Two common questions brought up by those considering teaching English abroad are "Can I teach abroad with my spouse?" and "Can I teach English abroad with a friend?"
The answer to both questions in most cases is definitely "Yes"! Becoming an English teacher is one of the most popular jobs abroad for married couples. Further, teaching abroad as a couple, whether with a friend, partner, or spouse, has its advantages. For example, you can split share start-up and living expenses, and you will be available to provide each other with assistance and support as you move abroad and integrate into a new community overseas.
But, like in any major endeavor that incorporates a partnership, some special considerations will need to be made. Here are 7 tips and pointers to think about before teaching abroad as a couple.
1. Concentrate your job search
Consider choosing to work in a country that have major teaching English job markets with lots of jobs. This will enhance your chances that both of you will be able to get hired. Major cities in Europe, Latin America and Asia like Madrid, Buenos Aires and Seoul are each home to hundreds of language schools that hire thousands of new English teachers annually. Focusing your job search in major metropolitan areas will increase your chances of both lining up English teaching jobs quickly.
2. Don’t count on working at the same school
While many language schools and institutes routinely hire couples, and some even prefer to, it’s not an outcome you should count on. Again, in major cities in particular, there can be dozens, if not hundreds of schools within a 20 mile radius, so if one of you finds a great opportunity at one school, chances are that the friend or partner will be able to get a job within close proximity (this be dependent to some degree on qualifications – more on that later). In fact, working at different schools does offer advantages. For example, you can get a break from each other during the day (which can be healthy in any relationship).
Because your initial friendships will likely be formed with colleagues and associates at the school where you teach, working at different schools mean you will be able to develop a wider and more diverse social network, which has a ton of benefits (including helping each other combat homesickness).
3. Make sure you have the necessary qualifications
Only consider job markets where both of you hold the necessary qualifications. Hiring requirements for teaching English abroad vary from country to country and region to region. For example, if you and your partner or friend want to teach English in Asia and only one of you holds a four-year degree and the other doesn’t, you’re not both going to be able to work South Korea, because that nation will only issue work visas to English teachers who hold a four-year degree from an accredited college or university. So, instead consider teaching English in a country like China that offers a great international experience and many great teaching opportunities that are available to those with and without degrees.
If neither of your are TEFL certified, you'll want to read up on the locations offering the best opportunities for teaching abroad without a TEFL certification.
4. Consider getting TEFL certified
Unless you hold a degree in teaching English as a foreign language and/or considerable experience, gaining a TEFL certification that will provide you with training to teach English as a foreign language (TEFL) on a professional level. Having certification will drastically enhance your chances of getting hired for a great position teaching English abroad, at a school who is less likely to turn your experience into a horror story. Receiving training will not only provide you with the skills you need to be an effective teacher, an accredited TEFL certification is required by tens of thousands of schools and language institutes around the world that hire foreign English teachers.
This could be a great bonding experience as well as you both prep for your upcoming adventure teaching English overseas. Bounce ideas, challenge, and support one another as you take these first steps!
5. Pay attention to hiring seasons
In some part of the world, particularly in Latin America and Europe, hiring for English teachers is seasonal (Europe: September/October and January; Latin America: March – April and July/August, or December-January and June in Costa Rica). Most hiring in these regions is local, so you should plan on being on the ground ready to interview in person during a major hiring season to give both of you the best possible odds to get hired.
Schools in Southeast Asian nations like Vietnam and Thailand also hire locally, but hiring is year-round because demand for English teachers is so high. Schools in other popular Asian nations, like South Korea, Japan, China and Taiwan, primarily recruit and hire English teachers from their own country prior to arrival, though schools in China also hire locally.
6. Negotiate your salary packages
Be aware that the salary for a first-time English teacher will be enough to support one individual. Particularly if you are looking to teach in Latin America or Europe, don’t count on one of you being able to support both of you for an extended period unless you have access to independent financial resources. If you opt to find a teach abroad gig before you leave your home country, you may be able to sweeten the deal by incorporating flight reimbursements and housing into your salary package.
Prepare for payment conversations with potential employers by knowing how to negotiate your teach abroad salary, or consider sourcing opportunities in countries where teaching English is extremely well paid.
7. Be patient
Plan on giving your job search more time than you would as an individual. While you both may be able to line up great jobs right off the bat, you should still give yourselves extra time to land positions that work for both of you. If you plan on going to a particular country to interview locally in person, this means you should bring sufficient financial resources to support both of you until you both get hired and begin getting paid. Remember that even if you are hired within a week or two, you may have to wait up to a month before you receive your first paycheck. Better to have too much than too little!
Finally, be patient and flexible in making decisions with your friend or partner. Whether it’s a friendship, marriage, or relationship, living abroad and exploring the world can be one of the great experiences to share with another human being. At the same time, like any major life-changing experience that involves a partnership, there will be stressful moments and probably some disagreements, so remember to be understanding and patient with each other, especially if you are swimming upstream against culture shock.
Best of luck teaching abroad with your spouse, friend, or partner!
Teaching abroad as a couple has its advantages. You can split share start-up and living expenses, and you will be available to provide each other with assistance and support as you move abroad and integrate into a new community overseas.