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Article: Teaching Overseas


This article looks at the opportunities available for teachers who want to work abroad and how to go about finding employment.

Why teach overseas?

Teachers decide to work overseas for many of the same reasons as other people, and it is no less important for teachers to examine their reasons for going.

What influences your decision?

Your decision to teach overseas will be influenced by:

  • whether you'd like to work abroad on a short- or long-term basis
  • whether you want to work in paid employment, or as a volunteer
  • the subject you intend to teach
  • the organisation you intend to join
  • the type of educational environment you are interested in working in.

How you answer these questions will help you in finding out about opportunities.

Find out as much as you can about:

  • the country/countries you intend to work in
  • the organisation you intend to join
  • any training you might need to improve your employment prospects
  • how the experience could improve your job prospects
  • what you will do if your plans don't work out.

Career planning

The stage at which you have arrived in your teaching career might also influence your decision and have implications for your long-term career prospects.

  • Teachers at the beginning of their careers need experience, and while a period of teaching overseas can be a positive addition to your CV, too long a period spent overseas might detract from your employability later, at home.
  • Teachers in the middle years of their careers who decide to work overseas might miss out on promotion opportunities, and experience difficulties later in finding an appropriate post in the system at home. There may also be family considerations - in terms of disruption to children's education and/or a partner's career - which might also influence your decision.
  • Teachers in the later stages of their careers might consider a period of work overseas as an opportunity to realise a second career with new and different challenges from those they might otherwise expect at home.

Which subjects?

As a teacher, you should find a ready market for your skills wherever English is used as the language of instruction. However, there are likely to be more opportunities for those who teach maths and science subjects than arts.

There is great demand for teachers of English as a foreign language (TEFL). It is estimated that about a billion people around the world are speakers of English as a foreign or second language.

For many, fluency in English is a passport to opportunity, impacting on all areas of their lives: employability, lifestyle, social acceptance and commercial advancement. It's not surprising, then, that teachers of English are in demand.


Opportunities for teaching overseas could mean you taking up a short- to long-term post, or permanent appointment.

Short-term posts

These last from one to six months and include vacation work, filling in for staff away on a temporary basis or providing specialist educational consultancy services.

Mid-term posts

One-year renewable contracts are offered by a number of organisations.

Long-term posts

Long-term posts usually offer a two- or three-year renewable contract. Generally, these appointments involve filling a post until it can be staffed by a qualified local teacher. Invariably, this means working from contract to contract, resulting in long-term job insecurity.

Permanent appointments

Permanent posts suggest emigration. This demands even more careful consideration, such as taking into account the impact on your family and having to make permanent lifestyle changes.


Employers include primary and secondary schools, colleges, and universities. There are a number of other establishments that fall outside the formal education system, including private language schools and cultural institutions such as the British Council.

Schools divide into expatriate schools and indigenous schools.

Expatriate schools

These are organised on British or American models, and provide for children of expatriate families and sometimes local children. They include service schools which provide for children of British armed forces personnel.

International schools may be funded by the private sector, government or by a foundation, and provide for children of expatriate families and often for local children too.

Indigenous schools

These provide for local children and may be state schools or run by the private sector. Standards, curriculum and resources vary widely among establishments, among state and private schools, and from country to country. A number of private schools use English as the language of instruction.

Further and higher education establishments

Colleges and universities overseas employ expatriate teachers, usually on a contract basis.

Other employers

Outside formal education systems, employers include adult institutes, private language schools, and those backed by cultural institutes, in-house company training programmes (these are usually provided by large multinational companies), and vacation language schools. Courses may be offered full-time, part-time and during vacations.

Qualifications required

These can vary considerably depending on the organisation you intend to work for, which country you intend to work in, and in which educational sector. Generally, the better your qualifications and experience, the more chance you have of gaining the type of overseas teaching appointment you want.

Having said that, it is important to look closely at the type of work you are offered. Teachers (particularly those with advanced qualifications) who find themselves in a low-level teaching post are likely to be frustrated rather than fulfilled by the experience.

Some employers require applicants to have a period of experience of teaching abroad, in addition to their qualifications. For example, you can gain this on an exchange scheme. The British Council offers exchange schemes.

If you want to teach English as a foreign language, you'll usually need either:

  • CELTA (Certificate in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) from Cambridge English Language Assessment.
  • CertTESOL (Trinity College London Certificate in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages).

Looking for work overseas

There are a number of ways to look for a post overseas.

  • Apply through a recruitment agency.
  • Respond to advertisements in the press or online.
  • Visit the country you intend to work in.
  • Write to an overseas establishment.
  • Contact foreign embassies in the UK.
  • Contact British embassies overseas.


Applying to an agency is the most common way of finding a suitable teaching post overseas. Agencies divide into:

  • Public agencies, such as the British Council and Service Children's Education (SCE).
  • Volunteer agencies, including Voluntary Service Overseas (VSO) and Skillshare International.
  • Private agencies - some specialise in recruitment for language schools.


Visit the country you intend to work in - you might be lucky enough to be in the right place at the right time and land just the job you've been looking for! At the very least, you'll be able to get a first-hand look at the type of conditions you can expect to face. If you do this, it's a good idea to take evidence of your qualifications and experience.

Speculative letters

  • Write to an overseas establishment to enquire about vacancies.
  • Write to the embassy or high commission of the country you intend to work in - they might be able to advise you of current requirements, and provide you with contact addresses.
  • Write to the British Embassy or Consulate in the country you intend to work in - they might be able to advise you on general employment prospects for teachers and provide local contacts.

Ask around

Ask friends and colleagues - especially those who have worked overseas - they may be able to offer contacts or recommend an establishment abroad. Also, explore any links your current establishment may have with schools or colleges overseas.

Use the press

Look out for advertised appointments in the national press - Times Education Supplement (TES), Times Higher Education Supplement, The Guardian, and in other journals related to your discipline.

Use the internet

The internet is a great source of vacancies for teaching overseas. Try using search engines to look for 'teaching overseas' and see what you come up with.

For teaching English as a foreign language, there are specialist job boards such as and Dave's ESL Cafe.

Further Information

British Council

Address: Bridgewater House, 58 Whitworth Street, Manchester M1 6BB

Tel: 0161 9577755



Erasmus Plus

Address: Bridgewater House, Manchester

Tel: 0161 9577755



Trinity College London

Address: 89 Albert Embankment, London SE1 7TP

Tel: 020 7820 6100



Cambridge English Language Assessment

Tel: 01223 553997


Working Abroad

Address: The Coombe, Spring Barn Farm, Kingston Road, Lewes BN7 3ND

Tel: 01273 479047



Volunteer Work Abroad (VSO UK)

Address: 27a Carlton Drive, Putney, London SW15 2BS

Tel: 020 8780 7500



Address: 72 Pentyla Baglan Road, Port Talbot SA12 8AD



Dave's ESL Cafe


Skillshare International

Address: Imperial House, St Nicholas Circle, Leicester LE1 4LF

Tel: 0116 2541862



Service Children's Education (SCE)



Teaching English Abroad 2013

Author: Susan Griffith Publisher: Vacation Work

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