This page has been written by Liz Batterham
, the relevant Careers Adviser for this occupational area. To see how you can meet Liz, or any of our advisers, visit our website
Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) is familiar to many St Andrews students, but it is perhaps now more correct to refer to the less familiar acronym TESOL - Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (not to be confused with TESL – Teaching English as a Second Language. This usually refers to teaching English to people who have moved to the UK or other English-speaking country). The job is known as English Language Teaching (ELT), and you may see a variety of other acronyms in job adverts.
TEFL provides opportunities to teach around the world as well as in the UK. Opportunities are available worldwide, especially in Central and Eastern Europe, China, Italy, Spain, Germany, Greece, Korea and Japan. There are also opportunities to teach English in the UK in private language schools and also in colleges and universities.
The types of clients you work with will have a big impact on your experience in the job. Clients can range from young or older children to business professionals and other adults, so think about the types of people you would enjoy working with. Work is often seasonal; in the UK jobs tend to be advertised for the summer months, but if you work abroad in a school, then it would be term-time. Many jobs require you to work outside normal working hours, particularly if you have business clients. You will also need to find time to prepare your classes.
English Foreign Language teaching takes place in a variety of organisations. Similarly, the class you will teach can also vary considerably, as you may need to develop lessons for those who are going to use English purely as a business language, or for those who need it for more everyday usage. Regardless, classes are usually taught in English, whatever the ability of the students. Some typical employers of EFL teachers include private schools, maintained schools, further and higher education institutions, commercial language schools, voluntary organisations and charities, local education authorities, community and adult education centres.
- The increasing internationalisation of higher education in the UK is creating more posts in universities and colleges for those able to teach English to foreign students and academics. However, the competition for these positions is fierce and there are normally many candidates for a single post. For such roles, additional qualifications will likely be necessary. These might include attaining Qualified Teacher Learning and Skills (QTLS) status, or studying a masters degree or a PhD. [TARGETjobs] It might also be necessary to have Qualified Teacher Status (QTS) which can be gained through the PGCE (Postgraduate Certificate in Education), or to have QTS in addition to a TEFL qualification and often at least two years’ general classroom experience.
- Qualification requirements vary from country to country but also between employers in the same country. For instance, some institutions might not even require a degree or a teaching certificate, whilst others might expect candidates to be a native speaker with an MA TESOL. Other institutions will want proof of your English proficiency and university degree as well as a basic teaching qualification. Some employers might hire according to the level of university degree whilst others might attribute more significance to your interpersonal skills and extracurricular activities.
English Foreign Language teachers will need to be acquainted with a range of educational and teaching material, not just books. Contemporary classrooms make use of a host of media and instructional cues, including audio-visual aids, role-playing, language games and other activities. Teachers should be aware of the range of materials available and should be able to utilise a varied selection of them to create dynamic and engaging lesson plans. The content of your lesson will be determined by the reason your students are attending the class. See the Key Resources subsection for some useful links.
Some duties the teacher might have to complete on a day-to-day basis include:
- Prepare tests and examination papers;
- Mark answers and provide encouraging and helpful feedback;
- Help bolster the reputation and public image of your language school;
- Teach individuals in one-on-one lessons if the students should require it;
- Administrative tasks, including the maintenance of student details, e.g. names, attendance, etc.
See the Prospects website for an encompassing list of activities and a job description.
Employers seldom require a specific degree – in most cases, a graduate with an aptitude in a second language combined with a demonstrable interest in becoming an EFL teacher is normally enough, but some degree disciplines, such as English, Modern Languages, Linguistics and Education can be particularly attractive to employers.
The Japan Exchange and Teaching (JET) Programme is often cited as the ‘jewel in the crown’ of TEFL opportunities overseas. The scheme is run by the Japanese Government, and around 400 graduates from the UK participate each year. The emphasis is on spoken English and cultural exchange. The closing date for JET is early so check the deadlines.
TEFL attributes/skills profile
|Key attributes/skills needed for the role||Where you could develop these skills or attributes while at university|
|A thorough understanding of the English language, particularly grammatical conventions
CAPOD offers courses on these kinds of skills regularly within its Professional Skills Curriculum.
Taking on positions of responsibility in student-run societies will give you the chance to put these into practice.
There is a strong demand for temporary teaching staff for holiday and short-term language courses in the UK. You will be better placed if you work for a school accredited by the British Council under the Accreditation UK Scheme run in partnership with English UK, but there are a range of institutions which look for short term staff.
|Excellent Spoken English
|Clear verbal expression and the ability to explain linguistic concepts
|Excellent communication and interpersonal skills
|Persuasiveness and motivating skills
Above all, enjoy working with children or your client group
|An understanding of (British or Western) cultural issues and current affairs
||Keep up-to-date with world news and current affairs, and develop this attribute through extra-curricular activity in student-run societies such as the Teach Society and English Language Teaching Society
Other key attributes/skills demanded for the role: do you possess them?
- Clear verbal expression and the ability to explain linguistic concepts
- Enthusiasm for languages/language learning
- Creativity and lots of energy, your lessons will constantly change to keep focus and interest
Nature of sector or roles
One of the most routine methods of beginning a career as an EFL teacher is to start as the classroom assistant of an established language teacher, helping to teach spoken English lessons.
The manner in which teachers will educate their students in English will depend on a number of variables, not least the type of student you work with and their particular/individual aspirations, whether they are studying towards examinations, trying to become better acquainted with a language they must use as part of their work, learning the language of another country whilst resident there, etc.
Salaries in the sector can range dramatically according to role and location, with starting salaries likely being anything from £14,000 to £25,000, though gaining experience could lead to raises ranging from £25,000 to £38,000. This information is according to the Prospects website and is accurate as of 10/08/2015.
EFL Teachers looking for money usually seek work in East Asia, such as China, South Korea, and Japan, where demand for educators is high. The Middle East has also been recognised as paying well, though institutions in this area typically require better qualifications from candidates, normally a CELTA and at least one years’ experience. However, bear in mind that comparatively low wages in one area might equate to a middle class lifestyle there, while a higher paying role in a more expensive city/country can confer less financial gain.
Gaining promotion in the sector could see you take on the equivalent position of manager of a school or department. This can bring with it additional responsibilities, including course development and marketing for your institution, as well as a pay increase, but could also decrease your direct involvement with students.
EFL teachers have the potential to go freelance with their work. For examples of some of the duties freelance teachers might undertake, see the Prospects page.
Desirable skills for EFL teachers include:
- A rigorous understanding of the English language and how it works;
- Excellent spoken English (- but bear in mind that requests for 'native speakers' doesn't necessarily exclude those for whom English isn't actually their first language);
- Clear diction, verbal expression, and the ability to explain linguistic and grammatical concepts;
- Lateral thinking;
- Creative skills, energy, and ideas for planning practical, interesting and informative lessons;
- Friendly and confident;
- Enthusiasm for English and other languages and for the teaching and learning of languages;
- The ability to work under pressure;
- An understanding of Western cultural issues and current affairs;
- Tolerance and patience and a sensitivity to and an interest in other cultures and peoples;
- Willingness to take part in extra-curricular activities.
Bear in mind that in this sector many short-term placements abroad you will be required to pay for your travel costs. Make sure you find this out before you accept any offers.
Networks - why and how to use them
Networking is particularly important and can help you succeed with your applications. If you have been in contact with someone working for the organisation then you have extra information to back up your case for why they should employ you. Use social media sites such as LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook (many organisations have their own page) to connect with organisations. Recent St Andrews graduates have gone on to work for Speaking Write Language School and Irislyngua School. Alumni can make extremely useful contacts, giving you an "edge" with your applications and interviews. There are several ways to make contact with alumni.
- Saint Connect- The Careers Alumni Network for St Andrews where you can make contact with alumni, get industry news, participate in discussions, and search jobs. Find out how to use Saint Connect by selecting the 'Take a Tour' button (in the top right-hand corner of the Saint Connect screen under the profile icon dropdown).
- LinkedIn – Alumni Tool. This feature shows the career paths of over 32,000 alumni. Watch the YouTube video on how to use this resource. By using the search field you can easily find more than 350 alumni categorised as working in accounting (as well as many others categorised into other work areas such as finance and quality control). By using the search field, you can find alumni working in a particular organisation e.g. The British Council and EF Education First.
- Graduate recruiters - ask if they can put you in touch with any alumni now working for their company.
- Friends and family - ask around your immediate social network for any contacts in the organisations which interest you.
- This networking video produced by Cass Business School gives excellent tips on effective networking.
Have a look at the Network with Alumni section of our website for more advice and information.
How to get experience/internships
You may be thinking about Teaching English as a Foreign Language to spend a year abroad after graduation or as a long term career plan. There are many opportunities for work experience in TEFL over the summer, in the UK and abroad, including working as a temporary staff member for holiday and short-term language courses. Students may feel happier if they work for a school which is accredited by the British Council under the Accreditation UK Scheme run in partnership with English UK, but there are a range of institutions which look for short term staff.
You can approach schools individually. Many will advertise for staff, in the press and on the websites (see links below) and sometimes on the Internships and Work experience section of our website. There may be a preference for the qualified, or experienced, but it is possible to find work without prior experience over the summer, especially on the activities side of the role. In addition you can use your initiative to track down vacancies in a variety of locations, typically South Coast resorts or in Cambridge, London, Oxford, York, Edinburgh or other such educational centres by making speculative applications and networking.
It may also be possible to secure a short-term voluntary placement in Hong Kong, China, or some areas of Eastern Europe such as Romania.
Students should research the specifics of any job they are considering applying to so that they have a better idea of exactly what it is that they are applying to and don’t accept a job they cannot afford or will not enjoy. Remember that anyone can set up at TEFL course as there is no requirement for any accreditation.
How to get a (graduate) job
You can find out about opportunities in this sector through online advertisements on TEFL websites, recruitment agencies, in national newspapers such as those listed below, and on the websites of individual employers. Recruiting tends to be conducted all through the year.
- Use reference books to look at specific countries and get suggestions of how to find work in them. 'Teaching English Abroad' is the best general book on the topic and is available at the Careers Centre - it has suggestions for most parts of the world. A whole series of books is published by Crimson Publishing entitled Live and Work in ... usually with a chapter on English teaching and a list of language schools.
- TEFL Org UK's website have blog posts about their former students' experiences teaching English abroad.
- You will need to apply by letter with an accompanying CV, and some programs, such as JET have more elaborate application procedures. Many overseas employers expect to see documentary evidence of your degree and, if required, your professional teaching certificate. Don’t be surprised if you are also asked to provide photographs. If you are contacting employers with speculative applications, then try to find out the name of the Director of Studies, to whom you should address your application. Being in the country may be an advantage when looking for work – if you are looking for work in Europe it’s best to present yourself to possible employers at Easter for an Autumn start. Also consider applying for your TEFL qualification in the country where you would like to look for work. Language centres often have connections with local schools and may offer help in finding a job as part of the deal.
- It may be difficult to establish the precise conditions of employment in the language schools you are applying to. If you follow up one of the advertisements, do make sure that you check the details of the employment conditions, such as guaranteed hours of work, how remuneration is calculated, travel expenses, insurance, help with accommodation, etc. We probably hear of more dissatisfaction with this kind of employment than any other, but for most graduates it still represents the easiest way to obtain work abroad. To be sure of reasonable working conditions, do some background research and ask the potential employer if you can be put in contact with individuals who have previously worked for them. Consider the implications of going abroad and how you will be able to relate your experience to graduate recruiters on your return to the UK, and also whether your plans fit in with recruitment schedules. Learn the specifics of the job you are applying to so that you have a better idea of exactly what it is that you are applying for and don't accept a job you cannot afford and seriously consider your options before taking a job you do not think you'll enjoy. Bear in mind that anyone can set up a TEFL course as there is no requirement for any accreditation.
- Some institutions, such as private language schools, insist that candidates have, as the minimum, a certificate based on successful completion of a course that takes at least 100 hours to complete.
Training/Relevant Postgraduate Study
- While many people will consider TEFL as an option for perhaps a year or two, or simply as vacation work, there is the possibility of making it into a career. Much of the advice on this page is relevant for individuals considering this, but a postgraduate qualification (Diploma, Postgraduate Certificate in Education (PGCE) or MA) would probably be needed for those seeking a long-term career. There are opportunities, for those with qualifications and experience, at higher education institutions, although departments tend to be small and jobs are competitive, and also with Local Education Authorities. There is also the possibility of freelance tutoring and some individuals even go on to open up their own language schools or go into English Language Teaching (ELT) publishing.
- If you plan to travel and would like to teach for a while before returning to the UK to do a job in a different sector, then it may not make sense to get in-depth formal training. Look at the range of year-long job opportunities – some of which do not require teaching qualifications. If you would feel more comfortable taking on such a job with some formal training on how to teach languages, or would value such a training opportunity, then perhaps a short language-teaching course is for you.
- If you know this is for you and have plans to run your own language school in the future, you may wish to consider an MSc, PGCE or longer language teaching course. If you’re looking for permanent TEFL work in the UK, it is almost impossible without a formal teaching qualification and experience. Some countries require you to have Qualified Teaching Status as well as recognised TEFL qualification. Typically the more reputable employers will look for relevant qualifications.
- It's not essential to have a degree in English or a modern language, although this may help. Training in TEFL is available at different levels, with full-time courses lasting anything from a few days to five weeks. Some courses are even offered over the internet, but consider whether they offer value for money if it’s classroom experience you lack.
- TEFL Org UK run highly accredited TEFL courses to allow their students to teach English as a foreign language abroad. They run regular weekend courses in Dundee, Dunfermline and Edinburgh as well as online courses. TEFL Org UK offer a 20% discount to university students and those who have graduated within the last 3 years.
- Look out for the Cambridge Certificate in English Language Teaching to Adults (CELTA) qualification or the Trinity Certificate in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (Trinity CertTESOL). Both qualifications are designed for those will little prior experience and have recognition from the British Council as an initial international qualification for teaching English to adults.
To secure a long-term career in EFL teaching, you will need to take further qualifications, which normally involve completing a diploma. Two of the most common are a Diploma in English Language Teaching to Adults (DELTA) (offered by Cambridge English) and the Diploma in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (DipTESOL) (offered by Trinity College London). To apply for these qualifications you will usually need a certificate-level qualification in teaching English as a foreign language and one years’ work experience. See here for more details.
- Most of the listed qualifications are offered across the UK in different centres and can be completed as part of either a full-time or part-time study programme. Prospects mentions a number of different factors to bear in mind whilst you consider the courses available.
Some other pointers for selecting courses:
- It is generally advisable to avoid online courses, as few schools will accept online certificates unless you also have practical experience. Knowledge of English language theory is great, but practical experience is essential.
- Consider what qualifications the school offers and whether they are widely accredited;
- What qualifications do the school tutors or educators offer?
- What support can the school provide you with, e.g. accommodation, learning, do they have a network of employers or past students that you can access and communicate with? If so, consider consulting with those who have had previous experience with the institution so they can warn you of any negative sides to the role.
- Accredited TEFL courses
- What expenses will your employer/school cover against what you are expected to pay for?
- Read International TEFL Academy Articles - 7 Key Tips to Evaluating a TEFL/TESOL Training School
- The Careers Centre has a book called Teaching English Abroad, by Susan Griffith – a chapter called ‘The Value of ELT Qualifications’ gives an overview of the types of courses available and some of the potential pitfalls.
Further information on continuing professional development
Some course providers
- i-to-i - TEFL course provider
- Saxon Court – ‘will help you gain the internationally recognised CELTA qualification and can assist you in securing employment after the course’
- The Language House TEFL
- London TEFL Lab
- TEFL Worldwide Prague
- TtMadrid – TEFL school based in Madrid
- Active Language
- Pilgrims English Language Courses
- Dundee & Angus College - study CELTA full-time on the 4 week summer course in June/July
- Subsidised Trinity College London Cert TESOL Programme – only £250. If you would like to train to teach English as a Foreign Language, then consider this 5-week intensive programme at Languages Training and Development. This very popular programme is supported by the EU’s Erasmus Plus scheme. You will develop your teaching skills with our adult learners in the UK as well as participate in a free 2-week placement with our Erasmus Plus partner, Szent Laszlo Technical School in Hungary. This will give you experience in teaching both adults and young people and one of the two truly internationally recognised TEFL certificates. All travel to Hungary and accommodation while there is provided via the Erasmus Plus scheme. The programme is open to graduates and undergraduates of all disciplines. February 8 – March 11 2016 and March 14-April 15 2016 (dates after Easter to be finalised) Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org for further details or phone: 01993 708637
Applications, interviews and assessment centres
Key Links and Resources
Careers Centre resources
Use CareerConnect, your central careers hub, to:
- Book an appointment with a careers adviser
- Search for vacancies (Job Shop, internships/work experience, graduate jobs)
- Register for events
- The Careers Centre subscribes to GoinGlobal, a specialist website with information and job vacancies worldwide.
- Live & Work in series: France, Italy and Dubai.
- Teaching English Abroad 2013
- Teaching English Abroad 2014 (13th edition)
- Work Your way Around the World
- A Year Off ... A Year On?
Related Careers A-Z page
General TEFL careers information
EFL Teaching Resources