Teaching is one of the most popular and achievable jobs for those looking to work abroad. But some people find themselves resistant to this career path, saying that teaching just isn’t for them. It’s true – teaching isn’t for everyone. But teaching might offer a greater variety of positions than you think. Before you make your decision, make sure you know all your options. Not every job will have you standing in front of a class of 30+ screaming kids!
First we will start with ESL. This is teaching English as a second language, and it’s probably the most common job for foreigners abroad. But don’t worry – you’ll have other opportunities to choose from if this one isn’t the best fit.
Even at the young ages of 0 – 3, parents are eager for their children to start learning English. There are many jobs out there looking for English speaking nannies or daycare workers, and your job description might lean more toward childcare with natural English exposure rather than formal English lessons.
Kindergarten or Preschool
The next step up would be working in a kindergarten. Most countries are crying out for teachers willing to teach 3-5 year olds. Your lessons will be simple, repetitive, and playful. You will lead a lot of games and songs with basic phonics skills and vocabulary. Most kindergarten teachers have an assistant (or two) to help out, and class sizes are generally small.
The most popular ESL job is teaching kids in primary or elementary school, usually around 5 – 11 years old. At this stage, you will be introducing basic grammar, but nothing too complicated (even for those who don’t consider themselves to be great at grammar themselves. You will also set aside time in your lessons for reading and writing practice. Class sizes get a bit larger here, possibly ranging from 20-60 kids. The biggest challenge at this age is classroom management, but if you are firm and consistent with discipline it shouldn’t be too much of a problem.
If kids aren’t your thing, consider working with teens instead. There is a lot of variety when it comes to teaching teens. Sometimes your objective will be preparing for them for entrance exams to English-speaking programs. Some of your classes will focus more conversation and fluency. You might also have classes intended to improve reading comprehension and writing. Teens will still appreciate a few games and activities in their classes, and they usually are easier to manage than younger kids.
Finally, you have the option to teach adults. This is also a booming industry worldwide, with language centers all around the world attracting adults who want to improve their English for business or travel. Adults tend to be very motivated students, as they have actually chosen themselves to attend your classes (rather than their parents forcing them to go). Their enthusiasm for practicing English and interacting with a native speaker can be really fun. Lessons are usually conversation based, and therefore class sizes tend to be small.
One on One
If you hate the idea of standing in front of a classroom, whether that audience is three years old or thirty, maybe one-on-one lessons are for you. Kids might need to be tutored after school, teens are often preparing for English exams or proficiency tests, and adults might want the flexibility or undivided attention of a private lessons. These one-on-ones usually pay more per hour, but you’ll need to collect quite a few to make a full-time income.
When it comes to conversational English, small groups are ideal for students. With only 2-4 students, they’ll receive plenty of attention from you, and having a couple students will allow you to plan more activities for them to practice dialogues together. You can charge similar rates as a private, but with a few more students you’ll make more per hour.
You’ll find these everywhere in non-English speaking countries. Part-time and full-time work is available, and you can usually find ones for kids, teens, or adults. Keep in mind that your working hours will most likely be during evenings or weekends, when kids are out of school and adults are off work.
Public schools will be for kids, and class sizes will usually be larger. In most cases, the English levels will be lower – some students will have had little to no English exposure.
For smaller class sizes, students more familiar with English, and higher pay, look into private schools. Of course, there will also be more competition for these positions. If you are a new teacher, gaining a bit of experience somewhere else might be necessary.
The last consideration for an ESL teacher is what level of English you are comfortable teaching. The options include:
First Exposure to English
This would be the most basic of level, and it’s rare outside of very young children. You’ll intoduce basic words and phrases.
Very Low Level
Students will need work on new vocabulary and pronunciation.
At this level, a basic introduction to reading and writing could be introduced.
Typically an average level student should now have a sufficient grasp on phonics, and they should be starting to read and write.
These students will probably be speaking more, and they should be able to read and write in a good manner.
At this point, conversational English should be very good and they will be able to read and write well, although they might struggle for the right word or phrase at times. Grammar mistakes will still occur, but they’ll be able to self-correct when asked.
Some students will have a dual nationality, especially at private schools, and they’ll be speaking fluently. They’ll mostly need help with the same things students back home need – advanced grammar and vocabulary, writing organization and clarity, reading and discussing literature, and public speaking.
So there are many types of ESL teachers, but we aren’t done yet! Because ESL isn’t the only option for foreign teachers. Not interested in teaching English? Consider these options:
Many companies will hire English native speakers to help teach their staff how to conduct business with English-speaking companies and professionals.
Teaching for Tests
Many students will reach out to native speakers to help prepare for a test or exam which will be taken in English. The subjects for this might include English, but it could also vary from math to science to social studies.
Many firms will look to hire an English coach to teach sports. It could be a football class, a swimming class, or even a boxing class. Parents see this as an opportunity for their kids to be exposed to English while doing something fun.
This could be talking about anything. Maybe a student wants to learn how to order food, go shopping, or discuss recent news stories. I once taught a class about dating norms in Western culture.
Primary Teacher (International Schools)
A perfect fit for a fully qualified teacher certified from a native-speaking country. These jobs pay the same as your home country, but usually the cost of living is much less so you can have a luxurious lifestyle. International schools are very similar to native schools, and nearly all subjects are taught in English and conduct outside the classroom is also done in English.
Primary Teacher (Non-international Schools)
This is often overlooked, but many bilingual schools look for native speakers to teach a variety of subjects in English, such as math, computer, or health.
If you have an advanced degree, it will be easy to find a job teaching in a university overseas. We’ve even known people who’ve landed these positions without completing their Masters, or who get the job based on experience alone with no work completed toward a graduate degree at all.
As well as working in formal education, there are also some fun opportunities to teach within the expat community. These are good roles for people with special interests or skills, but official qualifications aren’t always necessary. Some examples include:
In cities with a constant flow of travelers or expats, English yoga classes are always in demand. You can find jobs at gyms or studios. Some yoga teachers will even host classes in local parks for a small fee or donation.
From Zumba to spin classes, you can also lead a variety of exercise classes for the English-speaking community.
It is very common for expats to teach piano, violin, guitar, or another instrument in English. They aren’t giving any official language lessons, just allowing the student to be exposed to the language while practicing another skill.
Coding Graphic Designer Website Development
The expat community often includes some “digital nomads” who make money online while traveling long-term. Offering courses or one-on-one tutorials for graphic design or website development could give them new skills to grow their business.
These are just a few examples, but the possibilities are endless. Think about your own skills and experiences – what can you offer to the local or expat community when you travel?
There are so many different types of teaching, most people can find the right students, subject, or approach that works best for them. Don’t want to deal with unruly children? Try teaching adults. Not comfortable teaching grammar? Take on beginner or lower-intermediate students. Don’t like standing in front of a class? Go for small groups or private lessons. Just don’t rule out this easy path to a life abroad until you’ve explored all options.