When it comes to your first experience of finding work in the TEFL world, there are a number of options available. For example, workplace internships can be a great way of testing the waters for a career in teaching, either working as an ETA (English Teaching Assistant) or teaching small classes of children under supervision.
Or, you might feel ready to take on the big world of work straight away, whether online or in person, jumping right into the deep end and putting your TEFL certification to good use.
What’s the best option when weighing up TEFL jobs and internships? What are the key differences? Let’s break it down so you can make the most informed decision.
Depending on where you are in the world, and the kind of internship you enrol on, you can expect a great level of support. The agency that has placed you on an internship should be in charge of any payment you receive and will help you with visa advice, accommodation and orientation when you’re over in your new teaching location.
This kind of support is massively valuable as you negotiate the TEFL working landscape for the first time. What’s more, support also comes in the form of networking opportunities, with more reputable agencies having established links with top schools, ministries of education and other institutions.
In terms of a TEFL job, you ought to be supported by the institution that you start to work for, but broadly speaking, it’s your show. You’ll be in charge of negotiating salary, it’ll be down to you to familiarise yourself with new surroundings, and although employers can help with visa applications, the rest is down to you.
That can be an immense challenge the first time around, but equally, it can be an amazing experience that arms you with the confidence you need to explore the world.
No real contest here: you’re very likely to earn more with a TEFL job than you are with an internship. Internships, in their nature, are arranged between an agency and an employer, meaning that there’s often a payment going to the agency for providing the employer with a worker. Nothing sinister there, but it does mean you’re likely to get paid less when you counter in a commission.
Some internships actually involve fees, whether it’s upfront or as part of your earnings. The way agencies see it, they’re either providing you with infrastructure and support, which costs money, or you’re getting an opportunity you mightn’t have found elsewhere, which also costs money.
With a TEFL job, there won’t be any of these factors, and if you’ve entered some kind of pay-to-work enterprise (it can happen!) then get out of it immediately! The chain of payment goes from employer to employee, without an intermediary, like an agency.
If you’re a new teacher, you’ll probably have not long received training in the form of a TEFL qualification. However, the learning and opportunities for development don’t end there.
Internship costs will normally include some training, and they might have on-the-job training that’s ideal for new teachers. This can include additional teacher training, language training (depending on location) or being sent to seminars and training days. We’ll talk about networking and making new friends shortly. For now, what we will say is that training is a great way to build a new group of friends who are in the same situation as you are.
This isn’t to say that TEFL jobs won’t include more training and chances to develop. That’s not the case, but with a packed weekly schedule and a full-time job, you’re less likely to be frequently up-skilling while on the job. Training is also heavily location and employer-dependent: in some places, you’ll be expected to learn by experience, in others, constant improvement is a must. Equally, training opportunities can often be negotiated with employers, so getting a TEFL job doesn’t mean that
While internships offer placements within a particular region of the world, TEFL jobs are most commonly with specific schools in specific locales. If you have your heart set on a particular city, you can just apply for positions there, and start turning your dreams into reality. If you meet the requirements for a visa, and you have an offer of employment, you could make that move happen.
TEFL internships are normally provided by private agencies that have agreements with certain councils or school boards in popular destinations. Oftentimes, you’ll apply for an internship in a particular region or country, and be allocated a city or town to work in, as opposed to choosing it yourself. That’s something to bear in mind if you had your sights set on working somewhere specific.
Also, internships can mean working in a group of schools, as opposed to one set location, which means you might find the ideal working conditions and then have to shortly move on. That said, some internships are great if you’re wanting to build experience in different schools and institutions across a landmass, and you aren’t necessarily wed to one specific location. You might actually find a place you’d never heard of before, that you end up falling in love with.
We should also mention online TEFL jobs here. If you want to work from home, TEFL jobs give you the option of doing just that. A digital nomad lifestyle is another option; if you want to explore the world while remaining with one online employer, you can do just that. These options, obviously, aren’t available on an internship.
Making new friends
If you’re a sociable, easy-going person, you’ll make friends anywhere. That said, it’s even easier to make new friends when you’re on an internship together.
Generally, internships tend to involve groups of people with similar career interests (clearly!) but all kinds of different backgrounds. Networking is absolutely crucial, but it can be great fun, too! Just like college or university, you’re essentially stuck together with a new group of people, which can make for lasting friendships as well as excellent networking opportunities down the road. You don’t know who might have a job tip for you at just the right time.
When you jet off to any TEFL destination, it can be daunting. So, the idea of having a group of like-minded souls to tackle that adventure with is undoubtedly a comfort. Let’s be clear; as exciting as it is, uprooting yourself and taking on a new challenge can be really daunting, even to the most strong-minded, adventurous types. Having people along for the ride can only help.
Of course, you can also make friends when you get a TEFL job. However, you might be the only English speaker at a school or company, which can be a lonely experience. Going solo can bring out the best in some people, and like we said in the “support” section, these experiences can be the making of someone.
The pros and cons of both
So, we’ve discussed a number of factors that work in favour, or against, both internships and TEFL jobs. Let’s summarise, just to make it extra clear what you might be getting into!
TEFL job pros and cons
- With a TEFL job, you’re earning your own salary, and it’s likely to be far higher than anything you’re offered on an internship.
- When you start a TEFL job, there’s going to be less support or supervision than there is with an internship – but that can be a great thing. Even the best theoretically-minded teacher who aced their TEFL certification will be nervous about starting their TEFL career. However, the real, untethered experience can help TEFL teachers feel emboldened by actually getting into the classroom and teaching.
- Provided you meet the visa requirements of a given country, you can go pretty much anywhere you like. You’re not stuck to one location, and if an opportunity doesn’t work out the way you’d like, you can leave. It’s all about you and what you control.
- With all this said, it can be daunting, and having the safety net of an programme behind you can make a real difference. There’s no shame in needing some backing – starting a brand-new career can be terrifying even when it’s the right choice.
Internship pros and cons
- An internship – at least, a good one – should give you everything you need to be a teacher. Trying something new before committing to it entirely is a sensible option, and there are so many great internship programmes that let you earn money, get accustomed to the role, explore different parts of the world and give you the confidence you need to land a TEFL job in the future.
- Internships are a great way to meet like-minded individuals, who could end up being lifelong pals, or at least, a contact somewhere else in the world. As we said before, you don’t know who could give you an excellent job tip in the future, or at least some recommendations about a particular part of the world.
- The training you can do on-site in an internship can be extremely valuable. With the safety net of an organisation behind you, you can make mistakes, learn from them and gather new skills without the accountability of being a fully-fledged teacher.
- However, you won’t earn the same as you would with a TEFL job, and not everyone can simply dedicate up to a year on a low wage. Equally, internships commonly involve fees at a time when you’re looking to earn money, rather than spending it.
Internships with The TEFL Org
Like what you’re hearing about TEFL internships? Great news: we’ve got some on offer to adventurous teachers looking to explore the world and gain some practical experience!
A fascinating, culturally diverse and beautiful place to teach, Vietnam is rapidly becoming one of the most in-demand TEFL locations going. The Vietnam internship includes a living allowance of US$800 per month (£650) and a US$800 completion bonus, which goes a long way in a country with a low cost of living. There’s plenty of training: you’ll leave with our 120-hour Premier Online TEFL Course completed, and as an optional bonus, our 30-hour Teaching Young Learners advanced course!
The placement lasts 5 months, with 20 teaching hours per work, and includes conversational Vietnamese lessons, an orientation week and accommodation.
Find out more about our Vietnam internship.
With its incredible landscapes, beaches and hyper-friendly locals, Thailand isn’t just one of the most sought-after tourist destinations, it’s also a great place to teach. English teachers are constantly in demand in Thailand, and that’s where our internship comes in. You can earn 30,000 to 45,000 Baht per month (£700-£1,050/US$800-$1,200, teaching for 18 to 25 hours per week.
You’ll also get assistance finding accommodation, airport pick-up, and orientation one week prior to placement. Contracts start from four months, depending on how long you want to stay.
Find out more about our Thailand Teaching Programme.
Do you see yourself teaching in Seoul, Incheon, Daegu or Busan? These locations and more are included in our South Korea internship programme. You’ll be teaching in any number of public and private language schools, with full TEFL training provided before you leave, in the form of our 120-hour Premier Online TEFL Course, and there’s a 12-month renewable contract in play – so if you like it and want to stay beyond a year, you can do just that!
If your application is successful, you can earn KRW 2,100,000 – 2,300,000 per year (£15,000-£18,000/US$20,000-$25,000), with furnished housing, paid holidays, a 50% contribution to health insurance coverage and even reimbursed flights.
Like the sound of it? Find out more about our South Korea Teaching Programme.
Does Japan tickle your fancy? Of course it does – from the forward-thinking and futuristic metropolises to blissful scenery and temples, Japan has something for everyone with a curious mind. Our Japan TEFL internship has everything you need to get the most of out the land of the Rising Sun, where jobs are competitive and talented teachers are constantly being sought out.
You won’t need prior teaching experience is required for this programme, but only four-year bachelor or equivalent degree holders are accepted to take part. That’s perfect for recent graduates who want to get out of their comfort zone and travel to the Far East.
In return for your work, you’ll receive 210,000 to 255,000 Japanese Yen per month (£1,300-£1,600/US$1,650-US$2,000), a 12-month renewable contract (people tend to stay longer!), full TEFL training in the form of our 120-hour Premier Online TEFL Course and a number of extra benefits, including a 40-hour Online Cultural Orientation Course, orientation weekends, visa support and assistance and a fantastic community of teachers to explore with!
Read more about our Japan Teaching Programme.
The TEFL Org Jobs Centre
Whether you’re looking for an internship or a permanent job, The TEFL Org Jobs Centre is the place to be.
Constantly updated with new job and internship opportunities, our easy-to-use jobs centre is a one-stop-shop for all the brightest and best new roles. When you complete a course through The TEFL Org, you’ll have lifetime access to our jobs centre, and we know it works – more than 80% of the TEFL Org graduates find teaching jobs abroad within eight weeks of finishing a course.
Many of these jobs aren’t going to be found on other websites, whether they’re in Morocco, Malaysia or Mauritius, so if you’re looking to get ahead in the TEFL world, it’s the only show in town!
Looking to get started in TEFL? Take our Course Quiz to find out which introduction to teaching is best for you!