Teaching English


I admit, I swiped a friend's photo here.

I admit, I swiped a friend's photo here.

If you are a native English speaker, you are incredibly lucky in this regard. I admit this using myself as an example because had I not been born into an English speaking family in an English speaking country, I probably would't have had the chance to sustain my current work/travel lifestyle. Here is why:

Outside of North America and Western Europe there is currently a huge demand for English teachers and the requirements to become so are not really that difficult. That is, just as long as you are a native English speaker. In most cases, as it was for me with Russia, all that was needed was a bachelors degree and a TEFL (teach English as a Foreign Language) certification. That's it. And the degree doesn't have to be in English or education either. Mine was in history. In fact, I didn't take a single English or education class throughout my for years in college. It didn't matter when I applied for the jobs.

Likewise, the particular TEFL degree you get does't have to be extensive or prestigious either. In many cases, a 2-3 month online class is all you need, and for those, you shouldn't have to pay more than $500-$1000. If a course charges significantly more, it is usually either a rip off or just not worth it. Most language schools just want to see that you have some certification. It can be any, it doesn't really matter which one. And this is all because schools like to promote native speaking English teachers as their main selling point to prospective students. Many schools have none and students are often willing to pay double for a native lesson.

Why do it?

It's pretty simple why I advocate this. You can gain so much by living and working within another society outside your own. This is the chance to go beneath the facade created by the tourism industry and the 24 hour news cycle and not only see, but become part of the inter-workings of another place. For example, I do not feel like an outsider anymore within Russia. I know and understand how the society works, and I've met so many people and made friends who have now help Moscow feel like my second home. And I know I have grown as a result.

Also, on a more basic level, your not behind a desk, and there is no daily grind of repetition. You get to spend your workday talking and interacting with people from a different background and upbringing. Especially when working with adults, students will often want lessons to be conversation heavy in order to practice their speaking skills. And in such cases, it doesn't even feel like work, it just feels like you're having a chat with a new acquaintance (whose English you have to occasionally correct and explain why). You'll both share thoughts and ideas, and I'd be lying if I said I didn't learn anything from this. Nearly all of my students are eager to give me advice and information about their culture, which has really helped me have a full experience while living here.

Where to Go?

Ok, so let's say you've got a bachelor's degree and a TEFL certification. Which country/ location should you choose? Well, here's the best part. You can pretty much take your pick (except for English majority countries, of courses), so I recommend doing some research and choosing a place you find interesting or have always wanted to visit. Keep in mind though, it is pretty difficult to find work in most Western European countries since English proficiency is already very high (84% in Sweden, for example), so if this is where you want to go, you will probably need at least a Masters degree and professional work experience. That said, the rest of the world is much easier. And in some countries, such as China for example, you do not even need these qualifications or to be a native speaker. As long as you are proficient enough in the language, you'll have job opportunities.

So, I recommend you pick a place you've always been interested in or a country you've always wanted to visit but never had the chance. Maybe a country that you wouldn't normally travel to for tourism or a country that would otherwise require a visa. Teaching English can be your opportunity not just to go there, but to meet people and entrench yourself into the society. I can assure you, based on my own experience, it is something you'll always remember and will absolutely broaden your perspective in ways standard travel never can.

My Russia Experience

Awesome gift from the first year

Awesome gift from the first year

I'll use the location I chose as an example here. Out of all the countries in Europe, Russia has, by far, the most job opportunities for English teachers for two main reasons. First, Russia has more people than any of the other countries (roughly 150 million), and English is not very well known, so the demand is very high. And, if you end up working in Moscow or Petersburg, people have money so you'll be able to make a decent living and be pretty comfortably on a teacher's salary.

The one downside is that, if you come from the US, Canada, or an EU country, you'll need a visa prior to entry. In other countries, you can travel there first and then begin the application process if you'd like, but for Russia (and certain other countries like China and India), this is not possible. It was the case for me initially, so I had to do the whole application process online and have my interviews over Skype. Ans after doing so, I can say that if you do it this way, make sure though that your school or company will sponsor your visa, since it can be quite difficult/expensive to get if they don't. But the good thing is that a majority of them will and do so automatically.

That said, the jobs here are pretty easy to get since the demand for English teacher's is so high, but if I could give some advice, try to work for a school that gives you a fair amount of free time. Then you can search for your own students, who often pay more and are willing to meet you at agreed upon times. Initially, I made this mistake with regards to my first teaching job at the language school, English First. They had me work about 8 hours a day/6 days per week, so I didn't really have any time to search for students (or do pretty much anything extra), on my own, but after a year, I left and was able to find a tutoring agency called Tom's House that paid me per class. Therefore I could choose to work as much or as little as I wanted (but the more I worked, the more I'd get paid). This allowed me to schedule more free time and look for students on my own and ultimately make more.

What to Expect

This is largely dependent upon which type of school you end up working for. If you teach a classroom full of kids (at a language school or a regular public/private school), the experience will likely be more similar to a standard classroom. Most schools will provide you a textbook to correspond with the class, which (as much as I hate to admit), can help guide you through the year and structure your lessons. As it was for me, a standard day at EF (English First) consisted of three consecutive classes (usually with 20 minute gaps) lasting 100 minutes each.

If you happen to be working with adults, the format will likely be a little different. Most of your students will probably already have a general understanding of English, and for the most part, will want to practice through conversation above all else. In this case, you will probably not be using a text book, and will instead be expected to assign articles or videos in English to be discussed in class. As the teacher, you'll have to guide the conversation and be prepared to explain any questions and correct any mistakes your student makes. These lessons will often be much less structured than with kids, but usually will require less work from you as a teacher. That said, you still need to be prepared, because if an adult student isn't satisfied with your teaching, they will likely stop lessons with you.

Words of Warning

While most schools are legitimate and offer pretty good employment opportunities, there are a few that are either outrageously misleading in their promises or are just outright scams. Just to repeat, most are not and I don't want to deter anyone away from following this path, but I just want to give a fair warning. Do some research and ask around before you end up agreeing to work for a school. Find out the details of what is required of you, and make sure everything that is promised is written in your contract. I guess this is common sense for pretty much any job, but regardless, just be aware of the school/organization you plan to work for.


Let your students talk a lot. They want to practice their English and it is one of the most effective ways for them to learn. Many teachers make the mistake of lecturing and talking over their students. Don't do that. It'll likely discourage them and may lead to them seeking a different teacher. Also, the more talking your student does, the less of a lesson/lecture you have to plan, thus making it easier for you as well.


  • Research the school before you start working. See what they'll help you with and see if you'll get to be in contact with other native English speaking teachers after you arrive. This can help make the transition to living and working abroad easier.
  • Decide if you'd rather teach children or adults. The experience will be pretty different depending on who you work with.
  • Make sure the school is legitimate and pays on time. Usually they do, but it never hurts to be a little extra careful in this regard.
  • Once you get there, find some teacher's network in the community. Usually social media works well here.
  • Be open to the experience and enjoy the new culture. Remember, you're not just going abroad to work. Live the full experience as much as you can.
  • Don't only hang around with other ex-pats. Befriend locals, and if you can, try to learn the language. You'll have a much better overall experience.
  • MOST IMPORTANTLY get a TEFL degree before you start this. Even if it's just a cheap online course, it'll make your whole process a lot easier.