Can You Have a Permanent Career Teaching English (EFL) Overseas?
Tens of thousands of people every year move overseas to teach English as a Foreign Language (EFL). Some do it temporarily, some more permanent, and a few consider teaching EFL overseas as a permanent career.
If you are one of those people who’s thinking about moving overseas for a permanent career as an EFL teacher, and you’re wondering if it’s actually possible, as a long-term EFL teacher in Bangkok, Thailand, I’m here to tell you it is. But there are some factors you should consider if you want to be happy and successful.
Can You Live Away From Family and Friends Permanently? – As an independent person, when I first moved to Bangkok, Thailand to teach English (EFL) eight years ago, I knew I could live away from family and friends permanently. Since the age of 18, I’ve lived far away from my parents and, although we’re a close-knit family and I miss them, I can still function quite happily alone.
For others though, living away from family and friends, often on the other side of the world, can be a huge upheaval. In my eight years of teaching EFL in Bangkok, I’ve had western friends come and go, many of whom thought they could hack it so far away from their family.
A year down the road, and they were so homesick they couldn’t stand it and off they went back home. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with that. Just make sure, if you’re considering a permanent career move to another country to teach EFL that you’re relatively certain you can forge a new life for yourself alone.
Do You Make Friends Easily? – I’m outgoing and will talk to anyone, so have always found it easy to make friends. If however you’re more introverted or shy and find making friends difficult, being alone in a foreign country teaching EFL permanently may not be for you. Then again, it may be just the thing you need to get you out of your shell.
Is There Job Stability in Teaching EFL Overseas Permanently? – It depends on which country you move to, or if you’re planning on moving around to different countries to teach. In the eight years I’ve been in Thailand, I’ve always had job stability. So much so that, almost every job I’ve had my boss has begged me to stay when I decide to leave.
In Thailand too, there are tons of teaching jobs if you do decide to leave one job for another. Other countries like Japan and Spain however have offered EFL teachers less job stability due to economic stagnation or collapse.
In other countries too, there’s political and social instability to consider. With the current political upheaval in countries like Egypt and Tunisia for example, imagine being an EFL teacher there. Many EFL teachers left, some having to leave permanent jobs behind they’d been at for a long time.
In Thailand, we too have had political problems but, due to the nature of the Thais, even if the political problems resurface in the future, it would be highly unlikely I’d ever have to leave Thailand for safety reasons. In other countries, not so much.
So, choose the country you’re planning on teaching in carefully. If job stability is what you’re after, check out other people’s comments online about teaching EFL in that particular country, and don’t choose an unstable country. Unless of course you like adventure.
Are There Chances For Promotion in EFL Teaching Overseas? – Again, it depends which country you’re in and what type of EFL teaching you do (corporate, high school, kindergarten, language school, teaching in a hotel etc). In Thailand and in many other Asian countries, there’s not much chance for promotion to a high-level job, as most of those jobs are reserved for Asian nationals. Of course, like anything, it is possible. Just be aware, the opportunities may not be as high as in your own country.
Will Taking 10 Years Out of Your Life Damage Career Prospects Back Home? – An important thing many potential EFL teachers overseas don’t think about is, if ‘permanent’ is five or ten years and not forever, will moving back to their own country after years teaching EFL overseas damage their long-term career prospects back home?
To some employers back in countries like England, the US and Canada, having lived overseas teaching EFL for years can be a positive. It shows you’re imaginative, independent, like new things etc.
To other employers, it can be a detriment as they view it as you being ‘unstable’.
Like anything, I believe if you want something badly enough you can get it, so just because you move overseas to teach EFL for 10 years does not mean you’ll have any problems getting a job if you go home.
If you’re considering a move overseas to teach EFL permanently, consider whether it is actually permanent or will it just be long-term? Either way, as someone who has done it now for almost a decade and loved practically every minute, I’d say “Do it”. You’ll kick yourself if you don’t.