TEFL (teaching English as a foreign language) is popular with both graduates and career changers. How you write your CV depends on the job specification and your background.
Experience and qualifications are two important factors, but specific requirements vary worldwide. Use resources such as “Teaching English Abroad” (Susan Griffiths), Transitions Abroad and Dave’s ESL Cafe to find out requirements for your chosen destination.
In many countries, a degree is necessary for a visa, with a TEFL qualification secondary in importance. But many European countries and certain organisations require both a qualification (CELTA or Trinity Cert TESOL) and experience – even for entry-level jobs. Further qualifications, such as the DELTA or MA in Applied Linguistics are useful for higher-level posts, or certain countries.
However, Joe Hallwood (Guardian Careers’ TEFL expert) explains: “We recruit for a lot of schools worldwide that don’t require experience but only entry-level qualifications. While courses with observed teaching practice are excellent courses, the vast majority of initial TEFL training is entry-level, pre-CELTA, training.”
If you need to build experience, your options include one-to-one tutoring or coaching, voluntary or summer residential course teaching, or even a year abroad teaching in a country where experience isn’t required.
Preparing to write your CV
Find the most essential requirements in the job description, then make these prominent. You may need details such as your date of birth for some countries.
Keep your CV brief, highlighting skills such as training, presenting and time-management, for example. Mention experience of living abroad, as it shows self-reliance and adaptability. You don’t need to know the language of the country you want to teach in, though some familiarity helps you settle in quicker and reduce culture-shock.
Suggested CV format
Name and contact details
Profile (include qualifications, experience, teaching specialisms)
Graduate (BA Hons Spanish) and CELTA-qualified teacher with two years’ experience in general English, YL and Cambridge exam preparation (KET, PET, FCE). Keen traveller with extensive experience in Europe and Asia. Fluent in Spanish.
(Optional: career changers can add relevant skills. Technical / job-specific skills may position you for business English or English for Specific Purposes, for example.)
Professional Experience (put this section before education if you have teaching experience or you’re a career changer.)
Give details of employers, dates, responsibilities and achievements.
Language Academy, Barcelona, Sept 2009 – June 2011
Teaching one-to-one, groups of both children and adults, and Cambridge exam preparation.
* Increased pass rate from 75% to 85% across Cambridge exams
* Expanded enrolment at a children’s afternoon activity club by over 50% in eight months
* Developed speaking materials which were adopted by five technical schools
* Regular positive performance appraisals
(Optional: include an endorsement from an ex-employer)
Joe Hallwood advises career changers to pull out relevant non-teaching experience. Consider a functional CV grouping experience by theme and give employment details.
Web developer (Sole proprietor) 2004 – 2010
Managing projects for local businesses.
Performed a “needs analysis” for each client, aligning goals with budgetary and time constraints. Client satisfaction ensured repeat business and referrals.
Presented customisable e-commerce and web publishing packages in workshops and seminars.
Coached school-leavers in web design / development skills.
Planning and organisation
Provided tailored project plans with regular meetings to assess progress.
Education (this section can precede the employment section if you lack experience)
In reverse chronological order, give details of your TEFL qualification including specialist modules such as teaching young learners or business English; your degree, and other relevant training. Mention extra-curricular activities, such as sport or coaching.
(Optional: Hobbies and interests. Joe Hallwood suggests highlighting your personality fit. Tie in your interests with the job description such as: sporting activities if you’re applying for a summer camp.)
A covering letter adds further weight to your application. Say why you’re interested in the opportunity and give some examples to show your qualities as a confident, engaging teacher, who can build rapport with students.