There are a wide variety of career possibilities for TEFL teachers around the world. While most teachers only plan to teach for a year or two, many end up permanently relocating to their new home country. Even if it is too early to decide on making teaching English abroad a permanent career, it is a good idea to maximize your career opportunities.
Private Language Schools
Throughout the world, English teaching jobs with private language schools tend to be the most numerous. Opportunities for advancement at small ‘family-run’ businesses will be limited. At best, you may rise to a head teacher position, often with added duties such as training and curriculum development, and fewer contact hours, but you are unlikely to receive a significantly higher salary. In fact, in some countries, like Japan, small schools often have a policy of hiring teachers for no longer than two years, to avoid having to pay annual increases, or bonuses. Having said that, they are good places for novice teachers to gain the experience that could lead to more lucrative positions in the future.
The large chain schools are a different matter altogether. While entry-level positions can often be somewhat taxing in terms of contact hours, particularly in Asia, there are abundant possibilities for advancement to management level. These positions are often attainable without a relevant MA or PhD, but may require a diploma in TESOL. These companies usually promote from within the ranks, so they are looking for reliable teachers that have a good rapport with students and local staff.
As larger schools generally have a high turnover of teachers, senior staff are often responsible for the training and monitoring of new teachers. Many of the larger schools produce their own materials, though, so having design and publishing skills will increase your chances of promotion. There is also a burgeoning market for web-based language learning, so even relatively inexperienced teachers with a background in web-design and other internet-related skills, such as flash and video production, may find some exciting opportunities with these companies.
Primary and Secondary Education
There is also a significant market for native-English speakers in public schools. This is particularly the case in the Far East, where there are a lack of native teachers who are fluent in English. In Asia, foreigners are often referred to as ALTs (Assistant Language Teacher) and, as such, will team-teach with a native teacher. In the state schools, salaries can sometimes be a little higher than those found in language schools, but usually there is little chance of advancement.
In Japan, working on the JET program as an ALT was considered by some to be an ideal introduction to English teaching. Salaries were 30% higher than language schools, and there were also greater benefits and significantly longer holidays. However, budget cuts in recent years have led to many schools using third-party agencies to hire teachers. As a result, the salaries for ALTs have dropped alarmingly and many of these agencies have found ways to circumvent labor laws so as to avoid paying for teacher’s health care and national insurance. Such positions are generally to be avoided.
There are greater opportunities for advancement in private schools, particularly for those who are able to work well with the local teachers, and who have a reasonable command of the native language. However, you are unlikely to receive a significantly higher salary and benefits will not compare to similarly experienced native teachers.
Not surprisingly, universities offer some of the best salaries and benefits available to English teachers. Accordingly, their requirements for prospective teachers are much stiffer. Some institutions will be looking for applicants with an education or English-related degree. In addition, most will require an MA or PhD in a relevant field, such as TESOL or linguistics, as well as significant classroom experience teaching speakers of other languages. Conversational ability in the native language can be advantageous for teachers meetings, and the such, but this will vary from region to region.
Not only are salaries and benefits considerably greater than those found in language schools, but working conditions tend to be much better, too. This is particularly the case where contact teaching hours are concerned. Consequently, these are the positions that many people working in the industry aspire to. They will spend their formative years in English teaching not only gaining experience, but also bolstering their qualifications. There are several internationally recognized TESOL qualifications and post-graduate degrees now available by distance-learning and, in some cases, you may be find support networks and be able to take examinations in the country where you are working.
However, it should be noted that EFL and ESL teachers are rarely given tenure, unless they are published authors, so further advancement in this area is limited.
In some countries, there are lucrative positions available with large corporations. For example, in Japan, electronics companies like Toshiba and Hitachi employ teachers for their own in-house training programs. In the Middle East, you might find yourself working for one of the big oil companies. Salaries, benefits, and job requirements will be very similar to those for university positions, as mentioned above. However, some companies may be looking for teachers with a background in business, although often simply having experience teaching business English classes will be sufficient. Some proficiency in the local language will certainly be of benefit.
Like many private language schools, these companies will sometimes produce their own teaching materials, so there are opportunities available to advance beyond regular teaching.
Once again, such jobs are highly sought-after, and are the kind of position that anyone starting out in English teaching, with a career in mind, might aspire to.
The British Council
The British Council offers jobs to teachers and staff in more than 100 countries around the world. Some TEFL positions require just two years experience and a recognized TESOL qualification. For those wishing to make a career in TEFL, there are considerable opportunities for advancement to senior teaching and lecturing positions, or even to administrative, management or project management roles at various levels.
They currently employ 7,400 staff worldwide and, in many cases, competitive salaries are paid in UK Sterling, no matter where you work.
Starting Your Own Language School
All over the world, you will find foreigners that have made a success of starting a language school in their adopted countries. Such a path is appealing in many respects; not being subservient to over-bearing bosses; being fairly rewarded for all your hard work; not being restricted to ineffective and out-dated teaching programs; choosing the type of lessons you want to teach; and the list goes on.
With a good business plan, there is certainly money to be made, particularly in the Far East. For those with a degree of entrepreneurial panache, there is unlimited potential for growth beyond a single school. However, for those who want to continue teaching, even a small, well run private school can provide a lucrative income.
There is one constant that is probably true, wherever you decide to start your school. You will almost certainly need a local partner, in many cases a spouse. Banks are unlikely to make a business loan to foreigners, who are often deemed to be short-term residents. Besides, language barriers, legal issues, tax laws and bureaucracy can often be overwhelming without a knowledgeable partner.
Of course, for all the success stories, there are just as many failures where such ventures are concerned. Often this will be the result of poor business plans, lack of market research, insufficient teaching experience, or simply unprofessional standards. There are also countless horror stories of foreigners who have been left penniless and unemployed after divorce, or when a business partner has absconded with the profits. First and foremost, choose your partner wisely!