How to Begin Teaching English Abroad

By Ashely Liliana | @itsashelyliliana

Disclaimer: This blog post includes an affiliate link for the TESOL certificate. Author may receive a small commission if you choose to use it at no extra cost to you.

Teaching English is a growing and popular way to travel. Although it may not be for everyone, it can be a rewarding experience and one that will leave you with memories of a lifetime. Trying to figure out where to start can be overwhelming, so here is what I recommend.

Table of Contents

Where to Teach

I recommend starting with figuring out where you want to teach. Research where you want to make your move abroad and the teaching positions available. Some of the popular destinations are Chile, Spain, Thailand, Japan, South Korea, China, Taiwan, and Hungary. Countries such as UAE and Qatar are popular too but may have more specific application processes and requirements.


Job Boards – A good place to start is looking at job boards to see what is available. DaveESL Cafe is a job board where companies post their open positions. You can select a country and see what is available. Countries such as China and Korea have their job boards on DaveESL Cafe due to high demand. 


Programs – Going through a program is another option. If you decide to go through a program like CIEE. Keep in mind that there is a fee to pay for most programs. The price usually covers health insurance, in-country support, orientation, and, depending on the program, accommodation for the first 30 days. 


Government programs such as the ministry program, NALCAP  in Spain do not require you to pay a fee. Check out GoAbroad; it is like Yelp for teaching abroad programs. You can search for different programs and read reviews from past participants. 


It is essential to do your research. See what options are available and how you want to go about it. It is also important to see the requirements. For some, you might need specific experience, others might require a particular degree, although most require a bachelor’s in any field, and they might require you to be a native English speaker. 

TEFL/TESOL Certification

Next up is getting your TEFL/TESOL certification if you do not have one. Almost all programs or positions will require you to have a TEFL/TESOL certification, Teaching English as a Foreign Language, or Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages. Make sure to get a TEFL/TESOL with at least 120 hours. Most positions in person or online will require it. 

Getting a TEFL/TESOL now is a lot easier. Many companies offer TEFL/TESOL certification courses online or an in-person, in-country program; you can even check your local college or university for certification programs. 

The cost varies from as low as $19 to upwards of $1,500 USD. I recommend doing what fits your financial needs and what benefits you want from the company. For example, ITA (International TEFL Academy) is on the pricier end but has great perks for their Alumni and offers job support once you complete your TEFL. The $19 USD is with International Open Academy is an online course and after completion you’ll receive the certification, no additional benefits.

Documents to Prepare

You will most likely need a copy of your Diploma, CV, and reference letters to apply. Make sure you give yourself enough time to get the documents in order. Additionally, you might have to answer essay questions as part of the application process. Here are some TIPS: 


    • 1. Make sure you have a PDF version of everything and be organized. There are a lot of moving parts that happen at the same time. 
    • 2. For your resume: highlight relevant experience. That can be tutoring, mentoring, volunteer experience, babysitting experience that relates to teaching. If you do not have experience teaching, that’s ok. Maybe you have experience training new employees or mentoring them at your current job. Those are all transferable skills that relate to teaching and classroom management. It is all about how you word your CV. 


When the time arrives to apply, you should have received your TEFL/ TESOL Certification, gathered all the documents the job or program requires you to submit. I recommend reading the requirements one more time before uploading them. In some positions, you will need to do an interview and/or a demo lesson. Each position or program will let you know the next steps.

Let's Talk Dinero

Programs like CIEE or Conversa Spain, guarantee a spot in the program or for support throughout the process and in-country, for a fee. This fee can be upwards of $1200 USD. Other costs to keep in mind are visa-related costs, the visa itself, health insurance, and flights. 

How much do I get paid? It depends. Your income is based on the country you are teaching in and if the job is part-time or full-time. Positions pay a bit more than the minimum wage in the country. The payment is sufficient for living costs if you budget correctly.

    • To give you an idea, in Chile, I made about ~770 USD a month. That was more than the country’s minimum wage, and I worked ~15hours a week as the primary teacher in the classroom. 
    • In Spain, Language Assistants ( assist the primary teacher in the classroom) in Madrid are paid ~1,100 USD a month for about 20 hours a week. 
    • In China, the pay can be upwards of $2,000 a month and have great benefits like paying for your flight, providing housing, and health insurance. You are working full-time and are the primary teacher. 

I recommend no matter where you decide to live and teach, take a look at your finances and have an emergency fund or travel fund for extra trips you would like to do. I know I did! There are also ways to supplement your income. You can teach private classes, tutor, or teach for an online ESL company. For Online ESL companies, you get paid in USD, and it’s a great way to save or supplement while you are abroad.  

Time to Go

Once you have your acceptance, then it’s time to get your visa. I won’t get too much into it because every country has different requirements, but what I will say is the process can be long and overwhelming. Start it as soon as you can, email your nearest consulate, make sure all your documents are in order, and have patience like mucho paciencia. 

There you have it! In no time, you will be on the plane heading on an adventure of a lifetime. 

¡Buen Viaje!

About the Author

Ashely Liliana is an online ESL teacher living in Chile. She has taught English in Bali, Chile, and is currently applying to teach in her third country. When she is not teaching, you can find her sharing tips and her life abroad on YouTube or writing for her blog. 

IG | @itsashleyliliana

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