Graduation is just around the corner, or you turned that corner a few years ago and things crashed into a brick wall. You have a title and a mountain of debt. What will you do next? What job can you get? Will there be any work for you?
It’s no secret that things are tough in the job market. As any recent graduate knows, the skills of recent graduates with little or no experience are not highly sought after. Most of the job openings you see are quite daunting with requirements that go far beyond those of more recent graduates.
What do you do for a living? Do not transport. There are places where jobs literally come looking for you. If you are willing to earn an additional certificate and travel far from home, you will be fine.
Unlike the cowboys of yesteryear who rode into the sunset after conquering a daring adventure, new and recent graduates can find comfort in the rising sun to the east after realizing that their daring adventure has only just begun. Get your passport and pack your bags. Asia may have just what you are looking for.
I mean teaching English as a second language in China, Korea, Thailand and many other countries. Many expats, including myself, have found teaching abroad an attractive alternative to the difficulty of going through continued rejection or underemployment in our own countries. And it is not as difficult as it seems.
In fact, it is quite easy and only gets easier once you reach your destination.
What do you need to get a job teaching English abroad?
To get started, you will need a TEFL or CELTA certificate in addition to your bachelor’s degree. For Americans, a TEFL certificate will be the best option, as CELTA is a British qualification and is often not offered by American institutions. Check with your university about TEFL courses. If your university offers TEFL, you can easily get certified while still studying. If your university does not offer courses, there are a multitude of offers online for TEFL certification.
There are a few things to consider when choosing a TEFL certificate program.
First, you need to make sure you earn a 120 hour certificate with observed teaching practice. In addition to a bachelor’s degree in any field, a 120-hour certificate is a common minimum requirement for a work visa in many countries. Make sure your certificate reflects that the course lasted 120 hours! Also, observed teaching practice isn’t always necessary, but if you’re looking for your first teaching job, it can be the difference between you and the next best candidate.
Second, not all TEFL certificates are the same. TEFL certification has become something of a money printing business for some seedy online “institutes”. It is important to research the school before paying for a course. You don’t want to go through all the trouble of paying and studying only to have your grades in question at all times.
How do you find the job?
Once you have TEFL, you are ready to begin your job search. You can go to an agency or contact a school directly. There are many ESL job boards on the internet with thousands of jobs. The ESL Cafe and ESL Teachers Board are among the most popular job boards for ESL teachers. Keep in mind that many jobs will require two years of work experience in any field to meet visa requirements. However, if you invest the time in your search, you may find schools that are willing to go the extra mile to get you the legal paperwork despite not having some arbitrary requirements. In addition, the requirements are often relaxed in rural areas and areas outside of the most popular cities. For example, in China, it is illegal for schools to hire non-native speakers in Beijing and other Tier 1 cities, but regions outside of these cities can hire non-native speakers (Or, no one checks in these remote cities.).
What should you look for in a job?
There are different types of jobs and each has its own pros and cons. There are public schools, private schools, training centers and universities. My personal opinion is that public schools and universities are the best. You will earn less money, but you will have a less stressful work environment and more paid time off. In universities you will earn half that in public elementary schools and a third more than in private secondary schools, but you will have the most freedom at work and the most paid vacations. In private schools you will earn more money, but you will constantly be under the scrutiny of owners and parents. Lastly, training centers are the most stressful with the least free time and the greatest potential for dishonest business dealings, but the greatest earning potential. Training centers pay by the hour and rates can go up to $ 50 an hour, depending on the clientele. Also, I should point out that the highest paying private high schools will require a teaching degree from your home country or a master’s degree in an education-related field in order to qualify. Once you find a job and sign a contract, the school or agent will guide you through the visa process and you’ll be on your way in no time.
If you are among the millions of young Americans burdened by a mountain of student loan debt and worried about working after graduation, teaching English in countries like China may be exactly what you’re looking for.