Fancy travelling to far flung countries while broadening your CV, your employability and your mind? Teaching English abroad isn’t just for Gap Yah guys, and you don’t need a degree to get a TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) qualification. We spoke to TEFL experts Peter (Sales Advisor for TEFL England) and Daniel (currently working for i-to-i) for the ultimate guide to getting out there and doing something that’s worthwhile, challenging and seriously fun.
Pretty much anyone can take the course
If you’re working within the EU, you don’t need a degree to teach abroad. Just enthusiasm, the time, and a willingness to do the 120 hours of minimum training required. “If you want to do this as a career change, or forge a career in teaching, doing the more advanced courses will earn you more money later,” says Daniel, “but for those just looking to try it out, 120 hour training is all you need.” Training on the job can be provided, too, and you can always get a CELTA (the next step up) or do a more advanced course later on if you decide you want to turn the short-term adventure into an actual career.
Choose the course carefully
i-to-i offers a 120 hour part online part face-to-face course for £269 (it's usually £309 but is currently on offer, so get on it sharpish!), whereas TEFL England has a part-online, part-face-to-face version for £339 with 20% off if you're a full-time student, unemployed or have graduatd within three years. Though the latter may be more expensive, you get class time, a personal tutor and “Be wary of the suspiciously cheap online-only courses springing up at the moment,” advises Peter from TEFL England. “Us, i-to-i and UK TEFL are the three main companies at the moment. If something looks too good to be true, it probably is.”
Choose your country even more carefully
While the broad idea is that EU countries don’t require a degree for work visas, and those outside do, Peter advises to always check with the appropriate embassy as the rules are constantly changing. “The visas are a minefield,” he warns. “Sometimes it even depends where in the country you’re working; China requires one for the bigger cities, but sometimes you don’t need one when working in rural parts.” Japan also offers 1000 open working visas a year, which you can apply for and then work there without having graduated.
Go with a company, or at least have your employment sorted beforehand
“Some people train abroad, then try and look for jobs while they’re out there,” says Phil, who taught in Thailand all last year. “If it’s your first time doing it, you’re best to have this sorted out so you’re financially secure and not panicking. It’s quite far from home…" i-to-i has a few job listings as starting points, but Daniel recommends checking out Daves ESL Cafe and other similar job sites.
It’s good if you want to be a teacher
If you’re planning to train as a teacher, then a bit of TEFL will do you good: “You’ll no doubt work with children who don’t speak English as their first language at some point,” Peter explains, “and having TEFL training will look impressive on your CV; it looks like it’ll be mandatory soon.”
...or if you want to go into education generally
Daniel didn’t get the grades to study Law at Durham but got a 2:2 from Sheffield Hallam instead. After doing a Level 5 course, and teaching English around the world for the last few years, he's just been accepted at Durham on the Education course. "That’s off the back of teaching, as opposed to my previous grades," he says.
WHEN YOU GET OUT THERE:
Phil went travelling as a part of an Invasion Jobs offer- they’re currently looking for 150 people to teach in Thailand, with an intensive TEFL course thrown in. Here are his three main tips:
- Take things as they come: you’re living and working in an alien environment and it can be daunting, and your schedule will change. When I first arrived the school was flooded. I did supply work so at one point taught in the south of Thailand at 3pm then had to get on an 8hr bus so I could start teaching in another location the next day.
- Don’t pack as much as you think: it means you can bring more back and, besides, unless you’re going somewhere really remote, you’ll definitely be able to buy stuff there.
- Confidence: if you don’t have much of it, this will really help you out. There’s often a teacher with you who can translate, and you’ll be fully trained, but it’s still a little daunting getting up at the front of the class and quite a few people I went with were timid to begin with. Not by the end though- I’d really recommend it for those with confidence, and without.