Learn how to travel, see the world, & gain professional experience

By John Bentley, Senior Admissions Advisor at the International TEFL Academy
Published August 21, 2013

So, you’ve studied abroad and had the time of your life.  You’re eyes have been opened to the world and to the rewards of international travel and adventure.  Now you’re about to graduate from college and like millions of other new or recent college graduates, you’re facing one of the toughest job markets in generations and you don’t want to kick off adulthood sitting in a cubicle, working behind a cash register, or god forbid, moving back in with your parents. What’s a great way to travel, see the world and gain great professional experience for your resume? You may want to consider the opportunity to teach English abroad and here are 10 reasons why.

  1. It’s a Great Job Market
    With nearly one billion people enrolling in English classes worldwide each year, the demand for English teachers across the globe is so large that unlike nearly any other segment of the economy, the job market for teaching English abroad is strong enough that virtually any recent college graduate, and even those without a degree can get hired to teach English overseas. In many cases, it’s not a question of whether you can get a job, but rather which job in which country is a good fit for you.

    Also, you do not need to hold a degree in education or possess prior teaching experience to teach English abroad, though you should consider taking an accredited TEFL certification course (typically four weeks fulltime, or 11 weeks part-time online). A recognized TEFL certification will provide you with the training and qualification you need to get hired as a professional English teacher.

  2. You Get Paid to Live, Travel and Work in a Foreign Country
    Unlike studying abroad for a semester, which probably cost you and/or your parents a good deal of money, when you teach English abroad you may actually get paid to live in a foreign country like Italy, France, or Spain.  How cool is that?!

    In Europe and Latin America, most first-time English teachers could earn a wage that enables them to live comfortably, cover their bills (rent, food, transportation) and enjoy travel and other recreational pursuits.  In these regions, most first-time English teachers “break even,” which means that they are self-sufficient, but don’t typically save much if anything after expenses at the end of each month.

    Those looking to make more money and receive benefits like free airfare and housing typically take jobs in Asia and the Middle East. In these regions most English teachers make enough to save 30%-50% of their income each month after expenses, which can range from the equivalent of $200 - $400 in countries like Thailand and China, to $1,000 a month or more in nations such as South Korea and The United Arab Emirates.  Many teachers in these countries also receive free airfare and housing. This is great for saving money for travel or for making student loan payments!

    To learn more about salaries and benefits for teaching English abroad, check out this Country Chart, which compares salaries, hiring requirements and other aspects of teaching English abroad in more than 50 countries around the globe.

  3. Become a Member of a Local Community in a Foreign Country
    As an English teacher abroad, you may immerse yourself in the daily life and culture of a foreign country even more deeply than while studying abroad.  You may likely live in a typical middle class neighborhood, shop at local markets, ride to work on local transportation and hang out at the corner café, tavern or sake bar with your neighbors. In all likelihood, your friends and colleagues will invite you to join them at family gatherings like weddings, providing you with an opportunity to experience a foreign culture to a degree your friends back home could only dream of.   
  4. Gain International Work Experience for Your Resume
    In the globalized economy of the 21st century, employers in nearly every sector seek those with international professional experience. In addition, taking on a job in a foreign country will prove your initiative, your willingness to move out of your comfort level, and your ability to take on new challenges and adapt to a new environment.  This could serve you well no matter what professional endeavors you pursue in the future.
  5. Graduate Programs Seek Applicants with “Real World Experience”
    Looking to get into a top-notch law school or MBA program? Guess what: top level professional schools and graduate programs are looking for those who prove themselves and gain experience outside of the academic world before heading to graduate school.  Teaching English abroad provides exactly the sort of “real world experience” that top-level programs seek from new applicants and provides an experience that will set you apart from your peers.  Besides, your experience abroad will give you something interesting to talk and provides a great conversation starter both during interview and orientation receptions.
  6. Want a Career in International Affairs, Development, Business, Relief Work or Diplomacy?
    Do you aspire to work for the State Department, the CIA or the International Red Cross or United Nations? Teaching English abroad provides exactly the sort of international experience that such institutions seek out when recruiting new employees.  It proves your ability to live and work abroad for extended periods as well as your experience to work and interact with people from different national, cultural and linguistic backgrounds.
  7. Learn a Foreign Language
    Whether it’s Spanish, Mandarin Chinese, Russian or Arabic, the best way to learn to a foreign language is to immerse yourself in an environment where you will be exposed to it and enjoy opportunities to use it constantly.  Teaching English abroad is a very viable way to support yourself while living abroad and learning a foreign language.
  8. Fantastic Travel Opportunities
    If you’re working an office job in New York or St. Louis, chances are you’re not taking off for Berlin or Tokyo for a long weekend, but if you’re teaching English in Prague or Seoul, such opportunities are routine.  The fact is that due to simple geography, international travel from the United States or Canada typically entails a serious investment of time and money – two things that many of us simply don’t possess much of. Just by virtue of living in a foreign country, you will enjoy great opportunities for international travel, and in most cases in Asia, Latin America and especially Europe – where you can practically bike, ski, or swim to the next country – it is simply far easier and cheaper to visit foreign countries than it is from North America. 
  9. If You Are in Your Early 20s, Now is the Time to Travel Abroad & See the World
    As a youthful 20-something, it’s easy to tell yourself – and let’s face it, most of us are procrastinators – that you can put off your goal of living abroad and seeing the world until after you get your first job, until your student loans are paid off, you’ll do it next year, blah, blah, etc., etc.


    If you want to enjoy the amazing adventure of living abroad and engaging in long-term international travel, you need to take the initiative and make it happen during or right out of college when you are free of major career and family obligations and you’re not trapped behind a cubicle in a career track that you can’t escape. If you think you can wait until you pay off your student loans you will never go abroad because when you’re in your 30s or 40s and you have a mortgage, two kids, car payments, dogs, cats and PTA meetings – guess what? – you won’t be taking a year off to teach English in Thailand, Spain or Costa Rica.

    Besides, let’s face it, you’ll have a helluva lot more fun living, working and traveling in Tokyo, Madrid or Buenos Aires than working an entry level job back home – right?

  10. Make a Difference in the Lives of Others
    While you may see teaching English abroad primarily as a way to pay the bills while you live in some cool international destination like Costa Rica or China, remember that to hundreds of millions of people around the world, learning the English language can be the key to accessing enhanced professional and educational opportunities that will enable them to create a better future for themselves and their families.  As a teacher, you can take great satisfaction in playing a key role in enabling your students to achieve their goals by learning English.  

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John Bentley is a Senior Admissions Advisor and at the International TEFL Academy, which trains and certifies nearly 1,200 people a year to teach English abroad and provides lifetime job search guidance to all students and graduates. Connect with John on Google+.

Sources: British Council, International TEFL Academy Interviews