Teaching English online or teaching English abroad? If you’re a TEFL certified teacher then you have the option of both, but which one is for you? Teaching online and teaching abroad offer very different experiences and opportunities and many EFL teachers will do both throughout their career (sometimes alongside each other!).
If you’re just getting started in TEFL then one might make more sense than the other depending on your circumstances, which is why we’ve taken a look at the pros and cons of each.
The pros of teaching English online
Work from anywhere
As long as you have access to a reliable internet connection you can teach English online from anywhere in the world! Whether this is at home with your slippers on, or living the life of a digital nomad and working from whichever country you choose is up to you.
Be your own boss
Set your own hours and schedule as an online English teacher. You can decide how much or how little you work, when to take holidays, and fit work around other commitments.
Few start-up costs
All you need to teach English online is a computer, reliable internet connection, a webcam and a good headset. Compared to moving abroad to start a teaching job, the start-up costs are minimal.
The opportunity to try different kinds of teaching
There are a lot of different types of TEFL teaching, such as Business English, exam and interview preparation, English for Academic Purposes, and more. As an online English teacher, it’s a lot easier to try different kinds of teaching to find out if it’s for you.
A no-risk start in TEFL
There’s no need to quit your current job to start teaching English online, you can start picking up classes during the evenings and weekends. This means you can find out if teaching online works for you and smoothly transition into a new line of work without fully committing from the get-go.
The cons of teaching English online
It can be slow to start
While it’s easy to find a full-time salaried position abroad, it’s unlikely you’ll find the same online. If you need a new job immediately that gives you a full-time wage then teaching English online isn’t going to be for you. While it’s certainly possible to make a full-time wage teaching online it’s something that you typically build up to – just like any other self-employed worker. Find out how much you can earn teaching English online.
This depends on where in the world you’re working from, but unless you’re working somewhere in Asia, there’s likely to be a big time difference between you and your students. The biggest demand for English lessons comes from Chinese students, so depending on where you’re based you might find that peak times are later in the evening or early morning.
No extra benefits
Teaching English abroad can often come with benefits such as accommodation, health insurance, and even pension contributions, but you won’t find the same online. Just like any other self-employed worker, you will be responsible for these costs. You also won’t have any cover if you’re ill and unable to work.
Varied monthly income
The amount you make each month teaching online can vary and it can take a while to get a good picture of how much you can expect to come in each month. Of course, it all depends on how many hours you’re available to teach and how sought after your services become as you grow your business.
The bane of the online English teacher’s life. It’s inevitable that you’ll experience dodgy Wi-Fi or your laptop charger dying on you at some point – all you can do is your best to take precautions and minimise the chances of tech issues getting in the way of you earning a wage.
The pros of teaching English abroad
Travel the world
There are 1.5 billion (and growing!) English language learners across the globe, which means EFL teachers can find work in a wide range of exciting countries. With TEFL you can travel the world and get paid for it.
In some countries it’s common for teaching contracts to include a number of attractive benefits. This can include accommodation, airfare, health insurance, visa fees, and even language classes. With a whole new country to get used to it can be a real bonus to have these things already taken care of by an employer.
There’s much more scope for career progression if you’re teaching English abroad. As you gain more experience more lucrative positions will open up to you and the opportunity to take on more responsibility. TEFL Org graduates have gone on to find jobs at universities, pursue more advanced qualifications such as the DELTA, and even open their own language schools.
Immerse yourself in new cultures
The best way to experience and understand a country is to live there. Teaching English abroad offers you the opportunity to become immersed in a different culture in a way that no holiday ever could. As a teacher you will be part of a community and the more time you spend in the country the more you’ll discover about it.
Learn a new language
You don’t need to speak another language to teach English abroad, but it can certainly help in your day-to-day life to pick up some of the local lingo! Some employers will offer language classes as part of your contract, which is a great way to get started. Even if you’re not taking classes it’s amazing how much you can pick up by just living in a foreign country (although, if you’re in a place where English is widely spoken you might not find this the case).
The cons of teaching English abroad
Starting a new job abroad comes with some start-up costs you need to be prepared for. While some employers will cover airfare this typically means you will be reimbursed at the end of your contract. Other costs can include visa fees, documentation legalisation fees, money to cover your first month, and accommodation fees. Read more about the start-up costs for TEFL.
Homesickness is something most EFL teachers working abroad experience from time to time. It can hit at any point and for teachers unable to travel home for holidays such as Christmas it can be rough at times. It’s an inevitable part of working abroad, but it’s a feeling that will pass – so keep going!
You won’t get rich
Teaching won’t get you rich, which you’re probably aware of already. The majority of entry-level TEFL positions will offer salaries that are a good local rate, so teachers are able to live comfortably and have enough to travel. In some countries where benefits such as accommodation and flights are included it’s possible to save a good portion of your salary, but how much you save really depends on how frugal you are.
Getting stuck in a job you don’t enjoy
If you start working for an online teaching platform and don’t enjoy it then it’s simple enough to stop working for them. If you travel abroad to take up a teaching job and find yourself unhappy then it’s less so. This is an understandable worry, there are an overwhelming number of TEFL jobs out there to choose from, and you might wonder are they all legit? For the most part, yes, but there are scams and bad employers out there. To ensure you have the best TEFL experience possible it’s really important to be aware of the warning signs, so make sure to read our post about how to avoid TEFL scams and bad employers before starting your job hunt.
Culture shock is very real and some people are able to cope with it better than others. It’s a completely normal thing to experience when moving to another country where things are done differently than back home, it’s all part of the process of settling in. The more you throw yourself into life, learn about the local culture, and accept that there will be hiccups along the way, the easier it will be.