Looking for a TEFL Job Overseas? Do Your Research
Teaching English at an overseas school can be one of the most rewarding experiences of your life. Not only do you have the life-changing experience of living and working in a different culture, you gain the personal fulfillment that comes along with helping others reach their goals of speaking, reading and writing English.
Considering that TEFL jobs are among the most plentiful in the world — by some estimates, there are nearly a quarter million openings in this exciting field worldwide every year — if you have any interest in working overseas, the world of teaching could present the ideal opportunity. The problem is that among those 250,000 jobs, not all of them are ideal teaching opportunities. Some English language teachers have found themselves working much longer hours than expected, earning less pay than promised or even finding out that there isn’t even a teaching job to be had once they arrive.
The good news is that these problems can be avoided by doing your research and knowing what to look for in TEFL jobs. Armed with some knowledge and the willingness to ask questions, your overseas teaching experience can be as exciting and fulfilling as you want it to be.
Understanding Job Postings
Most experts recommend that anyone who wants to teach overseas work closely with a reputable placement agency or their university career services to help find the right teaching position; when you enroll in school for a TEFL MA, your program should offer placement assistance. When you go it alone and simply respond to postings online, you really have no way of knowing that the poster on the other end is a legitimate language school. If you work with an agency, on the other hand, the schools and positions are vetted and confirmed, reducing the likelihood that you will find yourself in a bad position.
At the minimum, any job posting should specify the age groups you’ll be teaching, the minimum requirements for the position, the length of the contract, and pertinent details about the salary, benefits and other information one would need to decide whether to apply. Most importantly, evaluate whether the job coincides with your interests and goals. It’s not always easy or even possible to switch gears once you arrive in a country, so taking a job teaching young children when you really want to work with adults may not be the best strategy.
When you begin looking for overseas jobs, it’s easy to be seduced by the promises of light workloads, beautiful locations, free plane tickets and good health insurance. Before you begin applying, do your homework and watch out for some common red flags, including:
Offers to work “black.” Essentially, this means that you will work without the proper documentation, which could result in big problems. Make sure that the school will support your application for a work permit and that there is a written process in place.
Endless job openings. Review job postings for a few months before applying to learn to identify patterns. If a particular school or program seems to have openings every month or so, that could be a sign that it’s not a reputable opportunity.
Ambiguous language. Does the posting include language that could be interpreted several ways? Ask questions to confirm that your interpretation is right.
Inappropriate requests for money and/or documents. Never pay for a job or submit your documentation until you have confirmed that you will be applying for the job and are within the review process.
After You Apply
Again, when you work with a placement organization or your university, it is unlikely you will encounter these red flags. However, even when you have help, you need to do your due diligence. Before you accept a job, ask questions that will help you make an educated decision. Ask questions about:
- Pay, including how much, how often and whether there are bonuses
- Living arrangements
- Working hours
- The tools and equipment that are available, including lesson plans and enrichment and training opportunities
- Employment contract questions, including policies and rules about insurance, taxation, time off and overtime. Avoid schools that claim the rules do not apply to foreigners.
Ideally, you’ll have the opportunity to talk with someone else who works within the program and get honest and unbiased feedback. You should also request all information in writing, to avoid misunderstandings in the future.
There are plenty of reputable and excellent teaching opportunities for qualified teachers overseas. Do your homework before you apply, and you will avoid disappointment and be among the thousands of teachers who have incredible experiences.
Category: Career Guidance