6 things you should know before you become an English teacher in Asia

About the author:

Joanna Szreder was born in Poland and moved with her then boyfriend and future ex-husband to London 10 years ago. After her divorce she moved to Thailand, where she has been teaching for the last year. On her blog The Blond Travels she writes about her life in the Land of Smiles and her travels in Asia.


Teaching English in a foreign country is a truly rewarding and exciting experience. Many people dream about quitting their jobs in the west and setting off on an educational journey in one of the Asian countries. It is not that difficult to find work here and because of the economical development of the region there is a greater demand for English teachers than ever before.

If you are thinking of taking up something different and moving to Asia to teach, here is a list of 6 things you should know before you become an English teacher in Asia.


Students at school in Thailand

1. Formal requirements


The requirements vary from country to country. Some schools (e.g. in rural China) don’t expect you to have any qualifications, all they want is native speakers. However, if you would like to work in countries like Vietnam, or Thailand you need to have the TEFL certificate (ideally 120 hours and some teaching practices), and at least a bachelor degree in any subject. If you have a degree in science there is a big chance for you to get a job as a science teacher, which automatically comes with a better salary.


2. Being a native speaker


Native speakers have priority when it comes to getting a job. If your first language is not English, then it will be very difficult for you to find a job in places like Chiang Mai, or Bali. However, it is not impossible. You will most definitely find a job in a smaller city.

I have some friends, who are Russian and French and they are working at different schools in Chiang Mai although If you are like me a speaker of a different language but you own a British, American or Canadian passport, in Asia you will be treated as a native speaker. The document gives you greater chances of landing a job.

Students on knees to take a bow to their teachers

3. Choosing your TEFL course


Many people don’t think about doing the course with a good school. Sometimes they choose a provider only because of the price, or a location. It is nicer of course to spend a whole month studying on an exotic island than in a polluted and overcrowded city.

I took my TEFL course search very seriously. I had never taught in my life and I was nervous because I wasn’t native English speaker. So I did an extensive research. After reading reviews and what each school offers I emailed the ones I was interested in with some questions. Most of the schools replied to me with a standard email that they probably send to everyone who contacts them. Only one of the schools replied with a personalised email, and with some very useful advice. They also put me in touch with another Polish lady, who lives and teaches in Chiang Mai. That was the school I chose.

You might only treat your experience in Asia as a short break, but it is important that you choose your TEFL wisely. You will base your whole teaching on the information you gather during your studies, so it is better you spend your money on something really worthwhile.


4. Choose a country


You can do your TEFL course in Thailand, and then move to Vietnam for work. You can actually go anywhere in Asia. This continent is your oyster.

You don’t have to make the decision of where you want to work just yet. You can do it during your course, but remember that sometimes finding work and applying for visas take a while. That’s why you should have….


5. Savings


Remember that during your course you will have to eat and rent a room. These are the basics. You might have to buy new clothes for teaching, and spend some money on transport. Most probably you will need to apply for visas and work permit, and that costs money too.

Asia is very cheap comparing to western countries, but you still need to have some money with you, especially if you’re planning to move around.

Students take a bow in order to say thank you and express gratitude to teachers

5.Visas and work permits


Research that subject extensively. You don’t want to arrive in the country of your choice and find out that you are not allowed to work there or even study. All the information you need should be on the country’s embassy’s website, or alternatively, if you are doing the TEFL course there, ask your course provider.


6. Finding work


After you finish your TEFL course you will need to start looking for a job in a country you chose. In most cases it is better to first go to your chosen destination and start looking for a job there. In Thailand a common practice is going from a school to school and knock on some doors. Other countries conduct interviews over Skype or telephone.

The best websites for job search is Ajarn.com, dedicated to teachers in Thailand, and eslcafe.com, where you will find jobs from around the world.

Finding a teaching position shouldn’t take you long. Normally it is a matter of weeks.


Teacher delivers a speech


Each of the above points is a subject for a separate posts, and you can research them easily on the internet as well, but I do hope I helped you with your preparations and make you feel like going teaching abroad isn’t the most complicated thing to do.



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