There are many reasons to teach English overseas such as seeing the world, escaping the rat race or just wanting a new experience. Few occupations give you the flexibility to choose where you live and how you work. Another major attraction is the relative accessibility of work. Unlike in other professions, initial training is usually short, typically a few weeks, although learning and acquiring the skills to teach successfully can take much longer.
In most teaching English as a Second Language (ESL) jobs there is a degree of uncertainty. Each student and class is different and no two days are the same. Furthermore, starting a new job in a far-off land you may not have been to before, starting a new job can be daunting especially having few or no contacts there.
The job can be certainly challenging. The key to finding work as well as teaching itself is keeping an open mind. With good planning and preparation the rewards more than outweigh the challenges. Teachers enjoy the satisfaction of seeing pupils improve, developing their own language skills, meeting people from all walks of life, some of whom may become lifelong friends, as well as the flexible lifestyle and the opportunity to travel and see the world.
There is a huge variety of potential work for anyone who wants to teach English overseas. Teachers for classes of different sizes and levels are needed for schools, companies, language academies and universities. A job instructing a company director in downtown Tokyo will be quite literally a world away from one teaching in a village school in the Peruvian countryside. Knowing all the options from the outset puts you in a position to choose who and how as well as where you teach.
One major decision most people starting out often overlook is whether to teach children or adults. Both have different demands and rewards. Many teachers in fact manage a combination of ESL jobs, perhaps teaching in a school during the morning and company or private classes later in the day. Having clear preferences early on may affect the country you choose to go to. In China, for example, the vast majority of work is in schools, so is probably not a great choice for someone who doesn’t want to work with children.
The location for many is, of course, the biggest factor. For anybody looking to teach English overseas the world really is their oyster. There are infinite possibilities out there. Most people have a specific country or region in mind but more often than not have only considered a handful of options. Where you decide to go will affect how and when you look for work.
Work and visa restrictions can make obtaining a job difficult or downright impossible in some countries. In some areas, like the majority of the Middle East, restrictions can certainly limit opportunities, while in other regions, like Latin America, teach English overseas work for foreigners is far more straightforward.
In some instances finding work the official route may not be a viable or practical option. Americans may have a tough time getting a work visa in Western Europe. Though many still do, finding opportunities (mostly casual) when they arrive and working as part of the “black economy”. Being legal gives you rights as a worker and citizen and should always be a preference. Whether you decide to go down the official employment route is clearly a personal choice.
The Teach English Abroad Guide to Countries gives up-to-date information on teaching ESL in individual countries and locations. If you already have one destination in mind it is recommended that you look over all similar areas in that region and have a look at the others as well. You may find some attractive alternatives and easier work opportunities in areas that you have not yet considered.