Want to Move Abroad? Not Sure Where to Start? Teach English?

by | Feb 14, 2022 | Global | 1 comment

Six years ago, I decided to move abroad, and after doing some research, it became clear that teaching English was one of the easiest ways to find work in other countries and get a visa! The beauty of teaching English abroad is that there are many opportunities for people with different educational and professional backgrounds. It is also an incredible way to gain insight into a new culture and be part of the local community. I am here to answer some frequently asked questions about teaching English abroad, and share the journey that landed me in Medellin, Colombia.

Do I Need Experience to Teach English to Teach Abroad?

Teaching English in Medellin's Public School System by Erin Colton-Enberg
Teaching English in Medellin’s Public School System by Erin Colton-Enberg

Stepping into a classroom to teach English without any experience could be some people’s worse nightmare. However, many opportunities abroad do not require prior English teaching experience. Generally speaking, the two main requirements are; fluency in the English language (or C1 equivalent) and a Bachelor’s degree. Before I moved to Colombia I had no formal educational training so I made the decision to apply to a CELTA program to learn more about ESL teaching to help me feel confident stepping into the classroom and make me a stronger candidate.

Teach English: Do I Need an ESL Teaching Certificate?

Vamos Colombia! At home in my new school by Erin Colton-Enberg
Vamos Colombia! At home in my new school by Erin Colton-Enberg

If you are looking to make yourself as hirable as possible, it is recommended to get a TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) or a CELTA certificate (Certificate of English Language Teaching to Adults). These are the two most commonly obtained certificates to teach English abroad, with CELTA being the more widely respected and recognized ESL certificate. Some CELTA and TEFL trainings are even offered abroad, however I decided to do mine one month 120 hour intensive training in the United States. All in all, having a TEFL / CELTA is great for anyone who doesn’t have any teaching experience. For people like myself, I ended the course feeling confident in the theory and practice of teaching English. However, if neither of these options seems viable, there are volunteer opportunities that don’t require any sort of certifications.

Now That I Have My Certificate How Do I Actually Find a Teaching Job?

Once I finished my 120-hour teaching certificate, I felt excited and ready to jump into the classroom to teach English, however I didn’t yet have a job. But one benefit of completing a certificate course is that it is a fantastic way to network with job opportunities. They introduced me to Dave’s ESL Cafe, which has an international job board where opportunities are constantly being posted. Checking local Facebook groups in your country of choice is also a great way to find opportunities. Ultimately, I connected with an opportunity through Heart for Change and signed my initial 10-month teaching contract through them.

Do Teaching Jobs Provide Visas and a Stable Salary?

My first teaching job with Heart for Change provided a stipend to cover essential costs in Colombia (1.5 million COP = about $500 USD), basic healthcare with the local ESP system, a visa for one year, as well as a two-week training prior to arriving at my placement city. Many opportunities in Colombia do provide visas, especially when teaching at private schools as well as a higher salary (up to 3 million COP = about $1,000 USD). Although not all job opportunities provide visas, but I was lucky to be able to get both a volunteer visa as well as a work visa with my two different teaching jobs.

Further English teaching resources

1. Go Overseas

2. Teach Away

3. British Council Colombia 

4. Minga House Foundation Colombia 

While teaching English abroad may seem like an overwhelming task to take on, coming from my personal experience, it is one of the best ways to get your foot in the door to expat life. As someone who had no prior teaching experience, I fell in love with my work in Medellin, Colombia, and extended my teaching contract for two more years. It also connected me to the local culture, improved my Spanish skills and set me on my path to where I am today as I founder of an NGO in Medellin.

Have you taken a similar work-path as an expat, or are you thinking about teaching abroad? Share your thoughts with me! Our Alliance team will offer valuable insights as you plan your journey away from home.

By Erin Colton-Enberg