Is TEFL a good career choice? Here is what TEFL teachers say

I know you’re really tired of reading blog posts about TEFL (teaching English as a foreign language) and how it’s the best career choice you can make. I know because I’ve read them too (and wrote many of them), but here is why it’s actually true:

1) You get to travel; 2) It pays well; 3) You meet the most amazing people. Now with the basics out of the way, let me ask you this: What are you waiting for? Let’s do this!

is TEFL a good career choice- TEFL teaching showing her students an English book

If you are confused and are not too sure what TEFL (teaching English as a foreign language) I suggest you have a quick read of my last article, What is TEFL?

So to everyone asking us “Is TEFL a good career choice?”

TEFL is a great career choice for many reasons. It gives you the freedom to explore parts of the world you never knew you could live or work. While you may not always make a fortune as a TEFL teacher at the beginning of your career, you will find permanent positions with excellent salaries once you gain experience and decide to settle in a country permanently.

Don’t just take my word for it. Here are five reasons why teaching English as a foreign language is the best choice for your future. from people we spoke to currently teaching around the world.

It gets you out of your comfort zone.

I was unsure about this lifestyle when I decided to travel abroad and teach English as a foreign language. Not because I wasn’t brave, but because it was just so daunting. How do I get a job abroad? Where will I live? What if everything goes wrong and I have no friends or support there? 

I could go on and on. These thoughts never left my mind for months after I made the decision to leave. It was only when I actually left and started my life abroad that I realized how much fear had been holding me back.

Sometimes, you have to jump out of your comfort zone, just like when you’re stuck in a tree and the only way down is to jump, so here’s my advice: If you’re thinking about travelling or teaching English abroad, just do it. Pack up your stuff and leave. It’s scary at first, but you won’t regret it. – Michael from Idaho, USA. Currently teaching career in Vietnam. Previous teaching positions in Thailand, Indonesia & Japan.

is-TEFL-a-good-career-choice- Teacher at his desk with the words never give up on the blackboard behind him

You get to travel. A lot!

As an ex-teacher and travel writer, I’ve travelled all over the world: Thailand, Cambodia, Indonesia, India, France and everything in between. But not only that, teaching English allowed me to travel on a shoestring budget. You can get paid by the hour, so you don’t have to spend a lot of money (which is good news for your savings account).

There’s one slight hitch, though: Usually, TEFL jobs are not going to pay for your flights and some other expenses. If you want to make it happen, though, you can save up some money before arriving in your dream city or town and find a job as soon as you get there.

But yes, it’s also possible to travel the world for “free”! If you’re creative enough and willing to put in some work, TEFL will definitely allow you to see the world on a budget. – Alex from New York State, USA. Currently teaching career in Indonesia. I previously taught as an English teacher in Thailand and Cambodia.

is-TEFL-a-good-career-choice-the happy TEFL graduates celebrating after completing the course in Bali Indonesia

You get to meet the most amazing people.

Suddenly, I was thrown into a world that looked completely different from all the places where I had been before. Crazy right? Of course, I asked myself every day “is TEFL a good career choice for me and my needs?”

Here’s what you need to know, folks: The more you’re willing to take on and challenge yourself, the more rewarding it becomes. And there will be tough times where you’ll want to quit and go back home, but when those moments come up, don’t give up. Remember why you’re here in the first place (you know, for that travel experience of a lifetime).

You might not know it from the start, but I promise you’ll meet a fantastic group of people who will become a family to you. Just make sure that you’re open-minded enough to accept them, and they’ll return the favour. – Sarah from Birmingham, UK. Currently teaching career in Mexico. Previous teaching positions in Costa Rica, Spain, Italy and Argentina.

is-TEFL-a-good-career-choice-salary of a TEFL teacher-tiny money note

It pays well.

I know I’ve mentioned this already, but let me just say it again. You will not always make a fortune teaching English abroad, but TEFL is a great source of income for thousands of people around the world, and you’re no exception.

Although some schools offer inadequate salaries to their teachers, the majority will give you between $10 to $24 per hour and sometimes more (which goes up if you’re paid in a foreign currency). And I know what you’re thinking now: “But how can I travel if my salary isn’t that high?”

Well, some countries indeed pay better than others. A quick look at TEFL salaries shows that South Korea pays the biggest average salaries for ESL teachers ($24 per hour), followed by China ($21 per hour) and Taiwan ($18 per hour).

You also have to remember that many of these countries have a low cost of living. That $10 that wouldn’t get you much in a restaurant in California is enough for three people to have a full dinner in most Asian countries. So you have to think of it like that sometimes.

is-TEFL-a-good-career-choice-teacher looking please alongside her students- TEFL is a rewarding career

TEFL can be rewarding.

Whereas some jobs may not offer that sense of satisfaction, there is nothing quite like seeing the progress your students have made both in their language skills and personal development when you come back into class after a break. To be able to see that you have made a difference is one of the best feelings in the world.

What is amazing is that teaching English as a foreign language abroad can teach you that not only do you have something to offer, but so do your students. By being a positive role model for them, it shows them what hard work and determination can do and how rewarding it is once they’ve done something worthwhile.

What qualifications do I need to make a career out of TEFL?

If you want to get a great job in a foreign country that will pay you well, then I suggest taking some time to earn your TEFL certificate. This usually doesn’t take more than a few weeks, but it’ll give you the best chance of landing an awesome gig that pays well and lets you travel.

A degree is not a requirement to teach English as a foreign language in most countries. Latin American and Europe do not require a degree, only fluency in English and a TEFL certificate of 120 hours or above.

Countries in the Middle East and Asia expect you to have a degree. Cambodia is the exception, and they do not require a degree to legally work as a TEFL teacher.

What other TEFL related jobs can I do in the long term?

Some people also do work on the side of their TEFL job, such as freelancing. Our TEFL blog has some great tips for making some extra money with a side gig.

is TEFL a good career choice - teacher in a class online

There are some people who do not want to live in a foreign country just yet. If that sounds like you, why not stay at home and get paid well while doing what you love?

There are many online opportunities available for those who have excellent knowledge of the English language and some extra teaching hours per week. Many will require you to have a TEFL to TESOL certificate to join their platforms. It shows them you understand how to approach a teaching lesson and how to work with students.

Other good side jobs include exam preparation/ corrections online with companies such as Upwork and Fiverr, editing for English magazines, teaching private students and starting a blog about your journey as a TEFL teacher.

Are TEFL teachers in demand?

TEFL teachers are in extremely high demand all over the world. There is a special need for TEFL teachers in Asia and South America, but there are also TEFL jobs in less popular TEFL destinations like in Africa. If you’re TEFL job hunting, keep in mind that TEFL jobs are not limited to big TEFL countries such as China, Spain, and Vietnam.

Latin America also has a huge demand for TEFL teachers. It’s one of the most popular TEFL destinations for foreigners due to a combination of low-cost living, friendly locals and great TEFL opportunities.

These are some countries that you can teach in Latin America: Mexico, Peru, Guatemala, Argentina and Costa Rica.

If you’re looking for TEFL jobs in Latin America, then why not consider Mexico? It’s the second-most populous country in the Latin American region. Mexico is a TEFL-friendly destination with many TEFL schools and ESL students.

The Mexican government has invested a high portion of their funding into teaching English to its children in recent years. The demand has gone up and is still rising rapidly, through the roof, and there are not enough TEFL teachers to meet the market, so finding a job in Mexico as a TEFL teacher is extremely easy.

The TEFL course in Mexico that we offer at Once Upon A TEFL is held in the gorgeous Pacific coast town of Puerto Vallarta. A place that doesn’t sleep, some say with its vibrant atmosphere. It is also very safe for foreigners due to being a popular tourist destination.

There are also many lesser-known TEFL countries like Nicaragua or Panama that always need English teachers. The salary may not always be as high as in Mexico or Costa Rica, but the need for English is much higher as they are not the most popular countries due to crime.

What are the most popular TEFL countries?

Popular TEFL countries in Asia

is-tefl-a-good-career-choice-street-view-of-Vietnam-at-night

Vietnam:

Vietnam is one of the most popular TEFL countries in Asia, primarily because of its higher than average TEFL salaries and proximity to other incredible destinations like Cambodia, Thailand, and Indonesia.

The main cities of Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City are where most TEFL teachers go for the best experience but the smaller cities of Da Nang and Nha Trang offer an amazing teaching opportunity along with a slower pace of life by the sea.

is-tefl-a-good-career-choice-beach-in-Bali-Indonesia

Indonesia:

Indonesia is booming and attracting vast numbers of foreigners in the past 10 years. This means the demand for English has also skyrocketed for the tourism industry. With is becoming the go-to destination for digital nomads and backpackers, Indonesia, especially the island of Bali, is becoming the new party location of South East Asia!

Resorts, hotels, and other tourist industries are beginning to require their staff to learn English to give the tourists the best service and communication.

This increased demand for TEFL teachers increased the salaries, which increased the desire for TEFL teachers to go there!

is-tefl-a-good-career-choice-busy street in phnom penh cambodia

Cambodia:

This magnificent country has seen a dramatic increase in tourism and ex-pats in the past few years. With its neighbour, Thailand, making its visa rules more difficult, foreigners are now turning to the blossoming nation of Cambodia. Since Cambodia can be seen as a new country as its borders have only been open to the world do just over 20 years, many people are intrigued to explore its lands.

Cambodia is developing fast and trying to keep up with the new surge of tourists that are now discovering its beauty. This means English (as the universal international language of business) will need to be adopted widely for the Cambodian people to work in tourism and business.

There is a very bright future in Cambodia, now is the perfect time to be there and watch it have its very own Renaissance! You can check out this link if you want to know if Cambodia is a good place to live or not.

Popular TEFL countries in Europe

The most popular countries to teach TEFL in Europe are Spain, Italy and Russia. Not only are these three countries the most popular destinations in Europe, but they also offer TEFL teachers outstanding salaries and a relatively low cost of living.

is-TEFL-a-good-career-choice-restaurant on a Spanish side street

Spain:

Spain will always be one of the most popular TEFL destinations in Europe, especially for Americans wanting to show off their Spanish lingo. Many British emigrate to Spain and Gibraltar, and the need to know English rises to meet the influx of native English speakers who are opening businesses. 

There are many jobs available for TEFL teachers teaching Spanish children how to speak English, and the Spanish people have a significant focus on improving their language skills.

is-TEFL-a-good-career-choice-view of Venice in Italy with the canal in the foreground

Italy :

Italy can also be considered one of the most popular TEFL destinations due to its high demand for teachers and good salaries. Teaching English in Italy will give you the chance to see the true beauty of Italy at a slower pace, and you’ll be able to save some money as well.

Working in big cities like Rome or Florence as a foreigner can be slightly expensive and challenging to survive in. If you can find a teaching job somewhere outside these big cities with another language school, the quality of life will greatly improve. 

telf is the best career choice teach English in Moscow Russia

Russia:

Although not having as high of a demand for TEFL teachers compared to Italy or Spain, Russia is one of the most popular TEFL destinations in Europe because of its good salaries and relatively low cost of living.

There are many other popular TEFL destinations in Europe, such as Portugal, Czech Republic or Poland. Many people who teach English in these countries generally look to make quick cash to fund their travels around Europe.

Many Australians find working abroad in Europe a great way of finishing off their degree. Chances are, if you’re reading this, you may already have your degree, but Australia is not an option for many because they don’t want to pay the high cost of living.

Popular TEFL countries in Latin America

is-TEFL-a-good-career-choice-amazing waterfall in costa Rica jungle

Costa Rica:

Costa Rica is the most popular TEFL country in Latin America and one of the most popular destinations. The day to day cost of living in Costa Rica is lower than in many other countries. Its proximity to Panama makes it an easier location for getting a work visa from your home country.

The primary industries in Costa Rica that require a high level of English are the tourism industry (hotels and resorts) and business. Mexicans and Americans are the main tourists who visit Costa Rica, so there is a great demand for Spanish/English translators.

TEFL best career - street view of the obelisk in Buenos Aires Argentina

Argentina:

Although Argentina may not be the most popular TEFL country, it is one of the most popular destinations in Latin America for TEFL teachers. Although Argentina has a high cost of living and low salaries, many people who visit Argentina are rich enough to cover these costs. There are also some positions within English schools where teachers work exclusively with children making it easier to balance your budget and make ends meet.

is-TEFL-a-good-career-choice- view of a town in Mexico from above

Mexico:

Many Americans are drawn to Mexico because it has a solid career opportunity for TEFL teachers. Europeans love it for the all year long fine weather, and those from Australia and New Zealand love it for the unique adventures. 

You can find many jobs in Mexico and many people who need English tutoring. The cost of living in Mexico is also significantly lower than in many other countries.

Many other Latin American countries are quickly gaining popularity for TEFL teachers due to their lower cost of living and high salaries. These include Peru, Guatemala, Nicaragua and Colombia, and many other surrounding countries, allowing TEFL teachers to hop easily from one country to the next as a sort of TEFL adventure through Latin America.

How long do TEFL jobs last?

There’s really not a correct answer to this question because it depends on how long you can stand living in one place and if the school likes you and your teaching abilities. If you are willing to teach English in one country for a year or two, then that is how long you can stay. If it doesn’t work out, then look for another one!

It is in the best interest of a school to keep its teachers for as long as possible as it costs them time and resources to advertise and train new teachers. If you are happy with your school and they are with you, then there is no time limit on your TEFL career.

Many people that to TEFL are doing it for a year or two before they go back home. They do not see TEFL as the fantastic career opportunity that it is! I understand it is hard for many people to be so far away from friends and family, but it is possible to make friends and family abroad, too, and this is the case for most of the permanent TEFL teachers around the world.

I find it hard to understand why people choose to work in the same town and at the same job for 10-20 years when they could be across the world experiencing a new city and meeting new people and repeating this over and over again.

is-TEFL-a-good-career-choice- a TEFL training course in session in Bali Indonesia
Our TEFL course in Bali, Indonesia, summer of 2021.

How do I become a TEFL teacher?

There are TEFL courses available that will prepare you for teaching English in another country. There are three main types of courses. 1) TEFL courses in schools in your home country. 2) TEFL courses in schools abroad. 3) TEFL courses online.

TEFL courses in your home country

Many private colleges offer TEFL courses all over the world. Although most TEFL courses are found in Europe, there are more and more TEFL courses popping up in America, Australia and Asia.

TEFL course durations vary and usually take between 3-12 months to complete. TEFL courses can be costly, so you will want to make sure you choose the right TEFL course for you! The minimum requirement for TEFL course applicants is to have a high school diploma or equivalent.

is-tefl-a-good-career-choice-tefl training in session

TEFL courses in schools abroad

TEFL courses offered by private schools in your home country are suitable for those who do not have many qualifications. TEFL courses offered abroad are usually a better choice as you will gain TEFL certification from an accredited institution while being in a beautiful new destination.

TEFL courses abroad will provide you with the most realistic TEFL teaching experience as they allow you to practice TEFL in a foreign environment. You will also have actual teaching practice on EFL students from that country, which is an excellent opportunity to get to know and understand the students.

Why spend months studying in London or Dublin when you could on the tropical island of Bali instead of learning the same course. Yes, I know it can cost a bit more but treat yourself!

is-TEFL-a-good-career-choice-happy TEFL graduates showing their certificates
I’m sure some of them wondered “is TEFL a good career choice for me?” before they began their journey and look at them now!

TEFL courses online

The TEFL course market has changed significantly in the past few years, with TEFL courses from accredited TEFL schools being offered online. Online TEFL courses have come under criticism as they are easy to fake, but there are some great TEFL courses available on the internet these days.

It is essential to make sure you do your research before choosing a TEFL course online, as TEFL certificates are easy to obtain.

If you want more info or know more about which online TEFL course to choose, you should contact us or leave a comment below.

Overall

TEFL courses will not only teach you how to teach English as a foreign language, but TEFL courses will help you to understand the TEFL process and how to become a teacher. TEFL courses will also help teachers with CVs, resumes, cover letters and interviews, making the TEFL career path a much easier process.

Sometimes TEFL training will cost up to $2000, and I suggest if you are going to spend that much money on TEFL, then make sure the TEFL course is accredited.

These TEFL courses are available in most countries, but it is highly recommended that teachers study TEFL courses before their TEFL career to make the best of their experience.

is-TEFL-a-good-career-choice-teachers presenting the TEFL certificates after passing the course

Which TEFL course is the best?

It depends on what you want from the experience. Online, in-country or abroad will all give you the same qualification. It is the quality and expertise that should determine which you should choose.

These TEFL courses can cost you anywhere between $300-$2000, so make sure to do your research first!

Online courses can be cheaper, but most do not have teaching practice with real ESL/ EFL students. Many are not legitimate and may not be accepted by foreign schools or immigration offices when applying for a work visa and work permit.

In-country TEFL courses are excellent but very expensive most of the time. They usually include teaching practicum with ESL students. It would suit the person contemplating moving abroad to teach but has a job at home which they cannot leave just yet or must save up for the move.

TEFL courses abroad last 4 weeks and give you all the training you will need, including teaching practicum with EFL students. All the while you are being abroad and meeting new friends. Go to your lessons during the morning and afternoon and spend your evenings and weekends at the beach or exploring with the other teachers.

We do understand that not everyone is fortunate enough to be financially stable to up and leave for 4 weeks to study. Still, it may not always be as expensive as you think, especially if you are considering an in-country course. It can sometimes be cheaper to do it abroad! The choice is ultimately yours!

is TEFL the best career choice with the teachers after completing their course with their certificates

So this is the end of the article, and if you were still wondering which is the best TEFL course or TEFL course provider? Well, luckily for you, I know the answer to this one! If ever I saw a better time to plug our courses, it’s now! It is us, of course.

If you are still wondering “is TEFL a good career choice for me?” and you still can’t decide what to do then leave a comment here or on our Instagram page and we would be delighted to help you!

But seriously, if moving abroad to study, teach and live is something you are interested in, then please reach out to us for more info! We can take care of everything for you and even suggest other TEFL providers that can take you to countries we cannot. The main goal is to get you, the reader, to your dream destination and help those that wish to learn English.

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