Traveler’s Dream: making TEFL into a career

For years, TEFL teaching has been a hidden secret for degree holders to discover once they have graduated. It has proved to be the perfect new employment for those seeking adventure and the thrill of seeing the world.

Furthermore, for many, it has become a welcome source of income for people who have completed their degree courses and have had to join the queues of young budding graduates applying for their first ‘real’ job. It is true that for many, a TEFL teaching job abroad is seen as ‘stop gap‘. TEFL roles have enabled people to take an additional year or so after graduation to see the world while earning a healthy wage, but what if you want to make a career out of it?

Getting ‘the bug’ for TEFL

One of the great things about TEFL teaching is that it enables a person not just to see one country, but actually see a variety of locations once they have built up their C.V. In fact, many experienced TEFL teachers describe their job as ‘a kind of bug’. 

At first, they may have been the somewhat shy university graduate that turned up in Hangzhou or Seoul, having landed their first role in China or South Korea. 

However, after a couple of contracts, they have become a comfortable, well-rounded TEFL teacher taking advantage of their passport to see the world’s finest landmarks and locations.

It is true that TEFL teaching can become whatever a person wants it to be. For many, their first TEFL role serves as a means of getting paid while seeing a new country, and then they return happily to their own country a wiser person with a wider viewpoint on the world. 

However, for many people TEFL teaching can become a way of life, a career they never even knew about, let alone live themselves.

Is it a potential career?

Teachers soon learn that as well as seeing and experiencing new cultures, TEFL teaching can actually become quite a lucrative source of income. They realize that in many countries, a teacher’s salary goes up year on year, or that by taking further qualifications, such as the DELTA or a Master’s degree, they can further their opportunities and open up a whole new range of job positions.

After their time experiencing the wonders of China, Korea or the magic of South East Asia, teachers with these qualifications suddenly find themselves with access to the more lucrative opportunities available in the Middle East, with Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates being the target for many experienced TEFL teachers.

Here, teachers are able to work in a culture and environment completely different to those they may have experienced in Asia, and once again it all seems like a new, exciting adventure.

Experiencing new cultures is great, but of course, is not the only reason people decide to become a TEFL teacher. Some people have previous teaching experience and simply want to hone their skills, whereas others want to ‘get out of their comfort zone.’ It is always worth doing some research to find out what else you need to know to teach abroad to really understand the benefits and sense of adventure that your TEFL experience can give to you.

Taking the plunge into the TEFL world…

For many people who search the internet looking to get into the TEFL world, the most important decision they make is taking those first steps to apply, to turn their loose idea or dream into a reality. Checking out a reputable TEFL website such as The TEFL Org and assessing the latest vacancies is a good way of getting a feel for the countries and start dates available. There are probably thousands, possibly millions, of potential TEFL teachers worldwide who contemplate the TEFL world but never get to the stage of making a formal application. People who end up working in the TEFL industry often look back to this moment as the defining time of their TEFL career. 

At the time, they thought they were simply taking a ‘gap year’, to spend some time away learning new cultures. However, after taking their first steps the full reality of what was available to them became apparent, and years later they find themselves earning a substantial salary in a management position they never thought was possible.

How can you Advance your Tefl Career

It’s probably the opportunity to further their TEFL career through such positions that surprises most teachers when working abroad. It isn’t until they are in the industry, meeting and working with other like-minded people, that they realise there are opportunities for promotions and leadership roles. 

Suddenly, they have opportunities available to them that are a far cry from the initial year-long adventure trip they had planned to Asia. Most teachers realise during their roles that many employers are actively looking for those with good ability and teaching methods that have the potential to move up into their roles of further responsibility.

For many private and government schools in Asia, it is difficult to get reliable TEFL teachers to come and work in their country for a longer period of time. 

Therefore, when they do come across a good teacher who serves them well, they tend to be very keen to offer promotions as an incentive to keep the teacher with them. Of course, as with most jobs, with responsibility comes an increase in annual salary and bonuses, which when put together as package can prove to be a very attractive offer. It has to be said that there are not many roles in the world available to young people that come complete with a free apartment and often a severance (additional month pay) upon completion of the contract. South Korea is one country that is exceptionally good for this and is one reason why many first time TEFL teachers make ‘the land of the morning calm’ their first port of call in their TEFL career.

The TEFL world is fluid, not fixed…

Times do change in the TEFL world, and places that provide the most attractive packages for a TEFL career in one decade are not necessarily the best option for the next. Packages change in relation to the economy of a country and are also in line with that particular countries government policy on English second language learning at the time. Again, taking a look at the latest packages on offer on The TEFL Org is a good way of assessing where is good to teach at the moment.

Where to teach and One of the most lucrative places to teach currently has to be China, mainly due to the fast-paced boom of the economy and rapid growth of technology. At one time, a mysterious place for the western tourist, China has now become one of the major locations for new, young TEFL teachers. A place where old traditions meet the new technology of social media and mobile QR code payment systems, China has been unearthed as a haven for those wanting to make a career out of TEFL teaching.

A major reason for China being such a popular destination to base your TEFL career is the wide range of salaries and positions available. There are thousands of suitable positions for ‘newbies’, and young graduates from university, but also there are many management roles at the high end of the pay scale that encourage seasoned TEFL teachers to make China their home rather than a quickfire visit. Of course, some people prefer to ‘country-hop’, taking alternative roles to experience other cultures. 

However, China, together with South Korea and parts of South-East Asia, still prove to be the ’go-to’ places for people looking to get into TEFL teaching. Teachers may go on to destinations not quite as popular to further their experience or to chase a specific role, but few forget where their first TEFL journey was, or how they arrived to it.

An experience to remember or a new career?

A step into the TEFL world is whatever one wishes it to become you can head anywhere from backpacking Greece living in China. 

For many people it will be their means of having a fantastic cultural year-long experience, whereas for others the ‘hook’ of teaching abroad may not end for quite some time, providing an adventurous route to a career they never knew could exist.

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