Once you’ve decided to embark on your career as a TEFL teacher, the next big question is: where will you go? There might be a country or city that you’ve always wanted to visit or a cuisine you’d love the chance to eat every day. Perhaps you’re motivated by something else, such as living somewhere with great weather, a place where your job offers long holidays or a high pay packet. Whatever drives you, there are plenty of choices across the globe for TEFL teaching. The TEFL.Org has put together a list of the best cities in the world to teach English as a foreign language; read more to see why you should consider making them your home.
Top Cities: Tokyo and Fukuoka
Requirements: A degree, TEFL qualification and native speakers
Benefits and Remuneration: Full-time salaries from $1,900 - $3,200 per month. National holidays
Positions: JET, Eikaiwa (private language school), international kindergartens, university teaching, business English
The allure of Japan’s exotic culture gives it an enduring appeal to TEFL teachers. The food is a major lure, as are the unique elements of Japanese culture: geisha, sumo, samurai, Buddhism, etiquette culture, Cosplay and more.
Japanese students are well-known for their personalities as they’re often quiet, well behaved, reluctant to offer opinions but quite studious. Teaching in this country requires someone with a professional appearance and manner, as well as appreciating the customs of this traditional country.
For teachers with a penchant for big, bustling cities, head to Tokyo, one of the biggest metropolises in the world. Aside from bright lights, buzzing streets and futuristic experiences, you can also find quiet, contemplative temples, serene gardens and temples. For something smaller scale, head to a moderately sized city such as Fukuoka (in Kyushu) which has a lower cost of living.
Top Cities: Shanghai and Chengdu
Requirements: A degree, TEFL qualification and native speakers are preferred
Benefits and Remuneration: $1,900 - $2,800 per month. National and paid holidays. Airfare reimbursement. Big chain schools offer numerous benefits
Positions: State school positions, private language schools, kindergartens, university jobs, business English, international schools
For many years, China has been the go-to location for newbie TEFL teachers. In the past, they weren’t so strict about hiring people with TEFL certificates or degrees, which made it easy to get a job. These days, regulations are much stricter in China as they focus on teaching excellence across the country, and it is the biggest market when it comes to global hiring of TEFL teachers.
The cost of living in China is still low, especially if you steer clear of the expat lifestyle – embracing local life means you can save a huge chunk from your pay packet. Cheap train travel makes it easy to see different places on your weekends or holidays, making China one of the best places for travelling adventures while you teach. Shanghai is a cosmopolitan city with great travel links, and though the cost of living is high, there’s a huge choice when it comes to jobs. For something a bit cheaper and a place that’s more Chinese, head to Chengdu and visit the pandas.
Your students will vary greatly depending on where you teach. In state schools, classes are huge but highly regimented. In a private language school, smaller classes of privileged kids are likely to act up in English club. On the whole, Chinese students are hugely driven and competitive, love games and having fun.
Top Cities: Madrid and Valencia
Requirements: Native speaker and TEFL certificate. Private language schools might require a degree but assistant roles will be more flexible. EU citizenship is required for broader access to different jobs.
Benefits and Remuneration: $770 - $2,200 per month
Positions: Language and Cultural Assistant, private language schools, private one-to-one teacher
Gorgeous weather and a relaxed teaching environment – sounds like bliss! While getting a TEFL job in Spain used to be difficult for newbie teachers, new programs offering teaching assistant roles are a great route into the country. These are also pretty much the only option for teachers without EU citizenship. For more experienced TEFL teachers, you can widen your net to search outside of the biggest cities and find roles in private language schools.
The job requirements, lifestyle and salary will vary greatly depending on what kind of job you have. Learn more about how to find a job in Spain. Spanish students are typically chatty and boisterous, and while quick to talk they often encounter problems with vowel sounds in English.
Top Cities: Bangkok and Phuket
Requirements: A degree, most schools require a TEFL certificate and native speakers.
Benefits and Remuneration: $900 - $1.900 per month
Positions: International schools, private language schools, kindergartens
With a booming tourism industry, Thailand is a great place to teach English as locals often need it for their trade. TEFL salaries are often low in Thailand, but so is the cost of living. Regardless, it remains an attractive place to teach and is so popular that many TEFL teachers never leave. With balmy weather, delicious street food and a fun vibe, living in Thailand is an exciting experience for travel fans.
Bangkok is a lively city with much to see and do. For beach lovers, Phuket is a top destination for surfing and sunbathing. Either of these cities would be a great destination if you want to teach adults, who are keen to polish their English skills for the tourism trade. In Bangkok, you can also find work at international schools, private language schools and kindergartens.
Top Cities: Seoul and Jeju City
Requirements: Degree, native speaker, and a TEFL is usually required
Benefits and Remuneration: $1,300 - $2,600, and accommodation is often provided
Positions: Public schools, private language schools, kindergartens
Another booming Asian destination is South Korea, where demand is high and wages are favourable. The low cost of living makes South Korea an easy place to save money if you spend modestly in your leisure time.
Korean students are typically polite, respectful and focussed on their studies. While Koreans have a traditional culture, they also embrace modernity and as such are keen to learn English. Proficiency in English is tested on university candidates, and business people are also eager to brush up on their language skills. Seoul is a top choice with a competitive job market, but don’t neglect smaller destinations such as Jeju City – find paradise on Jeju Island (known as the Hawaii of South Korea) where you can enjoy plentiful seafood with the close-knit expat community.
TEFL opportunities can be found all over the world, and where you go will depend not only on your qualifications and skills but also what you’re looking for in a TEFL career. Choosing the right TEFL course is the first step on your journey to getting qualified for where you want to go. Wherever you go, do thorough research before accepting a job and prepare yourself for the adventure ahead.