Frequently Asked Questions about Teaching Abroad

Application Process

Do you need TEFL certification to teach abroad?

Click to Open

The answer depends on where you’re going.

Our Teach Abroad programs in Chile and South Korea both include CIEE’s 150 hour online TEFL course as a built-in feature, to meet employer and visa requirements. There’s no extra fee, and no need to start a separate TEFL application – you will complete the training in the months leading up to your departure date.

For our other locations, including Spain and Thailand, the course is an optional add-on for an additional fee. Many of our teachers still elect to include the course, to get some training before they go, to better serve their students, and to add a valuable credential to their resume. Learn more about CIEE TEFL.

How competitive is admission to CIEE Teach Abroad programs?

Click to Open

While global demand for English teachers is strong, we have many applicants, and some programs do fill up quickly. The best way to secure a position in those locations is to apply early. Applications are considered on a rolling basis in the order they were received.

Our other programs have a very high acceptance rate, as long as you meet the basic eligibility requirements, which you can see on each of our program pages. We want to help as many people teach abroad as possible.

Do you need teaching experience to teach abroad?

Click to Open

For most programs, teaching experience is not a big factor in selection and hiring. That makes a CIEE Teach Abroad program a great way to gain some initial experience in the field. You will need enthusiasm, a desire to make a difference in students’ lives, and openness to new experiences and cultural exchange.

If you’re feeling anxious about taking on the responsibilities of teaching without prior experience, you should consider adding CIEE’s online certification course in Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL). It’s a high quality training program with videoconferencing and small class sizes, designed to make you a stronger applicant and a confident teacher. The certificate is recognized around the world and valid for life. Learn more about CIEE TEFL.


Why does CIEE charge a program fee?

Click to Open

Our approach is to offer a high level of preparation and support at every step of your journey toward teaching abroad. It’s different than what some of our competitors do, but based on participant feedback, we think it’s really valuable!

Before you go, we’ll guide you through the visa process and share lots of useful logistical tips and advice from former teachers. Our US-based staff is here to respond to questions by phone and email. After arriving, you will receive an in-depth orientation to prepare you for living and teaching in a new country, and to network with other teachers. Our in-country staff and representatives are there to support you during your experience, including 24/7 availability for emergency situations, and US residents will receive international travel and emergency medical insurance.

Your program fee covers the costs of those services and the staff and facilities that make them possible. It’s not enough for us to just match someone up with a job and call it a day – our goal is to give them the support and preparation they need to have a successful and rewarding experience!

When is the program fee due?

Click to Open

A $50 application fee is due at the time of application submission, to let us devote our effort and attention to serious applicants. Once CIEE accepts your application, a $500 commitment deposit ($1,000 if TEFL is included) is due within 10 calendar days. The remaining balance of the program fee is due after you receive a job placement, which happens roughly 1-3 months after you make the deposit.

Each of our programs has a different total program fee, based on the features included. To see these, please visit one of our programs.

I haven’t received my bachelor’s degree yet, can I still apply?

Click to Open

Yes! You’ll need a bachelor’s degree to go on our Teach Abroad programs, but we welcome applications from graduating seniors. You should ask your academic advisor for a letter confirming your expected date of graduation, and you can upload that to your online application in place of your actual degree. Check with your school to confirm when your diploma will be delivered to you, and email a scan to your coordinator at that time.

Can I teach abroad without knowing the local language?

Click to Open

Yes, most of our programs have no language requirement at all. It might seem intimidating to go to a country where you don’t speak the language, but it’s probably easier than you think. You’ll pick up basic phrases quickly by living there, and if you get stuck, you can always try to use a translation app to help out.

As for your students, many schools prefer that you teach English without relying on the local language. You’ll use repetition, pictures, circumlocution and lots of acting to get your point across. It works, trust us!

Can I apply to more than one program?

Click to Open

You shouldn’t apply to more than one CIEE Teach Abroad program at a time. It means extra work for you and doesn’t give you an advantage, since most of our programs have a very high acceptance rate, and even if you’re not accepted, we will offer to transfer your application to a second-choice program. We advise people to focus on completing one application for their top choice. If you’re not sure which one to choose, give us a call and we can advise you.

Job Placement

How does the placement process work?

Click to Open

The answer for this question depends on where you’re going, since each of our countries is set up differently. In some countries, there is a video interview, while in others, schools will hire you based on your PDF application alone. In every case, we ask for your input and preferences and do our best to match people up with a placement that’s a good fit.

Can I request placement in a particular city or province?

Click to Open

Yes, you should definitely give us your preferences about where you would like to be placed. There will be a space to indicate this on the application, and we’ll do everything we can to accommodate the request. Keep in mind that it’s usually much harder to be placed in a “touristy” area like the beach regions of Thailand or the very center of Madrid or Sevilla. Be sure to consult the “Destination” sections of our program pages for more information on where most people are placed.

Can friends or couples teach abroad together?

Click to Open

We get this question a lot: Can couples teach abroad together? Can friends teach abroad together? The answer is, yes. Depending on the country, we can either place you together at the same schools, or at schools located close to each other. Make sure to mention each other’s names somewhere on your CIEE application, either in the placement preferences or in your personal statement.

Can I teach subjects other than English?

Click to Open

For most of our programs, the answer is no. The one exception is in Thailand, where there is some demand for instructors to teach chemistry, physics, biology, and computer science. Those jobs are still a lot less common than English teaching positions, so we generally tell people that they should only apply to our program if they feel comfortable being assigned to teach English, even if their top preference is another subject.

Can I teach abroad with a pet?

Click to Open

For most of our countries, it’s not possible to bring an animal with you while teaching abroad, and you’ll need to find someone back home for your pet to live with.

It can be done in Chile or Spain, where participants arrange their own housing and can negotiate with landlords about keeping pets. CIEE does not offer advising or support for the process of importing an animal into a foreign country. You will need to research the requirements, paperwork, and quarantine on your own and be fully responsible for the costs. Keep in mind that you’ll likely need to repeat the process to come back into the USA. All told, it’s usually quite expensive. If you’re going to do it, plan to have the animal sent to you about a month after arrival when you have already figured out permanent housing.

Living and Working

What’s it like to teach abroad?

Click to Open

Teaching abroad is… thrilling. Challenging. Rewarding. Difficult. Surprising. Unforgettable. It builds character, and changes lives.

Your role as an instructor will depend on which program you apply to. In Europe, you’ll be an assistant teacher. Elsewhere, you’ll be a lead teacher, with responsibility for lesson planning and grading. You can find details about this in the “Job Description” sections of our program pages.

If you’d like to get a firsthand perspective on what it’s like to teach abroad, be sure to visit our Teacher Blogs.

Is housing provided?

Click to Open

Temporary housing is provided on all of our programs, so you don’t have to worry about your first few days.

In South Korea, Thailand, and our Volunteer in Spain programs, rent-free housing will be arranged for you, so you don’t have to budget for that expense.

On our other programs, you will need to locate and rent an apartment for the duration of your contract. Be prepared to pay a security deposit and first month’s rent before you get your first paycheck. CIEE will give you plenty of advice and resources to accomplish this, both before you go and at the in-country orientation.

Will my compensation be enough to live on?

Click to Open

On most of our programs, your income from teaching will be just enough for you to live comfortably, but not luxuriously. In Asia, there are opportunities to save money or finance regional travel since pay tends to be higher and rent-free housing is normally included. Participants on our Volunteer programs receive room and board but no monetary compensation.

What expenses should I budget for?

Click to Open

There are a few other expenses you can expect beyond the CIEE program fee. For most programs, you will need to pay for a visa fee and visa-related documents like background checks and medical forms. Jobs in South Korea offer airfare reimbursement as part of the compensation package, but in all other places, you’ll need to buy your plane tickets yourself. If housing is not included in your program, you’ll need to budget for the cost of rent as well. Teachers in all locations pay for their own food, phone service, internet, and local transportation.

It’s also important to remember that your first paycheck won’t arrive until 4-6 weeks after you arrive and start working, so you will need to have some savings to cover expenses until you start receiving your wages.

These factors vary widely from country. For more specific information you’ll need to visit the FAQs for a particular location.

Is it safe to teach abroad?

Click to Open

On CIEE Teach Abroad programs you’ll receive 24/7 emergency support from local partners or CIEE staff.  All participants are enrolled in iNext international insurance, which includes emergency assistance.  During the on-site orientation you’ll also receive advice for how to stay health and safe. If you’re looking for peace-of-mind and emergency support while teaching abroad, then our program is the one for you!

Travel and Arrival

How will CIEE help me get ready before departure?

Click to Open

This is an area where our program really shines. We put a lot of effort into helping people get ready and making sure they are well-informed and know what to expect.

CIEE will provide pre-departure guides with cultural tips, advice from former teachers, and information on logistical topics like phones, internet, and banking.

CIEE will give you detailed instructions for the documents and/or visas necessary for the program you select. In Thailand, where the visa is especially tricky, the program will cover your actual visa fee.

CIEE’s Participant Blogs are a great way to get a first-hand perspective on what it’s actually like to work and live abroad on our program!

Finally, before they go, we ask all our participants to review health, travel and safety information from the US Centers for Disease Control and the US Department of State, and sign up for regular updates from the STEP program.

Are flights included?

Click to Open

The only programs where employers cover your airfare are Teach in South Korea. Schools there will either buy a one-way flight for you, or provide reimbursement. For our other programs, you will need to purchase your own flight once your coordinator confirms the arrival and orientation instructions.

On a related note, some jobs in Thailand include an end-of-contract bonus designed to help offset the cost of airfare.

Who will meet me at the airport?

Click to Open

You’ll be met at the airport by either a CIEE staff person or a representative from your school. You’ll get specific details about this as the start date approaches. Orientation schedules vary from program to program, but rest assured that we’ll be there to welcome you to the country and help you adjust.

What kind of insurance will I receive?

Click to Open

All CIEE Teach Abroad participants who are US citizens or residents will receive one year of iNext International Travel and Emergency Medical Insurance. This coverage is valid worldwide outside of the USA (and a couple of war zones). It’s designed to cover unforeseen and unexpected accidents, illnesses, and flare-ups; it does not cover preventative care or routine maintenance medications. We usually recommend that participants keep US-based primary insurance to cover those exclusions. iNext is zero-deductible secondary insurance, which means you’ll need to bill primary insurance first if you have it, and then you can file a claim with iNext to reimburse any remaining expenses.

iNext does come with some great benefits designed to provide peace of mind while overseas: there’s a team of experts available 24/7 to help you navigate emergency situations and arrange appropriate care. It even covers emergency evacuations when medically necessary, and transportation for a family member to make a bedside visit in the most serious cases.

For more information, you can consult the FAQ and read the comprehensive schedule of benefits.

More Information

For eligibility, pay, and program fees, visit our Program Pages

More Questions? Email us or schedule a call!

Ready to Change  Your Life?

Apply Now

CIEE Teach Abroad Program Regulations (PDF)