One of the biggest preliminary steps I made in deciding to teach English abroad was getting TEFL certified (Teaching English as a Foreign Language). True, not all countries require a certificate, but the benefits of obtaining one seemed to far outweigh the disadvantages.
From a selfish standpoint, a TEFL certificate would grant me a higher salary just about anywhere I wanted to go. Also, the number of potential teaching destinations would greatly increase after certification. The highest-paying gigs, I discovered, required either a Master’s in ESL or 3-5 years of teaching experience, or both. The next best jobs usually went to applicants with a bachelor’s degree in education. I ultimately found myself qualified at the entry level, where the most lucrative and attractive opportunities of that tier demanded a bachelor’s degree (not necessarily in education or English) and a TEFL certificate. As with any other field, it sounded like the competition for even those entry level jobs was ever increasing. If I wanted a fighting chance at working in a country that paid decently and offered at least a few cozy benefits, a TEFL certificate was a necessity, not a choice.
All personal reasons aside, it also seemed like a smart choice to learn a little bit about how to…you know, actually be a teacher, seeing as I had no traditional teaching experience whatsoever. I didn’t know the first thing about lesson planning, classroom management, or teaching strategies. After completing a 13-week online course, however, I felt much more confident and prepared. Of course it’s easier to design mock-lessons without actually giving them and derive solutions to hypothetically problematic students instead of encountering them in person, but the course gave me a huge leg up compared to where I started.
I also didn’t want to assume that I would be able to teach English well simply because I was a native speaker. It occurred to me that suddenly I would have to be able to articulate all of the grammatical and syntactical rules that my English-speaking brain follows; and I’d have to be capable of doing so with learners of all ages and ability.
Throughout the whole experience of getting TEFL certified, the only disadvantage (if it can even be classified as a disadvantage) was the cost of the course. In exchange for 200 course hours, spread over 13 weeks, jam-packed with tips, training and materials, I shelled out a little over $1,000. But I considered the class to be a “you get what you pay for” situation; an investment. Other programs offer certification for $300 or less, but they are less reputable and their training isn’t nearly as extensive.
In short, I highly recommend getting TEFL certified before going to teach abroad. To find out more about the program I went through, International TEFL Academy, click on the link!