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The Ultimate Guide to Teaching English Abroad

Launch Your Teach Abroad Adventure

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Who Can Teach English Abroad?

Before you begin the process required to teach abroad, it’s essential to check that you’re eligible. Every teach abroad destination and hiring school has its own set of job requirements, so careful research is of the utmost importance.

The Basic Qualifications TEFL Teachers Need to Have Are:

  • A reputable TEFL certification 
  • A bachelor’s degree
  • Native English fluency
  • A clean background check
  • Aged younger than local, national retirement age (typically under 60-65 years old)

Some destinations only consider citizens from native English-speaking countries like the U.S., U.K, Canada, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa.

Additionally, not all TEFL jobs require a bachelor’s degree. Some hire English teachers without degrees, some may require only an associate’s, while others may only hire applicants with a master’s degree.

Why Teach English Abroad?

Teaching English abroad is an exciting adventure that offers many benefits for those who decide to make the leap. 

Gain valuable work experience: Adding “English teacher abroad” to your resume can make you stand out to future employers or university admission officers for your future endeavors.

Experience a new culture: There’s no better way to learn about a new culture than to live and work fully immersed in it. And the cultural awareness you gain from teaching abroad can help break down barriers and improve your cross-cultural communication skills, all of which are vital in life and the workplace.

Cover living costs abroad: TEFL teachers typically make enough to cover the local cost of living, earning between $750-$5,000 per month. Some destinations even provide teachers additional benefits like free housing and airfare, allowing them to save hundreds each month.

Learn a new language: Many teach abroad destinations make learning and practicing a second language easy, adding another useful life skill to your repertoire. 

Make meaningful connections: Living and working in a new country means you’ll meet fellow teachers, travelers, and local friends that can turn into lifelong friendships.

How to Teach English Abroad

Once you’ve established that you’re eligible and ready, it’s time to follow these four steps to teaching English abroad:

Step 1: Get TEFL Certified
Step 2: Apply for Teaching Positions Abroad
Step 3: Apply for Visa
Step 4: Travel and Start Teaching

Step 1: Get TEFL Certified

One of the first steps to teaching English abroad is earning a reputable TEFL certificate. TEFL is an acronym that stands for “Teaching English as a Foreign Language,” and a TEFL certificate is vital training for aspiring ESL teachers. 

Why You Should Get TEFL Certified Before Teaching Abroad 

Not all positions require English teachers to be TEFL certified. However, a TEFL certificate is a qualification that prepares you for the classroom with essential teaching methodologies and lesson planning tips that ensure you feel confident on your first day of teaching. 

Not to mention, high-paying TEFL jobs in desirable destinations can be highly competitive. A reputable TEFL certificate can make your application and resume stand out from the crowd and better your chances of securing a desirable position abroad. 

Read more: How Much Should a TEFL Course Cost?

Step 2: Apply for Teaching Positions Abroad

After enrolling in a credible TEFL program, the next step is to consider the type of teaching position that's best for you. There are generally two types of teach abroad jobs for TEFL teachers to choose from: paid and volunteer positions. Paid teaching jobs for TEFL teachers tend to be full-time, year-long positions abroad whereas volunteer positions tend to be part-time, short-term appointments that are usually between 1-3 months long.

How to Apply to TEFL Teaching Positions

There are a few different ways TEFL teachers can secure teaching positions abroad.

  • Find and Apply to TEFL Jobs Independently

There are many useful resources online, including destination-specific Facebook groups and online job boards where aspiring ESL teachers can find open positions. English teachers can also find work through personal connections, by applying in-country, or by contacting hiring schools directly about current job openings.

However, the TEFL job market and steps needed to move to a new country can be challenging to navigate and varies from country to country and school to school. So, while it’s possible for ESL teachers to find TEFL jobs on their own, those that do typically receive little to no assistance throughout the process. 

  • Work With an ESL Recruiter

Another way to find a job teaching abroad is by working with an ESL recruiter. ESL recruiters are third parties that are paid by hiring schools to help them fill open positions. They typically offer ESL teachers the benefit of application assistance and have partnerships with a network of hiring schools. Recruiters most commonly operate in Asia and the Middle East.

However, ESL recruiters may not always have a teacher's best interest at heart, and not all are reputable or trustworthy. Some view aspiring teachers as simply a number to be placed without taking care to find quality positions with good working conditions.

  • Apply to Teach Abroad Programs

Lastly, aspiring ESL teachers can apply to established teach abroad programs that help participants find teaching work abroad. Teach abroad programs are typically sponsored by a country’s government or by a private program provider.

Types of Teach Abroad Programs

Government teach abroad programs are often operated by a country's department of education with the goal of improving their citizens’ access to English education. These programs are a popular way to find work as an English teacher because they are trustworthy, reputable, and don't typically charge a program fee. However, they can be highly competitive and offer limited support to applicants.

Some of the most popular government teach abroad programs include the Fulbright ETA Program, JET in Japan, EPIK in South Korea, and the NALCAP program in Spain.

Teach abroad program providers are organizations dedicated to helping aspiring TEFL teachers find work abroad. Program providers typically charge a program fee to cover the cost of operations. 

That said, they tend to offer the most comprehensive support out there for aspiring TEFL teachers. Not only do program providers offer guaranteed job placement and on-site orientation, but also additional resources and training to ensure new teachers are properly prepared for the entire process. Additionally, they often provide emergency assistance to participants for extra peace of mind when so far from home.

CIEE Teach Abroad Programs

As a leader in international exchange, CIEE's Teach Abroad Programs are a trustworthy and reliable way to secure a job teaching English abroad. Throughout the program, participants receive friendly support for every step of the teach abroad journey, including help with the job application, visa process, on-site assistance, and more. 

CIEE has teach abroad programs in some of the top destinations in the world, including Thailand, China, South Korea, and Spain.

Additionally, current CIEE TEFL students and alumni are also eligible to utilize CIEE’s Job Search Assistance. CIEE TEFL connects independent teachers with reputable partners in exciting places like Chile, Hungary, and Spain without the hassle of additional fees or paperwork. 

Step 3. Apply for Your Visa 

As an English teacher abroad, you'll likely be required to secure a visa before you can move to your new home and begin working. The type of visa you need depends entirely on your chosen teach abroad destination as well as your citizenship. TEFL teachers may need a student visa, a work visa, a long-term residence permit, or a special teaching visa. 

Although the exact visa process can vary, in general, it entails:

  1. Collecting required documents 
  2. Mailing in or dropping off your application package and passport at your local consulate
  3. Paying a visa fee
  4. Awaiting the processing time
  5. And receiving your visa back in the mail

Some of the most common documents needed to apply for a teach abroad visa include:

  • A passport valid at least six months past your expected contract completion date
  • A completed visa application
  • Official passport photo(s)
  • Proof of employment or employer sponsorship
  • Certified and authenticated personal documents like:
  • A four-year university degree and transcripts
  • High school diploma
  • TEFL certificate
  • Clean background check

Step 4. Travel and Start Teaching!

The last step to teach English abroad is as simple as purchasing your plane ticket and hopping aboard your flight to begin the next chapter. However, once you land in your new home, there are a few things you’ll likely need to take care of to get completely settled. 

After landing in-country, you’ll need to:

  • Find housing if it isn’t provided
  • Open a local bank account
  • Get a local sim card
  • Set up health insurance 

TEFL teachers should try to arrive in their new host country with a start-up fund of at least $1,500-$2,500, depending on the teach abroad destination. This start-up fund ensures you have enough money to support yourself before receiving your first paycheck as an English teacher.

Read more: How Much Does it Cost to Teach English Abroad?

Where You Can Teach English Abroad

Because English is considered a global language, demand for English instruction can be found in every corner of the globe. So whether you’ve been dreaming of teaching abroad in Latin America, Europe, Asia, or even the Middle East, there are many ESL opportunities to be found for TEFL teachers.

Read More: 10 Best Countries to Teach English and Save Money

Teaching English in Asia is often regarded as one of the highest-paying teach abroad regions in the world. Many ESL jobs provide teachers with high enough salaries to cover the cost of living. On top of excellent salaries, some places in Asia even offer teachers free housing, airfare reimbursement, and more, allowing them to save a few hundred dollars each month. 

Many TEFL teachers have their eyes on Southeast Asian destinations, like Vietnam and Thailand, or on the far east in places like South Korea and China.

Read more: Teaching English in Asia

Although teaching English in Europe is not a particularly lucrative opportunity compared to other teach abroad regions, it’s an exciting and rare chance to live and experience life in Europe. Additionally, breaking into the workforce in the EU can be a difficult task for non-EU citizens. 

But, thanks to government-sponsored programs that accept native-English speakers from around the world, some of the best places to teach in Europe include Spain, France, and Hungary.

Read more: Teaching English in Europe

Teaching English in the Middle East offers some of the highest salaries for English teachers. However, with high wages and benefits come equally high competition and expectations. Which means to be considered for the best positions, ESL teachers may need to have a degree in education, a teaching license, and previous experience. 

The best places to teach in the Middle East include the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, and Oman. Teaching in the Middle East is typically best for those with an open mind and a sense of adventure. 

Read more: Teaching English in the Middle East

The opportunity to teach English in Latin America is one that allows teachers to perfect their Spanish and enjoy easy access to some of the earth’s most spectacular landscapes. Additionally, the region is known for diverse and vibrant cultures and jaw-dropping ancient ruins like Machu Picchu. 

As a teach abroad destination, Latin America is ideal for those without a degree and seeking a low cost of living. Chile, Mexico, and Costa Rica are popular places to teach in Latin America.

Read more: Teaching English in Latin America

Would You Like Assistance Finding a Job and Moving Abroad?

Finding reputable teaching jobs and moving abroad is a daunting task. And as part of our mission to foster positive international relationships and promote intercultural understanding, CIEE is proud to offer cultural exchange programs that help aspiring TEFL teachers fulfill their dreams of teaching abroad. 

You Have Questions. We Have Answers.

Check out our Teach English Abroad FAQs and TEFL FAQs for more in-depth answers. 

You can also schedule a call with the TEFL team or the CIEE Teach Abroad team to learn more. 

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What People Are Saying

  • "I loved the course and feel it covered really important topics in comprehensible ways. The live tutorials were really helpful and kept me motivated! The extra resources at the end of each module were really informative and I will definitely use them in my teaching career."

    Cassie B.

  • "I really enjoyed this course, and I thought it did an excellent job of introducing each topic in a way that was clear and easy to follow. I especially liked that I could take the class at my own pace while still keeping in touch with my classmates through the discussions and tutorials."

    Kate B.

  • "I really love learning about different varieties of things so being made aware of differences between American English and British English was really interesting to me. The idea of needing to be aware of when to not tell someone they were wrong just because there are different ways of doing things is helpful material to cover."

    Taylor H.

  • "Overall I had an excellent experience with CIEE, and would recommend this program to anyone. They did a fantastic job helping support us through the logistical pieces of the visa process, as well as giving great information about what to expect in the role of language assistant."


  • "CIEE creates a fun, safe, and collaborative environment! I taught in Uttaradit for 6 months and had so much support through CIEE staff, the locals, and the other members of my travel buddies. I had plenty of time on the weekends and holidays to travel, whether that was by myself or with the friends I met along the way."