When I started traveling over a decade ago, one of the first things I did was move abroad to teach English.
This allowed me to dive deeply into expat life, learn about a new culture, see a new part of the world, and save money for future trips.
I taught English in Thailand and Taiwan and used the money from those jobs to kick start my travels around the world.
While I didn’t continue teaching after those stints, I gained valuable skills and insight (and made many friends).
Whether you’re looking for a new career or want an excuse to travel longer, learning how to teach English abroad is something I highly recommend.
Even if you don’t plan on being a teacher back home, it’s a job that will open all kinds of doors while letting you experience life in a new culture.
Not sure if teaching English overseas is for you? Here are nine reasons why you should consider it:
1. You get in-depth travel experience.
Traveling to a new country is a fantastic experience — but moving to one is life-changing.
You get to go deep, sample life as a local and immerse yourself in all kinds of activities your average traveler would miss out on. While it’s not always easy (or fun), it is always rewarding.
Moving to a new country can be a daunting experience, but it will open your eyes to a new culture and way of life. Isn’t that why we travel, to begin with?
2. You can save money for more travel.
Want to travel but lack the funds? Get a job overseas! While teaching in Thailand, I explored the country whenever I had vacation time.
Since I was making a decent salary as a teacher, I could afford to regularly travel around Southeast Asia, making the most of my new home base. Moreover, I was also able to save up money to travel full-time when I finally quit my job.
Could you stay in the US and save money? Sure. But the cost of living in Thailand is way cheaper, meaning you can save money much faster since the pay is proportionally better. Plus, why live in Boston when you can live in Bangkok?
3. It’s good professional development.
While travel in and of itself isn’t really “résumé worthy” (even though it can teach you a lot of hard and soft skills), teaching English abroad is a legitimate job you can add to your résumé.
Like teachers in your home country, as an ESL teacher, you’ll need to manage students, prepare lessons, grade assignments, and handle administrative work, skills that translate to different jobs in various fields.
So even if you don’t become a teacher back home, teaching English abroad is a great stepping stone for all kinds of careers. For example, check ESL teacher jobs in Calgary.
4. There are jobs all around the world.
One of the best things about teaching English abroad is that there are so many opportunities out there all around the globe.
Salaries and perks will vary from country to country, but you can easily find jobs in every corner of the world.
Here’s a quick overview of some of the most popular locations to work in:
- Japan & South Korea – Lots of high-paying (but competitive) jobs with great perks. A bachelor’s degree and TEFL certificate are usually required.
- The Middle East – Many international schools make this the hub for high-paying jobs for qualified teachers (i.e., those with a degree in teaching).
- Central & South America – Many low-paying opportunities with easy-to-meet requirements (usually just a TEFL certificate).
- Southeast Asia & China – A mix of low-paying opportunities with no requirements (other than being a native English speaker) and mid-range jobs with decent pay and benefits (usually requiring a TEFL certificate and bachelor’s degree).
5. There is always a high demand.
Since dozens and dozens of countries need ESL teachers, there is always demand.
While the best jobs will be more competitive, there are many other opportunities available if you’re willing to invest the time and look for them.
As long as you’re not picky about where you work, you can find a job without too much effort.
Here are some websites to help you find ESL job opportunities:
The more qualifications you have, the more opportunities you’ll find. If you don’t have a bachelor’s degree, consider getting a TEFL certificate.
One from any of the best TEFL companies will open many more doors and drastically improve your chances of finding a job.
6. It’s an excellent choice for a career — or a career break.
Most ESL jobs are contract-based, making it easy for travelers to accept an appointment and see if it’s their thing.
Most contracts are for one year and, in many countries, include a bonus if you complete the contract.
Not sure if teaching is for you? Give it a try! You can stay for a year and then move on to something else.
Conversely, you can easily make this a career too — and it’s a rewarding one. Contracts are available worldwide, so it’s easy to teach somewhere for a couple of years and then move somewhere new.
There are also jobs in ESL administration, so there is room to grow professionally. It’s a malleable industry.
7. It’s open to all ages.
While most ESL teachers are in their twenties and thirties, plenty are older. I’ve seen ESL teachers in their fifties and sixties teaching all over the world.
Since there is a high demand for qualified teachers, teaching English can be a lifelong career — or a career you start later in life.
All that companies care about is that you have the skills and qualifications, and everything else is secondary.
Whether you’re a young college grad looking for your first job or are 50+ and looking for a career change, teaching English abroad can work for you.
8. There is a low bar to entry.
While most jobs require a bachelor’s degree or TEFL certificate, there are many opportunities worldwide where the only requirement is that you are a native English speaker.
Sure, the pay might suck, and the hours might be terrible — but it’s a start!
Getting your foot in the door with any ESL experience will help you move up the ladder and secure better jobs down the road. Leverage whatever opportunities you can.
Of course, getting a TEFL certificate is highly recommended, but there are still many jobs where you don’t need one.
9. It can help you learn a new language.
Spending a more extended period in a new destination will give you a huge leg up when learning a language.
Immersion — while working day in and day out with locals — is one of the best ways to learn a language.
It’s sink or swim, forcing you to step up your practice and giving you ample opportunity to learn from hands-on experiences. It can be intimidating, but it’s super rewarding too.
By learning a language, you’ll be able to unlock more doors in the ESL industry, interact with locals more authentically, and deepen your travel experiences during your stay. I can’t recommend it enough.
I loved my time teaching English abroad. It helped me learn about new cultures, deepened my travel experience, and allowed me to save up money for more travel.
Whether you’re looking for a career or want to try a new job in a new country, learning how to teach English abroad is a rewarding skill that’s worth investing in. It changed my life — and I’m confident it will change yours too.
Matt Kepnes runs the award-winning travel site nomadicmatt.com, which helps people travel the world on a budget. He’s the author of the NYT best-seller How to Travel the World on $50 a Day and the travel memoir Ten Years a Nomad. His writings and advice have been featured on CNN and the BBC and in the New York Times, The Guardian, Lifehacker, Budget Travel, Time, and countless other publications. You can follow him on Instagram at @nomadicmatt. When he’s not on the road, he lives in Austin.