7 tips to get started teaching abroad

So you’re interested in teaching abroad and have no idea where to get started or where you want to go! Maybe you just graduated or are looking for a change in your career. Let me help you get on the road through some of the ways I have tried!

1. Degree


OK so most ESL jobs abroad require a degree like a Bachelors or Masters depending on the country or city. Along with the degree many jobs require a teaching certificate like a TEFL, CELTA, or TESOL. The teaching certificate is very easy to obtain and only takes about 4 weeks to complete. It’s best that you pay the extra money and get a 140-hour certificate for better job prospects in th long run. Some countries do not require a TEFL but it’s a good idea to know what you’re doing before you lead a class of maybe 50 students if you’re not an experienced teacher.

Don’t have a degree? Don’t worry you can still teach abroad but you have to work a little harder to find positions or pay an agency to place you with an alternative visa type. You would still need to get a TEFL. A good site is i-to-i TEFL because they can help you get TEFL certified while also helping you get placed in China without a degree through an internship. There’s also Xploreasia and they do the same but could get you a long-term job offer but are a bit pricey.

2.  Location


They key thing new travelers should do is know where they want to go. You should really do your research and have some kind of interest in the country or culture you want to spend your time living in for a year. Do you want to go to South America to learn Spanish or experience Spanish culture? Do you want to explore China? Do you enjoy Kpop so much and want to spend time in Korea?

Whatever your reason just remember that you still have a job to do. You have a responsibility to be a teacher first and a tourist second. These students need you to be a good teacher to them so don’t just pick a place you want to get drunk at every night and forget your duties in the morning.


3. Save $


It doesn’t matter where in the world you are going, it’s difficult travel safely on minimal cash. Anything can go wrong and you want to make sure you can cover medical expenses and possibly a flight back home. Some countries like Thailand don’t usually offer housing with the teaching position so you’ll have to pay rent plus deposit for wherever you move into. Depending on where you are going try to have at least $1,000 put aside but the more the better for your peace of mind.

4. Job Search VS Placement Agency 

If you are an experienced traveler or are a fearless, independent person then you can do your own job search online. When you take this route you have 100% control on what city or school you will work in. This method takes a little longer because you have to do your own research on a school. There are many sites out there that teachers post blacklist information to help new teachers avoid bad schools. Do not take any job offer without doing thorough research of the school first! There are many ESL job sites and resources out there but a highly recommend searching on Dave’s ESL Cafe.

On the other hand, if you’re a newbie then I would recommend going through an agency to start off because they will get you through all the processes of job searching, visa applications, preparing for your move, and they usually meet you at the airport to help you get situated in your new city.

The downfalls of going through an agency is that some may charge a fee for guaranteed job placements while others are free but won’t guarantee a job. Another important thing is that agencies usually have most of the control when it comes to placing you somewhere so you can arrive in a country and not know what city you’ll be working in, what school, or even what grade level you’ll be teaching until maybe a few days before you begin work.

Although working with some agencies can be rough they really hold your hand and can make your first time abroad a safe journey. Additionally, you’ll usually be part of a teaching group where you can meet other new teachers and make friends as soon as you land.

Free Agencies

Reach to Teach

Teach Away


Facebook TEFL job groups (search: TEFL jobs in “city”)

Paid Agencies

Greenheart Travel


5.  Insurance


Get some travel insurance after you land a job and have set plans on where you want to go. Don’t worry, travel insurance is not expensive at all and goes a long way. Travel insurance for 6 months can be about $60 ($120 a year). Check out  StaTravel Insurance to get an idea of travel insurance rates depending on your destination country.


6.  Learn Language Basics


A mistake many teachers make when they go abroad is to not learn at least some of the basics of the local language. It’s not required that you speak the local language in order to teach but it is very handy for your personal time around town. It could also help with stressful situations like trying to order food or ask for directions.

If you’re going to spend a year in a different country you might want to meet some locals and build some friendships or be able to order food on your own so try to pick up what you can before arriving. I promise it will make your life so much better there!

7. Do it!


OK so you landed a job and got your visa. Excellent! The hardest part is next. You have to say goodbye to everyone and everything you know in order to embark on a new and maybe scary journey. At this point many people don’t make it onto the plane. I tell you this, DO IT because you don’t know what beautiful adventures are out there waiting for you. There are new people and friendships that you WILL make and cherish. So say farewell to the past and challenge yourself by getting on that plane and doing something different for yourself. Good luck!




4 thoughts on “7 tips to get started teaching abroad

    1. Have you decided on where you want to teach? Please let me know if I could be of any assistance! Teaching abroad is amazing.

      1. Yes! Hopefully come next September I will be teaching in China. I have completed my TEFL, but am going to be working a different job this year- hence the holding off till next year. The dream would be to teach in Hangzhou.

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