Looking to Teach English in a Foreign Country? This Is What It Takes

 (Image:  Flickr )

(Image: Flickr)

I don't know that I'd necessarily say teaching English in a foreign country is becoming more and more common — I still don't personally know anyone who has gone off and done it (though I've heard about friends of friends) — but it's not difficult to figure out why the experience is attractive to some people. You get to travel to a new place, spend some quality time there, potentially make new relationships that will last a lifetime — all while being paid! Now isn't that something?

It doesn't take earning a Ph.D in thermodynamics, spending an entire Saturday afternoon at the DMV or putting yourself through some other ridiculously grueling ordeal to become qualified to teach English in another country. But it's not as easy as simply filling out a form and hopping on a plane either (so go ahead and close that Google Flights tab).

What it does take can depend on where you're trying to go and the particular requirements of a certain program, but in many cases you will need at least a bachelor's degree. According to Teach Away, an international teacher recruitment company, earning your bachelor's degree and snagging an ESL (English as a Second Language) teaching certification is the easiest, most surefire way to guarantee that you will qualify for most any teaching position abroad. A TEFL, or Teaching English as a Foreign Language, certification is "the minimum ESL qualification normally required for a teaching job with ESL/language schools around the world," Teach Away says.

As you can imagine, there are a number of ways to earn your TEFL. Whether you're looking for a low-cost option, an entirely online-oriented option, or foreign or domestic-based options, GoAbroad.com has some advice for you. While TEFL certificates can range in cost from about $900 to $2,000 according to the Internets, Premier TEFL, a company offering courses and internship placements, has some options much lower than that. Their least expensive course, in fact, costs anywhere from $99 to $250, depending on their sales, and you're still getting fully accredited training, tutor support, a three-month study period, and an internationally-recognized certificate — not to mention career advice.

One of the best overall TEFL certification programs in the U.S., according to GoAbroad.com, is offered through Greenheart Travel, a nonprofit organization based in Chicago. If you're itching to earn your certification while out on the road somewhere, however, they also provide their 190-hour, four-week course in Buenos Aires, Argentina; Prague, Czech Republic; and Incheon, South Korea, among other destinations.

Another thing you're going to need to teach English in a foreign country? That would be a work visa. "To obtain the correct work visa to teach in most countries abroad, a bachelor’s degree is generally required," the experts over at Teach Away say. "This is often the legal immigration requirement to be allowed to find work in many countries and there’s very little that you can do to get around that fact." For those of you out there who already own that nifty little piece of paper declaring that you survived four or five years of hair-greying stress at an institution of higher learning, go ahead and breathe that sigh of relief that that's already out of the way.

For those who harbor visions of becoming international teaching superstars but who haven't earned a bachelor's degree yet (as well as those who don't intend on earning one anytime soon, if ever), these revelations may be revolting. However, though Teach Away highly discourages traversing the world of teaching abroad without a four-year degree, they do disclose that it's still possible to make it happen without that expensive piece of paper — you may just have to deal with much lower salaries and working conditions that are not necessarily up to industry standards.

Granted that you nab at least that TEFL certification, there are decent programs out there that will take applicants without degrees.  For just a sampling of what's out there, the International TEFL Academy compiled a list called "The 6 Best Countries to Teach English Without a College Degree," which includes such selections as Cambodia, Mexico, and, perhaps surprisingly, Spain. The introduction to the article says numerous destinations in South America, as well as some others in Asia and Europe, will take you on without a four-year degree, as well.

As a final note, if you're interested in teaching English abroad but not sure where you'd like to go, Teach Away has a handy-dandy online salary calculator that can help you figure out what kind of money you will be able to make in certain countries depending on your qualifications. I'd suggest giving it a whirl.

-LTH