How Soon Can I Teach Abroad After Getting TEFL Certified?

Getting your TEFL Certificate is an accomplishment you should be proud of. Do you remember the first day of your course? The moments you wanted to give up but didn’t have led to this day. Congratulations on persevering!  The time has come to put your TEFL certificate to work for you. You are eligible to teach as soon as you receive your certificate but there’s much to prepare before starting the new chapter of your life after getting TEFL Certified.

Assess yourself

During your online TEFL course, you were introduced to various levels and groups of learners: Young learners, secondary school students, high school students, young adults, adults, business professionals and other learners in the TEFL context.  You may have developed an interest in teaching one of these groups.

Once you have identified the group you would like to teach, the next step is to understand the needs of these learners. What is the purpose for learning English and can you accommodate?  If you are interested in teaching university students but you have no prior teaching experience, you will not qualify for the job. Just because you don’t qualify for a job now doesn’t mean you will never qualify. As with any profession, you’ll need to gain experience. Getting the valuable experience may have you teaching learners or in a location that is not your first choice. Take every opportunity to build your resume, increase your knowledge and gain practical teaching skills wherever you are. 

Consider conducting a self-analysis to assess your current skills, interests and qualifications. Your self-analysis may ask the following questions: 

  • What level do I want to teach? What level am I experienced to teach? Do I want to teach beginners, intermediate, or advanced English learners?
  • What context do I want to teach in? What context am I qualified to teach? Do I want to teach in a traditional classroom at a school, university, language academy or even online?
  • Do I prefer teaching at a public or private school?  Do I prefer a commercial/chain language school?
  • What class size can I manage? Can I handle a large class or am I more suited for a smaller class or one to one teaching?
  • Would I consider private tutoring?
  • Do I want to teach English at a large corporation?
  • Do I have previous career experience that can help me land a job teaching professionals or at a company/corporation?

Being realistic may not sound exciting, but it is practical and will help you achieve the skills and experience you need to reach your TEFL goals. Where you first land is not where your chapter ends.  Where will your TEFL chapter begin?  

Where in the world…

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Now that you have identified your ideal learners, context and level, have you decided where in the world you would like to teach? Would you like to teach in a big city, a small town, or in the rural countryside? Have a few backup locations too. Once you have identified where you want to teach, review the jobs offered in that country. Don’t be discouraged if the jobs you want require more experience than you have or do not provide you with the opportunity to teach your ideal learners. Your self-analysis helped you identify your skills and ideal learners and teaching context. However, if there are jobs that teach young learners but your forte is not young learners, take the leap. If you are really interested in living in that country, use the opportunity to gain experience. The more experiences you open yourself up to, the better your chances of landing your first choice job later on.  

If you have a backup country that offers a job where you can teach the learners of your choice, go for it. The experience you gain will lead you to the country of your first choice later.

If you don’t meet any of the requirements for jobs advertised in your ideal location, research countries that have a high demand for English teachers. The location and job itself may not appeal to you initially, but you should keep a positive outlook. This is a wonderful learning opportunity to experience culture and gain practical classroom experience. Experience will make you marketable to teach the learners identified in your self-analysis. Look at every possibility as a win-win situation. 

Planning and preparation.

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Great, you have identified your learners and found a destination to teach,  But getting to your job may not be as easy as packing your suitcase and getting to the airport. Do you have all of your paperwork completed? If you plan to teach in S.Korea, you’ll need to get a background check and your degrees apostilled.  Some countries require numerous documents to obtain the required work visa. You may have to visit their embassy in your home country to apply for a visa.  These procedures take time so research what paperwork is needed to work in the country you choose. Make sure you have all the necessary documents required by the country and employer before your start date. During your interview, be sure to ask the employer what they require and if possible, to send you a list that details the procedures and documents you need to prepare so that you can plan efficiently. Forgetting to pack an extra pair of socks is not as serious as forgetting paperwork that could prevent you from entering the country!

Your TEFL course taught you that planning and preparation are key to a successful lesson.  Tailoring the lesson to your student’s level and ability helps them accomplish the lesson’s aims. With time, patience and practice the students’ abilities increase. Take the classroom example and apply it to your professional development. Your first job is tailored to your current skills and qualifications but you won’t stay at the same level forever. Planning, preparation, patience and perseverance will help you achieve your goals. Now, you are ready to begin your new TEFL chapter.

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