Scoring your First TEFL Job

Do you want to teach English as a Foreign Language (EFL), overseas?  Well, luckily for you, employers worldwide are eager to hire someone just like you. Newbie teachers are often amazed how easy it is to hook that first job offer.

However, as with any line of work, it’s important to weigh your options and take the right position for you. If you take your time finding your first EFL job, you and your employer will be happier for it.

One thing to consider when you’re choosing which job fits your best is the length of contract.  Are unsure  of committing to a whole 12-month contract in an exotic land? Check out TEFL Temp, where you can find listings of short-term TEFL jobs. You might even find the rare four-month posting that includes airfare and training. An offer like that is hard to beat!

Also, don’t forget to read the advice at our sister website, TEFL Newbie.  There, you can find all kinds of information about searching for (and getting) your first job teaching English overseas; living abroad; and the ins and outs of working in a foreign land.

It doesn’t matter if you’re thinking about just doing a few months or even years abroad or if you think TEFL might be the lifelong career you always wanted, odds are TEFL Newbie will have some information to interest you.

Of course, every teacher’s expectations, requirements and talents are one-of-a-kind, and you won’t find every answer you seek on-line. But TEFL Newbie is a good place to start. It was created by a former Peace Corps Volunteer (Botswana 89-91) living and working abroad ever since then, and it tries to answer all those questions a first-time English teacher might have before they go abroad to work.

Topics on TEFL Newbie range from how to choose what country to teach in, how to pay back your outstanding student loans while you are overseas, insurance, family matters, and of course visas and contracts.   There are also hundreds of comments/questions and responses that just might fit your particular situation

TED’s Tips™ #1:  Cruise over to TEFL Boot Camp and pick up some FREE ebooks about everything from finding your first job to how to create success overseas.  You can sign up for those free ebooks HERE.

TED’s Tips™ #2: While it’s a good idea to think twice before snapping up the first TEFL  job that comes your way, recognize that not everyone’s first teaching job will be the perfect one for them. Just like in an industry, your job (and your employer) may have its ups and downs. Approach this with a professional attitude.  And – to be honest – sometimes an “entry-level” job is just that – what you need to do to get your foot in the door.

TED’s Tips™ #3: Don’t forget that there’s more on this website that can help you. Maximize what you get out of that first job by going through the other sections of this website, paying special attention to English for Specific Purposes (ESP) and Business English.

Teaching Internships in China


Job Search: Finding Jobs Teaching English Abroad

 In July we got this note from a reader over at our sister website – TEFL Newbie:

You advised me about 5 months ago to try teaching in Thailand. I want to thank you because I’ve been teaching at a Thai university for nearly two months and I’m greatly enjoying my life here.

Mailing a lot of resumes from a distant country was doing me no good. Once I arrived in Thailand and was able to hand people my resume, it made a huge difference in getting considered for the positions I wanted.

If you are not having luck searching for the job you want overseas, try going there and applying in person.  This is a common theme in job search and it works.

Let’s look at YOU from the employer’s point of view.

Lots of people apply, many don’t show up.

This is especially true for popular tourist destinations, such as Thailand – as suggested above.  People go to Nepal, China, Japan, Thailand, Mexico and other places and decide, sometimes on a whim, to move there to work.  It was so wonderful to visit – it must be great living there.  Yes?

The number of people hired from a distance compared to the number who actually show up on the job – can be as low as 50%.  So, in the employer’s eyes – hiring you from a distance is a bit of a gamble.  The students need a teacher at the front of the room, how much risk can the school take about you showing up – or not?

Many applicants misrepresent themselves.

If you interview in person at least the employer can see you and what your level of sincerity might be.  They can easily ask follow up questions if something doesn’t make sense.  And they can follow up on the follow up if need be.

They can see your documents in hard copy and not in an easily doctored digital form.  They can have much more confidence in knowing that you are the person you say you are, with the skills you say you have and the experience and qualifications you claim to have.

Many people really should NOT be teachers.

Some people, some potential teachers and even some real teachers – are not friendly people that you would enjoy being around.  This is really difficult to know from abroad.  Asia – in particular – puts great emphasis on work place harmony and they want to know if you can get along on the job.  Will you be friendly to staff and to students?

Language schools in particular – but even many universities and colleges these days – are businesses.  The students are their customers.   These customers can go out the door and down the street to another school.  Or they can tell their friends how great their teachers are and bring them into the school and help the business make a profit.

Interviewing you in person will help the school have a better sense of how you will get along with your coworkers and students.

TED’s Tips™ #1:  If you are having difficulty landing that “dream” job with email applications, your best bet is probably to head on over and interview in person.

TED’s Tips™ #2:  Before you go, check out the employment visa regulations for that country and also plan on a “visa run” to a neighboring country to change your tourist visa to an employment related visa.

TED’s Tips™ #3:  All a bit of a hassle?  Sometimes the best things in life require a bit of effort to make them happen.  If you are not a native speaker, not young, white, attractive, blond-haired and blue-eyed – (those are the people most easily hired from abroad) – then head on overseas to get what you want.   People do it every day.  I’ve done it.  You can too!

Teaching Internships in China


Passive Job Searchs in TEFL – Often Don’t Work

Finding that TEFL job that you want . . .  Get up off your butt and go get it.

My apologies already for being TOO direct!

I hear all too often from people who sent out a few emails and weren’t offered a perfect job that met all their fantasies and dreams.

A job where they would get free airfare, free accommodation, don’t have to teach much and get lots of paid vacation – just because they are a native speaker!  Wow!  Sign me up too.

Part of the problem is that many TEFL Training schools – which shall remain nameless here – promise the ability to travel the world, make big money and all in exchange for simply taking their course.

Many have TRAVEL in their company name – very few have the words TEFL or even WORK in their names – because they are mainly interested in marketing and selling you something.

They really don’t want  you to think too much about actually having to work while you are traveling the world for free on someone else’s money.

That Perfect World DOES Exist – for a few people

Well, let’s face the reality that such a world does exist for a few blond-haired, blue-eyed, young and attractive white people  Of the model sort if you know what I mean.  The wind blowing through their perfectly blond hair as they smile into the sunset.

That’s the stereotype that many foreign language school directors believe their customers want in a teacher.  What should be standing in the front of their classroom.

Yeah, it’s out there for them, but what about the rest of us?  What about me?  I’m 59 and kind of old looking.  Maybe really old looking!  Might have been blond once, but now the hair is white!  Aaggghhh!

Yep, even I would have difficulty landing a job from abroad these days.  Great qualifications.  Lots of experience.  Too d*mn old.

We have numerous posts here and about conducting a good job search.  Read them and get with the program.

Here is what to do if you are too old . . . like me:  TEFL Jobs Search for Older People

What if you are overweight, gay or just plain different?  Read this: Overweight Teachers and Other Baggage

And . . . here’s an important post on the attitude that helps most: TEFL and Your Attitude – the easy path to success.

If you persist in having problems, then try an internship – check out the banner link below.

TED’s Tips™ #1: I’ll be the first to admit that blogs are not easy to find your way around.  But – you might well find it worth your time and effort to search around this site and also over at for information about how to best conduct a good job search.  It can make all the difference in the world.   And, you know what?  It’s still easier than landing a decent job in your home country.  I promise!

Teaching Internships in China


TEFL Career Path Questions #5

As often happens, questions from you – the readers – are better than any ideas I have for blog topics, so here is another thoughtful question:

I have my BA and have been looking into TESOL certifications. I’m trying to find the most appropriate track to teach English (most likely overseas or possibly in my local community classes, but I am not interested in public schools in my country.)

I am not sure I have ever said a degree is not necessary though I would say or agree that a degree is not always required. However, simply having a degree does not qualify you to teach English as a foreign language.  In your questions, you have asked about a couple different career tracks.  Teaching EFL abroad is a bit different that teaching ESL or even just straight English in a country where English is the first language.

He also asked:

From your experience would you say that it would benefit me to get a post-bachelors TESOL certification or some other type of similar certification, or even a master’s degree? There are so many different types of courses I’m confused as to what certification would be the most advantageous to look into since I currently have a BA.

First: If you want to teach in the USA/UK/Australia/etc in a community college setting or just community-type classes, you probably should consider getting an MATESOL.  Otherwise you will have difficulty competing for and landing such jobs as almost everyone applying will likely already have experience abroad and an MATESOL or similar qualification.

For teaching abroad, your options depend a lot more on what you intend to do, where you intend to do it and for how long you intend to do it.

If you are not sure about TEFL as a career path and are thinking of just heading out for a year or two to see if you like it – then one of the online programs will be just fine.  No need to spend a huge amount of money. They will give you some good simple basics that will significantly improve your teaching skills. Usually many things you would never have thought of if you had no training.

Get out in the world, get your feet wet, see if you like the occupation and if you do and if you decide to stay abroad for many years then you should take a good in-classroom TEFL certification course. Name brand does not matter much (in my opinion).  CELTA is often seen as the gold standard, but you will pay a lot of extra money for that course, sometimes twice as much.  Most generic TEFL courses are just fine. Most employers don’t care about one brand or another (unless they are selling it!).

IF you intend to stay abroad for a long time and wish to approach the field as a professional, get the best jobs, teach at universities and colleges, save some real money and get lots of paid time off – then RUN, don’t walk – to get an MATESOL (or an M.Ed. in TEFL is okay too – or an M.Ed. with a PGCE in TEFL or anything roughly similar).

Teaching at the college/university level is quite a different occupation from teaching at language schools. Language schools tend to offer only limited time off and the career path leads to supervisory or DOS type roles.

University positions can offer a much lighter work load, a more prestigious position that will allow you time to pursue other interests – professional or otherwise – and offers you a longer occupational lifespan.  I’ve spent many of the last 16 years with anywhere from ten to twenty weeks PAID vacation per year and much of that time was with four-day work weeks. It can be quite a decent career if done right.  It allowed me to explore websites, pursue further professional training and – at times – just take a well deserved rest.

TED’s Tips™ #1: Get some training no matter what you intend to do in TEFL. If you goal is short-term then an online course is fine. If it is longer term, get a good four-week in-classroom course. If you wish to teach at the college/university level, a graduate degree is a must.  This is true for the great majority of countries though not true for China, but you may wish to be able to work in a variety of countries in a similar capacity.

Turbocharge your TEFL Job Seach

How to maximize your desirability to potential employers

I hear often from people who are having trouble finding a good teaching job and I often wonder how that can be when, in most countries, there just aren’t enough EFL teachers. Inevitably there is something going on that creates a barrier for the new or potential teacher and let’s talk about how to overcome a few of them.

Have Realistic Expectations about your first TEFL job

Be realistic about that first job. About the wages and circumstances under which you are willing to work. TEFL is a REAL job with REAL work. I have had people contact me with LONG lists of their demands and sometimes even call them that! Their “demands”! But yet, some of these people have almost nothing to offer other than a passing familiarity with English.

Scan the job ads for a country and see what entry level jobs pay. If the going rate for a new teacher at a university in China is 4-5000 RMB – then that is likely what you will be offered. That you previously worked for MicroSoft or a big investment bank is not really relevant. If you can’t accept entry level wages, don’t enter a new occupation. Stay where you are.

Get Some Training!

Any kind. Online, in-classroom, free training from a immigration training center where you might volunteer – anywhere! Show that you have a willingness to learn how to teach and provide a good service for your students.

Get a Professional Photo

Most jobs around the world will want you to submit a photo with your resume. Get a good quality photograph taken of yourself in professional dress. Be sure you are immaculately groomed, put on a big smile, hide that big tattoo on your neck. I have had people send me photos of themselves obviously drunk, sometimes kissing their drunk boyfriend or girlfriend (yeah, that makes you want to hire someone as a teacher . . . ), big glass of beer in their hands. Would you hire someone who sent you a photo like that to represent their professional character as a teacher? Of course not. I also had a 55-year-old woman send me a photo of her kissing a 25ish-year-old young man . . . Son? Boyfriend? Student?

What does it say about someone when they obviously don’t know how to present themselves in a professional manner? Does it reflect on the possible absence of other professional skills? I sure think so.

Make your Resume/CV Relevant

If you taught school ten years ago for a couple years but never again – put that job at the TOP of your CV. Create a section call “Professional Teaching/Training Experience” and list those jobs then a section just called Professional Experience (other). Highlight anything that is relevant to teaching. I’ve reviewed resumes of people who want to teach in China who never mention anything in their resume about teaching experience, but after exchanging a few emails it comes out that they taught in Japan ten years ago! That is important to know! It makes a huge difference.

Put the things that qualify you for the job at the top of the page. Don’t make a potential employer search to find it. They might NOT find it!

TED’s Tips™ #1: Just these few small things can easily make the difference between an interview and no response at all from a potential employer. Pay attention to how you present yourself. It is important.

Guaranteed TEFL Employment

Guaranteed Job with TEFL Course?

Another great topic offered by a reader:

Do you know anything about the (Name Removed) TEFL School?
They have a guaranteed job offer if you pass with a high enough grade. They also offer corporate English courses for local businesses, which might be a good place to be able to put my previous experience to use.

I am usually wary of schools that offer “guaranteed” employment as the guaranteed jobs are often paid less than if you had obtained a similar job yourself, thus you are paying for the job by virtue of getting a lower income. And some schools (in some countries) will be getting a “kick back” for providing you at a lower wage. BUT, with the program you describe if the placement is dependent on your good performance on the course, then it might actually be okay. I am not familiar with that specific school though. Use the free checklists offered at to help you evaluate the program and you should do okay.

You will almost always pay more – sometimes a LOT more – to take a course that “guarantees” you a job. Why? Because you are paying for people who took the course and were not successful. How can anyone who has never met you, guarantee you a job? The idea of basing such a guarantee on your performance at the school is better than most.

TED’s Tips™ #1: Be wary of and thoroughly investigate offers of guaranteed employment when they are attached to a TEFL Training school.