Male teacher working with elementary school boy at his desk

Do You Need to Abandon Your Career and Teach English to Live Abroad?

Last updated on April 1st, 2023 at 05:13 pm

I read so many posts on social media that encourage people with a desire to move abroad to get a TESOL or TEFL certificate and teach English abroad. Complete transparency, I’ve done it. But is it necessary? 

There are a number of ways that you can teach English abroad. There are opportunities primarily at international schools, language academies, after school programs and online schools in a variety of countries. For those who enjoy working with children, have teaching experience or desire to pivot into teaching as a career, teaching while living abroad may be a great fit for you.

But teaching English and/or abandoning your career aren’t the only viable options. It’s just about finding the opportunity that fits your personal and financial goals while living abroad.

Is Teaching the Right Choice?

It seems that in the process of deciding to leave the US, many decide to leave everything they know behind including their career.

Let’s be honest, teaching is referred to as a ‘calling’ because it is not for everyone. It requires patience, preparation and, in some cases, specific degrees and licenses.

For those who say, “Oh you can teach online. It is easy.” Hold on. Do your research first.

The largest consumer of English classes online is the Chinese market. In August of 2021, China implemented a new policy requiring that foreign teachers must be located in China to teach Chinese students. Overnight, hundreds, if not thousands, of teachers lost their jobs. I know quite a few personally. Some have been able to recover with private tutoring, but not all.

In my experience, teaching English online has many twists and turns because many companies are startups and new investors have new ideas, country laws change on dime and the popularity of schools can diminish without teachers getting a heads up that business is slowing down.

Do You Have to Change Your Career to Move Abroad?

When I left the US in 2013, I had been in HR for over thirteen years. I was completely burned out. I thought I was tired of my career path, so I decided to take a break and teach English online.

But what was really happening with me? I had endured a year and a half with a toxic boss. I was tired of other people controlling my time and I was exhausted by the need to commute to and from work. 

As a career coach and a professional who has gone through my own burnout stage in my career, I encourage you to do a self-evaluation before jumping off the deep end into teaching English. Take stock of the investment you have made in your career and the network you have built. Evaluate why you feel you need to make a change.

Here are a few questions to ask yourself:


Why do I want to move abroad? Is it because I need a career change or a change of environment?

Why do I feel it is necessary to leave my current career? Would I leave my career if I found an opportunity abroad or location independent?

Can I meet my financial obligations in the US and my target country as an English teacher? 

You may discover you do not need to change careers. However, you do need to find an organization that offers you the opportunity to continue on your career path and build a fulfilling life abroad.

You do not need to abandon your career and teach English to live abroad. With the shift to remote work and increased globalization, do not sell yourself short. Teaching English is not for everyone. Do what best suits you.

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