Luckily, I was optimistic enough to ignore this advice, and I went to Costa Rica with my TEFL certificate in-hand, got a job within a few weeks AND drank the water! So for all of you who are thinking about TEFL and getting bogged down by your own doubts or those of others, I’m here to officially debunk them for you.
1. I can’t afford to get certified to teach abroad.
The growing acceptance of online TEFL certificates has put teaching abroad into the hands of just about anyone. A TEFL certificate of at least 100 hours is required by most language schools abroad, and costs under $400. This certificate is accepted throughout Asia, Central and South America, and more. If you’re really on a budget, you can even get certified via our 40-hour Basic Certificate for around $200 and get hired as a teacher in China, where TEFL requirements are even more flexible (you’ll also need a degree there). Click for 5 places you can teach with an online TEFL certificate.
2. It’s not safe to teach abroad.
Of course everyone wants to be safe abroad, and when I was preparing to teach in Morocco, friends and family expressed their feelings in this regard. While I appreciated the concern, the fact is most U.S. cities have far higher rates of violent crime than you’ll find in teaching locations overseas. In Morocco, for example, guns are rare, and my students were shocked that a person in the States could just go out and buy one! Don’t let alarmists keep you from a great experience abroad. Just use common sense, stay out of any political activity and don’t break the law, and you should be just fine.
3. I won’t make enough as a teacher to support myself.
Wherever you choose to teach, from the Czech Republic to Chile, you’ll make enough as a teacher to support yourself while abroad. I have taught in Costa Rica and Morocco, where incomes are by no means high, and I lived comfortably on my teaching salary, living in my own apartment and taking trips on school breaks. If you want to actually save some money while teaching abroad, consider teaching in Asian countries such as South Korea, Vietnam, China or Japan, where salaries are above average and benefits can include flight reimbursement, a free apartment or other perks. Get an overview of salary, teaching requirements and cost of living for different countries here.
This is true of some but by no means all teaching locations. When I taught in Central America, for example, not all of my coworkers held bachelor’s degrees. Employers in Latin America are often flexible on this point, placing more emphasis on your TEFL certification, professionalism and an outgoing personality than on your university credentials. Often being there in person, ready and eager to start teaching, can go a long way, too. For those with an eye on teaching in Asia, a region where a degree is usually required, you still have possibilities. Teachers without degrees can get hired in an off-the-beaten path country like Cambodia, for example. Here are 5 places you can teach without a college degree.
5. I’m too old to teach abroad.
These days, TEFL is not just for recent college grads or twenty-something backpackers. More and more mid-life career changers and active retirees are choosing TEFL as a way to travel the world, have adventures or spend their retirement years living “outside the box.” While it is true that in certain parts of the world (such as Asia) there is a preference for younger teachers, in other regions, like Latin America, teachers of all ages are welcomed– and even valued more than younger teachers– for their wisdom and experience. Read about Wes, a retiree who got certified online and taught English in Ecuador.