4 Reasons Why You Need to Get TEFL Certified if You Want to Teach English in Asia

By John Bentley – Senior Editor at International TEFL Academy

So you’re planning on teaching English in Asia? Awesome! It will probably be one of the great decisions you make in life and you will no doubt experience a fantastic adventure of growth & discovery, with a ton of fun thrown in for good measure. As you’ve no doubt discovered, embarking on such a grand journey requires making a bunch of touch decisions and choices: China or Korea? Urban or rural? Public School or private school? What do you value in terms of location, salary, benefits, weather & social life?

Certainly one of the most important questions you will encounter: Do I need get a TEFL certification? Check out various forums and websites and you will encounter all sorts of answers, and there will be folks maintaining that hey, there are plenty of schools out there that will hire you without a TEFL certification, so don’t bother. But the bottom line is that if you want to put yourself in the best position to get a great job and make the most of your experience abroad, you need to get TEFL certified, and here are 4 major reasons why.

1. Get the Skills You Need to Succeed as a Professional English Teacher

Let’s say you get on a plane tomorrow and jet off to Shanghai or Seoul to teach English without getting TEFL certified.  Will you be prepared to teach 4-6 classes a day with 10-20 students each (or even more)?  Would you have the skills to manage a classroom, explain the intricacies of English grammar, or even to communicate with your students who speak little or no English?  What about lesson planning?  In short, do you actually believe that you possess the skills to provide your students with a quality educational experience that will enable them to reach their goal of learning English? And do you believe that students have the right to receive instruction from a trained, qualified teacher?

A quality TEFL certification will provide you with training in all of the major facets of teaching English as a foreign language, including: teaching methodology & practices; classroom management; teaching the ins-and-outs of English grammar; cultural sensitivity training; lesson planning; error correction; use of audio-visual tools; and basic skills that will enable you to communicate with your students despite the language barrier.

Practicum: Any professional-level TEFL certification class will also incorporate a practicum (live practice teaching with actual ESL students) of 6-20 hours. This will provide you with valuable hands-on experience in a live classroom environment and will help you gain confidence and build your skills.  Many employers in Asia and elsewhere only recognize TEFL classes that include a practicum.

Teaching will be one of the most rewarding experiences of your life if you gain the basic skills you need to actually function as a professional English teacher.  One of the great aspects of teaching English abroad is that you don’t need to invest years of your life and tens of thousands of dollars in a fancy degree to do it.

Taking a quality TEFL class will provide you with the skills and qualifications you need to both get a great job and to succeed in the classroom. The vast majority of folks who teach abroad enjoy a great experience, but one of the primary reasons why some quit their jobs and return home early is because they feel overwhelmed and under-prepared for the job – don’t let this happen to you!

2. TEFL Certification Will Qualify You for More Jobs, Better Jobs & Higher Paying Jobs

If you were the owner of a language school in Shanghai, Seoul or Buenos Aires would you feel comfortable hiring an untrained teacher with no experience to teach classes to your paying customers?  Suppose you are a student – or the parent of a student – would you want to pay your hard-earned money to take classes from a teacher with no training or experience?  Probably not.

The bottom line is that both schools and students want trained teachers with professional level skills as a teacher.  As a result, the vast majority of English teaching jobs in Asia and around the world require a TEFL certification, including many major teaching programs and international schools typically require a certification (unless you have prior teaching credentials). Even those schools that don’t technically require a TEFL certification are far more likely to hire a job applicant who holds a high level TEFL certification than one who doesn’t.

It is also worth noting that TEFL certified job applicants will typically qualify for positions are better schools with higher corporate standards that often offer the best pay, benefits and professional environment.  Meanwhile, those schools that make a practice of hiring anybody who speaks English regardless of whether they receive training, are typically those schools with the lowest professional standards, which are often cheap when it comes to salaries and benefits.  These are often the lowest quality schools that also care less about their students, as well as their teachers.

What if I am a certified teacher – do I still need a TEFL certification? Any prior teaching experience (especially at the professional level) or education degree that you possess will give you a leg up both in getting great jobs and with your comfort level in the classroom.  That said, unless you have a degree specifically in the field of teaching English as a foreign language, it is still recommend that you get TEFL certified for two main reasons:

  • Most employers still require a TEFL certification as a matter of policy. It is the qualification with which they are most familiar and most comfortable.
  • Like most fields teaching English as a foreign language requires a specific skill set and knowledge base as well as teaching practices and methodologies. Teaching English grammar to Chinese businessmen or Korean school children is a totally different animal than teaching high school physics or 5th grade social studies and getting TEFL certified will give you the skills you need to succeed in your new environment abroad.

For more on this topic, check out this article!

3. Getting TEFL Certified Will Assist You Immensely in the Interview Process

This may fall under the umbrella of the previous point, but it’s important to note that getting TEFL certified will typically prove to be very useful during the interview process for teaching English in Asia. Many schools will task you straight how you might handle a hypothetical classroom situation.  They may ask you about teaching methodology and in some cases you may be asked to provide sample lesson plans.  In almost every interview you will be asked about experience, and while you don’t have to have prior professional teaching experience, a professional-level TEFL certification will include practicum (live practice teaching) that will at least give you some live classroom experience and experience to draw on should it come up in an interview.

4. Job Search Guidance & Alumni Support

Any high quality TEFL certification organization should provide free, lifetime job search guidance to all students and graduates to assist them with gaining employment teaching English abroad and/or teaching English online (which is a great way to gain experience and make money even before you head abroad, or to supplement your income once you arrive abroad). A great organization like Adventure Teaching may provide you with the guidance and assistance you need to get a great job teaching English in South Korea or China. However, there are 80 countries around the world where you may want to teach English abroad at some point and you will want and need resources and guidance to figure out matters like hiring seasons, interview procedures, visas, hiring requirements and more. Getting a job in a place like Spain, Costa Rica or Czech Republic will all entail much different processes than getting a job in South Korea or China.

At International TEFL Academy, all of our students and graduates enjoy lifetime access to comprehensive job placement assistance that includes personal assistance from expert advisors; access to hundreds of pages of job boards, school listings, & resume templates; 500-page job search guidance manual; live & recorded webinars; and how-to-get-a-job guides for dozens of individual countries. In addition, our students are able to network and connect with 25,000 alumni in 80 countries through exclusive channels on social media, and connect with other folks like themselves at exclusive meet-ups and share their stories in articles, videos and across ITA’s social media channels. Access to these kinds of resources can make all the difference when it comes to realizing your potential for having a great experience teaching English abroad.

So What Kind of TEFL Certification Do You Need?

Deciding to get TEFL certified is one decision – deciding what TEFL class to take from which school is another.  The key is to understand that not all TEFL classes are the same and there are internationally recognized standards that you should look for when looking at your options.  Here are the basics:

  • At least 100 hours of coursework (equivalent to a full-time 4-week intensive in-person class or a part-time equivalent online);
  • At least 6-20 hours of practicum (live practice teaching and observation with actual non-native English speaker and NOT role-playing with fellow TEFL classmates);
  • An accredited curriculum from a recognized, independent organization within the field;
  • Instruction provided by a qualified instructor(who has an equivalent to a Master Degree in TESOL or related field);
  • Yes, you can take a legitimate professional-level TEFL online that is the equivalent of a top-level in-person class;
  • As mentioned, it is also recommended that you take your TEFL certification course from an organization that provides comprehensive job search guidance.

Luckily, Adventure Teaching and International TEFL Academy have teamed up to provide you with a great option to take ITA’s 170-Hour Online TEFL Class, which is widely regarded as the top class in the field.  Taught by experienced university professors (all of whom have taught English abroad themselves), the class includes a 20 practicum and 150 hours of coursework (both well exceeding international standards).  It is highly interactive with live webinars and scores of videos, and it designed to accommodate those who are working or going to school full-time.

To learn more about the course and how to register, please check out this link and fill out the form.

Going Abroad? The Ultimate Checklist

It’s crunch time, and you’re preparing to actually GO ABROAD! It probably feels like everything is happening way too fast… and truth be told, it probably is. With that in mind, here’s the ultimate checklist to help ensure that you have everything covered.

Adventure Teaching Presents: The Ultimate Checklist

1. Documents

Some important items you don’t want to forget:

  • Passport (duh)
  • Copies of your passport – bring with you when you travel, too, in case you lose your actual passport
  • A photocopy of your immunization record –  if you travel to an area where certain immunizations are recommended/required, this is helpful to have on hand
  • Contact info for your friends/family – once you get a cell phone set up, you’ll want all of those phone numbers!

2. What to pack

How do you pack a year’s worth of stuff, when your airplane allowance is 23kg / 50lb?

  • A must: Photos and other small souvenirs from home, and a few of your favorite snacks. DVDs and TV Shows.
  • Items connected to your hobbies. Small instruments. Basketball shoes. Knitting needles. Your Xbox or other gaming console.
  • Extra passport photos – you’ll need 4-8 more after you arrive. They’re handy to have for traveling, too, as some countries will need photos for tourist visas.
  • Gifts for your co-workers – not mandatory or expected of you, but a nice gesture. A small trinket or souvenior from your home town/state/province/country.
  • For everything else: What to pack

3. What you don’t need to pack

 

  • Bedding: a comforter, a pillow, a sheet
  • A mattress pad
  • Full size bath towels
  • Water filter
  • A cleaning kit
  • A transformer:  are you from the States or Canada? Check the voltage of your electronics. Make sure that they will be able to handle 220V. Double check specific appliances, such as your hair straightener, blow dryer, electric toothbrush and gaming systems.  For these appliances, you will most likely need a transformer.

4. Money

  • Find out what you will need to be able to wire money back home. Bring proof of your bank account. You’ll be able to link your Korean account with your account at home.
  • Make someone at home your power of attorney, so they can have access to your accounts on your behalf.
  • Understand the currency conversion for USD / ZAR / GBP…. to Korean Won
  • Bring enough money to last you until your first paycheck (which you’ll receive about a month after you arrive)

5. Communication

  • Consider buying or renting a phone in Korea
  • Speak with your current carrier about getting your phone unlocked so that it works in Korea (and then set up a phone plan with a Korean carrier after you arrive)

 

Hopefully some of these tips are helpful. Don’t miss checking out what we wish we had realized before going to Korea.

 

Did we miss anything? Comment below!

 

What I Wish I Knew BEFORE Coming to Korea

What I knew of the world changed during my first few days, weeks, and months in Korea. I did my research, but there were a few things that I missed. This is what I wish I knew before arriving in Korea:

Shopping in Korea

Shopping in Korea

1. Clothing

Saying that Korea “gets hot” in the summer is like saying that Antarctica can be chilly sometimes. The humidity can be so strong sometimes that it feels like you’re swimming through the air. It’s thick, muggy, still air, and it is VERY hot.

And then, there’s the winter. Korea has 4 seasons, people. Spring and Autumn are AMAZING… but they are short lived. The summer is muggy and humid, and the winter is nail-biting cold.  Make sure you bring enough clothing to last throughout the year!

This list should help with what to pack and what to leave behind before your move to South Korea.

2. The “tidiness” of your apartment

Maybe not this bad, but you know...

Maybe not this bad, but you know…

Have you heard about this yet? If not, then read carefully: tenants are not required to clean the apartment before they move out.

Even if you’re replacing another foreign teacher, it’s likely that they won’t clean up much for you. Hard to believe? Just wait – you’ll probably leave without cleaning it either! We’ve heard stories about kimchi mold growing in refrigerators, spiderwebs in the window sills, and almost everyone has a horror story about bathrooms. Suffice it to say: mentally prepare yourself. You will likely spend your first 48 hours cleaning. DEEP cleaning. Get ready to go shopping for cleaning supplies when you first arrive.

3. Your boss

Checking out the curriculum ahead of time? Meeting your coworkers? Shadowing some classes before you start teaching? Yeah… probably not going to happen… teaching in Korea can best be summed up in the phrase “rolling with the punches”…

To start off with a good teaching relationship with your boss, we would advise you to bring a little something for them. It can be something from your home country or even a snack with a cup of coffee. This will mean more than you can imagine.

4. Your class schedule

You might receive that the day before you start teaching, if you’re lucky. Most of us receive it THE DAY we start teaching. Make peace with the fact that Korea is a place where people do things differently, and you are the one who need to fit in with their culture. Be flexible, be adaptable. Roll with the punches.

5. Cell phone

If you have a cell phone that you want to bring along, you need to make sure that it is compatible (2100mHz WCDMIA) and unlocked (check with your service provider). To get a contract in Korea directly through their service providers (Olleh / SK Telecom), you’ll need to have your ARC (Alien Residence Card). This will take 3 – 6 weeks to get from immigration.

6. Restaurant Etiquette

You will probably sit on the floor. When you arrive, wait to be told where to sit. Don’t start eating until your boss has taken their first bite. Don’t tip in a Korean restaurant. The waiter might just run after you with the change. Don’t pour your own drink in the company of an older Korean. It is the responsibility of the senior person at the table. Hold out your cup with both hands as they pour for you. And dear god, don’t blow your nose at the table.

7. Public Transportation

Seoul has one of the most extensive public transportation systems in the world. The subway is clean, it will take you almost anywhere, and every subway station is right underneath a city bus station. There are also taxi’s available, and they are not nearly as expensive as they are at home.

Seoul Subway Map

Seoul Subway Map

8. Internet

Kotatsu-tastefulTNWhen you arrive at the airport, you can connect to WiFi while you wait for your next move (someone picking you up, or a bus). If you’re lucky, internet in your apartment will still be running from the teacher before you. Most will have to wait to get internet set up at home.

Don’t worry though, most coffee shops (they are everywhere) will have WiFi available. This is usually the easiest way to Skype with family/friends, check your email, etc until you can get internet set up at home.

9. Alcohol consumption

Drinking in public is legal. Weird, right? And AWESOME.

10. Learning Korean

Being able to speak Korean might take you a while. There are a variety of Korean courses available, as well as language exchange programs where you teach someone English and they teach you Korean in return. Learning to read Korean is a lot easier than learning to speak it. You can do it in less than an hour! Seriously!

11. Homesickness

It’s unavoidable. Moving to Korea and adjusting to the life here is adventurous and exciting, but you’ll have your fair share of shocking experiences. Homesickness comes and goes. Make sure you establish effective communication with those at home, whether through Skype, or a cell phone. Be sure to plan an adventure (in Korea) quickly – within your first 8 weeks if you can! Korea is filled with quick weekend getaways, and the extensive bus/train system makes it easy to leave on a Saturday morning and come home on a Sunday night. Hikes, 4D movie theaters, festivals, beaches, temple stays… the list goes on. You can meet people on Facebook groups in your area, or you go to Meetup.com to find people with similar interests as you.

12. Showers… and your bathroom in general

It’s most probably not going to be the way you expect it to be. Your shower is basically your whole bathroom. Traditionally, the shower head is right over your toilet. It takes some time getting used to, but hey, it’s an adventure!

13. Your age

Koreans are 1 when they are born, so when you arrive in Korea, you are instantly 1 year older in age. Yay!

For everything else, here’s Adventure Teaching’s Comprehensive guide on South Korea!

Let us know what we’ve missed!