If you've entered the teaching profession, you clearly have a passion to pass on knowledge to young children. If you now want to combine that passion with a desire to work within new cultures and to travel, then teaching abroad may be an option.
The vast majority of work abroad will be Teaching English as a Foreign Language or TEFL, but there are other positions available if you want a different kind of work.
Read our general guide on working abroad before reading the Prudent Minds guide on teaching abroad.
Qualifications needed to teach abroad
Qualifications needed for teaching overseas do vary between employers, dependent upon the type of role you are undertaking, and the visa requirements of the country in which you intend to travel. Most full-time positions will require a degree level qualification, although not necessarily in education. There are many opportunities for teaching families how to speak English, and for these, few qualifications may, in fact, be needed.
Although a TEFL certificate is not always a necessity, it can be a huge boost to getting a teaching position overseas. Of course, if you are applying for a position in an English speaking school, a TEFL will not be necessity.
In many countries, the employer will not expect, nor will they want, you to speak the native language; so it is not necessary to be able to speak the language of the country you are visiting. The school will often have social activities to help their new teachers learn the local customs and to maybe pick up a bit of the native dialect. This is often helpful out of the classroom setting, but also to allow you to better understand your student’s lives.
What type of contract will I get for teaching abroad?
Most teaching positions will be for one year, and you will be expected to complete the full year under the terms of your visa. Some schools will pay for your travel, but will not pay for your return unless you complete the full year.
Age may not be a barrier to the actual teaching job, but may be a barrier to the type of visa you can get. You will need to check with the embassy concerned as to whether your age will allow you the full one year work visa. A few middle eastern countries will discriminate on age and appearance and a photo will be sought along with your application. Age will tend not to be a barrier if you are doing voluntary teaching abroad.
If the school is looking after travel, accommodation, insurance and visa expenses, it is likely that they will look for a single person, although, a married teaching couple may be seen as an advantage as they can share accommodation.
Unfortunately, not all teaching destinations are open to gay teachers. You should check your destination before applying for the post.
When looking to teach abroad, and the money on offer, you need to consider the cost of living very carefully, especially if you have costs back in the UK to meet. Some countries may be offering mouth-watering salaries, but this is a good indicator that their cost of living is also high.
Many schools and colleges abroad are privately owned, and so the age mix of the students may differ considerably. Many schools will offer classes to housewives, students and even corporate executives; so you won't always be teaching children.
Voluntary Teaching Abroad
Perversely, voluntary teaching abroad in some countries is better paid than taking a direct job with a school; particularly in developing countries. This is because the in-country pay level is very low (although, so will the cost of living), however, a volunteer job, with the perks offered by the charity concerned, may be worth more. Voluntary teaching abroad offers a chance to meet very unique students, such as orphans or eager students in a developing world and gives you the opportunity to help a very poor set of people. This may be far more rewarding than teaching at a normal school.
Many schools will have a local teacher, well capable of teaching English grammar, but not necessarily have the correct pronunciation. Voluntary teaching normally encompasses you helping in conversational English.
Of course, voluntary teaching abroad, whilst hugely rewarding, can also be very demanding. You will not have the resources that you are used to in the UK, and the weather won't be quite the same either! There are lots of opportunities for you to get involved with extra-curricular activities, and you will feel amply rewarded by the response you receive from your students.