Can I make a career out of teaching English? (TESOL/TEFL)

In short; YES! And let me explain why…

After a career of 12 years in TESOL, I still love it! I love it because of the travel opportunities it has brought, the career path it has created and the people I have met. If any of those interest you, then this is a good route for you.

Now, like most people in the industry of TESOL / TEFL / ESL / EFL (and all those other acronyms you might have seen!) I didn’t quite start out with a clear goal on being an ESL teacher. In fact, like many, I ‘tripped’ into it. You might also be one of those people or be considering making a career change. My advice; go for it and don’t look back!

That light bulb moment

My ‘trip’ actually was a trip, literally. It was a trip to South America back in 2004 during my gap year after graduating from university, with a career route as an accountant. I think as soon as I hit the shore of Rio de Janeiro, I realized accountancy was not the thing for me. The question then, was ‘what was the thing for me’? A few caipirinhas, countries and contemplations later, I realized that was TESOL and I have never looked back.

You may have realized that something is not right in your current job; you’re looking for a change. Maybe you want to experiment with TESOL for a short period while you travel. Or maybe you’re a smart cookie and got this right from the start and know this is the career you want right from the beginning. Whatever your reason, the TESOL light bulb has been switched on in your mind.

TESOL as a career; a passion for travel

I have travel bug and it’s here for life. Sometimes I love that and sometimes it’s my worst enemy. Nevertheless, it needs feeding and a career in TESOL has fed it up nice and full!

My TESOL career has taken me across 40 cities and 4 continents. The world is pretty much your oyster when it comes to teaching English; pick a city and it’s highly likely they will need English teachers. And if you’re like me, without an endless pocket of cash to travel with, you need a job along the way to buy things like…urm…food.

Starting off, the typical TESOL route might be China/Japan/Korea/Indonesia, which are great places to start; loads of work, good benefits and there’s not too much pressure on being the best teacher ever. In my experience in China, my students were all super well behaved, which also is a blessing when starting out new! I would recommend English First or Education First schools, which are pretty much all over Asia. They offer a good package and have a good support network, as well as being established for 52 years.

TESOL as a career; a passion for career progression

So, your interest in TESOL is strong, you think it’s right for you, but you also don’t watch to ditch your chances of having a decent career as well. Well, if you’re flexible and open minded with an ambitious passion, then TESOL can also be that route.

My roles have spanned regional academic management, school director, academic director, academic manager, teacher trainer and teacher. It’s left me in a pretty good spot financially (don’t get me wrong I’m not talking banking or tech level ‘good’, but certainly comfortable.) If it’s the financials you’re interested in, then going down a management route might be the best option for you. There is a pretty good set up for career progression, especially if you chose a large international company and it’s pretty common to see teachers transition over to academic management roles. However, if you have no interest in the management route, then landing a teaching role in the Middle East is usually good for the bank balance.

TESOL as a career; a passion for people

For me, this makes up a big part of why I love what I do; the students, the colleagues and the travelers on route. Working in some schools with over 5,000 students annually I can’t even try to count the number of students I have met from all over the globe. Suddenly, interacting with people from Kazakhstan, Taiwan, Italy, Iran is part of a normal working day. Without realizing it, I learn so much from them every single day.

And we all have something in common; a love for travel, culture and language. We are a community of ‘go-getters’, ‘foodies’ and ‘culture vultures’ with an energetic passion for life. And it’s contagious! That is what makes we wake up every morning (ok, most mornings) happy to go to work. Because a career in TESOL is work and it can be hard work, but as the old saying goes ‘if you love your job you’ll never work another day in your life’.

So, go get that TESOL / TEFL certificate, pick a point on a map and go get life! And pick up a great career on route!