TEFL vs AGE. Are there any limits to TEFL?
There are no age limits on taking a TEFL course. If it’s what interests you, then your motivation will speak more than your age. TEFL courses can be taken by people from all cultures, all backgrounds and ages. It’s never too late to start a new career and, no matter what your previous experience, many skills are transferable to teaching. TEFL can also be a good option for those who are retired and want to take on some part-time work.
There are also much younger students who have made up their minds to delve into TEFL when they finish school. For TEFL jobs themselves, there are many opportunities for all students so you should never let age close you off completely to TEFL. However, there are some circumstances that you should be aware of before you start a career in TEFL.
Teaching TEFL in Asia
Whilst not impossible, if you are 55 years old and over, it can be more difficult to get a face-to-face position in some parts of Asia. This is due to visa restraints on hiring people who are close to the local retirement age of that country. There is unfortunately no way around visa restrictions so this will simply not be an option for some. Countries that can be stricter on this are Japan, South Korea and China.
While there are some differences depending on what Asian country you wish to teach in, 65 is usually the limit for most countries. If you are in your fifties, then it is good to do your research and ensure you aren’t wasting your time applying for a post you won’t get. There might be some countries that accept TEFL teachers age in their fifties so it’s worth looking into. Make sure whatever position you are offered is legit. If you are 65 and are being offered a job in Asia, then you need to double-check whether this is the real deal or not! You don’t want to get into trouble for being in the country illegally on the wrong visa.
Business English classes
Whilst it may seem like TEFL favours young, travelling English teachers, there are some sectors that may favour older age TEFL teachers. One of these includes teaching English in companies. As you work with professionals, they often see older teachers as being more experienced or knowledgeable, especially in the field of business. Although a younger teacher could certainly prove them wrong with their teaching skills, it is a good area for older TEFL teachers to explore. Professionalism is key!
Business English can be a lucrative area of TEFL and give you the chance to earn more. It is also a much more professional environment. This field can be a great option for those who are changing careers and can bring their previous knowledge to TEFL. For example, if you have previously worked in real estate, then you could market yourself as a real-estate in-company teacher. This is a good way to combine your skills and get into a niche which will make you a much sought-after English teacher.
Life experience is something that older TEFL teachers can bring to the table. English is required in many sectors so if you have worked in a popular field, you should think about teaching English in this area. In TEFL, the more niche your teaching area is, the more financially successful you can become.
If you have a lot of work experience or have had a long career in another field, it’s important to be aware of typical salary expectations in the TEFL industry. The pay will most likely be a drop compared to what you are used to, so factor this in when you consider switching to the TEFL field. When you start out, you will most likely earn a basic salary and not make any major savings for the first few years, especially if you stay at a school in a classroom position.
However, it is possible to earn more by:
Getting into a niche area: as we’ve seen, the more unique your teaching expertise, the more you can charge for classes.
Getting into management roles: if you’ve previously worked in management in another field, you can take these skills and combine them with your new TEFL skills. Directors and academic managers are in good positions for higher pay and further progression into TEFL
Running your own business: Once you feel comfortable teaching, you might want to consider running your own TEFL business. If you have the opportunity to grow this with the right marketing, then you can expand and hire other teachers.
Working at universities – these higher education positions often require teachers to be able to teach Academic English, which is higher paid than a General English teacher. Whether it’s at home or abroad, these positions are highly coveted and can be worth exploring if you want to break the TEFL teacher economic barrier.
Younger TEFL teachers
If you are under 18, then finding a paid face-to-face TEFL job might not be as easy. However, In general, there is no minimum age over 18 but there are some companies that would hire only over 21. This is especially true if a degree is required for the job. Employers might prefer teachers who have some experience or more education. This may also be that students might have difficulty accepting the expertise of a very young student or teenagers may question the authority of someone so close to their own age.
If you are determined to get into TEFL at the age of 18, then keep doing the applications. Ensure that you sell yourself as a professional, eager-to-learn teacher. A lot of schools like to hire a younger team. You can look at school websites to get a feel of the average age of the team. You can also look at markets and contexts that are more likely to take younger TEFL teachers and stay away from those with more limitations:
South America: In South America, being a native speaker is often the number one requirement for TEFL teachers so they will often hire younger teachers, as long as they have a native English level. This could be a great opportunity for a TEFL adventure straight after you finish school.
Asia: Whilst some places like South Korea and China require a degree meaning that they will not provide visas for 18-year-old teachers, other countries will accept teachers, especially if they sign up to their own TEFL course programmes. Countries such as Thailand and Vietnam may take younger teachers, especially to take a more active role running other activities for the students.
Summer camps: Summer camps often mostly have age limits. The important thing is that their teachers and monitors are fun, energetic and likeable. Often, younger teachers are preferred for these roles so it can be a good way for younger TEFL teachers to gain experience. If you’re not ready to be a TEFL teacher, then you could work as an activity monitor, this still gives you experience working with children who are learning English as a second language.
Internships: Internships are a great opportunity for anyone but especially those who might lack a lot of experience to find a TEFL job on their own. As long as you are age 18, you can apply for and take up most internships. These will also offer you a lot of support and guidance which is ideal for those who may be leaving home for the first time and feel nervous about their first teaching experience.
Volunteering: There is no age limit for TEFL volunteering so this is a good option for younger teachers to get some experience and also learn more about teaching TEFL. Volunteering online is easier than ever and flexible in terms of schedule. It also looks great on your CV and will show potential employees that you have acquired valuable skills and are mature to work in more difficult TEFL contexts.
Working with young learners: If you’re young enough that authority with teenagers and adults may seem difficult, then looking into working with younger learners may be a good option. Consider specialising in this area until you build up your confidence and skills to teach older learners. There are also assistant positions that could be a good opportunity for you to learn the ropes.
In general, if you are below 18-21, then it would be a good idea to use the time to build up your skills and experience in this area to get those paid jobs later on. You can study extra courses, such as young learner or exam teaching courses so that your CV will shine when you come to apply.
Teaching English online
While there is no set age restrictions here, a lot of companies might prefer you to have a degree. This may limit some younger TEFL students although it is not impossible to get an online teaching position. A lot of companies prefer older, more experienced teachers. In general, if you meet the requirements and can handle the tech side of things, then you are a good candidate for online teaching!
Online teaching can be a good way to test the water, gain experience and earn some money for a while before you decide to move abroad. If you are feeling nervous about teaching, then teaching online will also boost your confidence.
TEFL is open for all ages and you shouldn’t let your age put you off exploring this area. What’s important is to know your strengths and use that to your advantage. If you have spent years working in another field, then consider what skills are transferable and how you can self yourself based on this. If you don’t have a lot of experience in the world of work, then show your potential employers that you are ready to learn and gain those valuable skills from them.
While there are some limitations for some ages for TEFL, there are plenty of opportunities. Being flexible is key if you do fit into this category. It might mean looking elsewhere to what you originally planned or gaining some experience first, but there is something for everyone. It is all about finding what is right for you and your teaching profile!