Careers Service Occupations

Teaching English as a Foreign Language

Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL)


Teaching as a foreign language (TEFL) is a popular option for graduates wishing to spend time living and working abroad before returning home to establish an alternative career. It can also be a fulfilling career in its own right.

Experienced TEFL teachers can progress on to roles including teacher training, school management and publishing.  

Most TEFL teachers work overseas on short-term contracts of up to one or two years. Demand for native English-speakers tends to be consistently high in South East Asia, parts of Eastern Europe, Spain, Italy and Germany, but opportunities exist in most parts of the world.

Opportunities in the UK have traditionally been more limited but are now expanding. UK based roles may require previous experience. 

A wide range of TEFL qualifications are available and you should research qualifications carefully before selecting one. Some graduate programmes including the British Council and JET do not require a qualification, but most employers do.  

Careers advice 

Read the Intesol Teach Abroad website for career advice. See i-to-i and eslbase for more information and advice. 

The Careers Service held a ‘Day in the life of a TEFL/ESOL teacher’ event in April 2018. Our speakers were Damien Marwood, TEFL teacher at International House in Newcastle; Becky Goodfellow, ESOL and EFL lecturer in the UK and China; and Ala’a Otain, Project Manager at N.E.S.T (North East Solidarity & Teaching) They talked frankly about their careers including what a typical day looks like, the skills required, and the highlights and challenges of working in this field.

Listen to our ReCap recording to help you find out whether this is a career path you’d be interested in.

Reference books available in the Careers Service

Teaching English Abroad (16th edition, 2017) by Susan Griffiths

Industry news 

For industry news, El Gazette and British Council: Voices Magazine are useful resources.

Professional bodies 

These represent and promote the interests of people working in the sector, providing services such as training and networking opportunities. They often provide careers support for students and graduates and development for people already working in the sector.

Follow professional associations on LinkedIn, or visit their websites for useful sources of news, contacts, work experience and vacancies.

The main professional associations for this sector include:

Making contacts 

Making contacts is essential for success in this sector. Many jobs in this field are gained through networking and speculative applications. 

We've compiled a few places you could start: 

Social media 

Social media resources, particularly LinkedIn and Twitter, can be useful for making contacts, following employers and finding opportunities.

You can also find out what alumni did after graduation, how they got there, and contact them for advice and inspiration through Newcastle alumni on LinkedIn.


Recruitment fairs, open days, talks and events give insights and opportunities to make contacts. Regular events organised by the Careers Service include Employer & Sector Insights and Recruitment Events.

Related sectors 

You may also be interested in:

See Explore Occupations for more options.

Roles & Skills

Find out about what the role of English as a foreign language teacher entails and the skills employers look for.

We've included links to external websites that provide further information about this career: 

English as a foreign language teacher

Skills employers look for

  • excellent standard of written and spoken English
  • good interpersonal skills and the ability to get on well with people of all ages, backgrounds and cultures
  • good listening skills
  • ability to plan and deliver interesting lessons
  • flexibility and the ability to adapt lessons to suit the needs of pupils
  • ability to work under pressure

An effective teacher also needs to be confident, patient and have a good sense of humour!

Gaining Experience

Here you'll find links to further information about gaining experience in the sector.

Most employers will require TEFL and TESL teachers to have some classroom experience.  This can be gained in a school or community setting, as a teacher, teaching assistant, language assistant, or private tutor.  

Some vacancies will specify the number of hours of teaching experience needed.  You can build up your teaching experience, through the practical teaching experience included in your TEFL/TESL course.

Non-teaching roles in UK based language schools, would also give you an insight into this sector.

For opportunities, see:

Newcastle University Students’ Union: Volunteering offer a range of voluntary opportunities. Call in and speak to them to see what relevant opportunities they have.

Explore Learning lists paid, part-time and English teaching roles. These would usually be to native English speakers.

Teaching in schools has information on gaining school based work experience.



Finding Jobs

The majority of TEFL jobs are based outside the UK, in a range of organisations including private language schools, development agencies and voluntary organisations. In the UK opportunities are mainly found in commercial language schools, Further Education colleges and in community settings often run by charities.

Schools with high numbers of pupils whose first language is not English also recruit 'English as an additional language' teachers, on a permanent and freelance basis.

The qualifications required to work as a TEFL or TESL teacher vary depending on the country.  Vacancies in many countries require native English speaking graduates, with a TEFL/TESL qualification and classroom experience.  Some employers may also require applicants to hold Qualified Teacher Status.

Advertised vacancies

Careers Service: MyCareer advertises vacancies.

The following external websites also advertise opportunities:

Finding schools

Look into the British Council's Accredited centres, and check individual schools' websites for vacancies. This is useful for speculative applications.

teflsearch has a useful employer directory.

Read Teaching English Abroad (2013 edition) by Susan Griffiths. It includes details of language schools and recruitment sites. A reference copy is available in the Careers Service.


There are a wide range of courses lasting from a weekend to six weeks.

The most widely recognised qualifications are the Cambridge CELTA (Certificate of English Language Teaching to Adults) and the Trinity CertTESOL (Certificate of Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages). 

CELTA and Trinity CertTESOL are externally assessed and accredited by an examination board. They generally take four to six weeks full-time but can be taken part-time.

Many other courses offer a similar structure but are known simply as TEFL courses and provide trainees with the school's own TEFL certificate.

Prices for courses depend on:

  • the level of qualification
  • length of course
  • prestige of the school or course provider.

It is also possible to study for a TEFL qualification outside of the UK.

Before you choose a course make sure you have done some research into the type of qualification needed for the role you want, in the country you want. For those considering a longer-term career in TEFL, a course involving at least 100 hours of input and a minimum of six hours of teaching practice is recommended for most countries.

See Prospects: English as a foreign language teacher for information on the qualifications needed to be a TEFL/TESL in state schools, further education colleges and universities in the UK. 

Choosing a TEFL qualification

The following websites provide information on choosing a TEFL qualification:

Finding TEFL courses in the UK 

Use the following resources to find TEFL courses in the UK:

If you want to study in Newcastle, International House is a British Council accredited English language school. 

Work for Yourself

Being self-employed or working as a freelancer is common in the teaching sector.

Schools and colleges employ teachers/tutors to cover specific specialisms or cover staff absence. This may be on a long term basis over an academic year, or for occasional sessions.

The Work for Yourself section of our website provides information on the range of activities and support available to Newcastle students and eligible graduates interested in starting their own business or self-employment.

See COBRA for factsheets and reports on starting up and running a business, including a TEFL factsheet. COBRA can only be accessed through a University computer on the Newcastle campus.

GOV.UK: DBS checks has information on applying for a DBS check which is usually required if you are going to work closely with children