English is one of the most commonly used second languages across much of the world and it is currently being studied by tens of millions of people from all backgrounds and cultures. How and where they choose to study can vary considerably, but one thing that most English language students have in common is that their studies are led by a tutor known as a TESOL teacher (or something similar such as ESL teacher, TEFL teacher, etc). The role of a TESOL teacher is to slowly build up their student's abilities in the four language skills; reading, writing, speaking, and listening, to enable them to reach their individual study goals, which could be for work, study, travel, or a variety of other reasons.
Please note: the acronym TESOL stands for Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages.
The huge number of people studying English worldwide means there are seemingly endless opportunities for fluent English speakers in the international job market, with a vast number of vacant positions always available across Asia, Europe, Latin America, and the Middle East. You will find ESL teaching jobs in almost every city and tourist resort in all these regions and there is no sign that the growth in jobs is going to slow down anytime soon. If you are thinking about changing your existing career path and you are keen to add some adventure into your life, training to become a TESOL teacher might be exactly what you are looking for.
How to become a TESOL teacher
English language study is a largely unregulated business in most parts of the world, which means it is theoretically possible for anyone to land a job teaching English with no formal qualifications or previous classroom experience. However, the vast majority of schools now recognise that in order to be an effective English teacher it is necessary to have undergone some level of teacher training under the guidance of a qualified and experienced expert in the field. On completion of this training the teacher will usually receive recognition of their study in the form of a TESOL certificate that can be put on a CV/resume to prove to potential employers that they are a qualified TESOL teacher.
What qualifications does a TESOL teacher need?
When looking for English teaching jobs you will quickly find that most will require some level of TESOL qualification. TESOL certification courses are generally classified by the average number of hours they take to complete and there are a huge number of different options to choose from. At the bottom end of the scale in terms of cost and study hours are short courses of under 100 hours. In this bracket the certificate awarded is usually only enough to allow teachers to secure volunteer teaching positions or jobs that offer a small stipend.
Check out our blog post: The best programs for volunteer teaching abroad.
If you want to land a job that comes with a good salary and comfortable working conditions, it is best to complete a TESOL certification course in excess of 100 hours. In this bracket of qualification the course "should "cover all of the crucial subjects that employers expect you to be aware of when being paid a decent income. You should expect to cover a range of subjects, including classroom management, lesson planning, material design, and English grammar. On completion of this level of course you can expect to have gained a strong understanding of how the English language works and how best to teach it to non-native speakers of any age or nationality.
At ITTT we more than cover what is required at this study level with our ever popular 120-hour TESOL certification course. This course has been designed to provide all the basic knowledge and skills needed so you can confidently take up your first job as an ESL teacher in any environment.
Can I study my TESOL course in a traditional classroom?
Online TESOL courses are certainly very popular as they can be taken from anywhere in the world, however, in-class courses still remain a great option for many people as they offer certain aspects of study that online courses cannot match. ITTT’s in-class TESOL courses are completed over a four-week period and provide an in-depth study experience that is hard to beat as all the theory is taught face to face by a highly qualified expert. This method of study is considered by many to be the very best way to learn as you are able to engage fully with your trainer and share ideas and theories with other trainees in your class.
In-class TESOL courses have one other clear advantage over online courses in that they include several hours of real teaching practice. Wherever you take your course you will get ample time to practice all the theory learned via invaluable teaching practice that involves genuine English language learners in a real ESL classroom. Before stepping into the classroom you will plan the lesson thoroughly under the watchful eye of your course trainer, who will then conduct a debrief session once the lesson is complete. This level of Observed Teaching Practice (OTP) is a very valuable way to build up your confidence and your teaching skills before you start applying for jobs after the course.
Another benefit of an in-class course is that our training centers are usually located in areas where the demand for TESOL qualified teachers is particularly high. Because of this it is common for our course graduates to secure jobs in the vicinity of the center upon conclusion of the course. Take a look at our in-class TESOL course page for full details of the course and the locations where it is available.
What if I can’t attend a training center for four weeks?
If the idea of having some teaching practice before applying for jobs appeals to you but you lack the time or finances to attend a four week training course, you might want to consider our combined TESOL course. The ITTT combined course is designed to bring together all the main benefits of online and in-class study. The first section consists of theory subjects that are studied online at whatever pace you set for yourself. Upon completion of the online section you then visit one of our training centers where you will undertake several hours of observed teaching practice.
Visit our combined TESOL course page for full details on this very popular option.Also read our FAQ: How does the combined TESOL course work?
Are there any additional TESOL qualifications I should consider?
While a 120-hour online course or a four-week in-class course are perfectly good enough to land you an entry level teaching job, some of the more high-end positions often require applicants to possess extra qualifications. A 120-hour TESOL course is essentially seen as the starting point for ESL certification in order to get your career started. If you want to move up the employment ladder to a job that offers a higher salary or more authority, you will generally require more than just a basic level of study.
The first step you can take is to add one or more specialized qualifications to your portfolio. Specialized TESOL courses cover unique areas of English language teaching that require the teacher to have extra skills and knowledge that is specific to one type of student or environment. Probably the most popular specialized area of TESOL right now is teaching English online, which has seen a huge growth in recent years. New teaching platforms seem to emerge on a daily basis, allowing qualified teachers to pick and choose the right one to suit their plans. Adverts for online teaching positions do not always specify that a specialized qualification is needed, but applicants that do possess one will find they are in a much stronger position as teaching online differs in many ways from traditional classroom teaching.
At ITTT we have a convenient 60-hour course in teaching English online (CTEO) that can be taken on its own. However, you might find that our 170-hour course in teaching English as a foreign language with online specialization is a better choice as it offers superb value for money. With this popular option you get our standard 120-hour TESOL course, plus an extra section that covers all the most important aspects of online English teaching.
There are two other very common specialized areas of English teaching: teaching young learners and teaching business English. Although it varies from one country to the next, children and young adults typically make up a large percentage of ESL student numbers. By completing a specialized qualification in teaching young learners you will put yourself towards the top of the pile when applying for jobs in this field and you will also be better prepared when it comes to actually delivering lessons in the classroom.
Take a closer look at our 60-hour online course in teaching English to young learners (CTEYL).
Teaching business related English is a common option in many parts of the world as businesses of all sizes often need their employees to have a good standard of English in the workplace. Some bigger companies will take on their own ‘in-house’ TESOL teachers who conduct lessons on site, either before, during, or after normal working hours. To enter into this field of teaching you do not actually need to have a business background as the training course will cover everything you need to know to get started.
Take a closer look at our 60-hour course in teaching business English (CTBE).
What about high-end English teaching jobs?
If you want to take the next step up the ladder by taking an advanced TESOL course, our Diploma in TESOL course should fit the bill. By completing a high-level course you will put yourself way above the majority of other ESL teachers, which means you can pick from a wider pool of jobs and gain the potential to earn a top salary. This level of study usually involves a large amount of independent research covering a wide range of interesting subjects that will extend your knowledge as a teacher and lead to better results for your students.
Details of our advanced-level training course can be found via our Diploma in TESOL course page.
Should I sign up for more than one course at a time?
Although a 120-hour online or in-class TESOL course should be enough to land a good teaching job in most areas, signing up for a multi-course package will provide great value for money and broaden your options in the teaching job market. Completing extra courses is also the best way to grow your teaching knowledge and improve the quality of lessons your students receive. As previously mentioned, ITTT has a 170-hour TESOL course which includes an additional section that looks at online English teaching. As well as this package we also offer two other course bundles that you might be interested in: the 220-hour Master Package and the 550-hour Expert Package.
If you would like a little more guidance on choosing the right training course, take a look at our guide: which TESOL course is right for me?
Who employs TESOL teachers?
The worldwide market for TESOL qualified teachers is so big that there is no one situation that represents a typical work environment. You will find a wide range of different employers who cater to all sorts of different students, and any of these could be your future employer. One of the most common scenarios is teaching young learners in a government-run state school, private school, or kindergarten. These schools usually run to a standard school timetable from around 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Monday to Friday (these hours and days will vary slightly from one country to the next).
We recommend you read our FAQ: Who will my students be when teaching English abroad?
Private language centers are another very common option for TESOL qualified teachers. These can be just a single small school or one of a large group of national or even international chains. This type of school generally runs classes outside of normal school hours as they are aimed at young learners looking for additional lessons or adults who need to attend before or after their normal day's work. If you work in this type of environment you will usually have to teach during the evenings and on the weekends.
If you would like some help choosing the right type of school to suit you, read our FAQ: What types of school hire English teachers abroad?
One other popular option to consider is working one-to-one as a private English tutor. Many teachers do this as a way to top up the salary from their main school job, although it can easily become a full time job for some teachers. You will also find jobs on offer in colleges and universities where the contact hours can often be quite low despite earning a good salary. These jobs are relatively small in number and the competition can be high due to the favorable conditions they come with. Finally, you might come across teaching jobs within private businesses. It is common in some countries for medium and large businesses to take on TESOL qualified teachers to improve the English of their staff members. In these situations the lessons can be scheduled for before, during, or after normal working hours. If the lessons are in addition to the students normal work day and they are compulsory it can cause motivational issues that you will need to address.
If you would like to get an idea as to the type of jobs available worldwide, visit our TESOL Jobs Page.
Where do TESOL teachers teach?
One of the many reasons that so many people take up English teaching is that you get to choose where you want to live and work, as there are jobs available in virtually all countries worldwide. However, while highly qualified teachers with plenty of experience in the classroom will be able to confidently apply for almost any teaching job on offer, those who are new to the teaching field will often need to be a bit more flexible until they have spent a bit of time practicing their skills. If you are new to teaching the best advice is to look towards countries where jobs are plentiful and easy to come by.
TESOL in Asia
The huge continent of Asia is without doubt the best place to look if you want the widest choice of teaching jobs. The market for TESOL qualified teachers is exceptionally large in countries such as China, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, and Thailand. In China it is even common for there to be so many people wanting English lessons that there are not enough qualified teachers to meet the demand. However, while there are always plenty of jobs available in these countries, some of them do have restrictions that limit the number of people who are eligible to apply for them. To be eligible to work in these countries you will typically need to be a native English speaker with a degree in any subject. If you are a TESOL graduate who does not meet this criteria, you should look towards other popular countries in the region such as Cambodia, Indonesia, and Vietnam.
If you like the idea of teaching in Asia, take a look at our blog post: Ultimate country match guide for teaching EFL in Asia
Teachers without a degree should also check out our guide to teaching English with no degree.
TESOL in the Middle East
While most of this region is technically part of Asia, we always treat it separately as it is one of the big areas for English language teaching. Jobs can be found right across the Middle East as many of the countries in the region contain a large number of different nationalities that use English as a common language. As the demand is so high, many teaching jobs come with very competitive salaries and a range of additional benefits that add up to some of the best packages on offer worldwide. On top of this, some countries such as Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates are tax free, so you keep every penny you earn. When you also factor in bonuses such as free accommodation, paid flights in and out of the country, and an end of contract bonus, you quickly see why this region is so popular. However, in order to land one of these prime jobs you will usually require one or two years of classroom experience and a high level of qualifications. There are a few other countries where the requirements are often less severe such as Jordan, Kuwait, Oman, and Qatar.
If this region seems right for you, take a look at our blog post: Ultimate country match guide for teaching EFL in the Middle East
TESOL in Europe
Europe has been popular with English teachers for decades due to the many different cultures represented throughout the region. Countries such as France, Italy, and Spain have traditionally been the most popular places to teach, although many people are now looking elsewhere as the cost of living in these countries has grown significantly in recent years. Some teachers still decide that it is worth living cheaply in order to spend a year or more living and working in a major city such as Barcelona, Paris, Rome, or Madrid. Others choose to head for more affordable destinations in the region. The cost of living is generally much easier to deal with in countries such as the Czech Republic, Poland, Slovakia, and Slovenia, which all have growing markets for foreign TESOL qualified teachers.
If you dream of teaching in Europe, take a look at our blog post: Top tips for teaching English in Europe
TESOL in Latin America
Teachers who head to the Latin American region will have a wide range of different countries to choose from, although the market for TESOL teachers is significantly lower overall than the regions already covered. However, there are a few countries that have been welcoming a large number of foriegn teachers for many years, such as Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Costa Rica, and Mexico. In these countries you will find plenty of jobs in all the main cities and tourist hotspots, as well as some smaller towns. Other countries where the market is smaller yet on the rise include Bolivia, Colombia, and Peru, all of which offer exciting opportunities in areas that are a little more off the beaten path. It is often said that TESOL qualified teachers choose Latin America for its endless opportunities for adventure, rather than the paycheck at the end of the month.
If you want to learn more about your options in Latin America, take a look at our blog post: Ultimate country match guide for teaching EFL in Latin America
Teaching TESOL Online
While many TESOL course graduates decide to head overseas to teach, many others choose to teach online as it can be done from home and fitted in around any other commitments you might have. If this option appeals to you, you will be glad to know that there are a wide choice of potential jobs waiting for you. There are a large number of existing online teaching platforms to consider and there seems to be new ones starting up on a regular basis. Some of these platforms have relatively tough restrictions on who can apply, such as being a native English speaker and having a degree. However, as the demand for online English lessons is so high, there are always options available no matter where you are from or what level of education you have. Online teaching can be used as a way to gain valuable teaching experience before heading overseas, or it can be a convenient way to earn a good salary without having to make major changes to your existing lifestyle.
If you are interested in teaching English online, have a read of our blog: How to find a job as an English teacher online.
We would also recommend you take a look at all our great online course options to get your virtual teaching career underway.
How do I get a job as a TESOL teacher?
Most TESOL course graduates looking for their first job start off by conducting a Google search that leads them to a variety of different job boards and teaching forums. This common route will provide plenty of potential jobs, however, you will likely miss many jobs in small schools and some lesser known countries as they are less likely to be advertised online. Once you have found one or more potential jobs that interest you, simply fill out the required application forms and wait for a reply. If your cover letter, CV/resume and application form are enough to impress the employer they will probably set up an interview online or by phone in some cases. If you are offered the job, the employer will give you a start date and you will be responsible for turning up at the right place at the right time to start work. You might get some help from the employer when it comes to sorting out a visa, work permit or any other necessary paperwork, but that will vary from one job to the next. Some jobs will also come with free accommodation and paid airfare, while others will not, so it is vital that you are fully aware of the details of the job before you make a final decision.
There are also two other very popular options when looking for English teaching jobs: recruitment companies and job placement programs. Recruitment companies are very popular as they remove much of the hassle involved with applying for jobs overseas by sorting out most of the paperwork for you. The other major bonus is that the employer pays the company’s fees, so it won’t cost you a cent to go down this route. The only real negative about using a recruiter is that you might have a limited amount of choice when it comes to the location of the jobs on offer.
For more information check out our blog post: Top reasons to choose a recruiter when finding a job teaching English abroad.
TESOL placement programs are available in several countries and they offer a tried and trusted way to secure a good job abroad. Most of these programs are run or are backed by the local government and have been in existence for several years. To find out the details you can simply go to the relevant website and sign up, providing you meet the specified criteria. Many of the programs have only one or two start dates each year, so you need to get your application in as soon as possible to avoid missing out. The biggest and most popular recruitment programs for foreign teachers can be found in France, Hungary, Spain, Japan, South Korea, Hong Kong, and Chile.
If you still require more convincing that the life of a TESOL qualified teacher is for you, take a look at this video to see what graduates of our courses have to say about their time spent studying with ITTT. You will also hear about the many varied experiences that our graduates have once they move out into the wide world of teaching the English language.