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So You Want to Be an ESL Teacher?

This article is part of a series on digital nomad jobs.

By Natasha Gabrielle

If you like taking part in new experiences and enjoy exploring new places, you may be considering working abroad as an English as a Second Language, or ESL teacher.  This guide will help you better understand this amazing opportunity.

Why Should I Teach ESL Abroad?

There are many benefits to living and teaching abroad. For one, you will get the chance to take part in a new culture and will get the opportunity to explore new places. Many ESL teachers find that they are given a lot of vacation time to travel to other places. If travel is important to you, this can be a great career option to consider.

If you teach ESL in a country with a lower cost of living, it can be easier to save money. Depending on the country, you may also be able to experience some tax-saving perks. Some countries, such as South Korea, also offer free housing to teachers. I haven’t paid rent for a year and a half!

Another benefit can be the chance to try a new career – one that you may end up loving! If you’ve been feeling dissatisfied with your current career prospects, it may be time to try something new.

Who Can Teach Abroad?

The requirements vary by country. If you’re thinking about being an ESL teacher, it’s best to look into each country’s requirements carefully before making your choice. In most cases, you will need to be a native English speaker. Some countries will also have certain education and experience requirements in place.

In South Korea, where I teach, you must be a native speaker from the United States, Canada, United Kingdom, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, or South Africa. You must also hold at least a bachelor’s level college degree.

How Do I Find a Job?

There are many ways to find an ESL teaching job. One of the most popular ways is to go through a recruiter. Make sure that you search for a reputable recruiter who will help you throughout the job search process. Always remember that your recruiter is paid to place you – so if you feel like something isn’t right or that you’re being pushed into a position, get a new recruiter. Using a great recruiter can make the job-search process a lot less stressful.

You can also find jobs on job board sites, ESL teaching Facebook groups, or even through friends. If you have a friend who has taught at a great school, they may be able to help you get a job during the next hiring period.

Should I Get a TEFL?

You may be wondering if you should invest in a Teach English as a Foreign Language certification, or a TEFL. If you have no prior teaching experience, it may be worthwhile to invest in this. A TEFL program can be a great way to learn classroom management tips and to learn how to properly prepare lesson plans.

Some teaching programs may require you to take a TEFL course. Make sure that you look into requirements ahead of time, as you may need to complete a certain amount of hours, or you may need to take part in a practicum before getting certified. In South Korea, a TEFL isn’t required, but it’s recommended as it can help to set you apart from the many other applicants.   

If a TEFL isn’t a requirement for your program, you may still want to consider it. Some schools or programs will allow you to start at a higher salary level if you have this experience.

Being an ESL teacher is a rewarding and life-changing experience. If you want to take part in a new adventure, I recommend teaching English abroad! If you want to learn more about teaching ESL in South Korea, feel free to visit my blog, Live Learn Venture.


Natasha is a travel blogger, ESL teacher, adventurer, and sometimes runner – currently living abroad in South Korea. She blogs about living and teaching in South Korea and her travels around the world. You can read more about her travels at