One of the most commonly asked questions amongst travellers and travel bloggers alike is ‘how do you earn money and travel?’ This question has been answered time and time again in endless articles all citing ways to make money while travelling, how to change careers so you can travel and earn simultaneously or jobs that can be done overseas. One of the most frequent inclusions in these lists of tips and ideas is teaching overseas.
Over the course of this series I am going to explore the concept of teaching overseas; the pros and cons of this being a way to see the world, what teaching overseas could entail, how to get into a classroom in another country, what questions to ask, what to look for in a school and what different types of positions there are.
I am going to include articles, tips and advice from people who are teaching overseas and, between us, we are aiming to equip you for something that could be a totally life changing experience.
Before we get started let me tell you a little about myself and why I feel I am qualified to write this series. Other than being a Princess* in a caravan, I am a fully qualified primary school teacher. I qualified and taught in London and spent my first year teaching non-verbal children with complex learning difficulties, before going back into mainstream and supply teaching in schools across the city. After teaching there for a few years I moved to Canada where I was unable to teach due to a huge shortage of teachings jobs, and so found myself working for a recruitment agency. Unintentionally I was on the other side of teaching, managing a program that recruited teachers from around the world to take part in one of the largest education reforms yet to happen, in the U.A.E. I am going to share my experience from this side of the industry, as a recruiter, to try and help anyone who is looking to make the transition into teaching overseas.
In this post I will talk about
- Different types of teaching overseas
- What qualification(s) you need for each
Ok, lets get going! Teaching in a new country means you not only get to live somewhere new but you can also use that country as a base to explore the surrounding areas in the holidays. It can be a great way to work while still seeing more, or a different part, of the world than you may do from home. It is definitely an option for people who are already teachers however, teaching overseas can also be suitable for those not yet qualified, who haven’t necessarily spent their lives hankering after being in a classroom but who want to do it as a means to an end (with new travel opportunities being the end goal). However, it is important to remember that whatever your reason for choosing to teach overseas, whatever you teach and wherever you go, it is still a job; a very important job at that. Teaching is awesome! But, it is also hard work, frustrating, tiring, challenging and can be downright miserable. Just like teaching, or any job, at home, it depends on you as a person, what you want from a job as well as what you put into it. I am not saying that to put you off, all schools, children and curriculums are different so maybe you end up in a dream teaching job with angelic children, awesome colleagues and no need for mountains of paperwork. In reality, that’s unlikely, so be prepared to take the challenge on and succeed, those you’re teaching depend on that no matter what you do with your school holidays.
Wherever you do it in the world, teaching can be one of the most rewarding jobs you will have. In return for what are often long hours, a great deal of effort and commitment and a job you take home with you, you get to make a real difference to other peoples lives, their knowledge and understanding of the world around them. From young children in nursery, right up to adults learning English, everyone has new skills to learn and teachers play a part in them doing so.
So, if I haven’t scared you off yet, let me start by saying if you’re seriously thinking about moving overseas to teach, you need to do lots of research. Follow travel blogs, look into different teaching and qualification options, think about what it is you want to teach and who you want to teach that to, research different countries; their pros and cons and living conditions. This research won’t be done for you and, as with many things, going into teaching overseas well prepared, will likely make it more enjoyable as well as successful.
As I mentioned, in this post I am going to talk about the different types of teaching overseas and what the jargon means. There are two main paths to go down; qualified / licensed teaching or ESL teaching.
What is the difference between Qualified / Licensed and ESL teaching?
Qualified / Licensed teachers will have completed a teaching qualification through a University or teacher training educational establishment. They may be qualified to teach all subjects at primary level, junior school grades or specific subjects at high school level. In the majority of cases these qualifications are recognized by the government’s education department and teachers are usually required to register with the education authority. From now on I am going to refer to this type of teaching as qualified teaching but the information applies to licensed teachers too, a term more commonly used in North America.
ESL teachers will have completed a TEFL / TESL / TESOL / CELTA certificate either in person, online, or through a combination of both. This qualifies them to teach English as a second, or additional / foreign language, to non native English speakers at various levels.
It is important to know the difference between these qualifications to know what kind of work you are qualified to look for, as well as what kind of teaching you want to do. Do you want to teach English to adults needing to improve their language skills or are you hoping to teach History to high school aged children?
What qualifications do you need to teach overseas?
Qualified / Licensed teachers
Qualifications to become a qualified teacher vary widely across the world. In general, qualifying as a qualified teacher involves study at University level as well as practical placements. You will either complete a University degree as part of your teacher training, for example a 4 year Bachelors of Education, or will complete postgraduate level study following on from a 3 year degree, for example a PGCE course after completing a BSc degree. Either way, once qualified you will hold a degree and qualified teacher status which can then be used to register as a teacher with the governing body in your country, state or province. The ages and subjects you will be qualified to teach will be dependent on the course you took. Teachers in the UK are required to complete a training course and receive QTS (Qualified Teachers Status) for one specific area whereas teachers in the States are able to qualify in teaching a variety of grades and subjects and can take on additional qualifications to add to their skill set.
A rule of thumb is that to teach as a qualified teacher overseas, you will have completed the training that would enable you to teach in your home country. You will then be qualified to teach the grades and subjects qualified to teach at home, overseas. For example, as an English trained teacher with a PGCE Early Years with QTS I am abe to teach all subjects to children from 4 – 11 years old overseas too. There are exceptions to the rule and, depending on which country you go to, you may be required to complete an equivalency course. However in most cases, especially when schools are specifically recruiting internationally qualified teachers, this is not the case.
It is important to note that even when working as a qualified Teacher, you may be required to teach non native English speakers therefore will be teaching your specific subject(s) but will need to use ESL strategies to ensure the lesson is accessible. For example, teachers who work for the public (government) schools in Abu Dhabi, are required to be licensed primary school teachers. However, they are teaching local Emirati children with little levels of English therefore are required to adopt an ESL strategy in their classroom. If you’re planning to teacher overseas as a career move, it may be beneficial to also get an ESL teaching qualification to enhance your skills and make you stand out from the competition.
ESL teaching is sometimes criticized as not being ‘proper’ teaching, however, the need for ESL teachers is huge and runs right across the world. There are many ways to become ESL qualified, from online to intensive weekend courses. There are also many deals on sites such as Groupon, for obtaining a certificate. Courses will range from a few hours right up to 150 hours. Sometimes these hours will be crammed into a weekend and other organisations will let you complete them at your own pace. When it comes to ESL qualification courses, there really is something to meet all individual price and time requirements. The kind of course you take will vary depending on your circumstances and what you expect to use it for. In the recruitment industry, any well respected and valued course is considered as being a minimum of 100 hours, whether online, in a classroom or a combination. Some schools have no qualms about only online qualifications, others want teachers to have had some practical training. It is important to make sure, if you have a specific location or type of ESL teaching you would like to get into, to research those specific requirements before choosing your course.
Courses vary widely with regards to what they include, some will made up of generic ESL modules that can be applied to any teaching situation. Others will have the option to choose specific modules as you go, for example teaching English to young learners or to adults, or teaching business English. Before choosing different modules, take some time to think about the kind of ESL teaching you would like to do, do you see yourself surrounded by 2 – 4 year olds mastering the basics? Or would you prefer to be amongst adults teaching a more comprehensive, business level language?
As with any career, there are entry level qualifications and experience expectations however, schools are within their rights to ask for more from their applicants. If teaching overseas is something you are thinking of making a career out of then it is advisable to invest time and money into the qualifications that will open doors for you.
In the next post I will be talking about If you have any specific question you would like to see this series address, please leave them in the comments and I will do my best to include them as I go.
Are you a teacher, or have you taught overseas in the past? I would love to hear what type of qualification you have and how you obtained it. Let me know in the comments 🙂