In my last semester of University, we had to give presentations about the various career options for our major. Of the possibilities set before me, one stood out as attainable, economically viable, and most importantly for me at the time, it would allow me to travel.
That was teaching English abroad, and that is what I am doing now.
For some, it is a career. For others, it is a stepping stone. And for some, it is a last resort. I have not quite figured out which it is for me, but it is a great way of life while I decide. I’m going to tell EDUopinions about my experience.
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What is Teaching English All About?
There is no denying the importance of English. In my opinion, the ability to sit in aeroplane exit rows is reason enough to learn it, but most people see the language as an investment beyond the extra leg room.
They want to join an increasingly interconnected world, and they want their children to be active members of the global community, which for whatever reason, is united through English.
Thus, governments have begun incorporating intensive English programmes into schools, and private language centres have popped up in most major cities.
To better teach the finer points of conversational English, many of these schools and centres make use of native speakers as instructors. This is where we come in.
So How Do You Qualify?
In some places, you do not even need a university degree to teach English. The pay for these positions is almost always quite low, however, and it can be difficult to find consistent work.
Many organisations offer volunteer opportunities that cover your daily expenses in exchange for free work. I recommend workaway.info to get a taste of what English teaching is like without stressing over qualifications.
For a reliable income, it is necessary to have at least a bachelor’s degree, though it does not have to be in a related field. If you are serious about making money and being a good teacher however, a degree in education is a big advantage.
In addition to a university degree, a certificate in TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages), TESL (Teaching English as a Second Language), TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language), or CELTA (Certificate in English Language Teaching to Adults) is usually a requirement.
These certificates range in quality, price, and time commitment, but most take no more than a month and 1000 US Dollars to obtain. You can find a few options here.
Where Can You Work?
Most countries have options if you are willing to do some research, but currently, the major market for native English teachers is Asia and especially China, South Korea, and Vietnam. It is very common for qualified new teachers to make up to $2,000 a month in these countries.
In China and Korea, it is also common for your school to pay for your flight and housing. It is advisable to secure these jobs before you arrive, as contracts are often tied to your working visa.
In Vietnam, the cost of living is so low that the expenses basically come out to the same even though flights and housing are rarely paid for.
I am currently in Vietnam, and compared to my last position in Korea, the working conditions are more flexible. Teachers here usually have two to four part-time jobs that do not require official contracts, and many of us work on tourist visas. You can learn more about teaching in Vietnam from this informative YouTube channel.
I have friends who have found fabulous jobs in other Asian countries like Japan, Indonesia, and Malaysia as well.
A few months ago, I looked for a teaching job in South America, and although multiple centres made me offers, I decided the pay was not high enough. Even though the cost of living there was low, I wanted to save money.
Many teachers work in Europe as well, the strongest markets there being Spain and the Czech Republic. The pay there can be good, but living costs will naturally limit how much you can save.
No list of high paying English teaching markets would be complete without mentioning the middle east. In countries like the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar, the demand for teachers (especially women) is so high, and the number of teachers that want to go there is so low (again, especially women), that there are stories within the English teaching community of adventurous and hardworking teachers who make over $80,000 a year!
Why Do It?
It is a unique privilege of native English speakers today that we are in such high demand for basically no reason. I see it as a waste of this privilege to not take advantage of it.
English teaching is also a uniquely fulfilling profession. The advantages, socially, economically, and politically, that come from knowing English are difficult to overstate, and we teachers pass on those advantages to our pupils.
Finally, living abroad, though not for everybody, is a character-building experience that makes one immeasurably stronger and smarter.
As I sit here writing this at a café in Hanoi; sipping a sweet, smoky iced coffee and looking out at the bustling street filled with fast-moving scooters and the smells of unique cuisine, I am reminded of just how lucky I am.
I have done nothing special to deserve this life. But here I am, helping young people, acting as an ambassador for my part of the world, and having experiences that I will always remember. And I am getting paid for it!