Graduates of the Class of 2012? Congratulations and commiserations are in order. We have stumbled into a staggered job market, bleak prospects and little to no chance of landing work experience if you don’t already have work experience, leaving many grads in a Catch-22 situation. Even if you don’t have a lot of money, there are always opportunities abroad to travel and work cheaply.
Teaching English as a foreign language is one of the most cost-effective ways you could spend a year out and in certain countries you could even make a profit. Some have described the ESL industry as “recession-proof” and there are always jobs for people with a native-like proficiency in English, a degree and sometimes a qualification. Different places have different requirements- the more popular countries of Europe are known to be a lot more strict, with many asking you to hold a bachelor’s degree, an ESL qualification and at least one year of teaching experience; demand for ESL teachers is always high though, so it will always be worth physically going to your chosen destination and applying in person. This post will be a guide for graduates looking to break into teaching English and the professional and personal benefits that this industry yields.
Do I need any qualifications?
As mentioned in my previous post, I am an advocate of the CELTA qualification which includes 120 hours learning and classroom experience. The problem with a lot of cheap online TEFL qualifications is that they won’t equip you adequately enough to survive in the classroom-especially if you’re teaching kids. In places like Europe and the Middle East they will be more strict on you having the CELTA, but in south east Asia the rules are a bit more relaxed. Some cowboy schools may lure you in with expensive in-house courses which will be useless outside of that particular school and not equip you to work anywhere else. Cheaper courses can be a false economy as the most reputable schools may not take you and you will may be forced to work at dodgier schools-with a good qualification you have less chance of being taken for a ride. Think long and hard about whether an online course will teach you the skills to work in a classroom-I’ve seen adverts for jobs that specifically mention that they do not want anyone with “weekend or online courses.”
Couldn’t I just pay a company and they place me?
Yes, companies like i-to-i give you in-house training and a placement, with a little stipend. The salary will be less, but then you wouldn’t be shelling out as much for a CELTA (between £700-£1400 or free on Job Seekers Allowance) or bothering with the hassle of finding a job. Plus it would be easier to find a scheme like this in Asia, rather than anywhere else. I wouldn’t recommend paying a company a few thousand pounds for the privilege of teaching abroad, as all of the profits will go to them and you can never be sure of how much goes back into the local economy, like with all voluntourism schemes. Think about the fact that you’re paying extortionate amounts for a job that you’re unqualified for, meaning you and the students you teach will be getting a raw deal, but the company profits.
How does it look on my CV?
Fantastic! Employers are always impressed with international experience and teaching English abroad improves your planning, organisational and communication skills. It’s a great way to learn a new language and gain experience in a professional capacity, whilst living abroad. Possibly the biggest bonus is the ability to work as an English teacher whilst saving up to go travelling, rather than working a minimum-wage job at home to fund globetrotting. By the end of it, you’ll have improved your communication skills, possibly be conversational in a foreign language and have so many great memories from your time away.
Where can I go?
Literally anywhere! With over 2 billion people wanting to learn English globally you’ll be spoilt for choice. The most lucrative places are south east Asia and the Middle East and in the near future I’ll be posting a blog about teaching in different countries. Once you’re qualified the world is your oyster and you can choose to find work anywhere, though the Middle East is harder for first-time teachers.
How much can I make?
You won’t become rich off of it, but you can carve out a pretty sweet existence depending on where you go (see above point). In almost all countries you will make more than enough to live in your surroundings and be able to enjoy yourself without being too frugal. Additionally, you can do private tutoring on the side (although some schools may not allow this) where you can charge per hour to supplement your income.