How TEFL can be a career

Six Ways to Make a Career out of ELT

Six Ways to Make a Career out of ELT

How you can turn your TEFL job into a full-on, international career

For many a TEFL hopeful, English teaching is just a fleeting gig – a way to travel the world, make friends, experiences and a bit of money on the side. For others, it’s more of a career afterthought; an alternative from the nine to five, and an escape from the daily grind. For most, however, TEFL is not a career to carry them all the way through to retirement.

Or is it?

What many don’t realise is that the TEFL world, while rapidly booming worldwide, is also bursting at the brim with career opportunities. From a school’s director of studies to its owner, a book publisher to an industry voice; there are so many ways to make it big in the ELT world.


Director of Studies

You’ve got your qualification, you’ve got a few years of experience, and now you’re looking for a little more. Becoming a director of studies is the natural progression from regular teacher – it’s your job not only to teach, but to decide exactly what to teach. A director of studies has to keep up with all the latest techniques and trends in the TEFL world, devise classes, create syllabi and, most importantly, inspire their fellow teachers.

To advance to the next level in your career, you’ll need the qualifications to do it. Most directors of studies are required to hold a Masters in TESOL, or the Cambridge TEFL Diploma, the Delta.

Nick Jaworski, an English teacher who has worked as a Director of Studies in both China and Turkey, recently told EFL Magazine that the higher role is no easy task.

“Most directors of studies are responsible for teacher recruitment, liaison between sales and academic staff, financial performance, teaching quality, marketing, customer relations, and record keeping,” he says.

But, according to Jaworski, it’s not all bad news: “If you do stay committed to making the move, it is worth it. Ultimately, leadership is just another form of teaching. You goal is to… deliver the best possible learning outcomes for your students each and every day.”

ELT Career Industry

TEFL Publisher

The English language teaching world depends on textbooks, but it’s up to the teachers to fill in the creative gaps. For many the intrepid TEFL teacher, it’s these in-classroom inventions and ideas that end up leading them down the path of textbook publication.

Take Tony Penston, for example, writer of well-known books “Essential Phonetics for English Language Teachers”, and “A Concise Grammar for English Language Teachers”. After starting off his teaching career back in 1978 in Iran, he taught in Mexico, Spain, China, and Oman, before heading back home to Ireland to get properly qualified.

“While teacher training I perceived a need for a grammar which could actually be covered on a TEFL course,” he said, “A Grammar Course for TEFL Certificate… was my attempt at this.”

Penston now heads his own publishing group, works as a consultant worldwide, and is one of the most trusted names in the business.

Open your own language school

This is one for the entrepreneurial teacher, wanting the security of settling in one location, but the freedom to be their own boss. Sure, it’s a lot of work: school owners often establish their businesses in a foreign land, where they then have to hire teachers, attract students, and keep their heads financially above water.

David Will, a school owner and director in Australia, outlined the process in the International House Journal.

“The rewards are immense and varied, but the stresses are greater than anything you are likely to have encountered so far”, he said, “[It takes] finance, people, promotion and passion.”

Teach English Abroad

Teacher trainer or CELTA assessor

Many people like their TEFL courses so much, they never want to leave! Becoming a teacher trainer is a great way to share your knowledge and expertise with others who want to enter the industry, and meet a whole lot of interesting people while you’re at it.

One up from that, CELTA and Delta-qualified teacher trainers, with a few years of experience, can get a job as a course assessor. They’re the person who sits in on a few days of your course to make sure it meets the University of Cambridge’s standards.

Course assessors, in between working as teachers or teacher trainers in their home locations, get paid a healthy salary to fly out and check on various schools throughout the world.

Become a voice in the field

Beyond the all-important literature, which sets the pace for modern-day English teaching, are the tweeters and the bloggers that form an extremely active, online community. Amongst the vibrant online discussion are some who stand out from the rest, and have now made themselves known as influential voices in the industry.

Scott Thornbury, for example, is not only a prominent course book writer, but also an avid blogger and tweeter. He’s recognised for his insightful commentary into the English teaching world, and has amassed more than 13,000 Twitter followers.

Then there’s Dr Sarah Elaine Eaton, an expert in education and language learning, who speaks at a number of huge conferences worldwide. She often consults on international projects and language learning programs, and is the author of a bestselling guide for language schools.

Teaching Distance English

Become an entrepreneur

Beyond just owning your own language school, there are a mountain of entrepreneurial opportunities in the TEFL world. Many well-known business leaders started off teaching English, and have now gone on to become consultants, academy chain owners, influential speakers and course providers.

Samuel Robinson, CEO of Boomerang English and its affiliate partner program, started out teaching English at a franchise school.

“When I was broke, like really broke, and couldn’t afford to pay rent in the city… I ended up living out in the bush of Australia for a while,” he said on his blog, English Entrepreneur.

He now lives in Germany, where he’s been named among the top 10 most influential people in the country’s English language industry.

Apart from managing his own multinational business, Robinson also works as a consultant with large academies.

“[I’ve worked as a] consultant to two of the worlds’ largest language school franchises… both earning over $20 million a year,” he says, “I teach radical new ways of getting leads, students, and building businesses to massive success from the ground up.”

Where can I start?

Just like any career, the first step into the TEFL industry is the right qualification. Most well-paying, reputable, schools will only hire teachers who come holding a 120 hour certification, with at least 6 hours of teaching practise built in. The most preferred of these courses are the CELTA, which is accredited by the prestigious University of Cambridge, and the Trinity TESOL.

More information on recognised TEFL Courses

Jobs for qualified teachers

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