Should I Continue to Prepare to Teach Abroad in the Midst of COVID?

Teaching abroad

I received this message from one of my career coaching clients the other day:

As you already know I have my CV and cover letter prepared to apply for a few positions in S. Korea. However, I was about to start the apostille process last month before this coronavirus situation. I was planning to do the process myself since I had plenty of time to finish it by the application deadline.

However, I go [sic] off track when I started preparing to teach remotely at my current school. I still want to teach abroad if it is a possibility any time son [sic]. Do you think I should continue to prepare to teach abroad in the midst of COVID? I don’t want to waste my time or money if I can’t get a teaching position in S. Korea.

My short answer to this question is “yes”. If you are preparing to teach abroad and this is still your desire even in the midst of this situation, you should continue to prepare for the process. There is a strong likelihood that travel restrictions may not allow expat teachers to begin positions in the upcoming fall term.

However, once the global economy is reopened a large number of expat teachers will be needed to start around January 2021. Chances are schools will be hiring more than double the usual amount of expat teachers during this time. As such, if you meet all other qualifications and have your paperwork ready to go you will have a better chance of getting hired.

Preparing for an expat journey generally requires a bit of groundwork in terms of obtaining passports, visas, and official documents. There is also an additional step that requires expats to get certain documents authenticated by institutional, regional, and national authorities. This process can take some time even in the regular course of business. However, there are currently significant delays in many government processes that could delay this process even further. So my advice is to start or continue the process now.

Working and living abroad also requires a certain level of mental and emotional preparedness. This aspect of preparedness is amplified by the current situation. You really need to consider the many possibilities that may be involved in an international move post COVID-19. You need to prepare yourself and your loved ones (those travelling with you and those staying behind) for the impact of this virus on the economic, social, and political climate in other parts of the world.

Chances are you are going to get a great deal of resistance from your family and friends about moving abroad now more than ever. You will need to have the mental fortitude to press forward if you truly desire to teach abroad in the coming months or years. So you need to properly prepare yourself for this aspect of your journey as well.

One last piece of advice I have is to not quit your current job. If you are among those who were blessed to maintain your current job and income during this crisis try to stick it out as long as possible. There is already a high level of uncertainty right now – adding additional challenges to the situation is not in your best interest.

4 Ways You Can Teach Abroad

Ways to teach abroad

Most people think about teaching English as a Second Language when they consider teaching abroad. However, expatriate teaching opportunities are just as wide and varied as teaching opportunities in the U.S. Expat educational organizations typically hire teachers from elementary through graduate school to teach in a variety of disciplines. Such positions may be volunteer or paid depending on the country and/or organization. Some expat teaching positions are for short-term, temporary periods while others may be for one to three year contract terms or longer.

So if you are interested in teaching abroad, check out the various ways you may be able to join the expat teaching community around the globe…

English as a Second Language

Teaching English as a Second Language (ESL) is by far one the most popular ways of becoming an expat teacher. Some of the better-paying ESL roles are typically filled by candidates with a bachelor’s degree in English, Education, ESL, or a related discipline and ESL certification. However, some educational institutes also hire bachelor degree holders of various disciplines who also have some type of ESL certification. Also, other companies will hire candidates with or without a bachelor’s degree and no ESL certification. Education and credentials vary by country and organization.

As with most other expat teaching opportunities, it is best to have a degree, certification, and experience in ESL prior to seeking expat teaching positions. These qualifications will usually get you in the door faster and allow you to negotiate higher pay. At minimum, it is recommended that you have a bachelor’s degree prior to your first expat teaching assignment even if you don’t have experience in ESL. You can get experience in certain countries while working on your certification as well. In fact, some employers will train you in ESL and reimburse the cost of the certification test. Once you have considerable experience, it will be easier for you to get better paying or more desirable teaching opportunities in other regions that require a bachelor’s degree for ESL teaching jobs.

Public Schools

Expat teachers are highly sought after in public schools in many countries. Several countries hire expat teachers at every grade level in almost every discipline. The student population at public schools are generally local and immigrant students within the country. This means that they may not be fluent in English or be familiar with western culture, especially in the early years.

Working as an expat teacher in public schools in foreign countries typically requires a bachelor’s degree in education and a teaching license/certification. In essence, you will usually need the same qualifications that are required to teach in your home country. Again, more stringent requirements generally equate to better pay, benefits, and living conditions. So my advice is to be as prepared as possible.

It is also important to note that sometimes teaching credentials from specific countries are only accepted in certain expat teaching environments. This usually includes credentials from westernized nations such as the U.S., Canada, many European countries, Australia, and South Africa. So please read all the details before applying to expat teaching jobs to determine if they are the right fit for you.

International Schools

Expat teachers are usually the bulk of the teaching population in private, international schools. This is because these schools often cater to children of diplomats, and corporate and other expat workers who are in the country. In some regions, a growing number of local children are also enrolling in international schools. Thus, the student population in these schools will typically be multi-cultural and very diverse.

Top level teaching qualifications and experience are highly encouraged to get jobs in these schools. While a bachelor’s degree and a teaching license are usually the minimum qualifications to work in international schools, master’s degrees are often preferred. At any rate, it is virtually impossible to find teaching positions at international schools that do not minimally require a bachelor’s degree and teacher certification.

College and University

There is also space for college and university educators in the expat teaching arena. Many public, private, and international colleges and universities often seek international faculty to teach in their institutes of higher learning. Qualifications for teaching posts in this area typically requires a master’s degree or higher in a specific discipline, work experience, and teaching experience.

Education and work experience alone are usually not enough to get full time teaching gigs in colleges and universities. Hiring managers at post-secondary education institutes typically want to see a significant amount of teaching experience on your curriculum vitae as well. They want to know that you are capable of teaching in your chosen profession even if you have a significant amount of industry experience. Typically three to five years of full time teaching experience or a combination of full and/or part time teaching experience is required at this level.


This is my last post in this series on working abroad. I have covered a number of topics to help prospective expats prepare for exciting international career opportunities. I will continue to share more information about expat career development in future articles. If you have additional questions or need assistance in this area, please contact us so that we can help you along your journey.