When you’re getting started in teaching English as a foreign language – which covers, of course, the whole world – it can be intimidating. Knowing where best to start, what environment works for you, and obviously, the initial costs can make teaching English abroad feel like a bit of a minefield. Especially when it comes to landing that all-important first English teaching job abroad.
What if there was an answer, though? Something that gave you the guidance, support and benefits that an entry-level teacher might need? Or, at the very least, the safety net of an organization to give you the help when you need it?
That’s where teaching abroad programs come in. In a range of different countries, organizations – or indeed, governments themselves – are stepping in to upgrade English proficiency at the school level. From South Korea to France, there are a wealth of teaching abroad programs with a litany of job opportunities for those with teaching credentials and TEFL certification.
Teaching English abroad programs represent something different to working in a private language school. It’s not an internship or a deal with a recruiter where some of your salary is passed on to them. It’s not a step to the next big thing; in most cases, it is the next big thing.
Before we launch into teaching English programs, an important note: a college degree or a TEFL/TESOL certificate is obviously one of the requirements to teach abroad. Depending on where you’re going, both might be necessary. As a rule, completion of a TEFL course is the best way to land English teaching jobs abroad.
There is no standard teaching abroad program. Some teach abroad programs will have a great number of added perks, including accommodation, social events, airport pick-ups or even travel. Others are less focused on “hand-holding”, providing the initial service of setting you up with work, but generally leaving you to experience everything yourself.
The choice of teaching English programs isn’t just about geography. It’s also about what you personally need, and what sounds like it’s the best fit for you. Thankfully, there are so many to choose from that you’re bound to find plenty of teaching abroad programs you like!
So, where can you go, and what can you do? Let’s have a look at what’s on offer, what you need to get in, and how it can help you carve out a career in teaching English abroad.
Teach English in Japan programs
Teaching English in Japan is an extremely popular choice. Undoubtedly one of the most interesting countries in the world, Japan’s sprawling metropolitan areas shimmer with argon signs and cutting-edge technology, while outside of the cities, Shinto, Taoist and Buddhist spirituality can be seen in the stunning architecture and the landscape.
With Japanese culture becoming increasingly prevalent in western media, interest in Japan couldn’t be higher. In terms of English proficiency, though, Japan isn’t exactly high-performing – the country ranks 78th in the world for English ability. English teaching jobs, then, fulfill an important role.
To amend this, there are plenty of programs on offer for TEFL teachers to improve English language skills. Amongst those are the ECC, which is very training-focused. You don’t necessarily even need a TEFL certificate to be approved, nor do you need to speak any Japanese. The Interac Network also offers an excellent program for teachers to be assistant language teachers (ALTs).
The biggest name in Japanese English teaching programs though? Well, that would be JET.
The JET program
The JET program was introduced in 1987, to increase “mutual understanding between the people of Japan and the people of other nations”. Never a bad mission statement, and with over 5,700 participants since it started, JET has only risen in popularity.
Concerned with international relations and improving the standard of English, the JET program can be quite hard to get into. You’ll need TEFL certification at the very least, and for the purposes of a work visa, you’ll need a bachelor’s degree. However, it has a lot to offer. If you are accepted, you’ll be working as a teaching assistant, with a 1-year contract, working across different schools for 30-40 hours a week.
The salaries are decent for ESL teachers in Japan; equivalent to $30,390 USD for first-timers, with the potential to rise if you’re accepted for renewal. Included in your salary are cover for travel and accommodation, as well as 10-20 paid holidays. If you want to grab one of the teaching opportunities in Japan, and work in local schools long-term, this is the best bet.
Find out more about JET requirements, salary, benefits and application.
Teach English in South Korea programs
Just like Japan, South Korea has entered the western consciousness in a big way over recent decades. With the explosion of K-Pop in the US and UK charts, as well as excellent cinema coming out The Land of Morning Calm, more and more English teachers – or prospective English teachers – have considered South Korea as an option.
Why wouldn’t they consider South Korea? With a generally high standard of living, a fantastically diverse range of city sights and rural fare, South Korea is a top destination for the constantly curious, with plenty of young learners hoping to upgrade their level of English.
As a TEFL destination, there’s plenty on offer. The TaLK program, for example, takes in academics who are two years through a Bachelor’s course, with successful applicants taking up teaching roles in rural primary/elementary public schools. There’s also the SMOE (Seoul Metropolitan Office of Education) program which places aspiring TEFL teachers in – you guessed it – Seoul. Teaching opportunities, then, are plentiful.
Probably the most well-known and recognisable of South Korea’s teach abroad programs, the EPIK program was started by the South Korean Ministry of Education in 1995.
The program was set up with the express intent to bring in “responsible, enthusiastic native English speakers with a motivation to share their knowledge and language” with Korean teachers and students. To apply, you need a degree, a TEFL certificate, pass a health check, have a clean criminal record and be a native English speaker from any of the following: USA, Canada, UK, Ireland, South Africa, Australia or New Zealand. You also need to be below the age of 62.
If you’re accepted, you’ll land a job placement that has a very decent monthly salary. Salaries start at around 1.9 to 2.7 million Won per month, depending on your level of experience and the area you teach in. That’s equivalent to just over £1,000 to nearly £1,700 a month. Accommodation and flights for accepted ESL teachers are included.
Read more about EPIK requirements and application.
Teach English in Hong Kong programs
Hong Kong is a truly fascinating place, and one of the most underrated places for both quality of life abroad, and as a place to teach abroad. A former British colony, before joining the auspices of China, the city and nation-state sees itself as a distinctly different place. Economically, Hong Kong is upwardly mobile, and that’s reflected in the average wages of TEFL teachers, who can net up to £6,300 per month.
Given its population and size compared to other nations on this list, Hong Kong doesn’t have an overwhelming number of teach English programs. However, in the form of the NET Scheme, it does boast one of the best in Asia, with some excellent English teaching jobs available.
Beware: if you’re thinking of trying out Hong Kong, people have a tendency to fall in love with it. The Harbor Fiesta and Victoria Peak attract countless tourists, and though the main language is Cantonese, about half the population can speak English to some degree. So, not only will you have plenty to do, but there’s also a rapturous audience of English learners. What better reason to get TEFL certified and head out?
NET Scheme program
We mentioned the NET Scheme, and we’ll really get into the nitty-gritty with it now.
NET stands for Native-speaking English Teacher, and the scheme has served secondary schools since 1998, and primary schools since 2002. The requirements are strict – as is often the case if you want to teach abroad in Asia – but it’s more than worth it.
The NET hiring scheme is set at different levels. So, the most basic entry requirements are a Bachelor’s degree in any subject, and a TEFL certificate. However, at the higher end, more lucrative jobs through NET are available to people with degrees in an aspect of English or Education, a master’s and TEFL certification.
Going even higher, you can land yourself a seriously good job if you’ve got at least a year’s teaching experience as part of postgraduate study in Education. The wages, of course, vary in kind, between a monthly salary of 30,000 HKD and 70,000 HKD. That’s excellent money – equivalent to $3,600-$8,500 per month. That’s not including accommodation or travel expenses by the way, which is a major perk for foreign teachers coming to Hong Kong.
It’s tough to get in, and you’ll need an excellent application as well as the requisite qualifications. If you do, though, you’ve got a brilliant infrastructure and hugely competitive wages to look forward to.
Keep reading: NET Scheme requirements, qualifications and application.
Teach English in Spain programs
Unsurprisingly, given its culture and climate, teaching English in Spain is a popular choice for the travel-curious qualified teacher. Though Spanish is the national language, there are a number of dialects and languages that differ, across idiosyncratic and culturally independent regions like the Basque country and Catalonia.
Naturally, given its status as a popular destination for TEFL-certified educators to teach abroad, the Spanish educational infrastructure includes some excellent programs for teaching English. There’s NALCAP, which encourages North Americans to take part in cultural and foreign language exchange with Spain, as well as assisting language teachers, and there’s MEDDEAS, which is continually one of the most in-demand programs in Europe.
MEDDEAS has grown from a specific teaching program into a full-scale company, helping over 700 applicants a year expand their teaching experience and cultural knowledge in Spain.
In terms of accommodation, participants can stay with dedicated host families, who are given a stipend for living, or it can go straight in your pocket when you head to Spain to teach abroad. The program is for native-level English speakers from Canada, the USA, Ireland, the UK, South Africa, Australia and New Zealand, and is focused on putting participants in public schools in Spain’s education system.
You don’t necessarily need a bachelor’s degree to get involved, although it certainly helps with the application. Having passed a TEFL course is a must for teaching abroad in Spain, though, as is the case for English teachers hoping to land a spot on a teach abroad program more generally. You’ll be given at least 20 hours a week of teaching time, or helping out in English classes.
The North American Language and Culture Assistants Program (NALCAP) is a long-acclaimed initiative with the aim of solidifying positive relations between North American nations and Spain. According to the program’s own notes, “your role is to encourage students of all ages in Spain to broaden their knowledge of your language and culture” – no small task, but certainly exciting!
You have to be a college student or hold a bachelor’s degree, pass both health and criminal record checks, and be aged 18-60. There’s between 12 and 16 hours of teaching time, medical insurance is included, and you’ll earn a stipend of between 700 and 1,000 Euros per month.
Amazingly, nearly 40,000 North Americans have taken part in NALCAP, so it certainly comes recommended!
Teach English in France programs
Fancy teaching English in France, earning a living and being in one of the most culturally significant and beautiful countries Europe has to offer?
Well, if you’re hoping to teach abroad in France, it’s certainly possible. While there are myriad language schools, private schools, international schools and the like, it can be a bit difficult to navigate job openings in France.
Formerly, there was resistance to English learning, in something of a cultural debate across the Channel. French is extremely widely-spoken; in 2017, over 275 million people were believed to be French speakers. What was the need for English, then?
Well, English – as is well-covered – is the lingua franca of business worldwide, and has enormous cultural relevance, especially in music and film. It’s handy to know, basically, and that’s why there is such demand for people to teach English abroad.
So, over time, France has opened its doors to English teachers from around the world, and has set up opportunities to teach English not just in the French mainland, but in other French-speaking regions, through the TAPIF program.
The Teaching Assistant Program in France, TAPIF, fulfills a substantial role for English speakers looking to teach English abroad. TAPIF accepts applicants to work in schools across France, or “the overseas departments of France” – countries including French Guiana, Guadeloupe, Martinique and Réunion. So it’s an opportunity to teach abroad in France, but also somewhere more remote.
TAPIF lasts 7 months, giving student teachers the chance to work across different schools and regions, not just teaching English but also learning a great deal about the country of France, as well as the aforementioned French-speaking regions.
The stipend works out at around 790 euros, after tax and national insurance contributions. Accommodation is not provided, so you’ll need to work out somewhere to stay before you head over.
Teach English in Hungary programs
A formerly socialist country, Hungary joined the EU in 2004, and since then its outward-looking focus has extended to the learning of English. Teaching English in Hungary, a beautiful and fascinating country with incredible history, has become a reality for the curiously-minded amongst the TEFL teaching community, and it’s helped by programs which make it easier to do.
Whether it’s in the capital of Budapest, or cities like Veszprém, Szeged, Miskolc or Pécs, teaching in Hungary can be a truly rewarding experience. Hungary ranks 17th of 112 nations in the English Proficiency Index.
CETP Program Overview
The Central European Teaching program (CETP) is a little different to programs we’ve spoken about here, primarily because there’s an upfront fee, which changes based on where you’re located.
To put it bluntly, CETP is self-funded. There’s no backing from a government or organization. However, for the initial payment, there are plenty of rewards. You’re guaranteed 10 paid months of teaching, support from the organization (including orientation events, social events and the like), accommodation, utilities, airport pick-up and the resources you’ll need to get comfortable.
Flights and a work visa aren’t included, but generally speaking, you will get quite a lot for your initial investment. Wages in Hungary aren’t high, so you’ll likely need to save up before you get there, as well as paying for the aforementioned entry fee.
All this said, the CETP has a very solid reputation. Since 2006, thousands of teachers have moved to Hungary to teach English abroad, with the organization boasting a roster of more than 100 different schools. The demand is certainly there – CEPT existed as Teach Hungary prior to becoming its current form, and plenty of teachers have gone on to establish careers in Hungary, or use the knowledge gained there to become fantastic English teachers elsewhere.