When deciding to teach English abroad, one of the most important things to consider (after where and when) are the costs of teaching abroad. As exciting a job opportunity as it is, there are a few expenses that need to be covered to make it happen. So if you're dreaming of a life in a new country, it's only natural to wonder—what are the start-up costs for teaching English abroad?
This guide breaks down the costs of teaching English in a new country and ways to help you prepare financially.
Read more: Is Teaching Abroad Alone Safe for Women?
7 Essential Start-Up Costs of Teaching English Abroad
First things first, let’s go over what aspiring TEFL teachers need to pay for to be able to teach English abroad.
1. TEFL Certificate
The majority of teaching jobs abroad require teachers to have a TEFL certificate. A TEFL certificate provides aspiring English teachers the necessary training to manage a classroom, plan effective lessons, and foster a positive learning environment for students. The best TEFL courses have at least 120 hours or more and an in-class or practicum component.
TEFL courses typically cost $500-$2,500, but the highest quality TEFL programs should cost no less than $1,000. There are many benefits to choosing a reputable TEFL certificate that isn't suspiciously cheap. Appropriately priced TEFL certifications like CIEE TEFL's 150-hour course include access to highly qualified tutors, course material accredited by ACCET, and lifetime job search and placement assistance.
2. ESL Job Application Documents
The application process to teach English abroad typically requires you to submit important documents verifying who you are and your educational and professional accomplishments.
Some of the most common documents aspiring TEFL teachers need for their application include:
- A federal background check (or a criminal record check): $18-$50*
- Official submission of fingerprints (for the background check): $50*
- Certified copy of your high school diploma and/or college degree (via apostille or notary): $10-$40* per document
- Official transcripts: $0-$15* each
- Professional passport photos: $10-$15*
- Translation of documents into the target language of teach abroad destination: $100-$150*
- Medical check-up provided by a doctor
- International and expedited shipping costs
*The actual cost of these documents will vary; additionally, applicants often must pay for expedited service to meet application deadlines, which can increase costs significantly.
3. Passport and Visas
To enter any international country legally, you must have a passport valid at least six months after the expected end date of your time abroad. And in order to work and stay long-term, you'll likely need a work visa or residence permit.
A first-time U.S. passport costs $165. The exact visa fee varies based on your citizenship, the type of visa you need, as well as the country you're moving to, and it can change without notice. That said, visa costs typically range from $40-$150+, plus the price to obtain documents needed for the application.
4. Round Trip Plane Tickets
International plane tickets can be expensive! While you may not know when exactly you'll be coming home, booking a round-trip ticket is usually more cost-effective than a one-way. Try to choose a round-trip ticket that you can change for free once you have a better idea of when you'll return home. It’s also always best to book tickets in advance to secure cheaper prices.
Some teaching jobs, like in South Korea and the Middle East, offer teachers reimbursed airfare, in which case this expense won't be of concern to you! But in general, international airfare can cost as much as $500-$1,000+ depending on where you're flying from and to.
5. Apartment and Security Deposit
Another significant expense of moving abroad is the cost of renting an apartment. While your teaching salary should be enough to cover monthly rent payments, you'll need to arrive with enough for the security deposit. How much you need will depend on the customs of where you're living, but security deposit costs can range from 1-3 months of rent.
Some teach abroad jobs offer TEFL teachers free housing as part of their work contracts, which can significantly help lower the cost of living. However, you may still need to pay a security deposit.
While most English teachers abroad opt to move into an already furnished apartment to save money, you'll also need start-up funds for home essentials. It's a good idea to budget at least $200-$300 for home essentials when first arriving.
6. Getting Settled
When you move abroad to a new country, you’re essentially starting from scratch and have a long list of necessities to take care of! Before jumping on a plane, it’s a good idea to plan and budget for expenses like:
- A SIM card and fees to open a phone plan
- Sightseeing and going out in your new home
- Public transportation for work and life
- Money for 1-2 weeks of hotels or hostels for job or apartment hunting (if applicable)
7. One Month Salary
Once you've covered the costs of securing a job and moving abroad, it's essential to arrive in your new home with a bit of savings. Not only is it helpful to have some extra money in case of emergencies, but also because you likely won't receive your first paycheck until after the first month of teaching. Additionally, having extra money saved up can help make life more comfortable if your TEFL salary is just enough to cover the cost of living.
When you move abroad, it's recommended to have at least $1,500-$2,000+ in your savings.
5 Ways to Financially Prepare to Teach English Abroad
Financially preparing to teach English abroad doesn’t have to be a challenge! Here are a few ways you can prepare:
- Choose to teach English in a country with potential to save money through the offer of a high salary, low cost of living, and additional benefits like free housing and reimbursed airfare.
- Get TEFL certified with a reputable provider to better your employment opportunities.
- Plan in advance and give yourself time to take care of teach abroad start-up costs on a full-time salary at home.
- Focus on building your savings before moving abroad by creating a budget and using practical ways to save money.
- Consider teaching English online to supplement your income throughout the process.
Teach English Abroad With CIEE’s Teach Abroad Programs
CIEE has been a leader in international exchange since 1947 and has long helped participants teach English abroad. With CIEE Teach Abroad, participants enjoy job search assistance, 24/7 support once abroad, and a helping hand throughout the entire application and move abroad process.
In addition, CIEE offers teaching placements in exciting destinations like Spain, South Korea, Thailand, and more! Plus, some CIEE Teach Abroad programs include enrollment in CIEE TEFL's high-quality 150-hour TEFL Certificate course!
Ready to start teaching English? Get TEFL Certified!
One of the first steps to teaching English abroad is enrolling in a quality TEFL course. It's an essential requirement for most TEFL jobs and a must for learning the ins and outs of teaching English as a foreign language. It's especially beneficial for those who wish to teach English without a degree or who lack professional teaching experience.
CIEE TEFL's 150-Hour TEFL Certificate course is a fantastic jumping-off point for your career as an English teacher. That’s because the CIEE TEFL 150-hour course includes:
- Course material accredited by ACCET, a trustworthy third-party recognized by the U.S. Department of Education.
- One-on-one feedback from a highly-qualified TEFL tutor.
- A mandatory 20-hour practicum providing hands-on experience in the classroom.
- Lifetime job search assistance.
- Discounts on CIEE TEFL tuition for those eligible.