TEFL Job Description and Career Information


Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) is a swiftly expanding profession that is gaining in popularity as technology and the Internet continue to diminish obstacles that previously hindered international trade, commerce, and business.

TEFL Job Description: A Career in TEFL

TEFL involves teaching English abroad in a country where English is not the native language. This differs from TESOL (Teaching English as a Second Language), which involves teaching English to non-native-English learners in the U.S. Although the term TEFL is used to describe teaching English abroad, other countries often refer to TEFL educators as English teachers, English as a Foreign Language (EFL) teachers, or English as a Second Language (ESL) teachers. Individuals seeking TEFL jobs may therefore come across a number of acronyms for the same type of job.

*Capella University offers an online Master’s program in English Language Learning and Teaching designed to help educators advance their career in supporting diverse student populations. While it does not satisfy licensure requirements, the program can help you build the skills to use instructional strategies, emerging trends, and best practices to effectively teach English Language Learners and help students adapt to new cultural environments.

*The USC Rossier School of Education offers its Master of Arts in Teaching - Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (MAT-TESOL) program online, allowing current and aspiring educators to earn a master’s degree from a top-ranked university and specialize in teaching English to non-native speakers - from anywhere in the world.

A career in TEFL may be the ideal profession for everyone from industry professionals, who possess education and experience in areas such as mathematics, science, or computer science, to state-licensed teachers looking to travel the world and teach English to English learners. An overseas teaching career in TESL may include working for:

  • Private language schools
  • Public/state schools
  • Universities/colleges
  • Governmental organizations
  • Mission-based organizations

Foreign Universities and Colleges/State Schools

For example, TESL educators are often in demand at foreign universities or colleges, as English as a Foreign Language (EFL) courses are commonplace requirements for college graduates in countries such as China, Japan and Saudi Arabia. Employers in many countries demand employees who are multilingual, skilled in new information technologies, and entrepreneurially oriented.

EFL coursework in foreign universities is often referred to as English for Academic Purposes (EAP) instruction, which prepares students to study abroad. For example, a number of foreign universities have transfer programs with U.S. universities that allow students to spend part of their college career in the U.S. as to become further adapted to American culture and business practices.

Public/state schools also seek EFL teachers, as many children are taught English from a young age in many Latin American countries and in countries like UEA, Japan, and China.

An EFL teacher may have the following job duties:

  • Creating and organizing teaching materials
  • Advising students
  • Administering placement tests
  • Preparing student progress reports
  • Overseeing entrance examinations
  • Providing remedial instruction and guidance to students

Many overseas EFL programs seek applicants with bachelor or master’s degrees (M.A.) in TESOL or the equivalent, as well as teaching experience. Specific in-class ESL instruction is often a requirement if the earned degree is not in a TESOL-related major. It is common for candidates with advanced degrees to be deemed highly desirable and given priority.

Private Language Schools/Business Schools/Governmental Organizations

ESL education services companies in many foreign countries are commonplace. These private language schools/business schools provide English prep language classes to students before entering university or vocational college or English language programs for local business communities. Governmental ESL organizations, which are often authorized by a country’s foreign affairs department, serve as administrative agencies that educate specific populations in ESL.

These settings generally require EFL teacher candidates to demonstrate a high level of English proficiency; experience teaching English and/or a teacher’s certificate; a bachelor’s degree or higher; and some type of industry certification (ESL, TOEFL, TOESL, etc.).

Mission-Based Organizations

Many mission-based organizations, including Christian mission organizations, employ EFL teachers as missionaries who work overseas to help foreign families better communicate with missionaries, aid workers, and medical teams. These organizations operate international schools, support ministries, and orphanages, just to name a few, all of which serve developing countries across the globe.

These programs, although they do not require TEFL educators to be as highly skilled as those who work in private universities or state schools, generally seek candidates who can demonstrate English fluency through a four-year bachelor’s program, teaching license, and/or experience teaching English learners.

TEFL Salary Information

Salary statistics for TEFL vary widely, based on the country in which the job is located, the employer, and the candidate’s level of education and experience. Because there is no single degree, license or certification requirement for EFL teachers, requirements to TEFL may range from a TESOL certificate from an online organization to an advanced degree from an accredited college or university. As such, compensation for EFL teachers can range from meager to sizable.

Salaries for TEFL may be supplemented with free visas, room and board, health insurance, paid vacations, paid flights, and bonuses for staying for an extended period or for renewing a contract.

Just a few of the most recent job announcements for EFL teachers include a private international school in South Korea that features a monthly salary of $1,900 to $2,400; various universities and colleges in Saudi Arabia that feature a base salary of up to $46,000 per year; and in multiple locations in Thailand for a salary of up to $1,200 per month.

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