You’re Never Too Old to Teach English Abroad or Online!By Krzl Light Nuñes
August 17, 2021
While the typical profile of a TEFL/TESOL teacher is someone in their twenties, fresh out of college, or taking a gap year abroad, does it mean that teaching English is reserved for the young? Definitely not! Even if you’re a career changer or a retiree, you’re never too old to teach English abroad or online. Let’s straighten out some age-related concerns about entering the English teaching field later in life.
Is there an age limit to teach English abroad or online?
Generally speaking, there are no strict age restrictions for teaching English abroad or online. As a matter of fact, many schools or online companies are looking for mature and experienced teachers. With flexibility and determination, you can always find a classroom or virtual ESL job that matches your abilities and background, especially if you’ve already got qualifications for teaching English.
However, you can come across challenges when finding teaching work in certain regions, like Asia, if you’re past your 30s (though it’s not impossible!). More often than not, the age requirement to teach abroad stems from a country’s rules for retirement age and visa requirements for foreign workers. Make sure to research these specific regulations in the countries where you want to find employment and focus your job hunt on markets you’re eligible to work in.
Natalie, from the U.S., teaches at a university in Nicaragua. She notes, “People here really want to learn English, so they are motivated to learn. They realize that the skill of English opens doors for them. I also appreciate the environment that I get to teach in. It is a small university community, so there are many opportunities to connect with and be a mentor to students.”
What are the advantages of being an older teacher?
As a mature teacher, you bring a goldmine of experience into the classroom. Through teaching English, you have a chance to showcase the wisdom you’ve gained through the years, which will certainly be respected and valued by your learners and co-workers.
You will have a wealth of class conversation topics in hand and invaluable insights to share with your students based on your life experience. Whether it’s about your family, trips to foreign lands, or your past careers, you’ll bring a range of TEFL discussion topics to the table.
Furthermore, if you’re coming from a different professional background, you can use your knowledge in a particular field (finance, medicine, or engineering, for example) to your benefit by specializing in teaching Engish related to that field. By developing a TEFL/TESOL niche, you can expand your job prospects and stand out as an applicant with in-demand skills.
Are people my age really teaching English abroad or online?
Yes, they are! People of all ages get TEFL/TESOL training and certification and find English teaching jobs overseas or online. It’s not difficult to see why older people pursue an English teaching career; it’s a great option for those above their 30s seeking a change of pace or for seniors who want to stay active during retirement.
Michael, a former language teacher from the U.S., is one of these retirees who embarked on a new adventure as an English teacher in Ecuador. Asked why he hasn’t let go of teaching yet, he points out, “I was reluctant to cut myself off from the classroom because I had enjoyed being with students for over 40 years and still believed that I had something to offer to eager learners.”
Where can I find employment as an older English teacher?
Be it in a classroom or an online setting, there are a number of options when it comes to finding a TEFL/TESOL job as a teacher beyond the traditional age.
Online English teaching
If you want to teach English online, many doors are open to you with virtual English schools, where age is usually not a restricting factor.
Anne, a retiree from Great Britain who is currently teaching in Argentina, notes that one of the benefits of teaching online is that it “opens up new possibilities because you can teach people beyond your immediate area, and you can teach people beyond your national boundaries.”
Classroom-based English teaching
In-person teaching positions abroad (or even in your home country) can be at a variety of institution types.
Is there age discrimination in TEFL/TESOL? In what parts of the world are older teachers most welcomed?
While many countries don’t place rigid age constraints for hiring foreigners, it’s not uncommon for certain job markets to have some bias against older teachers, whether due to local hiring laws or general customs regarding the age of retirement. Nevertheless, you can still achieve your goal of teaching English if you know where to look.
Online English teaching positions usually don’t have an age limit, although you may find some exceptions. For example, some China-based tutoring companies, especially those that specialize in teaching kids, sometimes prefer their teachers to be in their 20s or 30s.
Regardless, there are scores of online ESL companies that employ teachers even in their senior years, so you can scan the Bridge Job Board and find the right position for you or focus on online teaching companies based in other regions, such as Latin America-based Open English.
Best regions for finding ESL jobs as an older teacher
If you want to find TEFL/TESOL job prospects abroad without worrying about the age factor, your best bets are Latin American and Eastern European countries. For example, Mexico, Costa Rica, and Ecuador are popular destinations for older English teachers looking to explore new cultures or redefine retirement life. Likewise, there are opportunities in countries such as the Czech Republic and Russia for those who dream of living in this region.
Gabriela, from Mexico, has been teaching English for the last 40 years. On making a career out of TEFL, she remarks, “I currently work as a substitute teacher to middle school students at a K-12 international school in Mexico City, where English is the main language spoken. I got the job while I was finishing my bachelor’s degree so I was looking for an administrative job in order to have more time to complete my studies. Since then, I’ve had three different positions at the same place. I am very happy now that the school is considering me for a teaching position.”
More challenging ESL job markets for older teachers
For teachers of retirement age, landing ESL jobs may be tricky in some parts of Asia, such as China and South Korea. Although not always a black and white issue, this difficulty in getting hired as an older teacher can often be a result of the country’s restrictions on issuing visas to teachers who are beyond the compulsory retirement age for that country. For example, to teach abroad in China, you need a Z-class work visa, which is only available to men under 60 and women under 55 years of age.
However, exceptions abound, and some Asian locations, such as Taiwan, actually have such a strong demand for qualified and experienced teachers that there are more opportunities for older teachers, who often fit this description.
How can I give myself an edge when applying to TEFL/TEOSL jobs as an older applicant?
What do I have to gain from teaching English?
Teaching English online is a flexible and fun job that can be done from the comfort of home or while traveling. People of all ages find it rewarding to help students young and old improve their English and meet their learning goals.
On the other hand, it’s not unusual for career changers, empty-nesters, and retirees to see teaching English abroad as the fulfillment of a longtime dream that may have been put on the back burner over the years. Getting certified to teach abroad offers the opportunity to pursue a new career, learn a foreign language, or simply experience immersion in a new and different culture. Most of all, teaching English is a chance for adventure — and you are never too old for that!
Don’t let your age make you sidestep your dream to teach English abroad or online! Finding employment as an older teacher may require some dedication and persistence on your part, but once you succeed, you’ll be granted a worthwhile and rewarding experience, no matter where you prefer to teach.