What To Do on a Gap Year: TEFL

There are many reasons why people take a gap year before going off to university. Whether it’s to travel and experience new cultures, save money, increase confidence, gain work experience, learn a new language or skill, or even take the time to work out if university is the right fit. But maybe you’re wondering about exactly what to do on a gap year?

The answer is: TEFL! Combining career and personal development with the opportunity to travel, teaching English abroad is the perfect way to spend your gap year.

What do you need to teach abroad during your gap year?

  • A native or native-level of English
  • An accredited TEFL qualification – we recommend a course with at least 120-hours as this is the industry standard most employers look for

What you don’t need

  • Previous teaching experience
  • Another language – you would only use English in the classroom!
  • A degree (for certain countries a degree is a visa requirement but not all)

Group of backpackers with arms raised


5 Reasons to TEFL during your gap year

See the world

TEFL offers you the opportunity to live and work in other countries. Working abroad is a great way to immerse yourself in the culture of another country and experience it in a way that a holiday or short trip can’t quite offer.

If you’re straight out of school then you can find paid teaching work in countries where a degree isn’t a visa requirement. Europe (for EU citizens) and South America are great options if you don’t have your degree yet. If you’re interested in voluntary work then you aren’t limited to these countries as a degree isn’t typically required if you’re working on a voluntary basis.

Our course graduates have gone on to travel all over the world – read their stories.

Dice spelling out the word 'TEACH'


Earn money

University can be expensive! Building up savings during your gap year before going off to university can help take some of the financial stress off while you’re studying. What’s great about TEFL is that you can earn money and do some travelling. No need to spend your whole gap year chained to a desk from 9-to-5!

Woman with arms stretched looking out on mountain landscape


Learn another language

This is particularly valuable if you’re hoping to study languages at university. While it isn’t necessary to have another language to teach English abroad, it’s the perfect opportunity to pick up one. There’s no better way to learn a language than to be immersed in it (as your TEFL course will demonstrate to you!).

Man with backpack looking out onto a bay


Make a difference with voluntary work

If you’re interested in volunteering then, chances are, you’re driven by a desire to do some good in the world.

Voluntary work should, primarily, be beneficial to those you want to help. Sadly, not all volunteer schemes abroad make a positive impact and when volunteers lack the skills required for a project then this can be detrimental. It’s why having a TEFL qualification is so important if you’re hoping to volunteer as an English teacher. Teaching English doesn’t just involve standing in front of a class of students and speaking at them!

Do your research and make an ethical decision. Avoid voluntourism agencies that exist to make a profit and find projects run by reputable charities where the focus is on the those who need help.

Our MD, Jennifer MacKenzie, has this to say about TEFL and voluntourism:

At TEFL Org we believe that ‘voluntourism’, where people pay to do voluntary work for a short period of time with a travel-type company, is intrinsically wrong and the benefits it brings to international communities can be very limited or in the case of TEFL teachers volunteering in orphanages actually damaging to the local children who the teachers come in touch with. ‘Voluntourism’ is not the same as doing voluntary work for charities and people should always check thoroughly any charity and voluntary work they sign up to do.

Dirty hand holding a compass


Experience and opportunities

Teaching English during your gap year will equip you with a wide range of skills that will be useful to you throughout university and beyond. From communication and interpersonal skills, to project management and planning, you’ll learn a lot during a gap year spent teaching English.

Living abroad in itself is a huge opportunity for personal growth. Adjusting to a new culture and supporting yourself for the first time is a real learning experience and will leave you more independent and confident than ever before.

There are so many opportunities with TEFL that extend beyond your gap year. With the qualification and experience already under your belt, you could earn money teaching online throughout the academic year. Or you could spend your summers working in language camps – a great way of earning money over the summer that also allows you to spend time abroad!

By the time you’ve finished university you would already have the skills and experience to easily find teaching work all over the world. And if you don’t want to pursue teaching as a career after university then you’re still left with a number of desirable transferable skills and an impressive CV.

Where do you want to teach during your gap year? Why not take a look at our TEFL Jobs Centre to discover the opportunities available.

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2 thoughts on “What To Do on a Gap Year: TEFL

  1. Hi I’m planning to do this when I am 18 and on a gap year with no university degree. What are the best steps for me to take? (Eg: what countries, what TEFL course also would I be able to teach in more than one country during the gap year?)

    Thank you,
    Shakira Tasnia

    1. Hi Shakira! South America is a great option if you don’t have your degree yet. If you’re an EU citizen then you can also work in other EU countries without a degree. It’s possible to find short contracts enabling you to travel and work in several different countries while you’re on your gap year. Teaching English online can also be a great option while you’re on the move (although bear in mind many online teaching platforms do require a degree – see our post for how to find teaching work online without one).

      I’d recommend taking a course with at least 120 hours as this is what most employers look for and will leave you prepared for your first teaching job. Let me know if you have any more questions! 🙂

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