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Newly Certified? How to Get TEFL/TESOL Experience

A teacher teaching abroad in China.

Many who get TEFL/TESOL certified and plan to teach English, whether recent college grads, career changers, or even retirees, hit the TEFL/TESOL job search without having ever appeared in front of an actual class of students. Yet, some teaching jobs require — or at least prefer — experience, leading job seekers to wonder how to get TEFL/TESOL experience before getting a teaching job. Luckily, there are plenty of ways to do just that, including volunteering, becoming a private tutor, and more!

How can I get TEFL/TESOL teaching experience?

The answer to this question of how to get TEFL/TESL experience depends on factors such as where you live, how flexible you are, and the amount of time you have available. Luckily, for most newly certified teachers, at least one of these six ways to get teaching experience will be within reach.

1. Teach English online to get EFL teaching experience

Get TEFL experience by teaching online
Ben, teaching online

Teaching English online is another great way to gain EFL teaching experience. In recent years, the field of teaching English online has skyrocketed, so much so that Bridge has developed its own suite of courses to prepare future online English teachers for the virtual classroom: Specialized Certifications in Teaching English Online.

Many online English teaching jobs require little or no previous ESL teaching experience, making them the perfect opportunity to get your foot in the door. Teaching English online provides the opportunity to get teaching experience from the comfort of your own home or while you travel, but those are not the only reasons why it has become increasingly popular. Learn why Colby, a classroom teacher in China, also teaches online.

Some companies to check out if you’d like to teach English online and don’t yet have experience are:

2. Complete a TEFL/TESOL teaching practicum

You can earn certain types of TEFL/TESOL certifications that provide valuable teaching experience. For example, Bridge offers a specialized certificate called the Guided Teaching Practicum that incorporates five hours of hands-on teaching practice in a real EFL classroom, which you can arrange with schools, community centers, or other locations.

Bridge also offers a Practicum in Teaching English Online, which leaves teachers with a portfolio of recorded classes with live students that they can then show to potential employers.

A TEFL/TESOL practicum course can be combined with any online TEFL certification (Bridge or otherwise) to make you more competitive for EFL jobs across the globe.

3. Volunteer teach to get ESL experience before going abroad

Within your community, there are likely many opportunities to teach English as a second language (ESL), and by volunteering, you’ll not only benefit yourself but help others along the way.

Linda, working with refugees in the U.S.

Some ways you can gain experience as a volunteer teacher, assistant teacher, or tutor include:

  • Refugee/immigrant service organizations
  • Local churches or community centers that offer ESL or even GED classes
  • Teaching English online with a volunteer organization like RefuNet
  • Public or private K-12 schools
  • English language schools
  • Nanny/babysit/coach/mentor to get experience with kids
Bridge grad Lindsay volunteering in Tanzania
English teacher, Lindsay, volunteering in Tanzania.

“All of my experiences teaching English so far have been volunteering positions. The first one was in 2011 in Cambodia as part of a university study abroad term. However, the first teaching experience where I felt I had the most control over the language lessons and the classroom was in Tanzania.

Since Tanzania, I have taught as a volunteer in Nepal and Bali, Indonesia. I loved each and every one of those experiences for different reasons. I find that my heart pulls me to places and children that need me the most, so in a year I may very well learn of a different place in need of my skills and passion.”

– Lindsay, Bridge grad and volunteer teacher

4. Become a private tutor to get ESL experience

Private tutor working with English student
A private tutor in Chile working with an adult English language student

One-on-one tutoring is a great way to practice your TEFL/TESOL skills and add a real job to your teaching resume. There are many ways to do it, and they’re all valuable.

  • Post an ad on an online marketplace or social media, offering your services locally as a TEFL/TESOL certified English tutor.
  • Put up flyers in places like libraries or grocery stores to recruit students.
  • If you aren’t yet comfortable charging for your services, offer free tutoring.
  • You could even advertise that you’re looking for a free language exchange to improve your skills as well as your partner’s.

Freelance English teachers shared their top strategies for finding students with us. Check them out here!

If you’re interested in starting your own English tutoring business, consider getting a Specialized Certification in Teaching English Online as a Freelancer, which will help you find your niche, promote your brand, handle accounting, and manage the logistics behind running a successful ESL business.

5. Substitute teach

Though requirements vary by school district, you can often become a substitute teacher if you hold a degree in any subject. This kind of teaching experience will look especially impressive on your resume since it will show future employers you can follow lesson plans, manage large classes of students, and adapt to new situations.

6. Find opportunities to teach or train people within your current job

Teaching experience can take many forms, and one of the most accessible may be right under your nose. Take the initiative to offer to train people at your current job if you can. Is there a new employee you can help? Is there a new system that you could help others learn? This kind of experience, while not traditional teaching, will look good on your TEFL/TESOL resume and give you relevant talking points for your interview.

Find out how to prepare for a TEFL/TESOL interview.

What other qualifications do you need to be a teacher abroad or online?

 TEFL/TESOL certification

Apart from previous teaching experience, you’ll certainly need a professional TEFL/TESOL certificate of at least 120 hours in order to teach abroad, in your home country, or online.

Remember, you can add specialized certifications to your main certificate in order to boost your resume. Whether you’re looking to teach young learners and teens or want to focus on teaching business English, specializations can go a long way to helping you score your dream job.

If you want to work online, consider getting a Specialized Certificate in Teaching English Online, which will teach you about concepts specific to the virtual classroom, such as using online teaching platforms, and help you stand out from other job applicants.

A university degree

Additionally, many TEFL/TESOL jobs will require you to have a bachelor’s degree, though this differs depending on the region where you’re teaching. For example, you may be able to teach in places like Costa Rica or Peru if you don’t have a degree, but you probably won’t find many available jobs in the Middle East without this requirement. Most online jobs require you to have a degree, but there are a few opportunities to teach English online with no degree.

Check out this article for 10 places you can teach abroad without a degree.

English proficiency

Lastly, nearly all teaching English abroad requirements and requirements to teach English online will include demonstrating a high level of English proficiency. You may not need to be a native English speaker but if you’re not, you’ll definitely need to show that you’re fluent in the language — such as by providing English proficiency test scores (IELTS or TOEFL).

Can I teach English abroad or online without TEFL/TESOL experience?

Yes, you can! Not all regions or countries require you to get experience before teaching abroad. Some of the places that may be more lenient with this requirement include countries in Central and South America and Asia. And, when it comes to the virtual classroom, you may find that companies are even more lenient in regard to hiring people to teach English online with no experience.

In order to score a teaching job without prior teaching experience, the key is to simply spend time cultivating your TEFL/TESOL resume, highlighting the qualifications that you do have, such as a specialized TEFL certification.

You can also play up your related non-teaching experience that’s still relevant to the job you’re hoping to land. For example, talk about how you’ve shown leadership skills or excelled at managing large groups of people at a previous job. Many accomplishments outside of teaching can still be used to show that you’re a great candidate for a TEFL/TESOL position.

Learn how your non-teaching skills can apply to TEFL/TESOL jobs.

While it’s certainly possible to find teaching positions that don’t require former experience, you don’t need to limit yourself to these jobs. When it comes to how to get TEFL/TESOL experience, you can go through one of the many avenues available — such as volunteering or teaching English online. This seemingly small addition can make a world of difference on your resume and better prepare you for the classroom at the same time!

How will you get experience to make your resume stand out? If you’re considering teaching online, read this article next: Teaching Online vs. in the Classroom. How do They Compare?

Camille is a content marketing manager, specializing in the language industry. Her love for language and experiencing other cultures has taken her around the globe, and she has taught English abroad both in the classroom and online. When not working or traveling, she can be found spending time with her family or — when not chasing after her two young daughters — cozying up with a good book!