Career paths in TEFL

Career paths in TEFL

It’s a misconception that TEFL is something only young people do for a year or two before coming home and finding a ‘proper job’. While many people do only teach English for a few years to travel and experience the world - and there’s nothing wrong with that! - there are a wide range of career paths within the TEFL industry.

We’re going to take a look at some of the common career paths for EFL teachers beyond entry-level teaching roles to give you an idea of what’s out there. You might be surprised by just how many routes you can go down after you gain your TEFL qualification and a bit of teaching experience!

The different career paths for EFL teachers

Senior teaching positions

The first step for most teachers aiming to progress their TEFL career is to move into more senior teaching roles within schools, such as Co-ordinator and Senior Teacher positions. These jobs involve management responsibilities, such as mentoring and observing other teachers as well as curriculum development and timetabling and are suitable for teachers with one or two years experience under their belt.

School management

The top role within a school is the Director of Studies (DoS), who is responsible for the academic side of things. A Director of Studies will manage all staff and oversee the development of the curriculum, but their duties can vary a lot depending on the size of the school. These positions usually involve little to no teaching, with the focus being on administering the academic programme.

Language schools may also have a Centre Manager, whose role is more business-oriented as they are responsible for marketing and recruiting students. A business background is beneficial for these roles - you may see some ask for specific qualifications, even an MBA in rare cases - and it usually involves no teaching.

A male teacher standing in front of a whiteboard


Millions of English language learners take proficiency exams every year, which means there’s always a demand for examiners! More than 2.5 million take the IELTS exam each year alone, but there are many other popular proficiency exams such as the TOEFL and Cambridge Assessment English . These roles typically require a university degree, a TEFL qualification and substantial teaching experience. You’ll need to undertake training with the examining body in order to qualify as an examiner.

University teaching

Are you more academically-minded? Do you enjoy working with adult learners? A TEFL position within a university may be for you. These jobs are amongst the best paid and most prestigious TEFL jobs in the industry, which means they can be very competitive. You’ll need significant experience and qualifications to work at a university, whether it’s abroad or at home.

University TEFL jobs can vary, with some concentrated on teaching, and others more focused on research. You’ll need to be an experienced and well qualified teacher for both, but for research positions you’ll most likely need an MA or PhD in TEFL or a related subject.

College and ESOL teaching

If you’re looking for career opportunities within English-speaking countries then ESOL teaching in colleges and further education institutions is a popular option. In the UK, and a number of other countries, ESOL (English as a Second or Other Language) is the acronym used to refer to language learners who are already residing within an English-speaking country. ESOL classes are often state-funded and the classes can be very diverse in terms of ages, backgrounds and the circumstances in which they have arrived in the country.

Running a language school

If you’re very enterprising and want to work entirely for yourself then the idea of running your own language school might sound appealing. This undoubtedly requires a lot of work and your success will rely on the quality of the teaching you’re able to offer and your ability to market your school. As you’re working for yourself you won’t necessarily need any specific qualifications (unless it’s required by law in the country you intend on setting up in), but it will help in establishing and building reputation. Business training will also be extremely beneficial.

Working with refugees and asylum seekers

There are a number of opportunities to be found working with refugees and asylum seekers within English-speaking countries. These can be at a local council or government level, with charities, and as an ESOL teacher in colleges (as we’ve mentioned above). Such roles will usually require you to have a good amount of teaching experience and at least a TEFL qualification, but it’s often desirable to also have experience working with vulnerable groups. As such, volunteering first with refugees and asylum seekers is a common route to paid employment.

Teaching in state-run schools

You might spend some time teaching English abroad and realise that you love teaching but you don’t necessarily want to be teaching English for the rest of your life. It’s very common for EFL teachers to return home and complete a teaching qualification - such as a PGCE/PGDE in the UK - in order to teach within the school system. These postgraduate teacher training courses often require applicants to have already gained some sort of experience teaching, so EFL teachers are in a strong position for securing a place.  

A female teacher gesturing towards a student with their hand up

Further teaching qualifications

If you have the aim to make a career out of TEFL then further training is an absolute necessity. Good teachers are always learning and to work your way up the ladder you’ll need to ensure you’re continually developing and strengthening your CV. There are a number of different options out there.

Advanced TEFL qualifications

Undertaking advanced training with a TEFL course provider is a great first step in an EFL teacher’s professional development. We run short self-paced courses in Business English, exam prep, teaching young learners and teaching English online at affordable prices. Such courses don’t require significant time or financial investment, but demonstrate to employers a commitment to self-development and serve as a solid introduction to areas you can further build on.

DELTA and Trinity DipTESOL

The DELTA (Diploma in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) and Trinity DipTESOL (Diploma in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) are the two most widely recognised advanced TEFL qualifications in the world.

If you’re serious about TEFL as a career then a diploma is an important step. Teachers need at least one year of teaching experience in order to take the DELTA and two for the Trinity DipTESOL, which can be done in person or online via an approved centre. Be aware that some TEFL course providers refer to their Level 5 TEFL courses as ‘diplomas’ but they are in no way equivalent to the DELTA or Trinity DipTESOL, which are Level 7 courses and much more in depth.

Postgraduate teaching qualification

A qualification such as a PGCE (Postgraduate Certificate in Teaching in Higher Education) is a university-level teaching qualification, which takes one or two years to complete. While this isn’t a qualification that focuses on EFL teaching, it does open doors into working within your own country as a teacher and in international schools around the world where such a qualification is often a requirement.

Postgraduate TEFL study

An MA or PhD in TEFL is a serious undertaking for those wishing to pursue TEFL in a more academic sense. Postgraduate TEFL study can open doors to prestigious university positions.

Ask employers about training and funding opportunities

If you’re eager to advance in your career and undertake further training then you may find that your employer is equally as keen for you to do this and is willing to fund your training. If you’re moving to a new job and applying for positions then be sure to ask during an interview about the opportunities for development - ideally, you want to move into a role where this is supported if you have your own progression in mind.

A career in TEFL begins with a TEFL qualification. Get yours from the most accredited TEFL course provider in the world - check out our range of courses .

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