Teaching English as a foreign language

Read on to find information about TEFL and TESOL, including what they are, how to gain work experience and how to find a job


TEFL is teaching English, either overseas or in the UK, to students whose first or main language is not English. It may also be referred to as TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) when the students are in the UK.

There are also jobs in TESL, teaching English as a Second Language, which refers specifically to language teaching for immigrants to English-speaking countries, and there is growing demand for English for Specific Purposes (ESP) teachers, who specialise in teaching English in areas such as business, tourism, medicine, the law or engineering. 

Besides schools, and further and higher education institutions in the UK and overseas, the main employers are commercial language schools. These were particularly badly hit by the Covid-19 pandemic, with travel affected for two consecutive summers; however, the sector has been recovering.  Working with refugees and asylum seekers is another possibility, employed by local authorities or by charities.  

TEFL/TESOL teacher: job description

Choosing a course 

It's important to research the many different TEFL qualifications and courses to see which are best suited to you, before committing to one.  

If you want to make Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) your long-term career after graduating, the sort of course you choose may not be the same as those planning a summer job. 

Courses such as CELTA or Trinity TESOL which include teaching practice (in the classroom, where possible) are a bigger investment of time and money but are recognised by a wider range of  language schools. 

Teaching English abroad (Prospects) 

How to choose a TEFL course and find work after qualifying (TargetJobs) 

DoTEFL is a global TEFL course directory which you can use to find courses all around the world:


Ethical TEFL is a company which operates as a social enterprise and offers full scholarships for training every month

Ethical TEFL   


Trinity TESOL

UK TESOL courses

What it’s like 

This will depend on your students and your place of work. This job profile gives a good summary and includes a case study: 

English as a Foreign Language teacher    (Prospects) 

Read EL Gazette for sector news: 

El Gazette 

Work experience 

Some ways to build relevant experience – and help you to decide whether this role is for you – include: 

  • working in summer camps

  • working as a home tutor 

  • volunteering to support groups working with speakers of other languages: 


Look for work experience opportunities on Prospects:

Work experience and internships

Finding jobs  

You will find many programmes which combine TEFL training with a paid placement listed in the Opportunities on MyCareerHub.  These may not require any previous experience, and are likely to make a charge for the support they offer – see our advice here:

Questions to ask when researching international opportunities   

British Council’s English Language Assistants programme - most destination countries don’t require you to have a TEFL qualification:   

British Council’s English Language Assistants programme 

JET Japan Exchange and Teaching Programme - does not require a TEFL qualification or experience but these would be an advantage:

JET Programme 

With a recognised TEFL qualification you can apply to a wider range of opportunities. 

English UK – this membership body for accredited language centres in the UK has a list of member organisations.  Check their websites for vacancies. Also useful for news and updates about the sector:

English UK 


TEFL Jobs (Guardian) includes jobs with local authorities in the UK : 

TEFL jobs 


TESOL jobs - jobs.ac.uk

TESOL jobs - Guardian

Also see: 

Charities and Voluntary Sector