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The reason why I took a TEFL course in 1996 (imagine, smartphones didn’t even exist then) was the standard one. Just 6 months out of university, I saw teaching English as a foreign language as something that could fund my travels around the world, in particular, Mexico and Central America.
Strangely enough, there was only one other person on my course like me. The rest of the trainees were older and had different reasons for taking the course. One was an amateur linguist and wanted to work part-time; another was thinking of moving to Turkey where her husband was from; one lady was born to Polish parents and wanted to work with the local Polish community in North London.
It’s certainly true that the reasons why lots of gap-year students take TEFL courses is to travel around the world, doing lots of wild and crazy things before they settle down. But, they are not the only types of people who train to teach English as a foreign language and there are lots of reasons why you should take a TEFL course.
Taking a TEFL course allows you to do something different with your life. You may not make an enormous amount of money, although there is enormous money to be made in the English language teaching industry (£1.2 billion in the UK alone), but money isn’t the only reason to do something, is it?
Here are 15 reasons why a TEFL course might be a good idea for you:
1. You are interested in teaching but are not sure you want to take a degree. TEFL is a great way to test the waters and discover if teaching is a) something you might enjoy doing and b) something you might be good at doing. Also, TEFL courses are much cheaper than degrees (usually under £1000) and you can recoup your investment in next to no time.
2. You are a lover of the English language and love telling people about it. Teaching EFL (English as a foreign language) can be surprisingly creative and innovative teachers can find original ways to present and practise the language with students. You don’t need to speak English as your mother tongue (native speaker) as some of the most effective EFL teachers speak English as a second language. If you have a C1 or C2 qualification in English, you could apply to join a TEFL course.
3. You are thinking of taking a gap year and need to support yourself while you’re abroad. TEFL work is fairly easy to pick up in certain countries. Many people teach somewhere for a few months and then move on. There are lots of programmes which offer short-term contracts to qualified teachers. Be careful though, lots of teachers find somewhere where they feel at home and stay for years.
4. You have just graduated and not sure what you want to do next. You don’t need to rush into a decision and teaching helps you develop lots of skills, such as public speaking, which you can add to your CV. Learning the local language may also help you stand out in a crowded job market.
5. You are retired after working in a different sector but would like to continue working. Teaching English gets you out and about and you can meet many interesting people. If you have professional experience, you could promote yourself as a specialist English teacher (ESP – English for Specific Purposes) and carve out a niche for yourself, teaching lawyers, nurses or journalists.
6. You have always wanted to live and work in another country. Who hasn’t wanted to live in another country? The grass is always greener, right? Well, if you have ever wanted to experience Rome or Rio, Barcelona or Beijing, you can do so with a TEFL certificate.
7. You are feeling worn-out or dissatisfied with your current job and looking to do something different. Fed up with working in an office cubicle, staring at a computer screen all day? TEFL is a really social job, you spend your days surrounded by people, and the rewards can be immediate: when you see your students improve day by day, you realise you’re making a difference.
8. You have been made redundant and looking for a change of career. There is a steep but short learning curve in TEFL. The course is tough but many trainee teachers become competent teachers in the space of a month. You don’t need extensive training to teach English which can help get you back to the world of work again.
9. You are a qualified teacher looking to gain experience or expand your range of skills. I’ve trained professional teachers and many of them said that taking a TEFL course was more stimulating and practical than taking a degree in education. TEFL courses generally train you how to teach language using the communicative approach, and you might find techniques which reinvigorate your teaching.
10. You are a professional living in another country and are finding it difficult to get work in your field. Most teachers don’t teach EFL forever, but it is a great job for a few years. The job can be very flexible (many teachers work part-time) so you can always support yourself teaching English while you continue looking for work in your field.
11. You are looking to move abroad to be with your partner and wondering what you could do to support yourself. It’s amazing how many people in TEFL move to be with their partner. It may not be the job of your dreams but it’s not a bad option if you want to be with the person of your dreams.
12. You are looking for flexible part-time work to fit around your other commitments. Lots of people teach English in order to pay the bills while they are working on other projects, such as completing post-graduate qualifications.
13. You are a creative person (musician, artist, writer) looking for a job which can provide you with some supplementary income. I’ve worked with artists, musicians, writers, actors and comedians and their artistic talents and interests often made them great teachers. Actors, in particular, are often fantastic at teaching pronunciation.
14. You are looking for work which you can do from home. You can teach online if you want to stay at home, which makes it a good job for parents or people looking after elderly relatives.
15. You want to do a job which allows you to help other people. Learning English can make a huge difference in your students’ lives. Knowing that I helped people find work, pass university entrance exams, or move abroad makes me feel pretty good about the job I do.
Teaching English as a foreign or second language is a boom industry at the moment. All over the world, people are determined to learn or improve their English skills, which means that qualified teachers are very much in demand. It doesn’t have to be a job for life, but it can be a lot of fun and is a great way to broaden your horizons and become a global citizen. So, if you have a good reason to take a TEFL course, why not get in touch?
If you want to know more about TEFL, read my free ebook A Short Guide to TEFL.