There are lots of different programs and contexts through which you can teach abroad. The most credible and prestigious of those are government teaching programs! Many countries have cultural exchange programs that make it easy to teach abroad and put a well-known name on your resume.
What is a government teaching program? Most government teaching programs are exactly as they sound: you end up teaching for the government through a partnership between the U.S. and another country. This partnership is what makes it easier to get a job teaching in another country than it would otherwise be if you just started sending your resume to the education departments all over the world.
Photo credits: University of the Fraser Valley.
When and Where to Apply for Government Teaching Jobs
You may want to check with the specific program you’re interested in for specific dates, as each country’s relationship with the U.S. is different and therefore, the amount of time it takes to apply for a visa will be different. Generally speaking, you’ll want to start thinking about applying a year before you want to leave.
Work Visas & Sponsorship
If you want to live and work legally in another country, you’ll need to apply and receive a work visa. All government teaching programs will either help you out with or do most of the paperwork for you. They'll also sponsor you for a work visa (just one of many perks of teaching abroad through one of these programs).
However, you may still have to do a bit of work yourself. Just be sure to check with your specific program to see what they need you to do and make sure you have all the necessary paperwork when you go to apply!
Salary and Cost of Living
This will certainly be different depending on the type of government teaching program you go into and the location you choose to live in. Volunteer programs will have lower salaries (often called stipends), but could still be considered locally affluent depending on where you live. Furthermore, if your teaching job provides housing, that often means your salary or stipend will be lower (as in the case of the Peace Corps or the English Opens Doors program).
Classroom and Work Culture
Many of the government programs available are language “assistants,” which means you’ll be teaching, but you might not have to assume all the responsibilities of a host country's national teacher. Many assistant teachers only work between 12 to 16 hours per week, not including time for preparation or extracurriculars. You’ll often also be paired with another teacher who you’ll work closely with throughout the year.
In other programs, such as Peace Corps, you’ll be the only teacher, but you’ll have support from not only friends and mentors in the Peace Corps staff, but also the staff at your school. You’ll also likely only be working between 12 and 20 hours per week, leaving you plenty of time to explore your new host country!
The most popular countries for government sponsored programs are France, Spain, Japan, Chile, Korea, and Colombia.
- Fulbright U.S. Student Program is a very prestigious and competitive program backed by the U.S. government. Specifically, in teaching grant programs (there are many, many other programs to choose from), you can choose to teach English as an assistant in Asia, Europe, the Middle East, North and sub-Saharan Africa, and the Western Hemisphere.
- Peace Corps is a 27-month commitment, meaning that you’ll get two full years of teaching experience, as well as three months of intensive training. During all of this, you’ll be paid a monthly stipend, which is typically more than enough to live off of in your host country. At the end of your service, you also receive a $7,425 (pre-tax) resettlement allowance.
- English Language Programs - U.S. State Department people with a graduate degree in English language teaching or a related field can apply to teach abroad in any number of countries. For more info, look at the State Department's page on ELPrograms.
In Asia, you can teach abroad through several government sponsored programs. In Japan, there's the Japanese Exchange and Teaching program (JET programme for short). There are a few positions you can apply for, though one does require basic proficiency of Japanese. First year teaching salary starts at 3.36 million yen, or $35,000. Assistant Language Teachers (ALTs) are responsible for helping with classes ranging from elementary to high school, as well as teaching classes and extracurricular activities. Housing is not provided through the program.
In Korea, there are several programs, GEPIK, EPIK, and TALK. With EPIK, teachers will teach a maximum of 22 hours a week for a full year. You also have the opportunity to renew and you’ll be taking home roughly $2,000 per month. If EPIK seems like it might just be a little too much for you or you don’t quite meet their requirements, there’s also TALK: Teach and Learn Korea. TALK is specifically for elementary teachers, but there’s also significantly smaller workload and a smaller stipend.
Although at one point, Georgia had a government sponsored program for teachers, the main two programs in Europe are the North American Language and Cultural Assistants in Spain and TAPIF: Teaching Assistant Program in France.
Spain's program is an assistant teaching position, which means that you won’t have your own classroom or be replacing an English language teacher. Instead, you’ll be supporting and enhancing an already existing class. You’ll be provided with national health insurance and a monthly stipend of roughly 700 - 800 €, or $950 - $1,075. Housing is not provided through the program and a knowledge of Spanish is required.
Similar to the North American Language and Cultural Assistants program in Spain, TAPIF is a program that places participants in an assistant position throughout France. Again, you’ll be provided with national health insurance and a monthly stipend of roughly 700 - 800 €, or $950 - $1075 and knowledge of French is required. This program is generally only open to university students and recent college graduates.
Finally, in Latin America the Colombian and Chilean governments both sponsor teachers to come to teach abroad in their countries.
In Chile, their English Opens Doors Program is much shorter in terms of duration than most others; however, that allows for more flexibility when it comes to choosing when you’d like to go! You’ll work with a Chilean teacher to lead 25 hours of classroom teaching time, plus extracurriculars, and stay with a host family. You’ll receive health insurance and CLP 65,000 (about $115) per month.
The Colombian program is pretty similar, but one of the newest government sponsored programs on this list.
Smaller Programs to Watch For
Of course, there are government sponsored teaching programs popping up all the time. Here are a few smaller / less well-known government teaching programs abroad you should also consider:
- Abu Dhabi Education Council in Abu Dhabi.
- Nazarbayev Intellectual Schools in Kazakhstan.
- Education Personnel's teacher exchange in New Zealand.