Teaching abroad is a great way to develop your teaching skills with students of all ages (predominately K-12), learn about different cultures, learn, or deepen your knowledge of, another language and experience life in a different environment. Here are some things to consider.
- Your background, experience, and interests as well as your choice of geographic location will determine what teaching positions will be best suited for you.
- Decide if you plan to teach a subject area (such as biology or history) or if you plan to teach English as a second language. If you plan to teach a subject area, you will generally need to be certified to teach in the United States. You will likely need teaching experience as well.
- Investigate the requirements for teaching in your country(ies) of choice.
- Teaching English as a foreign language is usually the only option for Americans who do not have teaching certificates.
Teaching a content area
- Overseas private schools generally seek someone with a bachelor's degree and teaching certificate, such as the Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL). Two or more years experience is preferred and usually required. As with most fields, the more credentials and experience you have, the better job and pay you'll receive.
Teaching English as a second language
- In most cases you do not need the TEFL, however, it can open more doors, particularly in Europe. What is needed most though is the determination and desire to teach in a foreign country.
- Jobs in Europe may be particularly hard to come by as the European community can be easily served by UK citizens, and there's a preference for the British style of English. The exception is American business English and conversation style.
The most important thing to remember is that teaching abroad is teaching. The pay varies, and your experience will vary greatly from country to country, so you must enjoy the idea of teaching to overcome some of these obstacles. Be prepared to make a major adjustment in terms of your standard of living. But if you enjoy the work and the people, and able to establish a good teaching relationship, teaching abroad can be unforgettable.
Gain experience while still a student. Offer to work with international students who need assistance with their English skills or consider volunteer tutoring to local immigrants. You can also take a literacy training course and asked to be assigned to someone who is learning English as a second language.
You will NOT make a lot of money teaching abroad. Generally speaking, teaching abroad is a break-even proposition. Even when you make more money than you spend, travel costs and the return trip home can eat up your savings. However, some programs will arrange for your airfare as part of your contract. You will need some savings to live on, particularly if you are going to a country without prearranged employment.
Be prepared for a relatively long-term commitment. Some programs have a contract for a fixed amount of time, usually one to two years. Even if are offering freelance services, it will take some time to establish a client base. Count on spending at least nine months abroad.
Teaching Abroad Search
In general, there are three ways to search for a teaching position while still in the United States: directly applying through the internet or classified ads in such publications as The Chronicle of Higher Learning; using an agency; or writing to the schools directly.
Your resume should follow the standard guidelines for any good resume: neat, well organized, perfect spelling, etc. See the LACS Guide to Resume Writing for standard formats. Be sure to indicate on your job objective that you desire a teaching abroad position. If you want to specify a particular country or continent, you can, but only do so if you're unwilling to work elsewhere. Enclose a cover letter with every resume you send. If you have strong foreign language skills you may want to translate your resume into another language.
Begin the process as soon as possible. It's important to begin early in the beginning of your senior year if possible, as many of the formal programs have early deadlines, so review their websites for details.
Teaching Abroad Opportunities & Resources
Here are some reputable teaching abroad programs, and sites that list opportunities, however, it is not a comprehensive list. These programs span the globe and most have a formal application process, so review their requirements accordingly.
Go Overseas - site listing teaching/volunteering abroad opportunities, both formal programs and freelance jobs
The International Educator - site listing teaching abroad opportunities and resources for students interested in teaching abroad
US State Department - lists of US government sponsored international schools and resources for students interested in teaching abroad