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The Complete Guide to Teaching English Abroad

Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) is a popular career choice for those looking to combine a passion for education with the thrill of travel. TEFL involves teaching students whose native language isn’t English, regardless of the teacher’s native language. I did it in Thailand and Taiwan and it was an amazing experience!

The demand for certified TEFL courses continues to grow as students around the world strive to learn English. It’s one of the best ways to work overseas. Historically used in private schools, TEFL’s communicative approach contrasts with the rigid methods of public schools. Often the focus is on communication, creativity, and cultural awareness rather than rote memorization and strict grammar.

There are many reasons people decide to teach overseas. I did it because I needed money and then I did it again because it was a great way to work and live in another country! It provides a sustainable way to experience cultural immersion, learn new languages, and build international networks. It often leads to significant growth on both personal and professional levels too. By stepping into a TEFL role, teachers not only contribute to the educational landscape of their host countries but also enhance their own skills and career prospects.

Since most teachers need a TEFL to get a job, here’s everything you need to know about TEFL programs so you can teach English overseas:

What Is TEFL Certification?

TEFL certification is the primary qualification used to obtain jobs teaching abroad. Established in the early 1970s, TEFL training was developed for regions where English was not the primary language. TEFL certificates are now recognized internationally and are often a prerequisite for securing positions overseas.

In the past, the only option for a would-be TEFL teacher was dedicating a month to a full-time in-person program. Access to training was limited due to high tuition fees, a lack of options outside major city centers, and the other supporting costs that came with it.

These days, technology (and decades of research and development) have made TEFL courses much more accessible and inclusive. The TEFL certification can be completed fully online, in hybrid blended formats, or fully in person.

Regardless of the format, TEFL courses provide comprehensive training in the following:

  • Classroom management
  • Teaching skills
  • Lesson planning
  • Incorporating media into the classroom
  • Grammar
  • Cultural sensitivity

Over the decades, the TEFL standard has been a 120-hour course. It is considered the perfect length for providing the theoretical framework for a new graduate to start teaching in the classroom. While the industry often pushes more hours on unsuspecting teachers, they are usually superfluous and add little value over a good-quality, standard 120-hour TEFL course.

That said, pursuing further education and/or more hours is recommended after a teacher has a couple years of teaching experience. For example, the Cambridge DELTA is an excellent choice for instructors who have already completed a TEFL, and have two years of full-time classroom experience under their belt.


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