A Guide to TEFL for Students

A Guide to TEFL for Students

We’re not sure if you heard, but TEFL isn’t just for graduates. In fact, if you’re thinking about teaching English after university then it’s a great idea to start building up experience while you’re still a student. Whether you’re thinking ahead to a full-time teaching position abroad after you graduate and want to build up your TEFL skills and experience to make your CV stand out, earn some money to help fund your studies, or just want to try TEFL to see if it’s for you, there are plenty of opportunities to teach English during your time at university.

Below are some ideas we’ve put together for how you can TEFL alongside your studies, covering a range of paid and voluntary opportunities.

First off: what you’ll need to get started

But first things first, you’ll need to get TEFL qualified . There’s little hope of finding paid work without a qualification from a reputable and fully accredited TEFL provider, and even if you want to teach English in a voluntary capacity it’s crucial to have proper training. 

Employers demand at least 120 hours of TEFL certification. If 120 hours sounds daunting, put it this way: if you did 12 hours a week for 10 weeks, you’d have it done!

It may seem a little daunting to take on a course on top of your studies, but we’ve designed our courses to be flexible and fit around your schedule so you can work away at it at your own pace! Trust us - you can get it done.

A student holding a red book

Summer/winter schools

Summer and winter schools are a great way of gaining some vital TEFL experience while you’re on a break from college or university. If you want to stay more locally, it’s well worth trying to find summer or winter schools in your area. There’s significant demand, in English-speaking countries, for TEFL teachers to run summer schools. It’s a very common type of employment for a first TEFL job, so it’s prudent to find opportunities that don’t necessarily require travel. For more, check out this webinar from our own Carl Cameron-Day.

If you’re able to travel, a temporary visa will be enough to ensure voluntary work across the world, in all kinds of great locations across the planet, including summer schools and English teaching camps . It can be tricky to get a visa in order to actually work freelancing; opportunities in Europe, for example, tend to be for EU citizens - obviously, this no longer includes TEFL teachers from Britain - and sometimes, the advertising for positions is unclear, so be sure to know what you’re potentially getting into. What commonly occurs is TEFL teachers heading out by themselves to mainland Europe and trying to find temporary work in person. This, of course, can be risky, and it’s worth checking if your visa will cover any temporary work that you do teaching English. 

Agencies that award internships are far more likely to help with any visa and tax issues, and the demand for English teachers is huge - check out our guides to Chile , Argentina and Mexico , for example, to get a flavour of the English teaching scene there.

There are also initiatives where you can live with a local family in locations like South Korea or France. These kinds of programmes run for 1 to 3 months, and you can tutor during your downtime from university. While some TEFL teachers may prefer to land abroad somewhere and chance their arm, the infrastructure of an internship programme or teaching initiative can be a real help.

Either way, taking on a shorter contract is a great way of testing the waters – if you’re not sure TEFL is for you then working in a summer school will give you a taste of what it’s like to teach English without having to commit to a year-long contract after you graduate. 

Plus you’ll be a much more competitive candidate when it comes to applying for your first full-time TEFL position with experience built up teaching English at summer schools!

Teach English online

The TEFL Org has a whole, comprehensive guide to becoming an online English teacher , but we’ll keep it brief here. You’re a student! You’ve got loads to be doing, right?

Teaching English online is a great opportunity for students, with immense flexibility. You can earn extra income while studying, just by using your native language, and showing understanding and enthusiasm along the way. If you’re TEFL certified, you’re bound to find work that is rewarding, CV-building and malleable for your lifestyle.

Online teaching platforms are an excellent tool. Working for a company means you don’t have to sort your own taxes, you’re an employee and have materials to work with, and you’re essentially guaranteed business. There are usually set hours of teaching per week, depending on what you’re able to do, and while some companies let you set your own rates, there’ll generally be competitive pricing for your services. Crucially, a lot of companies don’t need you to have a degree - although some will. Here’s a whole guide to teaching English online without a degree .

Being flexible is the name of the game here. If you have seminars, lectures and other activities during the day, being something of a night owl is an advantage. After all, time zones dictate that one person’s 9am is someone else’s evening. You don’t need to overcommit yourself, but being adaptable and available is a plus.

Time is on your side if you’re teaching online: there’s no commute to a workplace, and you can (generally) choose the kind of hours you want to do. That’s ideal if you’ve got a packed academic schedule and still need to put a few hours of teaching in, or if your workload is limited and you’ve got plenty of time to earn some much-needed extra cash.

In addition to a 120-hour TEFL course , we really recommend the 40-hour Teaching English Online advanced TEFL course to get a head-start. Not only can you sharpen your teaching skills - specifically for online teaching - but you can also gain invaluable advice on how to get ahead in the industry.

Three students studying together


Want to make a difference for the community and for yourself? Volunteering is truly one of the best things you can do with your time.

There’s a big audience for English lessons wherever you go in the world. However, these lessons might be financially out of reach for certain groups of people, particularly refugees and asylum seekers, who could benefit greatly from learning some conversational English, and progressing to passing the IELTS, for example. We have a comprehensive guide for working with asylum seekers and refugees here , for more information.

That’s a particularly useful approach if you’re working locally. What if you want to volunteer abroad, though?

Wherever in the world you go, a travel visa will usually be enough documentation to volunteer with some fantastic organisations. You can always find excellent voluntary roles on The TEFL Org’s Jobs Centre, or cite any of the resources from our TEFL and Volunteering blog post to find an opportunity that’s right for you!

A word of caution: it’s important to become TEFL qualified before you do any volunteering. Otherwise, it’s easy to fall into the trap of ‘Voluntourism’, a practice where people without the requisite skills are placed in roles that don’t suit them, by companies that run for profit. Make sure you’re working with a reputable volunteering agency, with a strong track record, before committing.

Private tuition

Private tutoring involves tailoring lessons to the individual student; they could be of any age or level, and require tutoring for a variety of reasons, such as improving their conversational English, preparing for the IELTS exam, working on their academic English, and so much more. 

Tutoring can take place in your home, the student’s home, or in a suitable public place such as a café or library. Students will look for a tutor who’s TEFL qualified, approachable and experienced – to get started you might need to begin by charging a lower hourly rate to attract students and build up from there as you gain more experience.

Language exchange

Interested in learning a language yourself? You can partner up with a non-native English-speaking student – in exchange for helping them with their English they will help you learn their native language! This can be useful to gain some experience teaching English for academic use and teaching advanced learners. Stick an advert up on a noticeboard on campus or see if your university has a language exchange group already set up!

A note: don’t undervalue the importance of having a second, or even third language in your arsenal when it comes to applying for teaching jobs later on in life. Though you don’t necessarily need to be fluent in Mandarin, Japanese, Spanish or Korean, for example, employers will look very kindly on any polyglotism you can showcase!

TEFL and student life: a fantastic combination!

Let’s be clear, TEFL isn’t just for students, or even recent graduates. It’s for everyone, and we really do mean everyone . That said, combining student life with TEFL is a great idea, and now you know more about it, we hope you’ll agree.

If your ambition long-term is to teach English abroad, getting a degree will undoubtedly help. In some parts of the world, it’s impossible to get a working visa without a degree, so you’re well on your way already.

Building a strong CV in your student days might seem like a major undertaking. However, if you’re able to devote 10-15 hours of your week to a course, and then to some private tutoring, volunteering or another TEFL opportunity, you’ll have the pick of jobs once you’re in a position to find longer-term opportunities. References are also very handy indeed, and there’s no bad time to start networking and making contacts in the TEFL industry. 

Our final piece of advice: build an online portfolio. Whether it’s through your own website or a service like LinkedIn, it’s important to keep a note of everything you’ve achieved. Give future employers plenty of reasons to pick you out from the crowd.

Interested in getting TEFL qualified? Read our guides to teaching English abroad and teaching English online to find out more!

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