For anyone wanting to experience living overseas, spending at least one year teaching English abroad can be a great way to experience a different culture and perhaps learn a new language. Asia probably has the biggest demand for English or ESL teachers in the world and can sometimes even be possible for teachers to save some money or pay back their student loans in the process.
For young people who have just finished university and looking for a new adventure, teaching English for a year can be a great way to take an extended trip overseas, before they settle into a career. Older people who perhaps are looking for a career change, also find spending a year teaching English in Asia is a great way to experience something new.
Do I need a TEFL certificate?
This is perhaps one of the most common questions I have seen on travel and ESL teaching forums. The answer is not an easy one. If you have the time and funds, then it can be a good idea. It will not only improve your job prospects, but it will help you learn some valuable skills and some schools even have a job placement service.
The shortest courses run for at least one month and full diplomas can go for one year. Unless you want to make teaching English your career, a one month course should be sufficient. ESL courses that you take online are often of limited value. RSA or CELTA certificates are the only worthwhile certificates and are sometimes requested by employers.
If you don't have the money for one of these courses, some countries have volunteer teaching programs for newly arrived migrants, where you can get some training for free. This is a great way to get experience and help someone at the same time.
Should I organize a job before I leave or when I get there?
This is the second most popular question I have seen on English teaching forums. Again it depends on your financial circumstances. It will be easier on the pocket if you organize a job before you arrive in the country, but that can have the problem of entering a situation which you know little about and it might not turn out as expected. Most schools will help organize your visa, transport and accommodation.
If you plan on just showing up in the country, make sure you can support yourself for several months before you get your first pay check. This is very important in Japan where living costs are some of the most expensive in the region.
What about visas?
In most countries around the world, it is illegal to work on a tourist visa. Getting caught can mean fines, possible jail time and immediate deportation. It's not worth the risk, so make sure you get the right visa which enables you to work.
Visa requirements vary from country to country. In Japan for example, you need a university degree in any field to qualify for a working visa. In China you will need to undergo a medical examination. Usually your company will help you to organize the visa.
Once you have decided that you want to teach English Asia, you then need to try and decide which country you would like to teach in.
Some people will already have an idea of where they want to go. Teaching English in Japan is popular with its great food and friendly people, although it is an expensive place to live. South Korea has a huge demand for English teachers, salary is good and has a reasonable cost of living, making it one of best places to save money while teaching.
China is a massive market for English teachers. Salaries are getting better and the country has a low cost of living. Taiwan is also a popular country for teaching English and it is a little more organized and the society more open than mainland China.
Thailand is popular with its warm climate, but salaries are fairly low. Likewise with Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam and Indonesia. These countries offer the lowest cost of living in the region.
Where to find jobs?
The internet is one of the best places to look for jobs, you can find a range of ESL teaching jobs here and on EslCafe.com
Teaching English in Asia can be a very rewarding experience both personally and sometimes financially. It offers the opportunity to learn about a new culture and language, that is otherwise not possible on a short holiday in the country. I would encourage any young person to spend at least one year working overseas for both career and personal development.