Teaching English Abroad: How to Begin, Getting a TEFL Certificate and Qualifications Needed

I am moving to South Korea! I have been offered a job teaching English and I am very excited to begin this new adventure. I thought it would be helpful to start a series of posts to help anyone who was thinking of teaching English abroad, not just in Korea but elsewhere. I know there are so many bloggers who have posts like these and many resources but I think it is beneficial to have a variety of sources, especially when making major decisions.

One of the first decisions to make is how to get your TEFL/TESL or any other abbreviation. Essentially this is your Teaching Certificate, which qualifies you to teach English abroad. I am going to share my experience achieving this certificate, the program/company I went through as well as some other qualifications you will need in order to teach abroad.

As I mentioned I will be going to South Korea, so with the series of posts I plan to do the main focus will be on my experience accepting a job there. That being said, I am able to offer a few tidbits of information I learned along the way about qualifications in other countries, as well as what other locations tend to offer in the way of benefits like paying for airfare and providing accommodation.

I am by no means an expert at this, as this is my first overseas teaching job, however if you have any questions I will do my best to answer them.

I will also note that depending on the country you are coming from there may be different requirements. The basic requirements tend to be: a bachelors degree or equivalent (college diploma), fluency in English and a TESL certificate (or equivalent, they are called many different things).

Step 1: Obtain your bachelors degree and decide if you wish to travel and work abroad for at least a year. Most contracts tend to require you stay at least a year, however I have worked with some people who, once they arrived, decided to renegotiate their contract. I would also think about places you are interested in teaching, and while it may be difficult I would also keep this list as narrowed down as possible. I would suggest no more than five countries. It will become very complicated trying to apply to more than five countries and multiple schools in each country.

Step 2: Research different options on obtaining your certificate that qualifies you to teach English abroad. I collected many pamphlets, and browsed many websites of various companies. However I chose Oxford Seminars. They had flyer postings around the school and they advertise prep for LSAT, GMAT and MCAT as well as Teaching Abroad opportunities. I attended an information meeting with them and found out that they come to my University twice a year and provide their course.

The course they offer is both in class and online. You complete an in class component first which is essentially three weekends (Saturday and Sunday) from 9-5 and you go over many things such as what to expect in a contract and how to plan a lesson if you are required to do so from scratch. I found it very helpful because the teacher has had experience teaching abroad and was able to answer many questions. It also gave you the chance to act out a lesson.

The second component is online and it is 40 hours of grammar quiz completion. It is very boring and extremely tedious, especially if you do not like grammar. However you have a significant amount of time to complete it. I think you have about three months.

As I mentioned qualifications vary based on country. Places like Dubai or Saudi Arabia require that you have a Bachelors of Education degree and teaching experience. Other countries require a High School Diploma and a TESL certificate. It really depends and I suggest looking into the country's requirements before you decide.

Here are some links to things I mentioned in this post:

1. Oxford Seminars course outline and price estimate
2. Locations and Dates
3. Places that are currently hiring and a list of their requirements and benefits.

Step 3: The next step is going to be completing the course, once you have done so then you move into the resume process. If you choose Oxford Seminars they assign you to an adviser upon completing the course. Your adviser assists you in the next few steps. They help you perfect your resume and cover letter and after selecting three countries they send out your resume for you. My adviser also sent my resume to a few other countries that were similar to the ones in my top three. They send your resume to multiple schools in the countries you have chosen and give you tips on how to proceed.

And that is the beginning process! There is so much more to share, however I think I will do my best to group related tips together. This post was designed to give a little more information about the starting process in as much detail as I can remember. I will also note that I took my course in November of 2014. I completed everything by then end of February. They recommend that you start sending out resumes 3-6 months before you want to go, but more on that later.

I hope this was helpful to anyone looking to teach abroad. Please comment below if you have any questions.

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