Your money-making expert. Financial journalist, TV and radio personality.
Teaching English as a foreign language is something you can do if you’re already a native English speaker and you have a bit of training. It’s also a huge growth industry with massive demand. You can do it abroad or make extra cash here in the UK.
Teaching English abroad is a popular career choice. Most teachers do go abroad to teach, often as a way of experiencing a foreign country and culture. However, there are plenty of non-native speakers living in the UK who want lessons and are prepared to pay for them. That’s where you come in!
You don’t need to have a qualification or learn the language of your students to teach English to private students, if you manage to get them. However, if you want to teach in a college then there are industry-standard qualifications (the CELTA or TESOL certificates) that you will be expected to have. Many students will want to know that you are qualified. Lucky for you, we’re here to help you make sense of all these courses.
Teaching English as a foreign language, or TESOL (teaching English to speakers of other languages), are the industry jargon used for talking about this type of English language teaching. Teaching English as a foreign language should refer to teaching abroad. While, TESOL refers to teaching people who already live in an English-speaking country. However, in practice they are used interchangeably.
Most language schools require a teacher to hold one of two recognised language teaching qualifications:
Both courses are run in numerous locations in the UK and Europe, typically in universities. Courses are also available in private language schools as well. You’re looking at the best part of £1,000 as a minimum to complete the course, but this could be as much as £1500. Universities tend to charge more than local colleges. Generally a full-time course will last from 4-6 weeks. Many places also offer the option to do the course part time: mainly during evenings and over weekends.
It’s important to recognise that employers aren’t just looking for any old TEFL qualification. When prospective employers ask, ‘have you got a TEFL certificate?’ they are usually referring to is the Trinity Certificate TESOL, the Cambridge CELTA or a certificate gained from doing a course of equivalent length and value. It’s important to choose a course with practical teaching practice. This is because future employers will want to know you have been observed in the classroom. It also means you can stand up in front of a class, which is a bonus.
As part of the application process, you will probably be required to attend an interview and complete a language/grammar awareness test. Cactus TEFL has a great guide detailing the entire process and what to expect.
Other language franchises (such as i-to-i) do their own training, typically in a foreign country. This can work out cheaper. However, you are then tied into working at their schools and you come away with an unrecognised qualification. The training is often limited to just a few days, so this option is better suited to a ‘holiday job’.
It’s worth shopping around as you might find it more enjoyable to learn abroad. It could also end up being much cheaper as well, especially if the pound is performing well against the local currency. Some schools, such as International House, offer a CELTA or TESOL course and then the possibility of a job with them (although this is not guaranteed). You may find it easier to get a job in a specific city if you complete your training with a local school.
Another option is TEFL England, they run both local and online courses at reasonable prices. A 120 hour course costs only £389.
You can even try an online TEFL trial course for nothing. This is a great way of discovering whether their course is for you.
If you want to compare your options across schools then check out Cactus TEFL, an advice and admissions centre with a range of partner schools to choose from. Another popular website is tefl.com. There you can upload a CV for employers to look at and browse a wide selection of jobs.
A word of warning though, any four week course will be very intensive. Cactus TEFL say that anyone applying should expect a 9am – 5/6pm day. You should also expect 3-4 hours of self study (including lesson planning) in the evening. There will also be work at the weekends. It’s impossible to do the course while working so you’ll need to clear your diary for a month if you want to enrol.
Although CELTA/CertTESOL courses are generally regarded as the best option, there are still employment options open to you if you decide not to undertake either of these. The British Council recognises qualifications that meet certain criteria. These courses have to be externally validated, contain at least six hours of assessed teaching and involve at least 100 hours of input.
However, you could still lose out to CELTA or Trinity Cert TESOL trained teachers in areas where competition for jobs is very high, or where there is an overriding preference for the Cambridge/Trinity College qualifications.
An online course could be all right for one-to-one or when working in a supportive environment. However, it would not prepare you enough for the typical classroom. Knowledge of the language is secondary to knowing ‘how’ to teach. As such, many employers won’t consider your application if you’ve had no face-to-face teaching time.
If you do decide to go down the online route, then there are certainly some useful books on teaching techniques you will want to read. It’s also worth brushing up on basic grammar.
It’s useful to look at some course books (which come with supportive teacher’s notes) just to see what areas of the language are typically problems for students. Headway produce a range of great study guides for students, which are worth checking out.
The starting salary for a newly-qualified teacher is usually £10 an hour and rises with experience. Diploma-qualified teachers will be paid significantly more. However, you need a minimum of two years teaching experience to be accepted onto a DipTESOL postgraduate course. The DELTA’s entry requirements are more flexible.
Lots of teachers supplement their income by teaching privately, one-to-one. It’s possible to make it into a career, but there is constant pressure to find new students. This is because most students only need a few months tuition. Teachers have to be careful as they are usually contractually prevented from ‘poaching’ students from their school.
If you do work as a private tutor you can start by charging about £20 an hour. That being said, £30+ would be reasonable for an experienced teacher. You can also charge for proof-reading essays. Try advertising in universities and local colleges to get such work.
Rebecca Selley, an English graduate from Devon, shares her experiences here:
“I started teaching straight after university. I decided to do a CELTA course as I was already planning to go travelling and thought it would be a good way to fund my way around.
The course was surprisingly tough – preparations for a 10 minute teaching slot seemed to take us a good 2 nights. The idea of teaching 5 or 6 hours a day was incomprehensible. Some people transformed into natural teachers while, for others, the whole experience put them off teaching forever. I managed to scrape through it in one piece!
Unfortunately all of the decent schools abroad wanted some experience so I applied to a school in London on a fairly low wage but eventually managed, with the help of some private lessons, to save enough to go away. I was offered work in Argentina, Bolivia and Colombia but the prospect of having to hang up my backpack for less than £5 an hour was not tempting and I have yet to work abroad.
When I got back I was lucky enough to find an employer who was happy to pay the course fees for me to do a DELTA course at university.
This year is my 5th in the industry, and although I have decided to move on elsewhere, I think it has had an enormous impact on my life and has given me the opportunity to meet countless memorable characters. Just today in my class was a Thai grandmother, the daughter of a famous Saudi actor and a Japanese footballer. It’s the closest experience you can get to travelling without a passport.”