One of the fastest and easiest ways to get a teaching job overseas is to sign up with a teacher recruitment agency in your home country. As a long-term English teacher in Thailand, I’m not a big fan of recruitment agencies as, from talking to teachers who went through the process, they do everything the teacher themselves could do , with the end result the teaching salary is often lower than it should be as the agency then takes a cut.
Some teacher placement agencies are also more than just a little morally questionable, as they prey on naive young teachers selling them poor TEFL certification programs or placing them in low-paying jobs far below their qualification level and in poor locations, and pocketing the difference in salary.
That being said, there are definitely some good recruitment agencies that are honest, do everything above board, and find native English speakers excellent teaching jobs overseas. These, however, are few and far between. To find one, here are a few things you should be looking for.
Check salaries offered – If I see a teacher recruitment agency offering a teaching contract in Thailand with a 30,000 baht a month salary and a five or 10 month contract, it makes me angry. The salaries they are offering are the lowest of the low in Thailand, and are usually reserved for backpackers or those with no qualifications or experience.
As for a 5 or 10-month contract, what that means is you will not be paid for any of the several weeks’ vacation at the school as your contract will end at the end of the semester before the vacation weeks begin. Meanwhile, you can all but guarantee the agency is pocketing a huge amount of money per teacher placed, as that’s the difference between a 30,000 baht salary and a liveable one.
To make sure you’re not signing up for a dodgy teacher recruitment agency, check the average teaching salaries for any country you’re considering teaching in and compare them with what the agency is offering. If you are being told you will make 20 percent less than the average, get a short contract and be placed in the middle of nowhere, yes, you are being fleeced.
If, however, the salary you are being offered is in line with the industry standard for that particular country and it comes with some nice benefits, as long as you can get all this information in writing before you leave, chances are the agency you are using is an honest one.
Check testimonials but not on the agency’s website – Don’t read or believe testimonials on the websites of teacher recruitment agencies, as chances are they are either faked or not telling the whole story. Check testimonials about particular agencies on other websites that cater to teachers overseas, as it’s there that you’ll find the true story about the agency you’re considering.
If you find great testimonials almost everywhere you look, then it’s likely that teacher placement agency is one you should consider signing up with.
If there is a fee, run away – Some teacher placement agencies I have come across ask for an upfront fee for each applicant who wants to teach in countries like China, Thailand, Korea, Argentina, Spain and Nepal.
You should never pay a teacher placement agency any kind of fee as they are already making their fee from the schools they are finding teachers for. In fact, a fee to me sets of screaming warning sirens and says “extremely untrustworthy agency” in big flashing lights, and is one I would give a very wide berth to.
The only exception to this would be if the fee pays for a TEFL certification course that is fully-recognized by schools overseas and the TEFL course is being offered at an industry standard price. You can easily find that out by researching what other legitimate TEFL schools normally charge.
If they are suggesting illegal work conditions, yep…..run – A couple of teacher placement agencies I came across online last week were recommending ways would-be teachers could get around working laws overseas if they weren’t correctly qualified to teach in that particular country.
While many teachers do this in countries from Thailand to Spain, be aware if you are caught it is you who will bear the blame and the punishment, and not the agency who told you to do it.
Besides, if an agency is already telling you illegal ways to work in a country, what other illegal things are they doing?
Should you do your TEFL certification with the agency you will work through? – Out of all the agencies I’ve seen that offer TEFL certification and then guarantee job placement, few are agencies I would touch with the proverbial pole.
That’s because the TEFL program they offer is often not a good one, many only have an online TEFL program, which means you won’t get supervised teaching practices (mandatory for some teaching jobs overseas), and the jobs they provide at the end are usually low-paying and in terrible locations compared to other jobs you could easily find yourself.
For more information on teacher recruitment agencies, this time agencies in Thailand, read this fabulous article from Ajarn.com about the horrors of teacher recruitment agencies in Bangkok and beyond. Specifically read the comments below the article from teachers who were fooled into using an agency and had largely negative experiences to report because of it.
No, most teacher recruitment agencies back in your home country aren’t like these, but some aren’t that far off.
Want a job teaching overseas and are worried the placement agency you are considering may be one of the bad ones? Get a TEFL certificate, then get on a plane to the country you’d like to teach in and look for a job. It really is as simple as that, and hundreds of thousands of people do it every year.