Should you Take your Training in the Country Where you Wish to Teach?

A reader wrote:

I are interested in completing a CELTA course in order to teach English in the UAE.  Would it be better to study the CELTA in the UAE or in London where I currently live?

I know you’ve previously recommended to study in the country in which one wishes to teach, but would studying in the UAE limit our prospects in other countries?

Will completing the course in London look more attractive to employers globally?  Considering the cost implications London would be the preferred choice.

It is almost always better to take an in-classroom course in the country in which you first intend to teach.

While it may seem more cost effective to take it where you are currently located, taking your course there does little or nothing toward your end goal of landing a job in the UAE.

Taking your course in the UAE immediately gets you into the environment and on the trail of good jobs.

Better TEFL schools will have employers coming by the school looking for you.  That won’t happen in London.  It will quite likely happen in Dubai.

For most people a TEFL cert or a CELTA, etc is a tool to get the job they want, not the end goal.  So purchase the tool that gets you closest to your goal, a course in Dubai or elsewhere in the UAE.

No one will really care if you took the course in London, Dubai, Saigon or even Yangoon.  In fact, when they see that you took it outside your home country, they will see that you can survive and thrive in a culture different than that of your home country.  To me that is a bonus.

Employers, not infrequently, have difficulty with people who have not yet lived and worked outside their home country.  It is a very real risk factor in hiring.  Some people get homesick, others just can’t adapt.  It is an unknown factor that adds risk to a hire.

If you are already living in the culture where you want to be hired, it greatly reduces that perceived risk by the employer.

TED’s Tips™ #1:   Taking a certificate is usually tied to an employment goal.  If you are taking an in-classroom course, take it in the country where you wish to teach.  You’ll be closer to your goal the moment you step off the airplane.

Teaching Internships in China



Is a Two Year Degree Good Enough to Land a Good English Teaching Job?

A reader asked:

I was wondering about the Associates Degree. I have one that I received last year and to be honest I have no specific special area for work history.

I’ve become a more “Jack of All Trades” sort of guy, though my main hobby is computers and IT.

I’m only 25 and wondering where I can teach English? What countries accept just an AA and where is the best place to look for a job for those places?

Employers generally require what their country’s labor/immigration ministry requires.

With the exception of Japan, there doesn’t seem to be a surplus of teachers anywhere, thus employers tend to ask for the minimum requirement allowed to obtain legal working papers for their foreign teachers.

Will an AA Substitute?

Labor departments tend to require a bachelor’s degree or not.   It’s not usually negotiable.

I am not aware of any country that would accept a two-year AA/AS degree as being comparable, so your best bet might be China, Cambodia and/or Indonesia.  Indonesia seems to be moving toward requiring a degree though.

China these days is probably the world’s largest employer of EFL teachers, so there is plenty of opportunity.  In the super mega-cities like Guangzhou, Shanghai or Beijing, employers tend to want a degree, but once you head out to the real China like Hangzhou, Nanjing and many other truly huge cities – there is plenty of opportunity.

Get a TEFL Certification

China requires a TEFL certification.  They don’t really care what kind, how many hours, online or in classroom – they just want to know you made some effort to learn some basics.

For Cambodia, get a TEFL certification to strengthen your hand.   Many of Thailand’s non-degreed teachers, when Thailand started requiring a bachelor’s degree, headed over to Cambodia and almost all of the them will have had a TEFL training course as it was required in Thailand.  You’ll need to compete with them for the better jobs.

Lots of Opportunity

You can see there is a lot of opportunity out there.  All you have to do is go and get it.

Just as an aside, if IT is your thing,  you might want to read a blog post at our sister site TEFL Newbie where we have a post called: IT People Make Great EFL Teachers.  And it is true!

TED’s Tips™ #1:   No degree, no TEFL cert – to many employers – sometimes means just another backpacker passing through who will have no commitment to their students.

Get some training to separate yourself from the crowd.

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Online TEFL Training

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Is a Weekend TEFL Course Okay?

Another great question from one of our readers.

 I have just booked a weekend course at a TEFL training centre in the UK which awards a “TEFL” certificate on completion.

I am worried that it will not be of much use in finding a job or delivering quality lessons.  Do you have any experience or comments on this kind of centre?

I don’t know the specific school or program you are asking about, but my guess is that the program is probably fine.

A weekend course is not really enough, but it is a start and it is more than most people who head out teaching abroad have in terms of training.

Such a course is better than no training though probably not the best you can get.  In many countries ANY kind of TEFL certificate is fine.  Even just a weekend or even a 20-30 hour online course are acceptable.  For example, in China, the world’s largest employer of EFL teachers, most schools would certainly accept that certificate.

Will such a certificate help you land a job?

Probably.  In most countries no training at all is required and if you have demonstrated an interest in developing your teaching skills by taking a course and getting a certificate, you move near the top of the list. China requires training, but doesn’t really care how much or what kind.  They just want to know you have tried to get some basics.

MOST countries or schools that set a requirement for a certificate (note that most don’t) will ask for a minimum of 100 hours of training.  Most will accept online courses – only a few will require in-classroom and even fewer will want some observed teaching practice of six to eight hours.

The reader also wrote:

Until finding your site I was of the impression that a “TEFL” certificate was a recognised qualification, now I feel that maybe these centres are running a quite elaborate con.

TEFL certificates are fine.  I am not sure what on my website might have suggested otherwise.  I would appreciate it if you would tell me as I would like to review it and make sure it says I what I think it should say (I perhaps don’t always communicate as clearly as I should!).

The whole of idea of scams and cons are way overdone in the teaching abroad industry – probably because almost all of us work abroad and the people back home don’t really know (often don’t really even WANT to know) exactly what things are like and how they work on the other side of the world.

TED’s Tips™ #1:   Just for reference have a read of these posts: Scams to Watch for in TEFL   and The Most Common TEFL Scam and even more on the periphery of that topic – scams from the other side . . . : Apostille: What it is and why you might need one.

Teaching Internships in China


When Changing your Career to TEFL: Think ESP

People who have lost their jobs often wonder if a change to TEFL might solve their problems and offer some optimism and opportunity to what is a difficult time.

They ask if teaching English abroad might help meet some lifelong goals of seeing and experiencing the greater world (goals that were seeming quite impossible recently)?

It might well do that.  The demand for EFL teachers has never been greater.

Steps in Transitioning to Working Abroad

1. Get some training

There is increasing competition out there, but still not nearly enough teachers.  Getting a bit of training says you care enough to at least begin to learn the skills for the job you are seeking.

Many people are seeking teaching jobs and the only thing they have to offer is being a “native speaker”.  If you have more than that to offer, you are already in front of 25-30% of your competition.

2.  Don’t forget the value of the skills you already have

This is where English for Specific (or Special) Purposes – or ESP – comes in.   If you have as little as 3-4 years in the workforce,  you probably already have some special skills that will be sought somewhere.  You just have to find out where!

Around the world there are vocation high schools, two-year community and vocational colleges, academic colleges and universities and even specialized private vocational schools that teach the skills of almost every occupation in the world.

In most occupations abroad, at one time or another, workers will need a few English skills.  If that occupational area is where you have been employed, that employer of teachers would usually prefer to hire you before they hire me.

What this means is don’t head across the world after twenty years in finance and take the first kindergarten teacher job you can find.   Ten years as a lawyer (you’d be surprised how many lawyers are teaching English!) should land you nice job a college somewhere, teaching Business English, Contract English and possibly even International Commerce – in English.

A few years as a public school teacher can help you land either the same type of position at an international school abroad (very competitive market) or teaching English to future teachers at colleges and universities.  Three years at Walmart?  Walmart probably offers English classes to their managers in Korea and China.   And the list goes on.

A few more examples?  A friend once taught Airline English to Korean ladies at an airline stewardess training school.  My previous work experience has had me teaching accounting and management (in English) at an international hotel management school in Thailand, Business English to business teachers in Saudi Arabia, Email English to employees at Roche Pharmaceuticals in Taiwan, Business English to international executives in Korea, Telephone English to staff at a MasterCard call center and even more stuff I wouldn’t want to bore you with.  But none if it was boring to me!  🙂

But . . . can you see that I never taught kindergarten?  I started in TEFL at about age 40 – twenty years ago.

3. Get your Foot in the Door

Okay, you are right – sometimes you just have to get your first job and get your foot in the door.  Do whatever is needed to land that first job. (TEFL training will help!).   Always keep your eyes open for opportunities to teach ESP in areas in which you have skills that other teachers probably don’t.  It is the best way to compete, to increase your income and job satisfaction and a great way to meet people with similar interests.

TED’s Tips™ #1:   Try to not start your TEFL journey on the bottom rung of the career ladder.  If you must do that, keep your eyes open for opportunity to jump a few rungs ahead of everyone else.  Those opportunities are there.  You will need to look for them and they often are not heavily advertised as employers believe that it is difficult to find you.  Help them find you!  Colleges, universities and vocational programs are where these jobs are hiding.  Go get them.

Teaching Internships in China