See the World as a Traveling English Teacher

Lexa Pennington's picture

For young, native English speakers who dream of seeing the world, teaching English abroad is a great way to earn money while traveling and experiencing other cultures. You can use your salary from teaching to fund periods of travel, take jobs in various countries to experience different cultures, or both - all while gaining teaching experience that can help you continue a teaching career at home. Even if you anticipate changing careers someday, teaching experience abroad can look great on your resume and create greater lifelong career opportunities.

See the World as a Traveling English Teacher

But how do you make it happen? First, you have to make sure you have the proper qualifications under your belt. Then, you need to land a teaching job in the country of your choice. Once you’re in-country, you can start making travel plans. Many ESL teachers spend their entire careers traveling and teaching, and there’s no reason you can’t be one of them.

See the World as a Traveling English Teacher

Get Certified to Teach ESL

Once upon a time, the only qualifications you needed to successfully teach English abroad were to be a native speaker and to have a college degree. While you may still be able to find a position without a Teacher of English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) or Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) certification or degree, those positions are getting thin on the ground, as schools around the world raise their hiring standards. With a degree or certification, you’ll have more job opportunities and qualify for higher pay.

But what degree or certification do you need? That depends on what your plans are as an English teacher. Looking to teach English abroad for a year or two to save money for travel? That’s an option many English teachers take since you can usually earn significantly more teaching English in, say, Korea than you would at home, and you’ll be able to save much of that salary. If you plan to return home eventually and pursue another career, you may only need to earn a TEFL certification. The Certificate in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages, or CELTA, is the most widely-accepted such certificate.

However, if traveling and teaching English is something you want to do for many years, you may want to consider doing a degree in TEFL or TESOL. Many traveling English teachers decide that they want to continue traveling and teaching English long-term after they have already done it for a year or two, so they may already have a TEFL certification when they decide to do a degree. You can earn a master’s in TESOL online while continuing to teach and travel abroad. This qualification will allow you to compete for the best jobs and may even qualify you to teach at the university level.

Find a Teaching Job Abroad

Some English teachers travel to the country in which they want to work before they get a teaching job there, while others line up the job ahead of time and then travel to the country in question. If it’s your first teaching job abroad, you’ll probably want to line up your job in advance, because you’ll probably need to be out of the country to get your visa, anyway. 

Some countries, like France, Spain, and Chile, have government-funded English teacher programs, which allow young people to spend a year teaching in the country. Public and private schools and language countries around the world also seek English teachers. Your best bet as a novice teacher is to seek a job in Korea, China, or Japan.

Make Time to Travel

Once you’ve landed a job abroad, you can use your holiday time during the appointment to travel around the region. Many teachers renew their contracts for multiple years just so they can spend more time exploring a region or earn more money for travel. Often, English teaching jobs come with accommodations and food allowances, so you can spend more of your salary on travel. You may also get a severance bonus at the end of your contract. 

In addition to spending your holidays traveling, you may plan to job-hop around the world to spend time exploring different countries and continents. Competition for jobs is fierce in some parts of the world, particularly in Europe, where English teaching jobs go only to the most-qualified candidates. Other regions, like Africa and South America, offer significantly lower salaries when compared to schools in more developed nations. You may want to consider taking a year off to travel these areas. Of course, you can always offer English lessons to locals or teach English online as you travel.

See the World as a Traveling English Teacher

As a native English speaker, you’ve been fortunate enough to be born into language skills that millions around the world are desperate to acquire. You can turn this accident of birth to your advantage, and fund your travel lifestyle by teaching English abroad. Your experiences will last a lifetime — and you’ll earn real work experience that will make you a stellar candidate for jobs back home.