be stressful teaching abroad.
Are you in your native country?
If you are at home you can search for ESL schools in your city or area. Contact them and see if you can work there as a sub. If there aren't any ESL schools around then you can go to elementary schools and high schools in the area and sign up to work as a substitute teacher.
It doesn't matter if it's not teaching ESL the important thing is here is that you are teaching. It will still look good on your resume.
Are you in another country?
Look for jobs working as a substitute teacher. These can be found online. For example, when I was in Busan, Korea I would look for them on Koreabridge and when I was in Taiwan I would look for them on Tealit. You won't find these on sites like Dave's ESLcafe. You need to find more local websites - websites that are specific to the city you are in.
Schools aren't too picky when it comes to hiring a sub. Substituting is a good way to start out and get some experience.
And occasionally if the school likes you they may hire you or even contact you in the future for a job.
Volunteer wherever you can teach English or get related experience. For example, the Peace Corps provides different opportunities for volunteers and TEFL is one of them.
If you are at home
Maybe you could volunteer at a private ESL school, helping out at a university, the local YMCA, a local school, or a daycare center. Related experience helps and it's better than unrelated experience.
If you are abroad
If you are already abroad looking for a teaching job and you can't find a sub job then volunteer. Approach or contact schools that are advertising (or not) for help and volunteer your services. Maybe you can offer to work as an assistant helping the other teachers. This would be good as you get to observe other teachers in action.
3. Double up your qualifications by taking two TEFL courses
Related experience is what employers want to see. The more related it is the better.
Aside from a degree and your passport the best qualifications look kind of like this:
- Teaching English experience in the country you are applying to and to the same age group (the more the better)
- Teaching English experience abroad
- Teaching experience (maybe you taught something else)
- Teaching licenses
- Related experience (maybe you taught kids)
- TEFL certifications
Then there's always the "X factor".
So that is the order I have put them in based on 8 years of experience teaching and living in Asia. Of course every school is different, so for example if you want to teach in an international school then that teaching license will be more valuable than experience in that country since it's usually a requirement to teach in that kind of school.
Take two TEFL courses.
Certainly you don't have to, but you could just take any cheap course then take a specialized course like TEKA.
Your average course focuses more on teaching adults because that's the CELTA model. The "A" in CELTA is for adults and most courses copy CELTA (at least on the surface).
Based on my experience teaching in Asia the courses (TESOL & TEFL) I took were general courses for teaching mostly adults, but teaching kids is a different ball game and most jobs in Asia are for teaching kids. So if you teach kids take a course like this one.
Basically on paper all TEFL certificates look the same to most employers.
So ideally if you take a course you should take one targeted at teaching who you will teach. It's not only better for the school, but it will be better for you too. That means less stress and more fun later.
And on paper it looks better too.
A lot of the people that I see who sign up for ESLinsider's TEKA course have already done another TEFL course.
Why is that?
Either they didn't learn from their other course or they wanted to double up their qualifications.
I don't have experience isn't 2 courses too many?
Well, that's how you get experience - you work for it. But another problem you'll have with at least some courses is that they are too theoretical and not practical enough. As a new teacher you need to learn basic stuff and to watch other teachers NOT study theory or English grammar.
That's high level abstract stuff and I can tell you based on experience that that stuff is going to go in one ear and out the other. That's partly why I started ESLinsider.
To show you how to teach.
And I started off as a total moron too without any related experience.
Anyone can learn when given the right tools.
4. Start now and take whatever job you can get
You have a couple of options when it comes to finding a job. I generally recommend doing your research and talking to the school/teachers. If you take these steps to finding a good job you'll be fine.
On the other hand you could just take whatever comes your way and start now vs. later.
I guess that means to not be too picky. Sure, a better job may come along, but while you are waiting you could be getting experience instead. Some people say that your first job isn't usually a good one anyways and that your first year teaching is one of the most difficult.
That was true for me.
So if that is the case then why wait?
Keep in mind though in some countries it can be a hassle (if the school is providing you a visa) to change jobs.
Sometimes having no experience isn't such a bad thing. There are some schools out there that don't mind. You can point out that your flexible and open to learning and some schools might appreciate that. Although I wouldn't expect schools to offer much or any training.
5. Get a part time teaching job
Like substituting employers tend to be a little more relaxed about hiring someone for a part time position since they don't usually provide a visa. To find jobs like these you'll need to search the local classifieds in the country you are in. You'll usually need to arrange a visa. Just so you know there are risks when you teach on a tourist visa as it's illegal, but if you are just doing it temporarily it's not usually a big deal.
You could try to get a student visa, spouse visa, working holiday visa or another one.
You can read more about the different kinds of visas here.
6. Do a summer or winter camp
These are usually easy entry jobs. They have these throughout Asia: China, Korea, Taiwan and Japan during winter vacation or summer vacation. They usually last just a couple of weeks. You will usually need to be there though. Since these are short term positions they don't usually provide any visa, but it's only for a couple of weeks to a month or so and a tourist visa while not legal is enough to get by for the short term.
7. Teach English online
It's generally easier to get a job teaching English online. It's an emerging market so there are a lot of options, however the recent COVID situation has flooded the market since lots of people were out of work and looking for work online.
This can be a good way to get your feet wet and test the waters out. Virtual teaching is different though for better or worse. There is no physical space like a classroom, desks or actual students. You can't move around that much. You can't quite feel it.
It's often one on one teaching and classroom management problems are less of an issue.
Also you can do it from anywhere in the world given you have a laptop, headset and stable wifi.
So what are the requirements?
That depends on the school. The general requirements would be: native speaker, degree and a TEFL certificate, but those aren't completely set in stone.
Remember that some teaching experience is usually better than none. It's better for not only the school, but you too. So if you are still at home and trying to polish up your resume before heading abroad or finding a full time job then do some subbing or volunteering. If you are abroad then you have more options.
Remember taking a course will give you both related experience that you can put on your resume and give you some know-how. Teaching is not easy.