Education and training

Teaching English as a foreign language

English language teaching as a career includes three distinct areas of work – Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) to children or adults whose first language is not English; Teaching English as a second language (TESL) usually to immigrants or refugees living in an English speaking country; and Teaching English to speakers of other languages (TESOL), which is a combination of TEFL and TESL. A generic term that is also sometimes used is English Language Teaching (ELT).

English language teaching can take place in a commercial language school, a community education setting, a mainstream school, or in a university or college. The delivery of the teaching sessions is usually in English, using a variety of paper and digital resources.

Types of graduate roles

Most newly qualified TEFL Teachers will initially work in a language school overseas and at a later stage there is the possibility of progression to more senior roles such as a Director of studies or a Subject leader. The number of opportunities in Higher Education Institutions (universities and similar) is increasing.

Entry points

Although this area of work is open to graduates of any discipline, a degree in English, Linguistics or Modern Languages may increase chances of securing a job in this field. Typically a recognised teaching qualification such as Certificate in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (CELTA) or Certificate in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (CertTESOL) will be required to work in one of the more reputable language schools. However, some overseas language schools may be prepared to recruit new graduates who are native English speakers without a English language teaching qualification.

For those who only plan to work within TEFL on a short-term basis, another option is to do a short introductory course some of which are a few weeks or days long, or available online. Alternatively, some short-term programmes offer students and graduates the chance to teach English abroad with no expectation that the candidate holds a TEFL qualification. These are often over the summer period, or perhaps last for a few months to one year. These can be useful experience if you are considering developing a longer term career in this type of work, but note that such programmes often charge fees and you may be expected to pay for accommodation, flights, visas etc.

Skills and experience required

Excellent communication skills are important, as well as the ability to establish a rapport with students. You need to be aware of other cultures, have good listening skills and be flexible. To engage and enthuse your students you should be able to demonstrate creativity and innovation in your teaching techniques. The ability to work under pressure is important, as are planning and organisational skills.

Job search strategies

Most TEFL teachers initially work overseas, eg in English language schools or mainstream schools and colleges as a language assistant, although there may be some opportunity to teach in FE or HE institutions or community education centres in the UK. Jobs are typically advertised on a range of English Language Teaching jobsites (see example sites in the 'Useful websites' section below).

Our resources
Teaching English in China (Careers Service)  
Provides information on how and where to teach in China.
Useful websites for further information
Dave's ESL cafe
Online meeting place for ESL and EFL teachers.
Education Alternatives
Education-related careers outside of teaching in mainstream schools. Particularly relevant if you want to help people learn outside mainstream teaching; for teachers or trainee teachers wishing to move out of the classroom.
Education and training (National Careers Service)
A wide range of jobs in education, training and instruction.
A source of information on TEFL courses and jobs.
Teach abroad as an English language assistant (British Council)
Teach English on paid six-month or year-long placements.
Teaching and education (Prospects)
Job profiles related to careers in teaching, including teaching English as a foreign language.
Teaching and education (Targetjobs)
Jobs, training schemes and placements, including teaching English as a foreign langauge.
TEFL / TESL teacher (Targetjobs)
Includes responsibilities and typical employers, along with routes to qualification.
TEFL jobs
Jobs board for countries around the world and an interactive map.
TES - jobs
Teaching and educational jobs.
Voluntary Services Overseas
International Development charity with volunteering opportunities for experienced professionals. 18-25 year old's can volunteer via the International Citizen Service (see links above). Also includes opportunities to teach English as a foreign language.
Volunteer teaching
Opportunities to teach English as a foreign language internationally and gain classroom experience.

Last updated: 14 Sep 2018