Teaching Abroad: The TEFL job search continues (enter China)

So, I’ll be honest, when I started the ol’ TEFL job search I thought I’d be . . . well, kind of a big deal. But, oh, man, okay, it’s been a bit of a reality check.

You gotta understand, this is an example of a line in most of my cover letters: “I’m a native English speaker with a Bachelor of Arts degree in English Literature, TEFL certification, and experience teaching English to students in South Korea.”

I mean, daaaamn, that’s pretty impressive, right? See how many times I say the word “English” up there? How could they not wanna hire me?

I figured I’d be swamped with offers, ’cause that’s how it woulda been when I first did this stuff ten years ago. Thing is, the TEFL market has changed a lot in ten years. Used to be all you needed to teach in Korea or Japan was a degree, while in China you didn’t even necessarily need that! In the rest of Asia, yeah, you might need a degree and TEFL, but not much else.

Now, though, man, some people have made a career of this. They get actual degrees in TEFL. I’m talking graduate degrees, here! And the certificates? Try 120 hours of TEFL certification. Or CELTA! These are pretty basic requirements for Vietnam and even Japan; and that’s sometimes in addition to a minimum two consecutive years of experience.

So, even with my supposed (by me) “Golden Boy” qualifications, I find myself struggling to get a response from schools in Vietnam and Malaysia, where there are fewer openings, and have now turned to China.

Now, this isn’t to say China is some consolation prize! I just thought I would start with Vietnam, where the pay is a bit higher and the cost of living a tad lower, and go from there. Well, as I said, I haven’t gotten much response from the Vietnamese so, yeah, China appears to be the place to go.

The good news: the demand for TEFL instructors in China is enormous. I’m being picky, avoiding positions for Hong Kong, Shanghai and Beijing (simply because I know I wouldn’t be happy in such big cities; I wouldn’t want to live in New York City, either), and have still gotten interest from just about every school and agency I’ve contacted.

Anyway, the point is, the market is not what it used to be, which is great, overall, given that it means the quality of TEFL education is likely going up and more students across the world are being given access to English training. However, it also means that your degree may not be enough to get you a TEFL job anymore, certainly not at the better schools in countries like Vietnam, Japan or even China.

So, I’ve got a couple interviews lined up and am waiting to schedule a couple more. It’s exciting stuff and I’ve been doing a ton of research on China, its cities, and sights, and am already making a possible list of potential excursions. It’s vast, varied country and so are the possibilities for adventure and discovery!

More after I’ve had those interviews . . .