Where to find good ESL jobs

Finding a good job teaching ESL abroad can be a challenge. There are so many companies and websites out there, it can be difficult to know where to start and who to trust. We’ve put together the various ways we, and other teachers we know, have found good jobs teaching English abroad.

How to find jobs teaching English abroad TEFL

Where to find a good TEFL job partly depends on which country you’re thinking of working in. For some countries, schools prefer to meet prospective teachers face to face, so it’s best to arrive in the city before applying for jobs. For others, visa requirements mean it’s better to arrange something online beforehand. Even for countries who like teachers to be in the country, there are companies who recruit from abroad online.

Finding jobs online

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These days many English teachers or prospective English teachers find jobs online. There are a plethora of websites for job adverts, of varying quality. Some are run by agencies who take a cut of any teacher they recruit. This isn’t all bad, but check if they take their fee from the school or from a percentage of your wages. Some look like they have lots of jobs, but when you look closely, the adverts have all expired. Some have lots of adverts from schools that you wouldn’t want to work for.

So here’s a round-up of the websites we, and our friends, use to find jobs.

TEFL.com

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This is probably the largest and most professional site to find jobs. Schools have to pay to advertise here, so you’d hope that they are schools looking for decent teachers, rather than just any face they can find. You can search based on the country or region you want to work in, the type of job you want and even your desired salary. There’s also a nice map with pins to all their job adverts, so you can see which countries have to most ads. Alternatively, you can just browse the list of jobs until you see something interesting. We found our jobs in both Ho Chi Minh City and Odessa here.

TEFL.com has a list of training courses too, so you can see companies offering the CELTA/Trinity/other TEFL courses. They also do a regular survey of teachers and schools on the cost of living in their country. This is helpful when deciding what country to go to because you can compare the salaries offered with the cost of living. In some countries, like Ukraine, for example, the salary offered looks really low, but the cost of living is also very low so it isn’t so bad.

They have a mailing list and send out their current job list to your email address once a week if you want. This means that even if you are not actively looking for work, you can keep up to date with what’s available. I get the email every Monday morning, and while I’m not looking to move on just yet, it’s interesting to see who is recruiting and what they are offering.

ESL Cafe

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Once called Dave’s ESL Cafe, after it’s founder, this website has lots of resources for teachers, including teaching ideas. It has international job boards, as well as specific boards for jobs in China and Korea (two of the countries with huge numbers of teaching jobs). As with TEFL.com, schools also need to pay to advertise here. We have found a couple of jobs here – Apollo Haiphong and the university in China.

ESL Cafe has extensive forums where people can ask for advice. There’s a board for most countries where people teach, with generic questions about working there as well as specific queries about individual companies and schools. We generally use the forums to research both countries and individual schools.

However, you have to be careful not to let them bring you down. People posting can be incredibly negative. I guess people who are happy in the country and job they are in are busy enjoying themselves and their work, rather than hanging out on internet forums. Whichever school you are looking into, there will be someone who hates them. Perhaps they are disgruntled ex-employees or have heard bad rumours about the school. Or maybe they have a valid argument with the company. You have to see how many people agree. We have found negative things written about most places we have worked and been very happy. These forums are useful, but you have to take them with a pinch of salt.

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British Council 

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British Council has language schools all over the world. If you have a CELTA or Trinity certificate then you can apply for jobs on the British Council jobs portal. They usually only accept people with two years’ post certificate experience. However, there are countries they really need people for where they accept new teachers too. Egypt is one of those places. Once you are on the British Council network, you can apply for and be transferred to other countries internally.

The application process for the British Council is all done through the portal and quite hardcore – there is an extensive application form where you have to complete the number of hours experience you have with various age groups. You also have to write a personal statement where you show how to match the job-related competencies they ask for. If you have worked for the Civil Service before you’ll recognise the competency framework. The interview process is also competency based, so it’s a good idea to look it up before you do one.

You can sign up for job alerts, so whenever something in the region you are interested in comes up, you get a message in your inbox.

International House World.

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International House also has a vast chain of language schools – most of them franchises. They recruit for many of them on their jobs portal. Like the British Council, you then apply for jobs through their jobs portal. Also like the British Council, you need a CELTA or Trinity certificate to get through the initial sift.

International House also has an internal jobs list, so if you work for one school for a contract, you can ask to be transferred to another. There are also lots of opportunities for further training and promotions, if that’s what you are looking for.

English First

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English First, or EF, have schools and franchises in many countries. We worked for one of their schools for a summer in Bournemouth. They have a reputation for being a bit of a ‘McEnglish’ school, if you know what I mean. However, as with any company and franchise, some are great and others not so. We had a great time in Bournemouth and they were very professional. While you will find them in many countries, the main ones recruited through their jobs portal are in China, Russia and Indonesia. I did my Trinity TESOL diploma exam in the main centre in Shanghai, which looked good. I did it with lots of their managers from various nearby cities who seemed happy too. There are some horror stories about some though, so do some research. The ESL cafe forum is a good place to start.

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Websites for specific countries or regions

Countries with lots of demand for English teachers and lots of schools often have their own websites for advertising jobs. Now we only know those for places we have lived, but I’m sure there are lots more. There are also Facebook groups dedicated to teaching jobs.

Ajarn.com

This should be the first port of call for anyone thinking of teaching in Thailand. It’s an expansive website full of advice on teaching there, with regular columnists and bloggers giving their experiences. There are questions and answers on visas and work permits, and a list of teachers in different places and teaching situations’ cost breakdowns. Added to this is the jobs board, with long lists of government schools, private schools and language schools advertising for teachers.

Madrid Teacher

This website has a classified ads page for Madrid, and another for the rest of Spain. It also has reviews of the schools from the writers of the site, with their opinions of the jobs, which is useful too. We used it when we moved to Madrid, and I got my job at Cambridge House through it.

Individual school websites

Another way to apply for jobs online is to find a list of schools in your desired location and send off your c.v. and covering letter. ESL Base has a database of schools for many cities in many countries which is a good place to start. Click on the link to the webpage, see if is peaks your interest and then look for either the teacher recruitment page, or just find their email address. Schools often need new staff suddenly, because there are more students than they expect or because a teacher leaves at short notice.  Some rarely advertise, because they get enough teachers approaching them.

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Finding jobs in person

In some countries, a good way to find a job is just to turn up and pound the pavements. As mentioned above, you can find lists of schools on websites like ESL Base. You can also walk around big cities and see English schools on the streets, in office blocks and in shopping centres. In many you can go and drop off your c.v. and see what happens. We got a job in Ho Chi Minh City by emailing our c.v. to a school we saw near our first apartment. They interviewed us and gave us some immediate work. It wasn’t a place we wanted to work for long, but it paid the bills for a while until something better came along.

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Whichever way you choose, do some research before you take a job. If you get offered one online, ask lots of questions. What are your working hours? Find out what hours you’ll have to teach and how much time you’ll have to prepare. Are you teaching onsite or going out to businesses, and if so, what is the travelling time? What are your classrooms like? Is there a teachers’ room and what facilities does it have? Do you teach from a textbook or do you have to design your own lessons from scratch? Are there ready made materials to use? Will there be teacher training? A quality school shouldn’t mind you asking questions. Try to get the email address of at least one teacher who is working there to contact, to get another opinion.

Google the name of the school or company. Bad places generally have lots of mentions online. Don’t believe every bad word you read about a place, but if there are loads, you should be cautious. You might be able to find blogs or social networking pages of people who do or have worked there before. Contact them and ask for the lowdown.

How did you find your teaching job? Is there a website for teaching in the country you are in that we could share with prospective teachers? Leave a comment or contact us to let us know.

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