After graduation many young teachers go abroad to teach ESL, English as Second Language, but the dream jobs at international and private schools overseas belong to well-qualified, experienced and specialist teachers in their subjects.
What qualifications are needed?
To teach ESL the standard requirements are a bachelor’s degree from an accredited university, accompanied by a CELTA/TESOL/TEFL certificate. This, however, is usually not required for qualified/ licensed teachers.
The big requirement for teaching ESL abroad is that candidates must be native English-speaking citizens from the UK, Canada, USA, Australia, New Zealand, Ireland, and usually also South Africa. Some countries, such as Japan and Indonesia, do not take teachers from South Africa. Typically the top companies in most Asian countries prefer and hire only the best qualified native English speakers, persons who do not have a heavy accent, often preferring an American accent.
Because teaching ESL is physically demanding, schools prefer young, dynamic, and, dare one say, relatively attractive teachers. This is because the schools have to satisfy their clients, who simply want the best – in their view – for their students. This is a reality removed from the current political narrative in the West.
One must also have a recent police ‘clearance certificate’ stating that you have no criminal record. Getting a work visa can sometimes be frustratingly challenging.
A huge frustration and also a delay for prospective ESL teachers is to get all their certificates and documentation authenticated by the relevant government directorate. The originals of these documents must then be sent to the school or hiring organization in order to secure a work visa before leaving for abroad.
Why going on a tourist visa is not good
Sometimes people would take all their certificates and fly out on a tourist visa hoping to find a job in person in whatever country they wish to teach. This could sometimes backfire on landing at the airport because customs may suspect that you wish to teach illegally. It is safer to let such documents be forwarded to you at an address in the prospective country.
Once you’ve landed a job, you will have to do a “visa run” to your nearest embassy, but in a neighboring country. Sometimes teaching without the correct work permit may seem enticing, but it could get you deported. The best option is to find a job before flying abroad with a work permit secure in your bag.
What benefits do ESL jobs offer?
Teaching abroad usually has great benefits such as paid accommodation or a stipend, a refund on your air ticket after arrival, paid holidays, and 50% subsidized health insurance. An end-of-contract bonus is sometimes also payable if the option of renewing the contract is not exercised. Be warned though, often such ‘free accommodation’ would be sub-standard and the cheapest the private institution could get.
As a rule of thumb, it’s always better to make use of big, well-known and trusted recruiting or ESL companies. Unfortunately, “beggars can’t be choosers” and sometimes older, non-experienced, job seekers (even though graduated) with a TEFL certificate as their only qualification in education, ends up as the ‘cheap labor’ of the ESL teaching industry.
A Word of Caution
Countries sometimes change regulations concerning hiring foreigners on short notice. For example, Oman notified over 2,000 ex-pat teachers that they will not be re-employed as part of Oman’s indigenization policy. In July 2021 China also drastically clamped down on online ESL teaching by foreigners from abroad. They also prohibited teaching on weekends and holidays – which used to be prime teaching periods for online teachers. In 2018 Iran also prohibited English education for pre-primary and junior primary students to ensure their 1st language (Parsi) skills are not impeded and to promote the Islamization of children.
How to find ESL jobs
There are a number of trustworthy websites to search for English Second Language (ESL) vacancies abroad. To start, let’s look for example at one of the oldest private blogs that have helped thousands of teachers find ESL jobs over the past two decades, Dave’s ESL Cafe.
A popular blog is Dave’s ESL cafe
Dave’s ESL Cafe is a long-established teacher’s blog that famously became a trusted source to find ESL jobs, especially in the Far East.
Dave Sperling started his blog in the early 2000s and today Dave’s ESL Cafe has three separate job advert pages, one for Korean jobs, one for Chinese, and an International Board, where recruiters and schools post thousands of vacancies.
At the time of writing, the Korean board had many advertisements, but the Chinese board and the International Board had only 140. Many advertisements are for multiple vacancies, up to several hundred at the start of hiring season.
Other places to find ESL jobs
A number of companies offering TESOL/ TEFL and Celta courses also market jobs. Some of the larger TEFL companies are contracted with big international teaching companies.
How to find teaching jobs in the UK and USA
Here is a comprehensive article to find teaching jobs in the USA. A sister article will follow to cover the UK and other Anglosphere nations, but let’s say that online resources, such as teach-now.com in the United Kingdom, Indeed.com have a search engine that allows you to search by location, grade level, and content area. In addition, most American states have their own Department of Education websites, which lists current openings in the public school system in that state.