Is TEFL a good career? Teaching prospects and type of jobs after TEFL


A look at next steps for TEFL course graduates – looking at where they go, what they do and how they can develop beyond the TEFL course. Where can the TEFL Certificate take you? A realistic look into possibilities after TEFL.

Taking a level 5 Certificate in TESOL such as the Trinity CertTESOL or Cambridge CELTA can open up many new directions in the English language teaching industry. At this level of certification, the academic and professional rewards can lead new teachers to several different pathways, based on the specialisms that they choose as they develop in their teaching careers.

Here are some of the most common ways that teachers go on to progress in the industry – thanks to the solid foundations provided by these globally recognized qualifications.

A level 5 Certificate is like a second passport

One of the major motivations for people to take a CertTESOL course or CELTA is to enable them to travel the world and teach in countries that they may never have the opportunity to visit otherwise.

Teach English while you travel

Education departments and immigration offices in almost every country in the world accept these prestigious qualifications as benchmarks of teaching quality, meaning that your initial TEFL certificate can be used in visa and job applications anywhere in the world, in many different education settings.

My own qualification set me on the road to living and working in France, Malta, New Zealand, China and Hong Kong, and the list will get longer as I continue to work in the industry. Graduates from the TESOL course that I ran in Hong Kong went on to teach all around Asia, African nations, Australia, the UK, and all over Europe, all of which was facilitated by the global reach of the TEFL certificate.

Within the international context, however, it is worth considering the range of different school and provider types where you can work.

Also Read: Why do you need a level 5 qualification in TESOL?

Public schools

If you come from a country where English is not the first language, a TESOL can be combined with local education qualifications to teach English in local primary and secondary schools.

Teaching English in Public Schools

The skills you learn on the course will set you apart from other language educators, and can be used to teach other languages as well as English, if necessary. Teachers from other disciplines have used the methodologies and techniques learnt on the CertTESOL or CELTA to develop their practice in subject teaching, and we even had a music teacher who said that completing the TEFL helped him to improve the ways in which he taught guitar.

In English-speaking countries, the diversity which is now common in primary and secondary schools due to increased migration means that there is a growing demand for English as an Additional Language (EAL), providing language support for non-native students studying in English-medium schools in the UK, US, Canada and Australia, for example.

Private providers

On the other hand, there is a wide range of different private language schools, especially in locations that draw international crowds from overseas, which provide some good opportunities for first-time teachers.

Teaching English in Private Schools

Large companies like English First, Wall Street often offer career development within their organizations. This means more experienced teachers can move up the ranks and become department heads, directors of studies, or take regional roles in teacher training or education management. Many teachers cut their teeth in companies like this, and work two or three years before moving up the ladder.

Business / English for Specific Purpose

Another potentially lucrative pathway in TESOL is accessible if you specialize in a specific area of the industry.

Business English and English for Specific Purpose

Business English and English for Specific Purposes (ESP) teachers are often sought after for their specific skills in the field that they may already have expertise in. Law, medicine, engineering, travel and tourism, the sciences, airlines and shipping are all huge industries where English is the common language for international communication, so if you have any prior experience in these fields (amongst many others), you will have a head start over less experienced teachers.

International businesses often pay a premium for in-company classes, where the teacher visits the site of the company to teach closed groups of a department, so if you can make contacts and build a reputation on the business English circuit, a more independent pathway in teaching can open up.

English for Academic Purposes

English for Academic Purposes (EAP) is a common pathway for teachers who work in universities where English is important to the curriculum. Many international universities have large English language programmes both in their home countries and on overseas campuses.

English for Academic Purpose

In Asia there are a lot of joint venture universities where the medium of instruction is English, and American, Australian or British universities open campuses in partnership with a local university. These institutions often pay very competitive salaries and offer conditions which include travel, leave entitlements and housing allowances which are enviable.

This kind of package is often open to teachers with more experience, or higher qualifications (see below), but it is worth bearing in mind that an academic pathway can have some very desirable benefits.

Further Qualifications + Opportunities in TESOL

In order to consolidate your knowledge and skills in the field of TESOL, at some point teachers will want to take their practice to a higher level, and study for the post-graduate Diploma courses in TESOL which are offered by Trinity College, Cambridge ESOL and others which can be taken at universities as PGDip qualifications.

Diploma-level courses are seen as equivalent to one year of a Masters degree, and can open up possibilities in education management, teacher education, higher academic positions and senior roles within large schools. I would recommend that anyone who is serious about their teaching career study for a course like this after three or four years of experience. At this level, a diploma course can open your eyes to new ways of doing things which go beyond what you learn and practice int he first years of being a TESOL teacher.

Also Read: Does CELTA, CertTESOL Location Matter?


This is a very brief overview of the different opportunities available to graduates from the common certificate level initial qualifications in TESOL, and shows you what a diverse field it actually is, when you look at the different institutions, places and types of teaching that are out there.

Most importantly, pick your specialisms according to what motivates you, and keep your teaching fresh by constantly looking for new ways to reach the needs of the learners around you, and your time as an English teacher will be more rewarding every year.

This article was originally published in Sep-2018 and was last updated in Dec-2019.

Author: Tom Garside

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