Teaching abroad is a fantastic way to move abroad, earn a stable salary, and have a job that allows you to integrate into your local community far easier than if you just worked online.
It’s also a great option for people looking to move abroad because most countries ask for the same basic requirements so if you meet those, you have a wide range of options in front of you.
The basic requirements to teach abroad are usually:
- You come from a native English speaking country
- You have a University degree
- You have a TEFL certification
Don’t worry though, if you don’t meet any or all of those requirements, there are still some countries on this list that are more lenient in their requirements. I’ll highlight each of those spots below. Although, I do highly suggest you invest in a TEFL certification before entering a classroom.
These certifications range from $20-$2000USD. I always recommend a mid-range certification since those tend to be much more in-depth and give you experience that will mirror what you’ll face in the classroom, an opposed to opting for the cheapest option. The most expensive certifications should come with job placement, which will make your life easier but isn't usually necessary.
A $20 certificate might be perfectly fine for teaching students 1:1 online from the comfort of your own home, but a more extensive certification, like ITTT, will give you the confidence to go into a classroom of 20 hyper students who don’t speak your language and teach an engaging lesson.
How to get hired to teach abroad
Before we get started, it's important you have an idea how to find available jobs. While those basic requirements I listed above are pretty common among a vast majority of countries, there are countries that require more and others that require less. For a detailed list of requirements from countries A-Z, the World TEFL Factbook is exactly what you're looking for. This highlights not only the requirements but also how to find a job and a summary of the country in question.
In general when deciding to teach English abroad, you have two options: get hired online before you move or get hired in-person once you've moved. Both options are valid and have their pros and cons. Let's break it down.
Getting Hired Online Pros:
- Job security before you move
- Ability to apply for many more positions at a quicker pace than doing it onfoot
Getting Hired Online Cons:
- Needing to do research on each school before applying
- Not getting to see the school first-hand before committing
Getting Hired In-Person Pros:
- Being able to feel out a school before committing
- Being able to ask around and get a good idea of school's reputation
Getting Hired In-Person Cons:
- Moving to a new country without job security
- More legwork to pass out CVs and find openings
With COVID, unless you're already in a country that you would like to work in, it's much easier and safer to get hired online before you make a move.
Here's a list of job boards that I would recommend you using to find openings.
- Dave's ESL Cafe
- Go Overseas
- Go Abroad
- Teaching Nomad
- Facebook Groups (country and city-specific)
Please note that although I've had success using job boards in the past, I highly recommend you research a school and check their legitimacy before you send them any personal information. This also isn't a list of all the reputable job boards but just a few that I have personally used and friends also recommend.
Let’s dive right into the top 10 countries you can teach abroad with the requirements it takes to actually get hired.
Vietnam has enough to make anyone fall in love: delicious food, cheap cost of living, welcoming locals, and beautiful landscapes. It’s also one of those countries where if you meet the requirements, you’ll have your pick of schools but if you don’t, you’ll most likely still find a job.
Keep in mind, those requirements are necessary to get a sponsored work visa, so if you get a job without meeting the requirements, you’ll work on a tourist visa and be responsible for renewing it on your own every few months.
Requirements to teach English in Vietnam (and get a sponsored work visa):
- Native English speaker
- Bachelor's Degree (in any subject)
- TEFL/TESOL/CELTA certification
- Official background check (no felonies; must be done within 6 months of visa process)
- No serious health complications (must be able to pass a basic physical examination)
If you meet the requirements, I highly recommend coming to Vietnam on a tourist visa (with your papers in hand) and apply for jobs in person. This will streamline your application process and give you a chance to scope out the school before committing. They’ll be able to process your new visa in-country, so long as you have the required paperwork with you.
Although I chose to teach English in Ho Chi Minh City, Hanoi and Da Nang are also two popular options.
COVID-19 UPDATE: As of publication (January 11, 2020), the Vietnamese borders are still closed to tourists. People with a special work permit are allowed to fly in and undergo a 14-day quarantine at a government facility. This means, it’s still possible to move to Vietnam as a teacher but only those who meet the requirements would be considered.
Learn more about teaching English in Vietnam with these 5 steps.
2. South Korea
On the other hand, as far as I’m aware, South Korea will only hire teachers who meet their requirements. No working under the table as a English teacher here, unless you'd be happy with finding something that will only last you a few months while you're on a tourist visa. While Seoul is definitely the most popular place for foreigners to move to in Korea, Busan and Jeonju are also great options.
Requirements to get hired in South Korea:
- A Bachelor's Degree in any subject
- Native English Speaker (ideally but some schools will make exceptions)
- TEFL/TESOL or Equivalent Certification (if your degree is not in teaching)
- Criminal Record Check (with clean record)
- Ability to Pass a Health Check (upon arrival in Korea)
- Ability to Sign a 1-Year Contract (typically)
Teaching English in South Korea has a few perks for teachers, including:
- A paid flight to Korea
- Paid housing (or rent allowance)
- Visa Assistance
- Medical Check Assistance
- Tax Assistance
- A competitive monthly salary
- Pension & Severance at the end of your contract
It’s a really great option for someone looking to move abroad without having much savings or without wanting to use their savings to settle in.
For example, when I moved to South Korea to teach in 2017, I had less than $1000 USD in my bank account and made the transition very comfortably.
Learn more about how to get hired to teach in South Korea and tips on how to avoid "blacklisted" schools.
Much like other countries, China offers a wide range of teaching opportunities. From working at a kindergarten to a public high school or an international school to an English center, there’s a lot of variety in the job possibilities.
Basic requirements to get hired to teach in China:
- Native English Speaker (as defined by the Chinese government: passport holders from Canada, USA, UK, Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa)*
- Bachelor’s Degree in any subject (exception: applicants from South Africa must have a degree in Education or English)*
- Minimum of 24 months teaching experience (not needed for smaller cities/rural areas)**
- TEFL or CELTA (120 hour certificate)**
- Criminal Background Check*
- Good health (must pass a medical check both in home country and in China)*
China is also a very expansive country with towns and cities to fit your needs. Whether you’re looking for a quiet town in the countryside or a megacity like Shanghai, there’s plenty to choose from.
Find out more about each place you can teach English in China and how to get hired.
Like Vietnam, Myanmar is a good option for teachers who meet the requirements but also those who don’t. They’re even more lenient though and might give you a sponsored visa, regardless.
Since Myanmar hasn’t yet become as popular of a tourist destination as neighboring Thailand, Yangon is a great city to live in if you prefer trading in local culture for tourist hot spots.
The most common way to get a job in Myanmar is to get your TEFL certification through a company that also does job placement. This isn’t the only way to go about it and does require you to pay a heftier fee but it’s a valid option if you’d prefer someone else to do the legwork for you.
In general, these are the requirements to get hired in Myanmar:
- Cover letter
- Recent photo (for visa)
- Scan of your passport
- Scan of your degree (if you have one)
- Filled out form (explaining why you like to teach, any previous experience, etc)
- TEFL certificate
- Video representation (they want to hear your voice and see your experience)
If you'd also like to get a job teaching in Myanmar without a degree and without being a native speaker, this guide on teaching English in Myanmar is perfect for you.
Thailand is another great spot to teach in with a little bit of wiggle room to get hired. According to friends who live in Thailand though, the Thai government is starting to crack down a bit on people working on tourists and student visas, but that option is still available, albeit with less success than in the past.
Atypical to the other countries on this list, they’ve made it possible for citizens who are not from native speaking countries to prove their English level, so long as they meet the other requirements on the list. It’s a great opportunity to teach legally that might not be possible in other places.
Basic requirements to teach English in Thailand:
- Bachelor’s degree in any subject area (it doesn’t have to be English)
- Clean criminal record
- Basic health check
- TEFL certification (not required but preferred by almost all schools and certainly anywhere with a good reputation)
- Non-native teachers can work in Thailand but you usually need to prove your fluency with a TOEIC/IELTS score or verifiable references
There are some opportunities to get TEFL certified in Thailand with a guarantee of job placement at the end of training. This is a good option if you’re not yet certified and would like more hands-on help with the process but it’s not necessary to find a job.
Bangkok is the most common place for foreigners to teach English abroad, but Chang Mai and the various islands in the south of the country are also popular expat havens.
Learn exactly what you need to know to get a job as an English teacher in Thailand.
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The UAE and other Middle Eastern countries are well-known for offering the best salaries to English teachers. If you’re in it to grow your savings, I’d start the job search in this region (the next highest would be South Korea).
Basic requirements to teach English in the UAE:
- A Native English Speaker
- University Degree
- A Teaching Certificate
Some schools may also prefer a master's degree and previous teaching experience.
Although this guide is focused on teaching English, the UAE is a great option for teachers who are certified to teach in their home countries to get hired at international schools as well.
Most people who come to Spain to teach English go through one of the 2 biggest programs: Bilingual English Development & Assessment (BEDA) or Auxiliares de conversación (or Auxiliar). BEDA is a brand of the Catholic Schools of Madrid, although you do not need to be Catholic to apply. The Auxiliar program is funded by the Spanish government.
In my outside opinion, both programs seem comparable. In both, you’re typically more of a language assistant, teaching English in a variety of classrooms and subjects. You also work closer to part-time hours instead of full-time like most other countries require.
Your pay will reflect that but many teachers supplement their income either by offering private tutor lessons or working online.
Requirements to teach English in Spain:
- 4-year college degree (or a senior in their 4th year)
- From a native English speaking country (with a valid passport)
- Good physical and mental health (a medical clearance is required for the visa application, which comes after acceptance)
- Clean criminal background (another requirement for the visa)
You’ll notice that it is not required to have a TEFL certification to be hired but it could make you a more stand-out applicant.
Check out this article to learn more about the BEDA program or read this one about teaching as an Auxiliar.
8. The Czech Republic
The Czech Republic, located in the heart of Europe, is a great place to teach abroad but it’s even better for Canadians. Why, you ask?
Because Canada and the Czech Republic has a special agreement, called the Youth Mobility Visa. This visa allows you to work and travel freely within the CR for one year. You can have multiple jobs, change jobs, or have no job, all without having to deal with any additional permits or visas.
Teaching in the Czech Republic is still an option for other nationalities but you will have to jump through additional hoops than those on the Youth Mobility Visa to get hired.
Another common visa for teachers in the CR to be on is the freelance visa. To learn more about this visa, head to our freelance visa guide.
Basic requirements to teach English in the Czech Republic:
- TEFL or CELTA (can be obtained in CR, check below)
- Bachelor’s degree in any subject
- Criminal record check in CR
- Good health (must pass medical check in CR)
The Czech Republic, like Thailand, also offers programs to get your TEFL certification in-country. This isn’t the only way to get hired but again is a great option if you prefer to pay a bit more to have some help throughout the process.
This guide will outline all the information you need to know if you plan to teach English in the Czech Republic.
Similar to the Czech Republic, Hungary is another amazing spot to live in Central Europe. Also like the Czech Republic, it’s much easier to get hired if you take advantage of certain visas and programs.
In Hungary, that program is the Central European Teaching Program (CETP). This program is essentially a job placement agency. They have placements throughout the country and are also family-friendly, which isn’t as common.
The downside of the program is it comes with a hefty price tag of $2500 USD. If you dream of living in Budapest or anywhere else in Hungary, the price tag might just be worth it to make that happen.
Basic requirements to teach English in Hungary:
- Native English Speaker
- Bachelor's Degree
- 120 Hour TEFL certificate minimum (no degree in teaching required)
- At least 20 hours of paid or voluntary teaching experience completed before arrival
If you dream of teaching English in Hungary, this guide is for you.
Panama is a stunning country, often called the bridge of Central and South America. There are a wide variety of schools, centers, and institutions you can get hired by in Panama, all with slightly varying requirements, schedules, and pay.
General Requirements to teach English in Panama:
- 120 TEFL or TOEFL certification
- College degree (for most institutes)
- Teaching license (for some institutes)
- At least one year of teaching experience
Some schools, like the international schools, will help you apply for a work visa, but many people stay and work under a tourist visa, even though you technically aren’t supposed to. With a tourist visa you can stay in the country for 180 consecutive days.
This is pretty standard throughout Latin America, which is why I’ve only included one country in this region on the list. It’s not the golden rule but it is common to only be rewarded a work visa if you worth for an international school.
Learn more about each place you could get hired as an English teacher in Panama.
Bonus. Teach English Online
And as a little bonus, another great option to teach English is to teach online. There are a few key differences to teaching online vs. teaching in-person, so if you’re unsure which is best for you, read this guide I wrote after years of doing both.
If you do prefer to teach English online or would like to supplement your income with a side gig, check out these 11 platforms to teach online.
Best of luck to you as you start the adventure of teaching abroad. If you're having trouble deciding which country to go for, remember none of it needs to be permanent, so feel free to give multiple countries one year of your time instead of settling on one place only.
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