7 Career Paths That Prove TEFL Is No Dead-End Job
7 CAREER PATHS THAT PROVE TEFL IS NO DEAD-END JOB
Teaching English as a Foreign Language sometimes gets a bad rap. People assume we’re all on holiday all the time, spending our not-very-hard earned cash on beer and flight tickets. In reality, while that may be the case for a few of us, teachers of English as a Foreign Language still have to work hard, and feel passionate about our choice of job. Yes we have fun at weekends like everyone else, and yes we enjoy the fringe benefits of our job, but that’s nothing to get down on ourselves about.
Even if most of us only do it for a few years, teaching English as a foreign language is an awesome choice. You serve a real market need, and help people develop new skills. You make pretty good money the world over. You have adventure, fun, and get out of the 9-5 rut. You learn new things about yourself and other cultures. And then often, you return home a more well-rounded person with a greater outlook on the world.
Photo credit © Montesbradley | WikiMedia
For many teachers though, we turn TEFL into our full-on, long-term, all-guns-blazing career. We don’t care about people who judge our profession or think we’re not serious, and we don’t need to think about ‘getting a real job’ because we realize we already have a job we love – and we don’t want to go back and earn a seven figure salary sitting in an office and watching life pass us by. That’s not to say that everyone does that, but we know more than a few people who do.
But here’s the other thing people don’t realize – you don’t have to stay on the bottom rung of teaching English forever. While we all have to start somewhere, people don’t realize that TEFL is absolutely not a dead-end. You can do a lot of different things, utilize all that experience and skill that you’ve developed, and keep a slice of the TEFL life even when living in your home country. If you feel like you’re worn out with the classroom, then consider these five career paths that you can follow.
1. Language school management
One of the most obvious choices if you love teaching English and don’t want to be too far from the classroom is language school management. Typically, the career progression is from teacher to senior teacher, then academic co-ordinator, and finally academic manager or director of studies.
In these kinds of roles, your responsibilities might vary depending on whether you work for a big chain or an independent centre. It’s likely though, that you’ll be involved with maintaining academic standards, keeping a few classroom hours here and there, recruitment, budgeting, and marketing. You might even get to the stage of running the school, and having serious input in future plans and development.
For anyone interested in the business side of things, this is a great way to stay in the TEFL industry, work abroad, and have a clear career path without working yourself into an early grave. It’s also likely that if you work your way up to Academic Manager, you’ll be rewarded very well for your work. Some sources indicate that an Academic Manager at a large language centre can make $5,000 a month or more, which when you live in a country with a lower cost of living than home makes for a very comfortable lifestyle.
Here’s a great article from IH on running, and opening, your own language school.
2. Senior Management and Business Management
It’s also possibly to move out of the academic side of things entirely. While it’s not quite as simple and might require extra training, there’s no reason that if you get a foothold in a large, multinational organization, for instance the British Council, that you can’t transition from a teaching position into operations or business management. If you’ve got a talent for development, strategy, finance, or marketing, and are able to focus on the ‘bigger picture’ of private education, then this is a viable option. The important thing is to talk to your seniors and let them know of your intentions. Ask how they can support your goals, and whether you can gain practical on-the-job experience of different functions, while maintaining or reducing your teaching load.
Remember, language schools are still a functional business, and as a teacher, you have valuable subject matter knowledge and can help make vital strategic decisions. If that’s something you’re interested in, then there’s no reason that you can’t move into strategic or operational roles. It may take time, but it’s certainly possible.
Already thinking about it? You could start in the ESL Capital…
A surprising option might be the high-flying world of academia. If teaching is truly what makes you happy, or you’re interested in researching and understanding more about languages, then it’s worth considering this path.
Word of warning: it’s expensive, competitive, and intellectually challenging. But, if you can make it through, you can be rewarded with the knowledge that you’ve pushed forward the frontiers of human knowledge (a little grandiose, but true). You’ll also have great job mobility, a good salary, and working in a university environment is often very pleasant. Time to focus on your own research is also a big consideration, if that’s something you’re passionate about.
Assuming you have a bachelor’s degree, the obvious choice is to pursue an MA in TESOL, or even a Delta, followed by an MA TESOL (Some programmes exempt you from certain modules if you have Delta – so it can be a good way to get two qualifications at a discount!). You can look at our article on ‘which MA TESOL’ to find out more.
After that comes the tricky bit. While an MA will allow you to teach in most universities around the world on English programmes, if you want to get into lecturing and research at Ivy-League or Russell Group standard schools, you’ll need to undertake a PhD.
It’s a long journey, and at four to five years of study, it’s not for the faint-hearted. For some though, it’ll be a labour of love, and what more worthwhile ways are there to spend your time than that?