In this post I’ve tried to gather some of the most frequent questions I’ve been asked in the last few weeks on my blog regarding the topics of getting a (better) job, teaching qualifications, job hunts and the best/worst countries to work in. The answers I offer are entirely subjective – as the title suggests – so feel free to disagree and say so in the comments section. I hope, though, that at least some of them will come in handy and help you get a better job or develop professionally.
If this list is not exhaustive enough and there are still some questions nagging you, please let me know in the comments section and I’ll do my best to answer them.
What are the initial qualifications I should take?
Whether you like it or not Cambridge CELTA or an equivalent (e.g. Trinity TESOL) is a must if you want to easily find an EFL job abroad. A university degree in TEFL might do as well, but just to be on the safe side I’d definitely recommend doing the CELTA or Trinity TESOL. The reason is that they are internationally recognised, so you don’t need to worry about validating your degree. In addition, there’s really plenty you can learn from the course, even if you’ve already completed some university level courses in methodology. For me the CELTA is infinitely more practical than the courses in TEFL I did in university. If this still doesn’t convince, you’ll see a massive difference in positive job responses after completing the CELTA or an equivalent. There’s a myriad of options for taking the courses, and you can read more about them here. I’d personally suggest a face-2-face month long course at a respected institution, such as International House, British Council or Bell.
Where should I look for jobs?
Probably the biggest and the most popular search engine is tefl.com There are thousands of job openings around the world, all regularly updated. It’s a bit of a pain to create the on-line CV, but once you’ve got it, applying for jobs is really easy and quick. If you have a specific country or even city in mind, you can search for schools there on this website. Emailing the school directly or calling, even if they’re not currently looking for teachers, can often pay off. Both International House and the British Council post job openings on their websites. If you have time during the summer, there are plenty of job openings in the UK. And if you are aiming higher and have a DELTA or an MA in TEFL, look for pre-sessional EAP courses. There are numerous job openings in universities in the UK advertised on jobs.ac.uk and baleap.org.uk.
Which school should I apply to?
Of course, it all depends on your preferences: some people like small institutions, others prefer bigger ones. Some will want to work in a bustling metropolis, whereas others dream of a quiet place in the countryside. No matter what your preferences are, though, consider applying first to respected and well-known language chains, such as IH, BC or Bell. On average, they offer higher salary, better working conditions and excellent professional development programs (not to say that independent language schools don’t). You will get to work with qualified and experienced teachers and will be able to learn a lot in the process. Of course, they are all franchises so the quality and standards might vary, but none of them will go below a certain – usually very high – standard. For me the biggest plus, though, of large organisations is that you can easily transfer to another school at the end of your contract, without the hassle of having to write cover letters, send CVs around and search the web.
Are some countries better for EFL teachers than others?
This is a question I’ve recently been asked a few times, but I find it very hard to answer, because there is no right response to it. It all depends, I guess, on what you’re looking for and what kind of person you are. I’ve worked in 6 countries and they all have their pros and cons. You can read more about my experiences there in this post. There are still many places I’d like to teach in, so if you’d want to know my really subjective and biased opinion on it, then here it is. One of the “musts” on my list is South East Asia. I’ve just heard so many great things about it that I have to go there at some point. If at some point I feel like another adventure, I’ll probably head back to Latin America, preferably to South America. If I needed to make a lot of money quickly, I’d no doubt choose the Middle East. If you’re not a native speaker, than stay away from Spain, Italy, France, Korea and Japan, at least at the beginning of your career. Not that you can’t get a job there (IH and the BC tend not to discriminate), but being treated as an inferior, constantly scrutinised, looked down upon and compared to a native speaker can be really frustrating and will most likely put you off. Speaking of which, the UK is probably the most NNEST-friendly country I’ve ever worked in. You might find this post interesting: 10 questions to ask before deciding where to teach English abroad
What post CELTA qualifications and courses are worth taking?
I’d say by far the best one out there is the Cambridge DELTA. I might be biased because I’ve done it myself and so I know little about other options, but nobody ever said that this post would be objective. It really does open new doors of opportunity for you. There’s a host of positions you can be considered for only if you have the DELTA (or an equivalent) such as Director of Studies, Assistant Director of Studies, Senior Teacher, Teacher Trainer or EAP lecturer. I think it’s also a necessary step any teacher who seriously thinks about professional development should take. If this doesn’t convince you, you’re bound to see a huge difference in the number of positive replies to your job applications. And an increase to your salary.
What other professional development options would you suggest?
Uff! There’s so much stuff out there that I don’t even know where to start. A quick look on the BC professional development site will give you a myriad of suggestions. Another good option is the IH teacher training website. Again it all depends on your experience, preferences and time and money constraints. One of the best options for free professional development is blogging. I’ve only been doing it for a short while, but it can really make a big difference. There are plenty of fantastic blogs around (links to some you can find here on my blog). Watch out for the BC monthly blog awards for innovative teaching ideas.They make a great read and you get a selection of excellent bloggers to choose from for further reading. There are also numerous free webinars going on, on-line conferences and courses that sometimes I wonder when I’ll ever have time to attend just a small fraction of them.
I am a NNEST and I’ve come across so many native-only ads that I don’t know what to do any more. Will I ever get a job?
I know how you feel. I’ve been there myself. But cheer up – you can get a job. I have. And not just once, but several times. Before I cut to the chase, let me briefly explain the problem to some of you who are not aware of it. In a nutshell, a quick look on tefl.com tells you that over 70% of job ads are for native speakers only (regardless of their qualifications or lack thereof). In countries such as Spain, Italy, South Korea and Japan this figure is even higher. You can read why I think this is wrong here. So how as a NNEST do you get your dream job, assuming you’re a fully qualified teacher?
Within the EU such job ads and hiring practices are illegal. Contact an anti-discrimination agency – they often offer free legal help and advice. Join a support group on FB: e.g. Budapest NNEST. Write about it and get it published. But above all – be persistent! Believe in yourself! Stand up and speak out against discriminatory ads! Don’t let the recruiter turn you down just because you’re a NNEST – write back to them, argue, and if need be explain – in a non-threatening way – that their recruitment policy is illegal. Soon I’ll published a more detailed post on what can and should be done by NESTs, NNESTs and language institutions to fight against discriminatory recruitment policies within TEFL industry, so stay tuned. Finally, as a qualified NNEST, your best bet might be respected language chains such as the BC, IH and Bell, as well as language schools and universities in the UK, as they all tend to be discrimination free.