Top 5 Musts for an Overseas Teaching Job

Working overseas is one of the most rewarding experiences I have ever had. I’ve made life long friends that I would have never met had I stayed put in Charleston, South Carolina all my life.


But not all of it was sunshine and rainbows! In the umpteen years I’ve been teaching, I’ve also had dreadful jobs that I could not wait to leave.


As I sit here reflecting on my past experiences, I’ve decided to write down most everything you will need to have a great teaching experience. This way you don’t have to repeat my mistakes.


Can I Get That in Writing?


Before you board a plane, or a boat, to get to your new adventure abroad, make sure you have read and signed a very well spelled out contract.


Any job you take should have a well defined contract and provide no less than these 5 ‘Musts’ to insure a good teaching and living experience.




1) You Teach Hard for the Money


Don’t take any job that does not spell out your salary. Easy enough, right? Well not so fast…


Make sure that you have your monthly salary in ink on a legal contract. Also be sure that the contract includes any and all monetary remuneration for any overtime worked and/or bonuses.


Make sure you understand how the pay system works. Don’t be afraid to ask questions! Being stuck in a foreign country with no money is a hell of a lot scarier!




Don’t take a job that is full-time but then pays you per classroom hour. This is not going to be a pleasurable experience. You will have to teach 30 hours or more, and then turn around and lesson plan. So the ten or more hours you spend lesson planning will be unpaid.


While talking about pay, make sure there is a section for paid leave. You are making an enormous sacrifice by leaving the comfort of your home country for this job. They should give you paid time off to either return home to visit your family or at least travel and explore.


As stated above for pay, make sure these dates and amounts are in the contract. Don’t take anyone’s word! Get it in writing!


2) Get Transportation Included


Lets get one thing clear, you are leaving your friends and family (everything that makes one feel safe and secure) to live in a foreign country so you can teach English for what is probably a for-profit organization. The least these fellas can do is either pay for your airfare straight out, or reimburse you.




Also, I guarantee your pay grade will not be high. So get your new employer to pay your transportation expenses to and from work. This will save you a considerable amount of money each week.


Don’t forget to get all of this in writing in your contract.


3) Get Housing Assistance


You are moving to a new world! When you get to your destination you are going to be tired and out of sorts. Make sure your new employer is ready for your arrival.


They should have airport pick-up and a hotel or housing ready for you the second your feet hit the ground.




If they don’t provide you with housing, then they should at least have someone help you find a place to live. It is REALLY hard to shop for an apartment when you can’t read or speak the language.


Most jobs in Korea, China and Japan are really good about either free or subsidized rent. But don’t assume it is included. Make sure the housing, or assistance, is included in your contract.


4) This is a Material World


Find out what will be expected of you as a teacher and what the school has in place to help you do your job.


Does the school have a library of textbooks, workbooks, activity books? Do they provide you with a membership to an ESL Resource site like Does the school have their own material, or are you expected to make it all up for each class?




If you are going to work in China and the school doesn’t have its own curriculum, you may want to stock up on a few resource books before leaving. ESL resource books are very hard to find in mainland China.


It would also be in your interest to find out if they provide any kind of teacher training. Also check if they will assist in travel to larger national TESOL/TEFL seminars. These events are great for finding new teaching ideas.


5) But Wait, There’s More!


Last, but not least, find out if you will be required to do any additional extra-curricular activities outside of teaching. This is not uncommon, especially if you work in an Elementary school, High School, or University. These activities are often fun.


Most of the time these activities will happen during your working hours, which will mean either canceled classes or a loss of a preparation period.


Sometimes these activities will occur after school or on the weekend. I recommend asking about these and getting dates and times, so you can plan accordingly. As you can guess, I always have them spelled out in my contracts.




To help you ask your future employer about any extra-curricular duties, I’ve compiled a list and explanation of events I’ve experienced.


  • English Club or English Lounge: This is a great opportunity for students to ‘hang out’ with native English speakers and practice what they have learned in the classroom. It also gives them a chance to talk to you in a non-structured environment.


  • Demo Lessons: These are short lessons given to a small group of people that are considering attending the school. These are often held after school or on weekends. They also occur during ‘Open Campus’.


  • Open Campus: This is a time when potential students come and visit the school to see if they would like to attend. Most, if not all, teachers attend this event and will often give a demo lesson. It’s usually held on a holiday or the weekend.


  • Sports Day: We called this ‘Field Day’ when I was in school. It’s usually held on a holiday or the weekend. In my experience, all teachers attended and you may be asked to participate in an event.


  • Speech Contests: As a native speaker, you may be asked to coach a student and/or be a judge in a school wide speech contest. The coaching will have to be during one of your free periods or after school. This is actually very rewarding for both you and your student, especially when your student wins. has everything you will need to help your students be great at presentations.


  • Orientation: Held at the beginning of every school year. Every teacher is usually expected to attend and welcome the new students to the school. Often held on the weekend before school begins.


  • Graduation: Held at the end of every school year. Every teacher is usually expected to attend and bid farewell to your students. Often held on the weekend after school ends. This is a very emotional day.


  • School Festivals: Usually held on a weekend and, in my experience, not mandatory. I usually attended and helped students plan out some type of event. Can be really fun.


The Take Away


The most important thing I want you to take away from this article is to GET EVERYTHING IN WRITING!


I’m not suggesting that your new employer wants to take advantage of you, it’s just nice to have a contract signed by both parties to fall back on if there are ever any disagreements or misunderstandings.


It is rare, but there are employers out there that only care about making money. So do your research and ask a boat load of questions. Also, always trust your gut! If something doesn’t feel right, follow your intuition.

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