Should you Change your Career and do TEFL?

If you feel like you’re stuck in a rut in your current job, that you work long hours and don’t get anything back on a daily basis, then maybe you should consider changing your job to Teaching English as a Foreign Language.

TEFL is not just for gap years and young people, it can be a legitimate way to change your career at any point, learning a plethora of new skills while taking your life in a new direction. Teaching is a thoroughly rewarding career, offering ways to develop yourself professionally as you progress. To get started you need to get qualified, and to do this, we strongly advise taking a course like the intensive, 4-week CELTA. 

The Certificate in English Language Teaching to Adults, also known as CELTA, will teach you everything you need to know about becoming a teacher of English. It is highly regarded and recognised internationally, certified by Cambridge University and recognised by Ofqual at level 5 on the Qualifications and Credit Framework.

The CELTA can unlock the door to the multitude of international TEFL positions around the world, so if you fancy a change of scenery to go with your change of career, the option is there for you. But you can also work locally if there is an English language school in the place where you live. The course is offered in many International House schools, and we also have a Jobs board where you can check the latest teaching positions in our network to get you started.

Alison Ramage Patterson, author of one of our TEFL stories, was 37 when she changed her career from publishing and finance and took the CELTA in 2001 at IH London. She lasted only 3 months in her first teaching position in Russia, but her career since then has spanned several countries, many different roles, more qualifications (including an MA), and also one husband who she met in Malaysia. She now works as a materials writer, repurposing English language and literature materials for English-speaking schools in the MENA market.

“My career highlights really are helping people achieve their goals,” says Alison. “In countries like Kazakhstan, being able to speak good English really helps with getting a good university position or a job with a multinational company. In Saudi Arabia, the ladies are wonderful and helping them get the IELTS score they wanted so they can study abroad was so very gratifying. I am still working with some of them on their PhD theses!”

Stick out the tough first 3 months, don’t get attached to your possessions, and absorb the culture of the country you’re living in, Alison recommends. “You are responsible for your own career. If it is in your nature to blame everyone else for things that go wrong in your life, you will not, a) be a success, and b) enjoy it.” Read Alison’s full TEFL story here.

Of course, TEFL doesn’t necessarily mean giving up life in one place and travelling the world. It can also be a career change you make without needing to move your life across the world. For Daniela Berntzen, it gave her a way to be self-employed and forge a part-time career. “I haven't pursued the ‘big career’ in TEFL as there were family choices to make and I needed a lot of flexibility,” she notes. 

“I also haven't travelled the world as many native speakers do. My story is the story of a non-native speaker crafting a part-time career for herself in her own hometown. Although I also taught at the local adult education centre, my real passion is working on a self-employed basis, which gives me the freedom to create exactly the courses and lessons my students need (adults and YL and VYL).”

She describes the CELTA as giving “a really strong foundation for teaching” and that she still reflects on her notes from the course she took in 1996. “I just LOVE it when people become creative with language,” she concludes. “It not only shows that they have lost their fear, but it often also shows an understanding of the English language and the way it works.” Read more of Daniela’s TEFL story here

If TEFL is still sounding like a viable career change option for you, you may be wondering if you’re cut out to be a teacher. If you’re a people person, or are used to working with people, are organised and disciplined, have an easy-going, flexible character and a creative streak, then you can work in TEFL. All skills, theoretical knowledge and teaching confidence will come with taking a good course, like the CELTA. 

And just because you get qualified with your initial certificate, it doesn’t mean you’ve finished learning. There are many professional development opportunities with teaching. You could specialise and teach young learners, or you could go on to get your Delta (Diploma in Teaching English to Speakers of other Languages) or MA and start training teachers or become a director of studies. Like Alison, you could find yourself writing course materials and helping students with their PhD theses. Or you could find yourself working in a different side of the school, in operations management or marketing. 

There are many different avenues and chances to develop your professional skills. Some people even retire and then use TEFL to keep working! It’s up to you but starting by taking your CELTA with International House will give you a strong foundation. Our schools support you from the application process, right through to helping you land your first job. 

Find out more about the CELTA here and browse through our available courses.