How I Got My TEFL Certificate and Started Teaching English Abroad

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Have you ever thought about teaching English as a foreign language overseas but were unsure how to go about it? Look no further! Here you'll learn the steps I took to get certified and start teaching English as a foreign language (TEFL).

Teaching English Overseas

I had thought about teaching English as a foreign language (TEFL) for quite some time before deciding to earn my certificate. I was nervous and didn't really know what to expect! And before I looked into it further, I wasn't 100% sure of the requirements. As I found out, requirements tend to vary; many countries require TEFL teachers to hold a bachelor's degree (often in any subject), while others require only English proficiency. I have a bachelor's degree in communications, so I knew deep down that I could handle the job.

Anyway, I'm here to tell you that earning my TEFL certificate was one of the best decisions I've ever made. I now have a rewarding career that allows me to travel to faraway lands and help non-English speakers learn this wonderful, but often very tricky, language. Read on to find out exactly how I got certified and started teaching abroad.

Step 1: Do Your Research

The first thing I did was get online and research TEFL as a career. This was a good idea because it gave me a glimpse of what life would be like for me if I went through with my plan. Research also helped to answer some of my questions. I found online discussion forums to be especially helpful. At this step, it's also a good idea to familiarize yourself with TEFL requirements for different countries.


Step 2: Find an Accredited Certificate Course

After researching the profession and making the decision to go forward with my journey, the next thing I did was find an accredited TEFL certificate course. Accreditation is very important when choosing a course because they are not all created equal. Employers and schools overseas view accreditation as a means of course quality and TEFL teacher preparedness. Make sure the accreditation comes from a recognized, reputable accrediting agency, such as the Accrediting Council for Continuing Education & Training (ACCET). You should also look for reviews of any potential courses to see what other students are saying. If the reviews aren't great, look elsewhere.

Step 3: Complete Your Course

I ended up choosing a TEFL certificate course that I was able to complete online from the comfort of my own home. The course lasted 12 weeks, and I had to devote about 10-12 hours per week to my studies. At the time, the course was perfect for me since I was also working a full-time job as a public relations manager. The course was very interactive and offered regular online discussions and videoconferences. These allowed me to communicate with others in the class as well as with my instructor, which was a huge help.

During the course, I had to complete a number of projects and assessments to prove I was capable of teaching English abroad. I completed the course successfully and was then ready to look for work.


Step 4: Find a Job

There are several Internet resources that can connect you with TEFL jobs around the globe, like those in Central and South America, Europe, Asia, and more. I have always had an interest in Asia, so I knew I wanted to try to find a position there if possible. I came across several openings in Japan, China, and Korea, but one in Japan really caught my interest. I had to do a few interviews via the phone and Internet. After I was offered a position, I did some more research to make sure the school that I was possibly going to work for was reputable and would make for a good employer.

This is also the point where I got all the particulars on pay, living expenses and stipends, living quarters, benefits, area information, and more. I found the school that offered me the job to be well recognized and legitimate. I had to submit to a background check and provide proof of my bachelor's degree and TEFL certification once I accepted their job offer.

Step 5: Obtain a Work Visa and Passport

After I found a job, I had to get the details on obtaining a work visa or work permit. Not all countries require them, but many do. Japan did. Thankfully my employer took care of the work visa side of things for me. They got in touch with the government agency responsible for issuing these visas, and it was all set.

Since I had traveled abroad within ten years of accepting my position, I didn't have to apply for a new passport. If you don't have a passport, however, be advised that it can take a month or two to get one.


Step 6: Start Working

Once I had all my ducks in a row, I was able to book a flight to Japan and start working within a week of my arrival. At the beginning, I was nervous, but my school was very accommodating and helpful during those first few weeks. After I started teaching, I got more comfortable by the day. The apartment the school set me up in was really nice and in a safe part of the city. My commitment was for one year (time flew!), and it was honestly one of the most eye-opening, fulfilling years of my life. Since then, I have also taught English in Germany, Italy, and Turkey.

By Erin Riskey
February 2017
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