So, you’ve decided you want to live in Asia, to travel to exotic locations, eat incredibly spicy food, and generally enjoy life in a culture that’s completely different from what you’ve grown up with. But you have to be able to afford it.
Previously, we’ve discussed teaching English as a second language as a way to finance your life abroad. Not surprisingly, the greatest demand for English teachers is in Asia. If you have a Bachelor’s degree in just about any subject and some specialized training, you can find a job teaching English in almost every Asian country.
“Young Americans Flock Overseas to Teach English” is the headline of a March 1 article in the Atlanta Journal Constitution. Job boards for English teachers in China, Japan, S. Korea, Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand are bursting at the seams, but if you’re adventurous, you can also find jobs in Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos. I even saw some listings in Tibet!
First Step – Choose Your Training
While some English-teaching jobs abroad require only that you be a native English speaker, others expect at least a bachelor’s degree in some subject, and the best insist on certification.
And here’s the bugaboo. There seems to be a large difference of opinion as to which types of training and certification are the best. Acronyms like TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language), TESL (Teaching English as a Second Language), ESL (English as a Second Language) and TESOL (Teaching English as a Second or Other Language) fly about. Every school promises that its program is the best, the most widely accepted.
A discussion by actual English teachers at Dave’s ESL Café, a favored source of information for all things ESL, casually dismisses all training except CELTA, SIT and Trinity. Unfamiliar with all of those terms, I decided to do some research. Here’s what I found.
The CELTA certificate is issued by the prestigious University of Cambridge in England. Although actual courses are offered by many different institutions in different countries, the courses must be validated by Cambridge. Setting CELTA apart from many run-of-the-mill English-teaching courses is the required practicum – students must successfully complete six hours of practice teaching to real English language students, and the overall course is at least 120 hours.
Teaching House offers CELTA classes in New York, Boston, Miami and San Diego. Another CELTA provider is Bridge TEFL. They teach US classes in Denver, CO. Other locations include Central and South America, as well as locations in Europe, Turkey, Cambodia, Vietnam, Thailand, Russia and China.
SIT stands for School for International Training, which offers master degree programs in teacher education and intercultural management. It’s located in gorgeous Brattleboro, VT, but doesn’t offer the English teacher training there. Instead, it partners with other schools, like Global TEFL, which holds classes in locations like Chicago and California and TESOL Training Worldwide, which offers courses in places like Oaxaca and Veracruz, Mexico. They also require 6 hours of teacher training in adult ESOL. According to their website,
“The School for International Training’s TESOL Certificate is a 130 hour course which provides participants with professional knowledge and skills in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) as well as tools for their own reflection and growth as teachers. It is designed to be offered intensively in four weeks or extensively over a longer period.”
Trinity refers to another English school, Trinity College, which issues the certificates. This is not a terribly practical choice for a US-based student, as the only courses offered in North America are in Canada. However, if you want to take the course in Malta, Uruguay, New Zealand or Iran, you’re in good shape.
All three programs share the two common requirements of at least 120 hours of course work, combined with at least 6 hours of practice teaching. There are other schools which offer courses that meet these standards, but without the prestigious certificates.
One of these is the ITTO (International Teacher Training Organization), which offers a similar program, albeit with slightly larger class sizes, in the US, Mexico, Costa Rica, and Peru, as well as Prague.
So what’s a prospective English teacher to do? How do you wade through the quagmire of offerings? We’ll explore this further in another installment.
Do you have experience as an ESL/TESL/TEFL teacher? Considering teaching English overseas but have questions? If so, I’d love to hear from you! Just click the comment link below.
I am senior citizen living in Poland on social security – I need extra income I would like to teach english, however I have no kind of certificate or degree — please help
I have actually been a massive fan of this website for a while. Just thought I would leave you a short post to say keep up the good work. The content of the site alone makes it good but the layout also makes it handy to read and very enjoyable.
I have been offered an english teaching position at Eton Language Centre in Kuala Lumpur but i don’t know a lot about the school. Can you help with this?
I don’t know anything about it myself, but perhaps one of our other readers does. If you’re familiar with this school, would you post a comment here? Thanks.