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Teaching Abroad Webster University I Career Planning & Development Center

Information and website links have been provided as a convenience for users and the Webster University Career Planning & Development Center (CPDC) is not responsible for the contents of any linked site. This resource is not a comprehensive list.

Why Teach Abroad?

What interests you about teaching abroad? What type of experience are you looking for?

As you clarify your goals, it can help you find the best opportunity for you. If you have an interest in experiencing different cultures, there are a variety of ways to gain experience. Whether that’s studying abroad, traveling, completing an internship abroad, volunteering, or participating in cultural activities domestically, there’s an opportunity for you. If you are committed to education and cross-cultural communication, read on.

Overview

There are a wide variety of opportunities to teach abroad. Opportunities may be paid or unpaid. Depending on the opportunity, it is possible to receive housing support/stipend, travel costs, and salary/set stipend. There is also a spectrum in the level of commitment in terms of number of students and classes, level of teaching responsibilities, amount of support, and hours of work per week.

School Based Setting for Licensed Teachers

  • International Independent Schools
  • Department of Defense Schools

Local Schools & Programs

  • Government Sponsored Programs

Volunteer & Service Opportunities

  • Non-Governmental Organizations
  • Peace Corps Education Sector

For-Profit Sector

  • Language Instruction and Tutoring Companies

Be sure to note that experiences can also differ based on the population served (businesspersons learning English, local schools, under-served communities, schools for diplomats and ex patriates, etc.). Commitments for school based positions or the Peace Corps are often two years. Volunteer opportunities may be much shorter time commitments.

Qualifications

Qualifications will vary based on the setting you are targeting. If you are looking to teach in a school based setting such as at a Department of Defense (DOD) or independent international school, it will be expected that you have an education background and maintain teacher licensure in a US state or country of teacher preparation for your content area. Many programs teaching English abroad only require a Bachelor’s degree and being a native English speaker. For service opportunities, there may be no specific requirements.

Some form of certification/related experience can certainly be beneficial (both with the application process and easing the transition for you). Common acronyms for certification types include TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language), TESL (Teaching English as a Second Language), TESOL (Teaching of English to Speakers of Other Languages), and CELTA (Certificate in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages). If you consider certification or coursework, be sure to factor in the cost, length of program, rigor, and focus of the program.

Some schools/agencies/countries have restrictions based on age, nationality, years of experience, etc. Regardless of the type of opportunity, organizations value flexibility, language skills, teaching or related experience, and international interest/experience.

Location Impacts Opportunities

There are opportunities all over the world for teaching and English language instruction. However, there are some general guidelines about the likelihood of obtaining positions.

Western Europe, Canada, Australia

  • It is much more challenging to obtain teaching positions as there is greater competition due to level of interest and number of experienced teachers. There is often a requirement of 2 years of experience for school based positions. Additional competition exists as there may be preferences for their own citizens, limit of visas from Non-EU or Commonwealth countries, and agreements between EU or Commonwealth countries. There are opportunities for English teaching jobs, but less so than other areas of the world.

Eastern Europe, Asia, Middle East, Africa, Central/South America

  • It is often easier to obtain school based positions as a newer teacher in these areas of the world. There are a variety of opportunities to teach English in these areas, especially in Asia.

Considerations

Security

Financial Cost

  • Salary and any benefits may vary widely.
  • Exchange rates and cost of living will also impact your lifestyle and ability to save money.
  • If paid in local currency, the stability of the currency is an important consideration.
  • You may be subject to tax laws both in the U.S. and in the country of employment. Do your research.
  • If you have student loans, be sure you are aware of how to keep appropriately paying them overseas and if there are limitations on sending money out of the country.

Language

  • While programs may not require you to have any fluency in the native language, it can be helpful in connecting with the greater community.
  • Some programs offer lessons in native languages or provide support to help you navigate living in a new country.

Health Concerns

  • Depending on your health history, consider the level of access you would have for needed healthcare and insurance. Would you be able to obtain currently prescribed prescriptions or allowed to take a needed supply into the country?

Culture and Identity

  • Keep in mind that countries have different cultural norms and laws. Consider how aspects of your identity may apply in different parts of the world. For instance, legal protections for those who identify as LGBTQ may not exist or there may be limitations on religious practices.

Family & Friends

  • If you have a spouse or dependents, how does that factor in to your search or ability for them to travel with you?
  • Will you have the ability to take the time and have resources to visit family/friends while you are abroad? How important is this to you?

Housing & Accommodations

  • Be aware that there may be different living standards and accommodation expectations should be adjusted accordingly.
  • Some programs offer housing, subsidized housing, or assistance in finding a living situation.

Contracts

Visas

  • Depending on your country of origin and country of employment, there will be different visa requirements. Diplomatic relations between countries can also impact the difficulty of the visa process.
  • Programs also provide different levels of support in helping you understand the process and apply for the appropriate visa.
  • Some countries may have visa requirements such as 2 years of work experience, age restrictions, or a Master’s degree for teaching positions.

Red Flags

While there are plenty of legitimate opportunities abroad, be aware that fraudulent companies and scams do exist. Trust your instincts. If something seems too good to be true or does not feel right, don’t make a commitment. Find tips for evaluating employers at TESOL International Association.

Common Red Flags

  • You cannot identify a physical location for the organization. There may be no address or only a P.O. Box.
  • Contact information does not match an organization’s domain. For example, they may be using personal email domains like Gmail, Yahoo, etc.
  • There is a lack of available information about the organization. You cannot find reviews or the organization won’t allow you to ask questions of a former/current participant.
  • They avoid questions and don’t provide you with requested information for common questions.
  • They ask you to cash or deposit a check or money order for them.
  • While some legitimate organizations do have a fee for the service or program, conduct further research before paying anything.
  • They offer you a position without speaking to you or based on very limited information from you.
  • If they have offered you a position and will not share a contract or specify responsibilities/expectations.
  • They want you to work “under the table” or without appropriate authorization.
  • They are not able to answer specific questions about the school, curriculum, and policies.

Job Searching and Application Process Tips

The process may look very different than you are used to as other countries have differing cultural considerations and employment law. For example, resume formats vary by country and may require information such as picture, age, nationality, etc. Check out GoinGlobal (accessible through Handshake) for country guides.

Start searching early. Since visa applications can be a lengthy process, you will need to search and apply for positions much earlier than you would in the US. Many programs have fall deadlines for the next summer or fall.

Build connections with individuals who have taught abroad or are current/former participants of programs. You can gain detailed information from their experience to assist you in your search process. See informational interviewing guidelines.

Ways to Find Opportunities

  • Apply directly to or contact specific programs of interest.
  • Look on professional association or job posting sites for opportunities.
  • Attend overseas recruiting fairs.
  • Work with reputable agencies or recruiters.

Review job search resources in the following section

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