Turning your TEFL job into a full-on, international career
For some TEFL hopefuls, 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 the Cambridge TEFL Diploma, the DELTA or a Masters in TESOL.
Directors of studies are usually responsible for a wide and diverse range of areas. This can include teacher recruitment, liaison between sales and academic staff, financial performance, teaching quality, marketing, customer relations, and record keeping. Essentially you are delivering the best possible learning outcomes every day for the students you are responsible for.
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. He said that while teacher training he perceived a need for a grammar which could actually be covered on a TEFL course, and from this his first ELT book, A Grammar Course for TEFL Certificate was born. Penston now heads his own publishing group, works as a consultant worldwide, and is one of the most trusted names in the business.
It is very much a case of building up your own expertise and knowledge, identifying your best area(s) of expertise, identifying what might be missing from the collective ELT and then having the drive, tenacity and ability to make your mark.
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.
When considering about opening a language school it is a case of making sound decisions and showing a lot of nous (and hard work). It also takes finance (or access to finance) to be able to proceed down this route. The rewards can be great and varied, but the stresses are likely to be enormous too. It takes finance, people, promotion and passion.
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 a blogger and tweeter. He’s recognised for his insightful commentary into the English teaching world, and has amassed more than 23,000 Twitter followers. There are other excellent examples of voices in the EFL field too, such as Katherine Bilsborough, Kieran Donaghy and Nik Peachey.
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.
So 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 CELTA, which is accredited by the prestigious University of Cambridge, fits the bill perfectly. For teachers who already have this and want to progress to the next stage of their career in EFL, the DELTA is the qualification to go for and a key step to those who wish to climb to the top of the EFL tree. If you are already CELTA or DELTA qualified, check out TEFLwork for upcoming job roles. If you have already opened up your own school, you may want to check out TEFLwork to help you reach qualified EFL teachers too!