Whether known as a TEFL ( Teaching English as a foreign language ) or TESOL (Teaching English to speakers of other languages), this role involves teaching English to students who speak other languages. It is also sometimes referred to as TESL (Teaching English as a second language) or TEAL or (Teaching English as an additional language).

TEFL teachers can work in a range of different institutions, such as schools, FE and HE colleges, private language schools or even in industry. There are lots of opportunities to work overseas in this field.

TEFL classes are usually taught in English, and the emphasis is on practical use of the language in conversation.


  • Great communication skills
  • Ability to organise your own time and workload
  • An enthusiasm for teaching English and an ability to communicate with learners who may have very little English
  • Very good listening skills
  • Empathy and patience when working with learners who may find things difficult
  • Positive outlook
  • Flexible and able to change plans if necessary
  • Sensitive to cultural differences and willing to learn about different cultures
  • Knowledgeable about the English language
  • Work well with others in a team


There are a variety of ways to get into TEFL teaching. Most employers will expect a degree and/or a specific TEFL qualification.

There are two widely recognised qualifications –

  • TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) awarded by Trinity College London
  • (CELTA) Certificate of English Language Teaching to Adults awarded by Cambridge ESOL

These can be studied across the country at FE colleges and involve at least 120 hours of study and practical classroom experience. They can usually be taken either as a four week intensive course, or part time over a longer period. Contact your local FE College for more information.  These courses are usually self-funded and do not attract any student finance. Fees are generally over £1000 which you can usually arrange to pay in instalments.

Entry requirements for these courses usually require education to A level or degree standard and often require you to attend a selection interview. They are ideal if you are serious about making TEFL a long term career and will give you an excellent grounding.

There are many other courses available, especially online, but remember these may not be recognised internationally.  However, a short online course may suit your needs if you are looking for short-term work or an opportunity to work overseas for a short period. When choosing your course make sure that it offers an accredited qualification that employers will accept. Also choose a course with some element of classroom experience.

To teach in schools in the UK you will usually be required to have QTS (Qualified Teacher Status) but check job adverts as academies are able to employ unqualified teachers.

To work in FE colleges, it is usually desirable to have QTLS (Qualified Teacher Learning and Skills) status.

To teach TEFL in a University will normally require advanced diplomas.



  • Planning and delivering lessons to engage all learners.
  • Develop, select and prepare suitable teaching materials.
  • Following or even developing a curriculum for learners.
  • Giving feedback to students, in the form of verbal feedback, written feedback and reports.
  • Marking and assessing student work.
  • Ability to adapt teaching depending on the context.
  • Working in a team with colleagues


There is considerable variation in TEFL teaching salaries, depending on where you work. Salaries start from around £14,000. Very experienced TEFL teachers working in FE and HE can earn as much as £38,000. A lot of TEFL work is offered on an hourly, casual basis and the rates range from £15 – £35 per hour, depending on the institution and your level of experience.

Overseas opportunities can sometimes include accommodation in lieu of earnings, especially at entry level.  It is also possible to find overseas opportunities that include flights and accommodation.

These figures are an indication only.



These vary depending on your place of work. You may be required to work evenings and weekends, especially in private language schools or in FE colleges.  You may also be required to organise or supervise social activities outside of your teaching hours. Remember that you also need to plan your lessons outside of your teaching commitments. On hourly contracts you are not usually paid for planning time. There are lots of opportunities for short-term and part-time work, and not much opportunity for permanent work. Many TEFL teachers work on a succession of short term and temporary contracts.

It is possible to work overseas from June to September then work in the UK in July and August.


If you want to work in the UK, there are opportunities in:

  • Private Language Schools
    • These are mostly found in major cities and also along the southern coast. Oxford and Cambridge are also popular with English language learners. The busiest time is the summer and contracts here tend to be short term and seasonal.
  • State schools, Colleges and Universities
    • These often employ TEFL professionals to work with students whose native language is not English. The UK is a top study destination for overseas students.
  • Voluntary Sector
    • This sector offers the opportunity to work in the community. For example you may be able to work with refugees and immigrants to improve their standard of English.

If you want to work overseas, research jobs in the country you want to work in. Demand is variable, but Asia, the Middle East, Western Europe and parts of Eastern Europe have the most opportunities.

You may be able to find work with language schools, and there are also roles available in the commercial sector and government departments.  The British Council also offers a lot of opportunities across the globe. https://jobs.britishcouncil.org/ 

Job vacancies are advertised on specialist TEFL sites such as http://www.cactustefl.com/jobs/ and  http://www.tefl.com/job-seeker/search.html/ . Language schools often advertise on their own websites and in the local press.


If decide that TEFL is for you, you can take an advanced qualification, known as a Diploma. The two main ones are:

  • Diploma in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (DipTESOL) from Trinity College London.
  • Diploma in English Language Teaching to Adults (DELTA)-from Cambridge ESOL

To take one of these qualifications you would need to have a degree, ideally a Certificate level qualification in TEFL and at least a year’s work experience.  These courses can be taken full time in around ten weeks, part time over up to a year or via distance learning.   

You may also be interested in studying for an MA in TEFL or applied linguistics.


Opportunities for promotion in UK language schools are limited, with a few senior positions available. Prospects are better in universities, but to access these opportunities you will need to be prepared to undertake further study, up to PhD level.

You may be interested in taking on a management role within a language school and becoming involved in course development. There are also opportunities to move into marketing and administration.

Some TEFL teachers choose to go freelance and work as tutors for individuals and small groups.


If you are interested in a career in TEFL, try to get some work experience, perhaps as an assistant at a summer school. You may be able to do some voluntary work abroad too.