Teaching English Abroad: Getting Hired



So you’ve decided to pack up your life, move to another country and become an English teacher?  Great! Now all you need is a job!

Here’s how to get hired so you can teach English abroad:

First and foremost, you need to be a native English speaker with a bachelor’s degree.

Enroll in a TESL/TEFL certification course. Not only will this provide you with some practice in basic grammar rules (you know, the past perfect tense, future, etc.) but also give you experience and confidence in teaching if this is a new profession for you.

Do your research and find out what you want in a job: public school or private? After-school academy? Kindergarten or elementary school?

Do you want to live in a city or a suburb? Would you like to work with other foreign teachers, or are you OK being the only native speaker at your school?

After you have a general idea of what you want, sign on with a recruiting agency. They are free (the schools pay them to find teachers), and they will set up all of your interviews and help you navigate the visa process.

I contacted Pegasus Recruiting, in March to put my name out there. I stayed in contact with my recruiter through my college graduation in May, and over the summer she set me up with interviews while I worked on getting my visa.

The agency will get you the interviews, and it’s your job to get hired – based on a phone interview.

My first interview

Generally the phone interviews are very short (5 to 10 minutes), and are conducted at night (due to the time change) by a non-native English speaker. It’s important to speak loudly and clearly and to sound as enthusiastic as possible.

I was asked about everything from why I want to live in Korea to what kind of teacher I think I will be.

Once you get hired, check out the school. The agency will give you an e-mail address of a teacher already working there, so use this: ask them anything and everything.

Things to know before you sign your contract:

  • How long is the contract? How many hours will you be teaching?
  • How much will you be paid, and how frequently? Does the school consistently pay you on time? Does the school help you set up a bank account?
  • Do you get health insurance?
  • How is the housing?
  • Do you get vacation time?
  • Will they pay for your airfare to and from Korea?

Once you are satisfied with your contract, you need to get an E2 visa, which requires: a signed contract from a school in Korea, an FBI background check (this requires fingerprints and can take up to four months, so it’s best to order this way ahead of time), a copy of your passport, an official transcript and your original college diploma.

You will then receive a visa ID number.  Next you have to visit your nearest Korean consulate for an in-person, group interview. The interviews are short and more of a formality than anything else. The consulate will then mail you your passport and visa, the school will e-mail you an itinerary and you will be on your way.

You can spend months getting your paperwork together and finding the right school for you, but once you get your visa number, things start moving pretty fast, and you could be in Korea in a month’s time.

The great thing is, schools need YOU: English teachers are in such high demand right now, and contracts are ending all the time, so schools are always on the lookout for new teachers. The odds are in your favor!

In a few short months you could find yourself “nation building” with the rest of us expats in Korea.

Have you taught English abroad? Share your stories, I’d love to hear!


About Author

Claire is a recent college grad turned expat, who is currently teaching English in South Korea. When she's not exploring Korea and writing about it, Claire enjoys fantasizing about future trips, shopping, dancing, and drinking dangerous amounts of caffeine. She plans to move to Buenos Aires in 2012. You can follow her adventures at www.sokogigglygirl.wordpress.com.


  1. My friend teaches English in Korea now. I’m sure this article would have made the process much easier!

    I did a bit of ESL teaching as a private tutor here in Buenos Aires. I didn’t like it. I prefer working with young kids.

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  3. i did a tesol course with the intention of teaching english overseas. loved the course, and used it to sort out a volunteer position with a bilingual school in honduras. but, when i got there i ended up teaching science and math! one of the other volunteers there went straight to south korea after the year, and ended up staying 3! he loved it. and made some decent cash too. i think it is an awesome way to see the world, live in a community, fund your travels, meet cool people, etc… some great advice!

  4. I prefer adults. Very young kids do things like cry and hit each other and I can really do without it! I might change my mind if an adult student ever cries or hits me…

  5. We’ve looked into teaching abroad many times over the years but just never pulled the trigger. This is some great information for those looking to do so.

  6. I taught English in Vietnam for about nine months. The country has become a bit of an English teaching destination and there is an amazing mix of people doing this.
    If you are youngish and obviously Caucasian you have an enormous advantage when it comes to the language schools. If this is you – always, always include a recent photo with any application. If you are good looking or blonde you’re almost guaranteed a job. Expect to begin teaching about five minutes after your job interview!
    If you are an experienced teacher, you’re probably better off aiming for schools and universities.
    Unfortunately, if you are Asian- or African-looking you’re going to be discriminated against. You may get a job but your hourly rate will be lower than other Westerners, even if you have more experience. The local thinking is that the parents of the students (the people who are paying the fees) just won’t believe an Asian will speak English of a high enough standard. And Africans have had a poor reputation in Ho Chi Minh City for a few years because of an influx of Africans who hang out in the parks and hassle women and hussle tourists. There are several Africans playing in the Vietnamese football league, but that hasn’t saved the reputation of black people, unfortunately.
    Having said all that, I had a ball in Vietnam. I taught with a Filipino guy who had been there for years, enjoyed his job and was paid well. I made friends with people from all kinds of backgrounds – nursing, admin, HR, bus driver, aircraft mechanic, you name it – and they loved teaching. I didn’t enjoy teaching, but I think most of that was related to where I was working. But I would encourage anyone who’s thinking about it to give it a red hot go!

  7. We also had to submit a picture with our application, which seemed very strange at the time. But Koreans do put a lot of stock into how a person looks – they are also very into women who look very feminine. And being blonde (and therefore uber American to them) didn’t hurt either.

    Robin: I agree about young kids – I honestly see the kindergarteners at our school running around like animals, and I don’t know how the teachers do it. That being said, older kids are great: all the brutal honesty and unintentional hilarity of childhood but with the social skills to be polite and sit quietly. I am a huge advocate for teaching older kids!

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  9. I always get so jealous when I read about teaching English abroad… I’m not a native speaker but I’m finishing a master in English and I studied abroad in the US for a year so I’m fluent and would feel confident teaching English as a foreign language (especially since I had to learn it myself) but I don’t think I would get hired because I’m French… This sucks because I love the English language, I love teaching and I love working with kids^^

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