Teaching English as a foreign language can be a great way to spend your gap year. You get to spend time in another country, learn a new language, learn new skills, make friends and earn money at the same time. There are so many stories and misconceptions surrounding TEFL jobs though that it can be quite hard to know where to start or who to believe, so mapthegap.co.uk have come up with some answers for you.
There are a lot of types TEFL courses out there and it can be quite confusing to choose one. There are those where you can get qualified in a couple of weeks or those where you can even get your qualification in one weekend. Unless you’ve done some teaching before then you can’t really expect a weekend course to teach you everything you need to know a lot of schools won’t employ you unless you’ve done a longer one.
The best and most internationally recognized courses are the Cambridge CELTA or DELTA and the Trinity CertTesol, all of which are about four weeks long. Many other ‘four week-long’ TEFL courses with similar content and number of practical teaching hours can also be good. You can do TEFL courses all over the world and many courses will help you find a job when you’ve finished. Some courses will even guarantee you a job at the end.
The easiest places to get TEFL jobs is in Asia, particularly Japan and China, where they are crying out for English teachers. This is also where the highest paid teaching jobs are too. Generally schools in Asia will help you get accommodation, working visa and help you get settled in. They may even throw in local language lessons too. For many teaching jobs in China and Japan you are required to have a university degree, in order to get a working visa, so it may be a good option after uni to pay off some of those debts. Usually you will not be required to travel to the country for an interview and will often be interviewed by a representative in the UK or by phone or skype.
Teaching English in Europe can be rewarding because you can really feel like part of a local community, however the general rule is that the more popular the city the harder it is to get a TEFL job. For example if you only just finished your TEFL course and have no teaching experience you will find it very difficult to get a job say in Barcelona or Paris. It will be a lot easier to get a job in a small town where you will have a lot less competition. Again, some schools will require you to have a university degree, but not all.
Teaching in Europe varies greatly from teaching in Asia. Some schools may only give you a few hours of lessons per week, so you will often have to find more than one job to support yourself. You are also paid a lot less and will generally only have enough to live on, not enough to save or pay off any loans. In Europe you will more or less be left on your own to find your own accommodation and settle in, although some schools might help you. It is also quite likely that you will have to travel to the country to attend a face-to-face interview.
If you want to teach in South America, your best bet would be to do a TEFL course that can help you find a job there or can guarantee you one when you’ve finished. Again it can be very competitive to get a job in a big city Buenos Aires or Rio de Janeiro, as they require lots of experience and many people want to live there. The smaller the place, the more likely you’ll be able to get a job. Again in South America, you will find that many schools will want to do a face-to-face interview, which can be very difficult, so you may want to set up as many interviews as possible before you go, so you are more likely to get a job. This can be a bit of a gamble so make sure you take enough money to last you for a few months. Most schools will give you a good indication of the likelihood of job prospects before you go.
English schools vary greatly and you could find yourself teaching in a small private family run one or a large international one like Berlitz, Education First or International House. Many of the bigger schools, such as Berlitz have their own teaching material and methods of teaching, so once you’ve been offered the job you will need to go through more training to learn a school’s particular style.
A good option to get some experience before you try to get a permanent job would be to get a job in an English summer camp for students, which will last a couple of months. This will better prepare you for a teaching job and give you some teaching experience to put on your CV. Some good websites to look for TEFL jobs are TEFL.com and Dave’s ESL Cafe. Also most schools tend to start around September to October time and close for the summer so you need to start applying and secure your teaching job around May or June.
The key to getting a good TEFL job is to research a lot and make sure the TEFL course you have chosen is reputable. A good idea before you embark on a course would be to e-mail a few schools in you chosen country to see if they would accept that particular course. You also have to be flexible, don’t have your heart fixed on one city in one country because, particularly for you first TEFL job, this can be very difficult.