Welcome to Blu Ramen. Below you can find general information regarding basic questions that people have about teaching English abroad.

What are the requirements?

Basic requirements to be eligible:

  • at least a bachelor’s degree in any major; advanced degree for university positions

  • native English speaker from an English-speaking country

  • a clean criminal record

Do I need a TEFL/TESOL/CELTA certificate to teach English abroad?

It depends. Some companies and schools require them, but others do not.

Having a language teaching certificate can

  • enhance your competitiveness

  • open up more doors for jobs

  • potentially increase your salary

It’s still very possible to find high quality jobs abroad with only a bachelor’s degree (or higher).

My major is not teaching, or language related, can I still teach abroad?

Yes. In general, a bachelor’s degree in any major is the basic requirement. However, certain programs, companies, and countries may have particular requirements regarding majors and additional certifications. Specific job-related information is normally found in job advertisements.

I don’t have work experience. Can I still apply?

Sure. In my estimation, the glut of companies and organizations offering ESL teaching positions to native English speakers seriously consider candidates with little or no experience. Virtually every employer offers training of some kind, so it’s not a big deal to be inexperienced. 

What kind of experience do employers look for in candidates?

For teaching jobs, tutoring, student teaching, and academic test prep experience definitely add to your stock, as a candidate. Therefore, if you have done anything related to education, highlighting it on your resume is a must.

Are there age limits?

Maybe, but companies don’t seem to fuss over it. There may be cases in which job advertisements specify an age limit for job candidates, but it is rare. Organizations are generally flexible in this area, and hire people of all ages, sizes, and types. Though most teachers are probably in their 20s or 30s, it’s not uncommon to meet teachers in their 40s or 50s. In fact, I had one coworker who was in her early 60s. Teaching English abroad was her way of enjoying her retirement and traveling the world.

What about people with tattoos?

Having (visible) tattoos doesn’t necessarily disqualify you from getting a job abroad. I have met teachers with hand and wrist tattoos, and their employers didn’t take issue with it. Some employers or schools may have stricter policies, though, so it really just depends on the organization. In the end, if it’s something you are concerned about, you should discuss it with potential employers during the recruitment process.

What about diversity?

Organizations hire people from all walks of life, from various backgrounds. Thus, individuals who are members of different cultural backgrounds and orientations can and do apply. The evaluation of a candidate’s fitness for employment is not simply based on one specific metric—at least not at reputable companies. Most people who work abroad have the chance to meet diverse types of people, from different areas of the world.

Why do some employers ask for a photograph?

Hiring laws, policies, and practices around the world differ from country to country. It’s common for companies in Korea, for example, to ask for photographs of job applicants. If a potential employer asks for a photo, be sure to follow their guidelines.

Some things to consider when sending photos:

  • Dress appropriately (for the job/industry)

  • Make sure the photo is clear, well lit

  • Adhere to size requirements given by the employer (e.g., passport size, etc)

Terms

There are specific words and terms that are regularly used in the “teach English in Korea” sphere. Below is a quick breakdown of some of those terms.

ESL: English as a Second Language

TESOL: Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages

TEFL: Teaching English as a Foreign Language

CELTA: Certificate in Teaching English to Speakers of other Languages

Hagwon (학원): Academy or institute, but more commonly used to describe a language academy, in general.