How to work out where you should TEFL

Some people start their TEFL course with a firm idea of where they want to teach afterwards. But for others, working out where to go can be a tough decision.

We’re going to run through some important areas you need to research and consider to help you work out where to TEFL. It’s a big world out there full of incredible opportunities for TEFL qualified teachers, so let’s take a look at them!

Visa requirements

The first thing you need to do is work out if there’s anywhere you can’t teach. Here at The TEFL Org we strongly encourage everyone at the very start of their TEFL journey to thoroughly research visa requirements.

Visa requirements can vary quite drastically from country to country. And, unfortunately, there’s no negotiating with them – if you don’t meet the criteria then there’s no way round it. But what do you need to watch out for? Here’s a run-down of the main factors that can act as a barrier to teaching English abroad.

Degree or no degree?

A Bachelor’s degree (in any discipline) is a common visa requirement. If you have a degree then that’s great news, it will make your job search easier – but don’t despair if you don’t!

While the Middle East and most of Asia is ruled out – with the exception of Cambodia – non-degree holders can find work teaching in South America and Europe. There can also be options to work in countries that do require a degree via specific programmes and internships, but these will often be low-paid or voluntary, and for short stints.

See our previous blog post about how to TEFL without a degree for more info.

Nationality

Visa requirements don’t tend to stipulate native-speaker status as a requirement. However, they can rule out most non-native English speakers by setting nationality requirements instead.

It’s common to see a requirement for nationality from the following countries: UK, Ireland, USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, or South Africa. These are the big 7 ‘English speaking’ countries, and when we use this term it can seem unfair because there are other countries in the world where English is either the majority language or one of the national languages. Yet, they’re often excluded.

Countries can have different nationality requirements and there can be nuances. For example, China requires teachers to have nationality from one of the big 7 or to have gained their BA degree from a university based in one of those countries.

If you’re not a native speaker this is likely to be the trickiest area to navigate, so it’s really important to do the research to make sure you’re eligible. You can get in touch with the relevant embassy if you’re struggling to find information online.

A woman in front of a temple

Age

We’ve trained teachers of all ages, and while it’s no barrier to TEFL there can be some limitations.

If you’re in your late teens then, realistically, it’s unlikely you’re going to secure a full-time teaching position abroad. But there are opportunities to be found teaching in summer camps as well as volunteering. All of this experience is going to be incredibly valuable a couple of years down the line when you start applying for more long-term roles.

Those at the opposite end of the spectrum should be aware of upper-age limits. Most of these countries can be found in Asia and the Middle East, and usually the age limit is in line with the mandatory retirement age in that country. If you’re in your 60s then this is something you need to look into.

Criminal record

There are a number of countries that require a criminal background check to be carried out as part of the visa process. Even if it isn’t required for a visa it’s something many employers will ask for – particularly if the job involves working with children.

Having a criminal record doesn’t necessarily prevent you from teaching abroad. But some countries are more strict than others, and even a minor blot on your record will prevent you from obtaining a work visa.

Our teaching English abroad comparison table 

A great place to start when working out where to TEFL is our comparison table below! You can easily see the requirements for different countries and the average salaries. While we go to every effort to ensure this table is as up-to-date as possible, visa requirements can change regularly, so please make sure to do your own research as well.

Country Avg. monthly salary Degree required Start of term Teaching experience Housing & flights included Suitable for non-native English speakers Age restrictions
Cambodia £650 - £950
($800 - $1,200)
No September No No Yes Under 65
China £1,200 - £1,600
($1,500 - $2,000)
Yes September No Yes Yes, if degree obtained from an English-speaking country Under 55
Hong Kong £1,600 - £2,800
($2,000 - $3,500)
Yes August No Not usually Yes Under 60
Indonesia £700 - £1,100
($850 - $1,350)
Yes July No Not usually No Under 60
Japan £1,600 - £2,200
($2,000 - $2,700)
Yes April No Sometimes Yes Under 65
Malaysia £900 - £1,850
($1,100 - $2,300)
Yes January Preferred Sometimes Yes Under 60
Myanmar £1,000 - £1,800
($1,250 - $2,200)
Yes June Preferred Sometimes No None
South Korea £1,300 - £2,000
($1,600 - $2,500)
Yes March No Yes No Under 60
Thailand £800 - £1,050
($1,000 - $1,300)
Yes May No Sometimes Yes None
Vietnam £950 - £1,300
($1,200 - $1,500)
Yes August No No Yes Under 60
Country Avg. monthly salary Degree required Start of term Teaching experience Housing & flights included Suitable for non-native English speakers Age restrictions
Austria £700 - £2,600
($850 - 3,200)
Preferred September Preferred No Yes None
Belgium £1,455 - £1,780
($1,800 - $2,200)
Preferred September Preferred No Yes None
Czech Republic £500 – £1,285
$600 – $1,450)
Preferred September Preferred No Yes None
Denmark £2,900 - £3,900
($3,600 - $4,800)
Preferred September Preferred No Yes None
Estonia £720 - £900
($920 - $1,150)
Preferred September Preferred Accommodation sometimes included Yes None
Finland £700 - £3,050
($900 - $3,850)
Preferred August/September Preferred No Yes None
France £926 – £1,852
($1,082 – $2,164)
Yes September Preferred No Yes None
Germany £1,1123 - £1,872
($1,297 - $2,162)
Preferred August No No Yes None
Greece £630 – £900
($790 – $1,100)
Yes September No No Yes None
Hungary £390 - £650
($500 - $830)
Preferred August/September Preferred No Yes None
Italy £1,054 – £1,229
($1,312 – $1,531)
Preferred September No No Yes None
Netherlands £1,300 - £2,600
($1,600 - $2,800)
Preferred September Yes No Yes None
Norway £2,100 - £2,500
($2,580 - $3,090)
Preferred August/September Preferred No Yes None
Poland £400 – £700
($480 – $850)
Yes September No Accommodation sometimes included Yes None
Portugal £616 – £880
($756 – $1,080)
Yes September Preferred No Yes None
Romania £200 - £460
($260 - 580)
Preferred September No Accommodation sometimes included Yes None
Russia £800 - £1,300
($1,000 - $1,600)
Preferred September Preferred Sometimes Yes None
Slovakia £330 - £900
($400 - $1,120)
Preferred September No No Yes None
Slovenia £550 - £950
($700 - $1,200)
Preferred October Preferred No Yes None
Spain £614 - £1,317
($758 - $1,623)
Preferred September No No Yes None
Sweden £1,100 - £2,400
($1,400 - $3,000)
Preferred September Preferred No Yes None
Switzerland £1,850 - £2,475
($2,260 - $3,015)
Preferred August/September Preferred No Yes None
Turkey £170 - £575
($220 - $730)
Yes September No Accommodation sometimes included Yes None
Ukraine £215 - £920
($260 - $1,125)
Preferred September No Accommodation sometimes included Yes None
Country Avg. monthly salary Degree required Start of term Teaching experience Housing & flights included Suitable for non-native English speakers Age restrictions
Argentina £500 - £950
($600 - $1,200)
No March Preferred No Yes None
Bolivia £400 - £550
($500 - $700)
No February Preferred No Yes None
Brazil £650 - £900
($800 - $1,100)
No February No No Yes None
Chile £550 - £800
($700 - $1,000)
No March No No Yes None
Colombia £400 - £800
($500 - $1,000)
No January/February No No Yes Under 62
Ecuador £400 - £650
($500 - $800)
Preferred May Preferred No Yes None
Guatemala £400 - £550
($500 - $700)
Preferred January No No Yes None
Mexico £400 - £800
($500 - $1,000)
Preferred August No Sometimes Yes None
Peru £325 - £650
($400 - $800)
Yes March Preferred Sometimes Yes Under 70
Uruguay £325 - £800
($400 - $1000)
Preferred March Preferred No Yes None
Country Avg. monthly salary Degree required Start of term Teaching experience Housing & flights included Suitable for non-native English speakers Age restrictions
Algeria £550 - £900
($700 - $1,100)
Yes March No No No None
Bahrain £1,200 - £2,500
($1,500 - $3,000)
Yes January Yes Yes No Under 60
Egypt £400 - £700
($500 - $900)
Yes September Preferred No No None
Jordan £500 - £950
($600 - $1,100)
Preferred August No No Yes None
Kuwait £1,200 - £2,000
($1,500 - $2,500)
Yes September Yes Yes Yes Under 60
Lebanon £650 - £1,200
($800 - $1,500)
Preferred August No No Yes None
Morocco £400 - £800
($500 - $1,000)
Yes September No No Yes None
Qatar £1,200 - £2,800
($1,500 - $3,500)
Yes September Yes Yes No None
Saudi Arabia £1,600 - £3,200
($2,000 - $4,000)
Yes August Yes Yes No Under 60
UAE £1,600 - £4,000
($2,000 - $5,000)
Yes August Yes Yes No Under 65

What experience do you have?

While it’s true that there are TEFL jobs wherever there are English language learners it isn’t the case that demand is the same across the board. The general rule is that the higher the demand for learning English and the lower the general level of English proficiency, the more entry-level opportunities there are.

If you’re new to TEFL then you’ll want to focus your job search on countries where your lack of experience won’t hinder you. Thankfully, there are plenty of them! Asia is where newbie EFL teachers can find the best job packages, with China representing the strongest TEFL jobs market in the world. South America, as well as Eastern and Southern Europe, are good places to look as well.

In the Middle East, where teaching salaries are amongst the highest in the world, you’ll need at least two years’ experience. And in countries where English proficiency is high, such as those in Northern Europe, you’ll struggle to secure work without a reasonably impressive CV.

Securing a job before or after

Do you want the security of sorting out a job in advance, or does the thought of hopping on a plane and applying for jobs when you get there not phase you? This is important, because there are some countries where it’s nearly impossible to arrange a job before arriving and others where, due to visas, it’s the only way to do it.

In some countries you can transition from a tourist visa to a work visa. This is common in South America, parts of South East Asia, and some European countries. But in other countries the only way to secure a work visa is in advance, so don’t make the mistake of arriving somewhere only to find out you need to leave the country again!

If you’re intending on applying for work in-country it’ll save you a real headache to sort out all your documents in advance and bring them with you. Make sure to have legalised copies of your TEFL qualification, degree (if relevant), criminal background check, and anything else the visa application requires. Sorting these documents out away from your home country can be an expensive nightmare.

A woman holding a map

How much can you earn teaching English?

You’re not going to get rich teaching English, but some countries pay better than others. If you’re motivated by how much you can potentially save then this can be a big decider in where you TEFL.

Generally, TEFL salaries are in line with living costs, so while the wages in a country like Poland might seem low, it’s all relative. Your salary should be enough to allow you to live comfortably and enjoy your time there.

But there are countries offering wages high enough to allow you to squirrel away a decent portion of your pay packet each month. In countries where accommodation is typically included as part of your teaching contract you’ll be able to save more of your wage since accommodation tends to eat up a big chunk of most people’s salaries.

China, South Korea, and countries in the Middle East typically provide housing for teachers. Some other Asian countries, like Indonesia and Hong Kong, may also include it, but in Europe and South America it’s rare for this to be the case.

To find out about the average salaries in different countries check out the table above!

Adventure or home comforts?

Are you looking for an adventure that will push you out of your comfort zone, or would you prefer to work somewhere that feels a bit more familiar?

For the adventure-seekers, look to parts of the world where the culture is completely different to what you know. And don’t just stick to the big cities with thriving expat communities, go off the beaten track to places where you might be the only fluent English speaker.

If you’re not feeling quite so adventurous – or would prefer to build up to it – look at countries that might be a bit closer to home. Expat groups can provide support and help you settle in. Most big cities will have an expat community, so have a look online on sites like Facebook and Meetup to connect with them.

Do you know where you want to TEFL? Let us know in the comments!

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6 thoughts on “How to work out where you should TEFL

  1. I would love to be able to TEFL in Estonia. By far my favourite place and I already have connections there so being able to live there would be amazing.

  2. Hello,
    I am currently doing then 120Hours TEFL course and was wondering if I should wait to be qualified before applying for jobs, online, etc. or if I should start applying for jobs, sending my CV, etc?
    So far I have been focussing on my studies and have not yet started preparing my CV or sending job applications, etc.
    Thank you in advance for your feedback on this!
    Kind regards.
    E. G. E. H.

  3. I’d like to TEFL in South East Asia but I have been struggling to find a job. Is it due to the current pandemic situation or is it because I’m not a native speaker?

    1. Coronavirus has had an impact on schools and teacher recruitment across the world. If you would like our jobs team to check through your CV, just send it over to our team at info[at]tefl.org.uk

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