Which Teaching Job is Right for You?


When teaching abroad the opportunities for teachers are endless, sometimes it can be tough to decipher all the different types of teaching jobs and which one is best suited to your needs. Which teaching job is right for you? Read on to find out:

International Schools

International schools are just like regular schools as we know them probably from our own school experience and are most likely to have a curriculum from the USA, UK or Australia. These jobs can be competitive because they are well-paid and have serious benefits unlike our own countries back home. 

What you'll need: An education degree (PGCE accepted), be a native speaker and have experience. 
Pay: It astounds me what some people can earn at an international school. Depending on the country salaries range from $1,500 to $6,000 a month (possibly even more in places like China and the Middle East).
Benefits: Most established international schools offer flights, housing, sponsored visa and medical benefits. The salary is also tax free.

Language Centres

These are privately owned businesses who require the skills of native speakers to teach small classes. The work load is a lot less than in international schools and you teach multiple classes instead of having a "homeroom". Some centres even allow you to choose your schedule so you can teach as often or as little according to your preference (or take extended vacations when you've saved enough!). 

What you'll need: A degree in any field and TEFL certification. 
Pay: Usually between $15 - $25 an hour, depending on experience and country. 
Benefits: These vary. Sometimes you get paid less but have free housing, or get paid more and have to cover your own housing. 

Government/Public Schools

In some countries, the government allows international educators into their schools in order to improve the quality of English teaching. In these schools, you are usually a subject teacher and see multiple classes. 

What you'll need: A Bachelors degree in any field (sometimes an education degree is required) and TEFL certification if you don't hold an education degree. 
Pay: Again, depending on the country salaries range from $300 to $5,500. 
Benefits: It is common to have flights and housing provided. Visa should be sponsored (The Middle East has a program that provides housing, flights and all the perks you get with an international school)

Online Teaching

Although I don't have personal experience with teaching online, I see it as something I am going to be doing in the near future. Usually it involves short classes on your computer and you determine your schedule, and this can be done from anywhere provided you have good internet access. This makes travelling and working easy! Why have I not thought about this sooner?? 

Note that your students will most likely be based in Asia and therefore the times are most likely set according to their schedule - so even if you think you can teach ANYTIME you want, this is probably not going to be the case.

What you'll need: TEFL certification and be a native speaker. Fast internet, a computer and a headset. 
Pay: $18 - $25/hour
Benefits: You get to work from anywhere! 

Sure, I didn't cover private tutoring, university lecturing positions or even volunteering but I don't feel qualified to give information on these options. If you have any experience teaching abroad or have more to add to these teaching options, let us know below! 


Teach off the Beaten Path


While teaching in a comfortable, secure and privileged position at a respected school in South Africa I came to find myself terribly unhappy with my situation. Yes, I was a teacher and I was impacting the lives of our future generations but really, I could quit and the very next day there would be something just as qualified as me ready to take my place. 

I didn't feel that my life had purpose or that what I was doing in my career was fulfilling me or the greater humanity. That all changed with the decision to move to rural Bhutan where I would teach in a village for a year, to jungle Costa Rica with only dusty dirt roads and now to middle-of-nowhere Vietnam (I live in Quang Ngai, which is by no means a travel destination). These rural, off the beaten path teaching placements have given me the best experiences of my life. Here's why you too should consider teaching in the less commercial destinations:

1. You're more likely to secure a job

Obviously everyone wants to go to the major cities for the nightlife, western food and expat community and this is where most teachers apply. It creates a lot of competition and choosing a placement that's in a smaller or less known town will make it more likely to get an interview and secure a job. 

2. You can save more money

In all of my teaching positions abroad I've been situated a fair distance from any kind of major city. The places I chose also had little access to activities and entertainment that I would normally spend money on back home, and there weren't many malls or shops to buy clothes or products that I used to think I needed. Living where I am in Vietnam now, there literally isn't anything to spend my money on so I just save it.

3. You get to experience the real culture

It's easy to gravitate to what you know and what is comfortable when you're surrounded by expats and people you would normally relate to, people you have things in common with. What is really great about teaching out of the major cities is that you are forced to immerse yourself in where you are, with the locals from that area. You get invited to events that you never would have gotten to see were you stuck in a foreigner bubble. 

4. You get (even further) out of your comfort zone

This is my favourite part and I think I may now be addicted to that niggling uncomfortable feeling you get when you have no idea whats going on. Its so thrilling for me! I also have enough experience now to know that it soon passes and everything feels normal again after a short while. Being in a place where very little English is spoken, where you have to learn things that are just a given in your own country, really makes you learn so much about yourself. Yes, just being in a new country is enough for this, but the impact is even greater if you push it further into a more rural area. This little area just outside of your comfort zone is where all the magic happens. Its where you grow and blossom. 

5. You have a chance to make a greater impact

This is what I was talking about earlier, being back in South Africa with a replacement ready whenever I were to leave. This was definitely not the case in my overseas positions where it can be really challenging to find someone willing to "rough it". Teaching in these areas matters. Your work in these rural places is really valued and it is shown by the community.

If you're a qualified teacher, or even have a TESL certification, I encourage you to look into placements that are off the beaten path. It doesn't have to be in a rural Himalayan village, but it could be a smaller town a few hours away from the capital cities. I think you might be pleasantly surprised. 


The Paperwork Process for South Africans


I recently went through the process of getting all of my paperwork done to move to Vietnam as a teacher. Initially, I knew of a fellow Saffa teaching here and he guided me through the steps but I soon came to realise his information was outdated as many of the processes have changed. This is my experience and the process I went through personally:

*Please note: This process was done from Cape Town and a lot of couriering (and a lot of money for courier services) was needed as many of the consulates/authorisation centres are based in Pretoria. If you live in Pretoria, you can simply collect and take your documents there yourself. 

1. Apply for your police clearance

Out of all the paperwork, this takes the longest time so I'd begin it before anything else. Even if you're thinking of going overseas, start here. Go to your nearest police station to fill in the form and get your fingerprints taken. The fee is R96.00 and they only accept cash. You'll then need to send this form to the SA Criminal Records Centre in Pretoria. You will be messaged once your police clearance is ready for collection (up to 8 weeks later) and then you can return to the courier to collect it for you. They will need the collection number to collect it. Warning: Do not send your police clearance through the post office, but rather through a courier service as it is much safer. Police clearances are only valid for 6 months. 

2. Secure a job and book your flight

Once you have secured a job in Vietnam your school should provide you with a letter to apply for your work visa. I personally could only apply for a business visa (which was transferred over to the work visa once I was here as some of my paper work wasn't ready). If you come to Vietnam on a tourist visa you won't be able to transfer it over to a work visa, this is illegal. 

You'll then need to book your flight as you need it for your visa application. Emirates and Qatar usually have the best deals for South Africans, and I love flying with these airlines! 

3. Apply for your visa

You need to fill in an online visa application form here:  http://vietnam.co.za/index.php/consular-services and then courier it with your original passport, 1 ID photo, flight booking and proof of payment for the visa fee (and a letter from your school if you have one) to the Embassy which located at 87 Brooks Street, Brooklyn, Pretoria. They will contact you when it is ready for collection. You can then return to the courier and fill in an "authorisation letter" for them to collect your passport in Pretoria. Your courier service should have these available for you to simply fill out. 

4. Authenticate your degree

You then have to prove that your degree is from a reputable university. Basically, that your degree is real. You do this by couriering your original degree, a copy of the degree and a copy of your ID to the Department of Higher Education in Pretoria. You should email before sending as they are super helpful and it ensures getting this done on time: twala.w@dhet.gov.za 

5. Apostille documents

Once you have your police clearance and the letter stating your degree is valid, you then need to send these documents to Pretoria (again!!) to have them apostilled. Email here: legalisation@dirco.gov.za and they will send you the address as well as the cover letter you need to attach before sending. 

I know it might sound like a big burden or a daunting task, but really it wasn't that bad. What did take a lot of time was finding out all of this information when all I wanted to do was get it done! So, hopefully this will prove helpful to others going through the same process. 



Questions to ask before Teaching Abroad


So you're thinking of packing up your life back home? You want a life of travel, adventure and new experiences? You want to make a difference in the world and make the most of your time? If you answered YES to any of the questions you're on the right path to becoming a teacher abroad. However, these questions could fit to anyone looking to see more of the world. What does teaching have to do with it? Here 5 questions to ask yourself before deciding if becoming a teacher abroad is for you: 

1. Can I see myself being a teacher? 

You need to think seriously about what being a teacher will mean for you. When I first thought about becoming a teacher I thought I'd be having fun all day painting and singing - but let me just tell you, its not for the faint hearted and there's a lot more involved than painting and singing. I honestly love being a teacher and to be honest, ESL teaching here in Vietnam is a lot easier than other teaching jobs I've had. My first year of teaching, and even some days now, was exhausting. Teaching can be tough and you need to remember that its still a job. You're going to be spending a lot of time doing it if you decide to make this change. Make this decision consciously. You don't want this to turn into something you dislike just as much as your old job back home. 

2. Do I enjoy interacting with children, adults or other people in general? 

This was a big one for me. One I didn't even think about until my first practical as a student teacher back home. I see teaching as a constant giving of yourself. You are constantly communicating and listening, there are a number of students who constantly need you at multiple times throughout your class. Do you think this constant interaction would be something you'd enjoy, or would you rather have a calmer and less social job? I have no problem interacting with others but am an introvert at heart, so after a day of teaching I need a lot of quiet time to recharge. Luckily I've learnt this about myself over the years. 

3. Am I willing to take my work seriously? 

Many people tend to choose teaching abroad as something to do to fund their travelling or to save for a certain lifestyle - which it is great for! However, you need to understand that your students are paying for your services and you owe it to them to do a good job. Plan your lessons, get to class on time and make sure your students are learning in an active and engaging way. 

4. Can I commit to my contact time? 

Contracts are usually drawn up for one year, but there are others out there for shorter or longer time periods. Many international schools or language centres have a quick turnover rate of teachers as many just decide a few months in that this "teaching abroad" experience isn't for them, or they just don't like their school or living conditions. I think its important to accept responsibility for your own actions and choices. Remember that no one is making you do anything, so when you sign a contract for a year you should stick to that commitment as far as possible. Obviously it can be difficult to know what a school is really like, so research and trust your gut. I often use my Skype interview as a test for my employer rather than the other way around, and usually can tell if the school is going to be a good fit for me at the end of the call. Completing your contract will not only be more beneficial to your students who won't be getting a new teacher every few months and be totally thrown every time, but it will also benefit you in getting a good reputation and a good reference for future jobs. 

5. Are you ready for a life changing experience? 

Teaching in itself is a challenge, teaching abroad takes it to a whole other level. Your students and the community that you live in will creep into your heart and you'll carry them around with you always. I have the fondest memories of my Bhutanese and Costa Rican "families" and I'm sure it will be the same for the family I have acquired here in Vietnam once I leave. I've seen and experienced things that I never even dreamed of and in most instances I was able to because of my connection with the community as a teacher, many of these experiences would not have been possible if I were merely a traveller. I always like to think that although I am a teacher, these experiences have taught me so much about myself and about life. 


5 Myths about Teaching Abroad


As a teacher abroad I am constantly meeting people who think that teaching abroad is something for them to consider doing. There also seems to be a lot of fear and misunderstandings, excuses really, about why they couldn't possibly ever achieve it: I'm too old, only teachers from the United States get hired, I have three kids and a dog, but .. my flat screen TV? Seriously. In this post I hope to smash some the myths about teaching abroad and hopefully give you that extra little nudge to being your teaching abroad career if its something you feel called to. 

Myth 1: You need to be a native English speaker 

I would say that most of the teaching jobs out there specify wanting a native English speaker from certain countries (mainly the US, UK, Australia, New Zealand and Ireland - South Africa is a new addition, yay!). But, there are certainly ones who are so desperate to find teachers that they will settle for non-natives who speak English very well. I think its important to point out that you should actually be able to speak English fairly well for this to work. You'll also be limited to schools or centres that will take you as a non-native. There are currently German and Filipino teachers working at my centre here in Vietnam, and one recently landed a job in Hong Kong. 

Myth 2: Its difficult to find a job

I think this depends on your definition of "difficult" because it really comes down to context. Its difficult to live an unhappy, unsatisfied, unfulfilled life. Finding a job where you encounter new and exciting experiences is just part of this journey. I've found it easier to land a job abroad than in my own country as a qualified teacher. English teachers are in such a high demand outside of our own little bubble, and our work is really valued. The internet is such an amazing tool, all you have to do is search in the right places! Dave's ESL cafe is a favourite of mine and I often just browse jobs for fun. Or, like I did for Costa Rica you could literally just google schools in the area and contact them directly. I think this is a better option you want to go to a specific place. 

Myth 3: Teaching abroad gives you a lot of time and money for travelling 

In Vietnam I am able to save a lot of money, especially because I live in the middle of nowhere and have nothing to spend it on. I work six days a week mostly in the afternoons and evenings with a two week holiday in February. This obviously means there is very little time to travel anywhere while teaching. However, with all the money you save you are able to travel for months on end after a year here. Many teachers who work in Asia as ESL teachers will work for one or two years and then travel for a year, then return to teach again and repeat the process. In previous jobs I had lots of time with three vacations a year, but there wasn't the financials to fund any trips - Bhutan was a volunteer position and Costa Rica's living expenses were very high. 

Myth 4: You need a TEFL certificate and experience in teaching 

Again, there is such a demand for teachers in Asia and around the world. I personally have a teaching degree so I don't need a TEFL certificate, but there are teachers currently working at my centre who are non-native speakers and unqualified. It is possible! You'll definitely get paid less than if you had the certificate and you'll be a whole lot more confident with it (teaching is not always a walk in the park) so think about making the investment anyways. 

Myth 5: Teaching abroad is not a "real career" 

I get this comment all of the time: this is just a phase, get the travelling out of your system, when you have kids you'll have to settle down. The thing is, when you start teaching abroad it opens your eyes to all of the other people doing it - people with families living abroad, young people, old people, people who have been doing this for over 30 years. They certainly seem a lot happier than some of the people back home with "real careers". 

If you are currently working abroad or have in the past, comment below to share some of your own insights and myths in this profession. 


Move to Vietnam within a Month


I think its pretty clear where my heart lies: in rural, off the beaten path teaching placements. I think that's why I hadn't considered moving to Vietnam sooner, because it was something that was so common - and I wanted a unique experience. 

But after having a bit of a "I have no idea what I'm going to do next" moment once I left Costa Rica and I decided I wouldn't be joining Dylan on his cycle down South America, I thought moving back home to South Africa would give me the time and space to reflect. It didn't take too long before I was on Dave's ESL Cafe searching for a new job. This kind of living gets addictive, so if you're considering moving abroad don't say I didn't warn you! 

Here's how I moved to Vietnam in under a month - and you can too! 

Obviously I have been living abroad for several years now, so I didn't have anything tying me down. This was a key factor in making this process so quick and effortless. If you are considering moving abroad the first thing you are going to need to do is get rid of all of your stuff - cars, furniture, home, anything that doesn't fit into your suitcase. And I know this can be a daunting thought, but it really is such a freeing experience. And I bet you'll soon realise how you don't miss any of the stuff.

I decided to secure a job before leaving South Africa. At this point I didn't really have a destination in mind so I just scrolled through all of the jobs on Dave's ESL Cafe until I came across a job in Vietnam which looked appealing. It had extensive information about how "rural" it was - it even mentioned how one shouldn't apply unless you were serious about living without western luxuries, so I contacted the centre right away (I think the word "rural" might be the way to my heart??). It's important to read the requirements and information in the job ad, and then match your resume and cover letter accordingly. If you're new to teaching or are looking to boost your resume to get noticed, you can find a free CV template here:

I want to add that securing a job for Vietnam before leaving isn't all that necessary. There are plenty of teachers who come to Vietnam and find a school or language centre once they're here. I think this could be even better (and take less time) because you get to test out the country to see if its a good fit for you. You can also see first hand what you're getting yourself into by going directly to schools to check them out, and you'll be an easier applicant to hire because you're so accessible - you're literally already right in front of them! This option also means you'll need to pay for flights and sort out visas on your own, whereas mine was included in my contract. 

After my interview process was complete I received my job offer and I began my documentation process. The following is required by law to obtain a work visa in Vietnam: a Bachelor's degree (in any field) and a police clearance from your country. If you are looking to teach anywhere in the world I would get the police clearance process started as this takes time. I waited two weeks for mine which is record time for South Africa. Some jobs will require a TEFL certificate but there are so many who will hire without - yes, really! These documents will then need to be apostilled. Every country has a different process for how this can be obtained, but it usually takes time. 

You'll also have to apply for a visa. I came to Vietnam on a business visa and then moved over to a work visa after I was here for a few months. Some teachers are able to get a work visa straight away, and there are others who work on a tourist visa and do visa runs every three months. I think you should decide what you feel comfortable with. The document/visa process was the only reason it took me three weeks until I could fly out. Teachers are in high demand in Vietnam, especially out of the big cities, so you could easily acquire a teaching job here. 

And thats it! If this seems like a lot of work to you, it really was such an effortless process and honestly quite similar to things you have to do when you're doing any kind of travelling anyways. I'm sure if you're looking into teaching in Vietnam you would have heard stories of the demo lessons you'll need to be ready for as well. I personally didn't have to do one, but new teachers at my centre do constantly "observe" me teaching so you'll need to come prepared for that - this is why although a CELTA or TEFL course isn't necessary, it sure will help you acquire a job more effortlessly.