Is a career in TEFL for you?

Are you thinking about whether TEFL is for you? Being inspired by the idea of working and teaching abroad is fantastic, but it can be a daunting prospect to make this happen. Before getting to that point, you need to think clearly about whether a career in TEFL is for you. 

Why do people become teachers?

There are lots of different types of people who become teachers and their reasons for doing so are wide and varied. TEFL isn’t just for the young – although it’s a very interesting way to start your professional life – it’s also for those who want to change their career, or for people who are already teachers of other subjects who want to teach English. For example, you may want to teach English if…

  • You are interested in the English language and want to know more about how it is taught
  • You want to be able to travel while working in a sustainable and professional way
  • You want to be able to travel while working in a sustainable and professional way
  • You are a university graduate and are interested in doing TEFL temporarily before you decide what you want to do for a career further down the line
  • You are a university graduate and are interested in doing TEFL and teaching English as a career
  • You are unsatisfied professionally in your current job and would like to switch career to do something more interesting and rewarding
  • You are retired but would like to continue working in a field that offers flexibility and a chance to learn new things
  • You are already qualified as a teacher but would like to get into TEFL teaching
  • You are in a position where you would like some flexible, part-time work
  • You are someone who is looking to get qualified in a profession that has an abundance of jobs and the opportunity to develop your career in the future

So, as you can see, TEFL is a career option for lots of people.  

To be successful, what skills and abilities do you need? 

Working with people

As you will be working with people every day, and also meeting lots of new people as your students come and go, it helps if you’re a people person, or at least enjoy working with people. 

Organisation and discipline

Many would also say – and this is certainly true if you decide to take the CELTA – that discipline and organisation is absolutely crucial. Being a teacher is hard work, so you have to be prepared for a certain amount of grafting, but as anyone in TEFL will tell you, the benefits make it all worthwhile. Helping students develop their English skills can be a life-changing for most – you really are helping them to achieve their ambitions and dreams. 

Flexibility and adaptability

You should also be prepared to be flexible professionally. Lesson timetables can vary depending on school schedules, and things can also develop during your lessons.

You may have planned a particular lesson, but a student might bring up an interesting topic that is worth discussing. By the time you’re teaching, if you’ve taken a course like the CELTA, you will be skilled and qualified enough to deal with this, but it does require a flexible and adaptable character. It is not like working in an office 9-to-5 in a very predictable job.


Part of standing up in front of a class and delivering a lesson is performance – if you are upbeat your students will be much more engaged than if you are monotonal and tired. Being creative will help you to come up with new ideas of how to teach vocabulary, grammar and everything else. If you are imaginative and resourceful, you’ll have no trouble coming up with lots of ideas of how to make lessons fun and engaging for your students. 

Growing confidence

It goes without saying that if you want to do TEFL, it will require you to stand up in front of a classroom and actually teach something to students. If you’re worried about not having the confidence to do this, the CELTA course , prepares you for this with real teaching practice during your studies. 

During the course, you will be preparing your own short lesson which you will then teach to real students who know you are a practicing teacher. Your course tutor will give feedback which you can takeaway with you to absorb and help shape your next lesson. This, combined with the many theoretical aspects of the CELTA that you’ll learn, will put you in the best possible position for teaching after the course. Your confidence will grow naturally, and you will be surprised at how quickly you progress. If you’d like to read more about the teaching practice element of the course, please see the personal reflections on TP (teaching practice) from a CELTA graduate.  

Professional development opportunities

If you are the sort of person who wants to keep learning yourself, there are many opportunities for professional development in teaching. If you are in TEFL for a long-term career, there are lots of options available. If you enjoy the theoretical aspect of teaching, you can go on to get a MA or do the Delta (Diploma in Teaching English to Speakers of other Languages). Or if you want to specialise in an area of teaching, e.g. teaching younger learners, teaching business, teaching online, etc there are courses available to give you the unique skills required for these types of teaching. 

Many people who become directors of schools or academic course book writers start out by getting the CELTA qualification and getting some experience teaching TEFL. It gives great life experience and as you will probably work in at least two or three different schools, you get to see how things work. You can rise through different ranks, becoming a teacher trainer, a director of studies, or move into operational sides of business like marketing and customer experience. 

If you’re still wondering whether TEFL is for you, see if you can take some inspiration from our TEFL stories of people who have worked in teaching English for a number of years.