Teaching English Abroad

Teaching English Abroad is a great way to find a paid working position in another country. There is a high demand for English teachers in many public and private schools around the world. You don’t necessarily need to have specific training to teach abroad. Many programs offer year to two year long programs to students with a bachelors degree, but there are also short-term volunteer opportunities for current undergraduate students. Approximately 20-25 St. Olaf Students teach English abroad each year.

Program Types

  1. Government-Sponsored Programs (Fulbright, JET, French Ministry of Education, Peace Corps)
    Most popular for St. Olaf students, highly competitive programs that provide strong institutional support.
  2. Teaching Placement Programs (CIEE, World Teach, Teach for China)
    Pay a fee to an organization to help match you with a school.
  3. Independently Arranged Positions
    Research positions and contact schools directly.

Initial Questions to Consider

  • What region or country do I want to teach in?
  • How much organizational support do I need?
  • How much financial support do I need?
  • Will I need to acquire any certifications?
  • How long of a commitment would I like?
  • Do I need a program to offer health insurance?
  • What kind of living situation would I prefer?

Pros and Cons to Teaching Abroad

  • You will have the opportunity to learn about and experience a foreign country while acquiring valuable communication and leadership skills.
  • This time will be a chance for you to enhance important transferable skills such as: communication, cross cultural, planning, problem solving and teaching.
  • You can make a difference by positively influencing the lives of your students.
  • Depending on the program, its an opportunity to earn a salary or yearly stipend. Sometimes your educational loans may be deferred too.
  • Teaching English in a foreign country immediately links you to a community in your host country.
  • This is a great job for highly social and active people.
  • Depending on the program, potential job benefits may include: round-trip airfare, paid national holidays, accommodations, health benefits, transportation allowances and more!


  • While you will gain many transferable skills, there is little room for career advancement within the program/school.
  • In some cases, compensation may not allow for significant personal saving. Although some countries have a much higher average salary than others, the cost of living in that country is probably proportionally higher as well.
  • Job can become repetitive.
  • Somewhat limited time to travel.
  • Integrating yourself into your host country will be a difficult process, especially as you will be spending most of your day speaking English.

How to Prepare

You don’t have to major or concentrate in Education to teach English abroad! Each program has it’s own requirements regarding teaching certifications, but most strong candidates have some past relevant work experience involving teaching/education. These experiences not only prepare you to work in a classroom, but they can also help you discern whether teaching abroad is right for you.

  1.  TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) Certificate
    You can receive this certification through the Educational Studies Concentration. See the St. Olaf Education Department Programs for class lists and more information. There are also in-country, online, and locally based TEFL/TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) certification programs. For example, many St. Olaf students have completed a 4 week TEFL Certification program through the Chiang Mai University in Thailand.  *not required for all programs, especially not for Government Sponsored opportunities
  2. Volunteer in your Community
    There are many schools and local organizations in Northfield that need student volunteers every year! Check out the Local Internship & Civic Engagement page for current opportunities.
  3. Take advantage of on-campus opportunities
    Gain important skills now by becoming a tutor at the Academic Support Center or the Writing Center. You could even consider being a Teacher’s Assistant for one of your professors.
  4. Summer job or internship
    Work at a camp or teach at a summer school. Go to Handshake or the Internship and Job page to search for opportunities.
  5. Learn from Alumni
    There are many Ole Alums who have taught English abroad. Check out the Alumni Directory and/or LinkedIn to ask any previous participants about their experiences.  Most alums are willing and eager to answer your questions!
  6. Further Research
    Spotlight on Careers is a great resource for finding TEFL certification programs, additional job opportunities, and country-specific resume advice.