A guide to choosing the right destination for first-time EFL teachers

One of the most often asked questions I get as a TEFL (teaching English as a foreign language) careers expert is “where can I teach?”. A fairly broad question, but a fair one since many first-time teachers just want to go abroad for a year or so and see what it’s like, and I guess if you haven’t had much travel experience, anywhere can seem attractive.

When looking for work abroad, you have to remember not all schools will be able to advertise on big sites such as tefl.com, in fact most job adverts on these sites are from large language schools. Many teachers find work abroad by already being in the country and, while this can seem a little risky, many schools do like to see you in-person first — making you much more employable being there already rather than on the end of an email or phone thousands of miles away.

When applying for work in advance, you may have a visa process to go through for countries outside of Europe. This can often be a laborious process, and schools and teachers have been known to find ways to avoid it by working on tourist visas. However, while this is common practice in some countries, it is not legal and you could face deportation in some cases.

You will also find degrees are sometimes asked for by schools, this might be because schools want the teacher to have a strong academic background, but sometimes it can be due to visa requirements, so you will need to check. A great source of information like this is Teaching English Abroad by Susan Griffith (just make sure you get the most up to date edition available).

So, here’s a quick guide to the range of places you can teach, it’s not exhaustive by any means, but it will give you a flavour of what is out there and what to expect as regards paid EFL employment.


Many first-time teachers like the closeness of Europe and the familiarity of European culture. Because of this there are quite a lot English-speakers looking for work in Europe. Spain, Italy and Greece are still the hotspots where there is more demand for English teachers. In Spain you can expect around £1000 to £1200 per month, whereas in Greece the salary is lower at £700 for a first-time teacher, but you have a good chance of getting your accommodation included.

In northern European countries such as Germany, Holland and Scandinavia there is less demand since it is taught in schools to a high level and a lot of teaching work to be found there is teaching business English — providing lessons in English for specific purposes. When I was teaching business English in France, it included teaching English to small groups of managers in tyre factories and paper mills to tour guides in chateaux and four-star generals on air bases.

Demand for English teachers in Eastern Europe has been growing steadily and countries such as Poland and the Czech Republic offer some great opportunities at the moment for teaching both general English and business English. In Poland, pay will vary, but new teachers can expect a minimum of £320 per month, but the cost of living is low. However, in the Czech Republic, the wages are higher and the cost of living, though higher, is not as high as it is in the UK.

Country overview
Greece: £700 – £900, accommodation often included
Spain: £1,000 – £1,200, accommodation rarely included
Italy: £1,000 – £1,200, accommodation rarely included
Poland: £320 per month, accommodation often included
Czech Republic: £785 – £1,250 per month, accommodation sometimes included

Middle East
Teaching in the Middle-East has traditionally been well-paid and difficult to get into for first-time EFL teachers. However, there seems to be a growing demand for teachers with and without experience and I have recruited recently for schools in Turkey, Bahrain and Libya. Turkey has long been popular with new teachers since there are a lot of opportunities, particularly in Izmir and Ankara as well as Istanbul.

Country overview
Turkey: £700 per month, accommodation often included
Bahrain: £1,000 per month, accommodation sometimes included
Libya: £1,000 per month, accommodation sometimes included

Teaching in Asia offers a lot of opportunities for English speakers, often the demand for English can outstrip the supply. The pay and conditions vary wildly from country to country as do the requirements. While a degree is necessary in countries such as South Korea, as many teachers find work in Vietnam, Thailand and China without degrees as those who do. In Japan, as a first-time teacher you will find a degree is necessary, but not if you have a few years of experience. South Korea is investing heavily in the English language in the both the public and private sectors and there are a lot of opportunities for degree holders. You can also expect accommodation and flights to be included too. Japan is still one of the key places to teach with excellent salary and good conditions in both the private and public sectors.

Country overview
Thailand: £600 per month, accommodation rarely included
Vietnam: £600 – £800 per month, accommodation rarely included
South Korea: £1,200 – £1,500 per month, accommodation often included
China: £500 – £950 per month, accommodation sometimes included
Japan: £1,800 per month, accommodation sometimes included

Central/South America
Many economies in Latin America suffer from high inflation so your pay when you start might be quite different by the end of your contract, you’ll also see many salaries quoted in US dollars. Many people find work in this part of the world by being in the country and schools are less likely to offer you a job if you are abroad. Also, it is common for teachers not to get work visas since getting one can be a lengthy process (Visa processes vary from country to country).

Country overview
Mexico: £5 – £8 per hour, accommodation rarely included
Chile: £7 per hour, accommodation rarely included
Argentina: £300 – £500 per month; accommodation rarely included
Brazil: £200 – £300 per month; accommodation rarely included

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