Teach English Abroad 2024 | Essential Things To Know Before You Start

In this article, we will share some of the most essential insider information we've gained through working directly with the TEFL industry for many years. We are independent, so we can offer you the best advice on what to look out for when choosing a course as well as how to stay safe when job hunting overseas.

What We’ll Cover

  • Which qualifications are required to teach TEFL

  • How to determine if a course is legitimate

  • How to prepare your TEFL for use overseas

  • Top tips on staying safe whilst job hunting

Is a TEFL even required to teach English abroad?

In many cases, yes. Some countries require a TEFL certification in order for you to legally teach English as a Second Language (ESL), though some will accept teaching experience. It’s always best to carry out some research and check so you can plan accordingly. Even if the country you’re planning to teach in doesn’t officially require a TEFL certification for employment purposes, it’s a good idea to still complete a course.

Not only will studying a quality TEFL certification help you gain confidence in teaching, especially if this is your first role in education, it will give you a deeper understanding of teaching methods in the sector. Standing in front of a class of students who speak little to no English can seem daunting at first. Knowing the theory and having skills in place to get started can be beneficial in giving you a boost when you first start out.

Not only will it help you practically, completing a TEFL course will really help your application stand out in the crowd. In such a saturated marketplace, any expertise and experience on your CV will strengthen your prospects. There’s also some evidence that having TEFL training can get you a higher salary – some employers incentivise anyone uncertified to complete the training as part of your employment.

Will I need a degree to teach English abroad?

In some countries, a degree is a legal requirement in order to teach, including Vietnam and China. If you don’t hold a degree, there are still plenty of opportunities around the globe to teach English as a second language, including jobs in Europe, Thailand and across South America to name just a few.

If I do a TEFL course, how do I know it’s legitimate?

This is the most common issue facing those deciding to study a TEFL certification. There are so many companies out there who offer a wide range of courses, how do you know which are fit for purpose?

Unfortunately, the TEFL sector is unregulated by a central body so finding a straight forward answer can be difficult. Any company can offer TEFL training with no accreditations or checks on the course quality or structure.

Checking reviews online can be a good place to start. Don’t be in any rush to choose your course, and definitely don’t opt for the cheapest without doing some research. Read other people’s experiences online – especially those who are actively using their qualification in an overseas teaching position. This will give you a clearer idea of how useful the TEFL has been in their employment.

Don’t take accreditation at face value. Just because a company claims their course is accredited, this doesn’t mean it’s good quality. This term is used regularly but it can be highly ambiguous, so don’t assume that the company or their courses are officially regulated without doing further checks. The only UK-based accreditation you can be completely confident in is Ofqual – the government department which regulates qualifications and education institutions.

Having a certificate which will be accepted for your work permit is vital. Students, on a daily basis, are finding themselves out of pocket when they’ve completed a course and then try to use their certificate to teach English abroad only to find it won’t be accepted as it’s not properly accredited.

This is because when it comes to using your TEFL certificate for a work permit to teach English abroad, it will often need to go through a process known as attestation, or legalisation. This is where problems can arise. If the company you have studied with is not recognised by the government or not officially authorised to issue the qualification, you’re going to run into difficulties.

tefl homepage 1

Looking for a TEFL course in the UK?

Check out our easy to use list of government-recognised UK TEFL courses. You can easily filter the variety of courses to find what you’re looking for!

Remember that this list is constantly being updated; if you would like a TEFL certificate legalised which isn’t on the list we may still be able to help. Get in touch with our team who will be able to advise you.

I’ve done my TEFL, how do I use it to teach English abroad?

In order to use your new TEFL certificate to teach English abroad, you may need to legalise (also known as attest) your document.

Legalising a document just means making it legally recognised in a country other than the one it was issued in. For example, if you have a UK-issued TEFL certificate and you’re intending on teaching in Vietnam, you’ll need a series of stamps and verifications before the Vietnamese authorities will recognise that it’s genuine.

The process can become complicated quickly. The steps you need to complete the document legalisation vary dependent on where the document was issued, the document type, and where you’re relocating to. Every document needs to be legalised in the country it was issued in. This can be particularly tricky if you studied online with a company based in an overseas country.

If you’re feeling a bit lost and you’d like to speak to one of friendly experts about legalising your documents to teach English abroad, we’re here to help. We understand it’s easier to speak to a real person who can answer questions about your specific situation, so get in touch today – either through live chat or by one of the methods on our Contact Us page. Wherever you’re going and wherever your documents are from, we can help you.

What do I need to be aware of when looking for a job?

1. Make sure you know the official regulations, and stick to them

Wherever you decide to teach English abroad, make sure you understand the government-issued requirements to both apply for a work permit in the country and, more specifically, to teach. Some countries hold different sets of guidelines for different job sectors, so double check with your employer if there are any specific document requirements.

2. Getting the correct visa type before you leave the country is essential

We’ve heard many stories from those who have travelled overseas to teach, only to face fines and even deportation for not holding the correct documentation.

Each country has their own guidelines when it comes to visa types, how you apply, and how long the visa lasts. If you have found a legitimate recruiter, they will help you through all of the process. If at any point something doesn’t seem right, do some due diligence and check with others online who are currently already teaching in that country to cross-reference the information.

3. Be protective of your paperwork and your ID documents

If you’ve been asked for colour scans of your passport or other ID, as well as other personal information, be wary, especially if you haven’t even received a contract yet. You should also never be asked to hand over your passport to your recruiter or employer once you land in the country. There is no “probationary period” or any other reason for an employer to hold your passport.

You should receive a signed contract from your new employer for you to review and agree to. If you’re happy with it, you can then submit your documents to them in order for them to apply for your work permit on your behalf.

4. Check your contract carefully for allowances and other benefits

It’s important to make sure that your salary, paid holidays and any accommodation or living allowances are clear in your contract. A lot of positions will give you accommodation as part of your role, but this isn’t always the case. You’ll need to know so you can budget accordingly.

Don’t leave anything to chance. If something’s a bit ambiguous, ask for clarification. Also, keep in mind that if something is promised to you outside of your contract, verbally or by other means, you won’t be able to hold your employer to account if it doesn’t happen. Only the information in your contract is legally binding, so if there’s something that you’ve been promised verbally you might want to ask them to write it into the contract itself.

5. Be prepared to get a Police Clearance Certificate if required

Most countries will request you apply for a Police Clearance Certificate (PCC) from your country of residence. This is also known as a Criminal Background check, but it’s essentially the same document. Some countries require this as standard for any visa application, such as Taiwan and Qatar, but many other employers in countries such as Vietnam and Thailand will ask for this alongside your other documentation.

The process of applying for a PPC differs depending on your country of residence, but it’s important to be aware of the application for one. Very often, a PCC is time sensitive – they need to be issued within a recent time-frame in order to be accepted as part of your application, so make sure you plan for this.

6. Ask for your TEFL certificate to be issued in your full name

It may not seem a big deal at the time, but how your name appears on your TEFL certificate can cause issues down the line if it doesn’t match your official ID. Most commonly issues can arise if you have a middle name which hasn’t been included on the certificate.

In some cases it’s unavoidable – your certificate won’t match your official ID. For example, if your certificate has been issued in your maiden name and you’ve since gotten married and taken on a different surname. In these instances, you may need a notarial cover sheet applied to your documents stating that the name on your certificate is the same individual as on your official ID.

Some companies may re-issue you a certificate if you get in touch with them directly, though there may be a cost associated with this service.

Still got questions?

We hope that our experience and information provided in this article has been useful and will help set you on your way to teach English abroad. Remember, being prepared from the start can help you avoid costly experiences in the future!

If you’ve still got questions, just drop a comment below! We’ll be more than happy to help. You can also give us a call directly on +44 (0) 330 088 1142, send us a message via WhatsApp on mobile, use our live chat system, or e-mail us at sales@vitalconsular.com. We’re always here to answer all of your questions.

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Ashraf Vachhiat
Ashraf Vachhiat

Ashraf is the Marketing Technologist at Vital Consular, which means he handles all the technicalities involved in bringing this blog to life! He also enjoys creating in-depth articles around current affairs which impact the travel and relocation industry. In his free time, Ashraf relishes travelling as much as possible, and is always looking for quirky spots to take some great photos.

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