There is so much demand for English worldwide, and so many work opportunities. So where do you start?
Types of jobs
These are the two main types of paid positions you'll come across.
• Government schools and universities
Most students worldwide are learning English. And many schools like to employ foreign teachers.
Contracts at mainstream schools and colleges, as you’d expect, tend to be organised in advance, and they coincide with semesters. You might not be paid very much, but some schools offer paid holidays, free accommodation, and even airfares.
While many government schools advertise directly, some countries have centralised government-funded schemes such as Jet in Japan and EPIK in Korea which allocate teachers to schools.
• Private Schools
You may have already come across organisations such as EF (Education First), IH (International House), Embassy CES, Bell and Berlitz, that have branches everywhere. You'll find plenty of individual operations as well, some with quaint names like ‘Pumpkin School’ or 'Boomerang Institute'.
The students at a private school could be children sent by their parents for extra English in the evenings, or adults learning English to get ahead in their career.
Private schools often can't predict student numbers. Therefore, they may want teachers already on the ground who can start immediately (which of course raises tricky visa issues). Typically, they offer a higher hourly rate, but less security.
Here are three great sites often recommended by TEFL teachers.
This is by far biggest TEFL job site. It has great searchable teacher forums where you can read reports of schools and employers. From time to time the site posts helpful warnings about schools to avoid.
This lists fewer positions than eslcafe, but they’re generally high quality. It has a very easy-to-use jobs search engine.
More than a jobs site, this has detailed country-specific information (typical conditions, visa regulations, tax etc), along with country briefings written by teachers on the ground.
There are also country-specific sites, such as:
When you see the sheer numbers of ads you'll realise what a strong position you're in. Don't just accept the first position you come across. Use contacts and forums to research your options.
Most TEFL jobs, especially in the private sector, aren't advertised. Many teachers find a job through word of mouth. (And once you have your foot in the door at one school, this quickly leads to other opportunities.)
• talk to people you know who've taught overseas
• ask friends to put you in touch with TEFL teachers and schools
• do a face-to-face TEFL course, and keep in touch with the students and tutors
• share information on Chalkboard
• socialise with TEFL teachers, if you're already in your destination country find the bars they hang out in!
What about agents? More on this later. But consider: it's usually easy to contact schools directly. Clarify exactly what a middle person will offer.
Good luck finding a great job. And pass on any helpful information to the rest of us!