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Where to start

Teaching English is varied. You can teach English to businesspeople, teach young people through schemes such as the British Council’s English Language Assistants programme and the Japan Exchange and Teaching Programme (JET), or volunteer to teach in a developing country.

Many people assume that this is primarily a short-term job, that you do while travelling but there’s plenty of opportunities to train and teach in the UK- and you can make a lifelong career out of it. Find out more at 'Career paths in TEFL' and 'How to make a career out of TEFL'.


How to know if you’re suited to this sector

You need to be culturally sensitive, organised, have a good grasp of grammar, flexible and creative in coming up with ideas for engaging students. 

As in other kinds of teaching, some students will be very motivated and make quick progress, while others may find learning English frustrating. Patience, the ability to build people’s confidence and a sense of humour will stand you in good stead.

Some people find living abroad more challenging than they expected; research other people’s experiences and think about strategies that will help you manage any culture shock.

How to get the experience to be credible

Any teaching, coaching or tutoring you have done will be useful. Mention any languages you have learnt. Learning other languages yourself can be helpful in understanding what your students may be experiencing (but isn’t essential!).

You could be working with students from a different places so any experience you have with travelling abroad or studying/working in different places or with people from different cultures will be helpful.

Further study or certification required

Qualifications are increasingly important, although you can find positions that are open to any fluent or native English speaker

There are a range of courses and qualifications that you can take, both online and in person and the cost of these vary considerably. Some programmes will include a guaranteed offer of work at the end. You should do your due diligence to check how many hours teaching you receive and how well-recognised the final qualification is before spending any money.

How to find employers or training courses

Most major towns and cities in the UK have a centre where you can study for the CELTA qualification or other TEFL qualification.

The British Council is a well respected employer and useful place to start looking for jobs, though often they require previous TEFL experience.

JET is a two-year programme to teach English in schools in Japan.

DoTEFL is a global TEFL course directory where you can find TEFL courses from all around the world.

A lot of sites advertise both TEFL courses and jobs for qualified TEFL teachers,, and are good starting points.

Tips for succeeding in the application or selection process

Make sure you check your spelling and grammar! Don’t wait for jobs to be advertised by business language schools - apply speculatively to schools in the city where you want to work. Many recruit over the summer for a September start, so you’ll need to apply in July/August but check the typical timeline for the country you’re targeting as academic patterns differ.

What Cambridge offers to help with this career

Contact Cambridge alumni who have worked in this sector and review a multitude of career trajectories for graduates of every subject by free text searching “TEFL,” “CELTA” or “TESOL“ on LinkedIn Cambridge alumni.

Other things you should know

If you want to teach English to businesspeople abroad, you should probably plan to work for a year to be able to recoup the costs of your CELTA course. Business language schools may offer you a certain number of hours per week but beware that this may also require a lot of travel if you are teaching clients in their offices. It’s good to try and work in a language school that has classrooms so that at least some of the clients come to you.

Be careful, and properly research any employer before you jump on a plane. See the University's safeguarding guidance.

What to do next

Now you have looked at this page, think about your next steps. Everyone's journey is different. There are many ways to move forward. Here are some actions you could take now: