TEFL Career Path and Career Progression

Andrew Lynch

A TEFL career can be extremely rewarding, taking you around the world to enjoy new experiences domestic-based teachers are not exposed to. According to the British Council, there are around 2 billion people learning and using English worldwide, with 300 million of those in China, so there are plenty of opportunities available.

But what does TEFL career progression look like and how do you get started? In this blog we look at the TEFL career path, including entry points, earnings and what to look out for.

How to start a TEFL career

There are a number of different ways you can teach English abroad, with a variety of routes that can lead you into this part of the teaching profession. The two main entry points are via:

Check out our thorough breakdown of CELTA vs TEFL to see how they compare.

Some teachers start with a TEFL course before graduating onto a CELTA course and maybe a DELTA course (to apply for more senior roles) at a later stage. Internships are a good way to also gain classroom experience and you’ll need to have undergone at least 120 hours of training to reach TEFL qualification. Some job specs may also ask that you have a degree, which can often help with the visa application, this is not essential for every TEFL job available though.

How much does a TEFL teacher earn?

It’s important to be aware of the earning potential of a TEFL teacher before you start applying. A lot will depend on the school you are working for and the country it is in, as salaries do vary quite a bit across the world. 

A starting role in your TEFL career might offer anywhere between £14,000 and £25,000. For more experienced teachers, salaries on offer can be between £27,000 and £33,000. For those with a lot more experience the salaries can go a lot higher, with those in higher education usually enjoying the best terms. Typically, countries considered to be ‘more developed’ will offer higher salaries, but many choose lower salaries in countries where the cost of living is less, and there are other opportunities like travelling to take advantage of.

What does the average TEFL career path look like?

TEFL jobs will usually be on a fixed-term contract, somewhere between 1-2 years at a time. A permanent contract may be available at a later stage, but jobs tend to be in-line with academic years, with many teachers returning to work in the UK between July and August before heading back out to their next country. 

There isn’t a typical average career path in TEFL, but many will start as teachers or teaching assistants and then take on more responsibilities in schools as they progress. Eventually teachers typically specialise in certain areas such as teaching Business English or general English. With more experience in the classroom, many TEFL teachers will gain more qualifications to open up more senior roles and continue their careers that way. This being said, many will do TEFL for a number of years then decide to go into other careers like recruitment or teaching back home. Teaching skills set you up for a variety of different jobs. 

Is teaching ESL a good career?

There are many pros and cons to teaching English as second language (ESL) and making it your career, it’s worth considering the following to understand how this could work for you:

Pros of teaching English as a career

Cons of teaching English as a career

Advice for making a TEFL career path

The main thing to be sure about is whether or not being a TEFL teacher is right for you. It’s a journey that requires commitment to become qualified and a willingness to adapt to new situations working abroad. Being a TEFL teacher isn’t for everyone, but if you are comfortable with taking on more qualifications and the thought of working abroad, it’s likely you will be a good fit.

Take time to do research about the right course and jobs to apply for, Teaching Abroad Direct has its own TEFL course and we update the latest TEFL jobs daily. When away from your family, it’s also important to focus on life outside of work, so think about how you can create a good work/life balance to avoid being stuck at home alone in another country. Having a TEFL career does not mean that you will be without a career path, it’s flexible and rewarding, and it’s rare someone starts this journey and doesn’t enjoy the process.

We’ve spoken to a variety of teachers who have taught abroad and they have shared their experiences and what to expect, this type of research can be crucial for new TEFL teachers deciding on this as a career path.