Step 1: Deciding Where You Want to Teach
I’ll break it down by region:
If you’re like me, then your first thought was to teach in a Spanish-speaking country. Generally, Europe isn’t much of an option if you’re looking to actually earn enough money to live, so Spain was out. I know there is a government-run volunteer-like program in Spain that some of my friends applied for, but it’s very competitive and, again, you don’t make enough money to live on; you have to come prepared with your savings. The other thing about working in Europe is that it is very difficult to get a job in an EU nation without an EU passport. For this reason, Prague is apparently a hot spot for English teachers coming from America.
But back to the Spanish thing: There’s also Latin America. Again, it’s generally not a very lucrative place to teach and it is likely you will end up teaching adults business English as opposed to working with students in a school setting (which could be an awesome gig if you’re into it since, unlike children, they have actually chosen to be there!). Mostly though, a good, well-paying job is going to be difficult to come by. It’s worth a look, though, right?
So at this point I had for the most part given up on my Spanish-speaking-country dreams. What’s left? There’s Africa, where you will find mostly volunteer positions. The Middle East is a hot spot for earning big bucks but I’ve also heard it’s not the most fun place to live in.
Then there’s Asia. If you want to make enough money to support yourself while exploring a completely different culture, Asia is your place. In Japan and South Korea you’ll find organized, structured, modern societies that are still culturally different from the West. I’m pretty sure you can get airfare reimbursement, a salary, and a free apartment in both countries.
I’ve heard that the JET and AEON programs are good in Japan. Unfortunately, Japan was out for me since the application dates for the upcoming year had already passed by the time I was considering teaching abroad. In South Korea, you can either work in a private “hagwan” school or a government-run public school. You will get paid more in the private school but you won’t have as much vacation time. SMOE is supposedly a wonderful public school teaching program in Seoul. I’ve also heard of EPIK and I think that one places you somewhere outside the main cities? I’m not sure the difference between all the programs in Korea.
I don’t really know what’s going on in China, but I know you will get hired and you can make a good amount of money. I can refer you to people I know who have taught there if you would like.
The countries of Southeast Asia are certainly in need of English teachers, but the pay isn’t as high as in Korea. I chose Thailand because I had a friend who taught there and recommended a TEFL certification program to me. I was also drawn to the culture, the Buddhism, the food, the exotic and tropical nature of the landscape, and the affordable standard of living. You don’t go to Thailand for the money, but you will get paid enough to survive at least for a little while, and to travel in Thailand and throughout SE Asia.
Teach Away, a free and completely legitimate recruiting service. Usually lots of positions for those with education degrees.
Dave’s ESL Cafe – job boards and ESL forums, generally most useful for those who already have TEFL certification