There are always dozens of jobs advertised to teach English overseas, especially in Asia. You may have considered it and it can be daunting going to a new and strange place doing something that you’re not necessarily properly trained to do. Gaining a TESOL (Teaching English as a Second or Other Language) certificate before you travel and accept work will not only help you form your expectations, but also open up a wider variety of teaching options. There are many ways you can go about gaining a TESOL certificate - for example, you can enroll in an online school to obtain your certificate.
If obtaining a TESOL certificate is something that interests you, then I urge you to read on.
- Online Certificate. The internet is these days seen by many as a fountain of knowledge; however it is a fountain that only sometimes contains valuable coins. There are many online companies that administer TESOL courses and certificates either completely online or via post such as tesol-direct.com. They are a UK-based firm but will distribute course materials worldwide.
There are advantages and disadvantages to completing a course via correspondence and one major disadvantage is without a doubt the lack of immediate help. You can’t raise your hand, ask a question and receive an immediate answer. There are also multitudes of research papers discussing the benefits of working in groups and with others. Learning with others gives everybody the opportunity to share ideas, not to mention the opportunity to meet new people and develop friendships. The advantage of a course like this is that you can work at your own pace in your own time and after finishing the course, if you feel it’s not for you, you are not bound to use your certificate and teach O/S. Most online companies should be affiliated with agencies that can find you employment.
- Online companies that offer face-to-face presentations. Other online companies, such as Teachinternational.com, offer presentations about their courses in various cities throughout Australia, New Zealand and Canada and then offer their courses as intensive classes at scheduled dates, times and locations. Here you get face-to-face help and they will also offer you assistance finding a job.
Be wary when handing over money to an online company. As a general guide you should not pay over US$900 for an online course or US$1000 for a face-to-face course from an online company. Read the fine print and check out their accreditations, registrations and affiliations. If you want to find a job, can they help you? Remember if it looks dodgy, it probably is.
- Local university and college courses. A safe option and one that holds a little more ground is to check with your local university or college. Most universities and colleges with Humanities, Education and Language faculties will also run TESOL courses. You don’t have to be a student of the institution and courses are usually offered part-time/full-time or even at night. The upside is that your certificate is coming from a recognized and respected source. But the downside is that, although they may briefly discuss job opportunities and how to go about looking for a position, they won’t organize it for you. These courses range in price and will be more expensive than an online certificate, but you can rest assured you are being taught by a fully qualified professional.
- Teach and travel programs. If you have made up your mind that you are definitely going to go overseas and teach English then this option may be for you. CCUSA runs a Teach and Travel China program. You fly to Beijing for approximately 4 weeks, where you are accommodated with a group of like-minded people undertaking the program. During the 4 weeks you attend several classes each day and work towards gaining a TESOL certificate and learning the basics of Mandarin Chinese. You can also expect to have several excursions around Beijing and to learn a little about Chinese history, culture and ways of life. Following successful completion of your TESOL certificate you are then sent to a school where you will assist in the teaching of English. If you opt for the summer camp program, you will be sent to your camp. You will not be sent on your own as CCUSA tries to place 2 participants in each location.
When you arrive at your location you will be provided with meals and board, often in a dormitory-style building. It is important to note that standards of accommodation in China are much lower than in western countries. If you choose to teach at a school for 6 or 12 months, you can expect to be at an extremely large school with around 10,000 students, even if you are in a rural area. Class sizes are much larger than western classrooms too, with an average of 40–50 students. You will be paid whilst you teaching, but it is very little (US$200 per month) and you will receive the school holidays off to travel and see China at your leisure.
Obviously you do not undertake this program hoping to depart China with more wealth than you had when you arrived. There are fees associated with this program and they differ depending which region and country you apply from. With most programs there are of course criteria you will need to meet in order to participate.
The program is great if you have a spare 6 months and are serious about teaching English as you have guaranteed work, pre-arranged accommodation and you leave with a TESOL certificate, teaching experience, an understanding of other cultures, basic Mandarin and hopefully a plethora of new friends. The only downside to this program is the initial cost, but as previously stated you don’t undertake this program for the money you could make. The qualification will be of no use to you in a western country unless you also hold a teaching degree. If you do hold a teaching degree, having a TESOL certificate will heavily increase your earning potential.
Hopefully you have been able to gain the information you were looking for and can now decide which type of program - whether traditional or through an accredited online school - suits your interests and needs. Teaching English overseas is challenging but is also a very rewarding experience. You get to immerse yourself in a new culture and way of life and make lifelong friends as well. Always remember to read the fine print but most of all, have fun!