Home / Top Five Misconceptions about Teaching English Abroad

People make assumptions about teaching English abroad and those assumptions often stop them short before they’ve done the research or asked the right questions. The same people tell current TEFL teachers, I could never do what you do. When what they really mean is, I don’t want to. I’m comfortable.

But that is not you.

Because you are here.

So let’s clear up the biggest misconceptions about teaching English abroad.

#1 – It’s a job for young people

Statistically speaking that is true. The majority of people teaching English abroad are under the age of 30. But every demographic is represented. And the over 25 demographic is an interesting mix of individuals; career expats, travel addicts, corporate grind escapees. Don’t project ageism onto the TEFL industry. It doesn’t exist. If you are a bit older you will find your people. And they will have fascinating stories to tell.

#2 – It’s a paycheck-to-paycheck gig

Again there is a grain of truth to this misconception. In many parts of South East Asia and Latin America the majority of jobs on offer will pay you enough to live comfortably but not enough to pay down your credit debt back home or travel with any sort of luxury. However, there are high paying exceptions throughout the world. South Korea is great place to teach English and save money. The Middle East pays extremely well. Hidden gems like Brunei pay back home money to live the expat life. If money is important there are solutions.

#3 – It will knock me off my career path

If you teach English abroad for ten years, then yeah, of course it will. But if you teach English abroad for a year it will probably help your career. It is all about the spin. “I love this industry. I’ve made my career in this industry. But I was feeling burned out so I decided to see the world and clear my head. Now, I’m 100% ready to jump back in.” If you spend a year teaching English abroad your CV will standout. You’ll have a solid argument for international projects. And imagine if you took the time to learn a new language while you were abroad.

#4 – No one will hire me without experience

RIDICULOUS. The entire TEFL industry is based on teaching the craft and helping new teachers find their first job abroad. Employers are extremely friendly towards inexperienced candidates. In fact, some employers prefer newbies, they are easier to mold. Don’t compare the business of teaching English abroad to business back home. It is not the same.

#5 – I don’t need a TEFL Certification 

Yes you do. There are a few schools in a few countries that will hire you without a TEFL certification. And every one of them is crap. They are factory schools with no real interest in education. If you have always dreamed of starring in a horror movie go for it. Otherwise, take the time to get certified. Start with the basic 120-hour Advanced TEFL Course. You can always supplement it with further education later if you want or need to.

The TEFL industry is unique. Standard business logic often does not apply and that can lead people to get tripped up by these common misconceptions. The fact that you are here, reading this blog, means that you’ve already pushed past your initial assumptions. Keep it up. The world is full of sad accountants and sad lawyers, but no one has ever said, “I wish I hadn’t taught English abroad.”


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