A lot of students take a year off after finishing high school, or during their university studies, and spend the time working or traveling abroad in what is known as a Gap Year.
The idea of warm seas, exotic locations and eye-opening new cultures is difficult to resist and it’s no wonder that many students think that working abroad teaching is a good idea.
However, there are some serious considerations which must be taken into account before you pack your bag and head off out the front door!
First up is qualifications. Most serious TEFL jobs as for a degree and a TEFL Certificate. This means that if as a gap year student you don’t already have a degree then you will not be able to apply for most jobs.
But all is not lost and there are ways around this. Some countries – in South America, for example – don’t ask for a degree and will accept teachers who have a TEFL Certificate. Taking a TEFL course before you go is highly recommended. This means that when you do teach you will know what you are doing and your students (who are paying a good price to learn) are actually getting their money’s worth.
But above all remember that if you are offered a job in a country where a degree is required (such as most of Europe, China, South Korea and so on) and you do not have a degree then this should set alarm bells ringing and you should walk away now: you might well end up teaching illegally and be deported or fined if found out.
Some organizations offer gap year experiences teaching English abroad and ask you pay for the privilege. Here it all boils down to which organization you use to send you overseas. There are a few very good organizations such as VSO and the Peace Corps. However, there are a lot of other organizations out to make money and little else who will leave their gap year students high and dry if trouble comes.
The problem is that some of these organizations send unqualified teachers to schools where they’re not needed and to countries where they won’t make any difference at all. They might advertise that you’ll be helping underprivileged students in the middle of nowhere, but the truth is often very different.
The teacher (i.e. you) usually ends up paying the middleman (the organization) a lot of money which you might as well spend on a decent holiday before college begins. Meanwhile the school who employs you (instead of an experienced qualified teacher) saves money which goes in their pocket. And the students at the school still pay full price. It’s you and the students who lose out in these situations. The school and the organization who arranges it all generally make good money like this. (Oh, and another side effect is putting a qualified teacher out of a job!)
So before paying several thousand dollars to “teach” abroad, read this main article, TEFL Volunteering.
Our advice is simple. If you want a year off traveling the world teaching English then do it properly and
- take a TEFL Course and learn how to teach properly (it will also help get you work)
- go to only those countries where you’ll be allowed to teach legally
Doing it otherwise can cost you dearly!
To see how you can work legally without a degree, see the main article, TEFL without a Degree.
Finding a TEFL Job – this is the way it’s done!