At Premier TEFL, we get plenty of questions about whether someone can teach English as a foreign language. People will ask whether not being a native speaker or not having a Bachelor’s Degree disqualifies them from teaching English online or abroad. Pro tip: it doesn’t. This time, the big question is whether you can be an older TEFL teacher and have a successful TEFL career. There’s always a quick answer and a long one, so we’ll go ahead and give you both.
Can Older Teachers Get TEFL Certified?
The quick answer is YES! You are not too old to teach English as a foreign language online or abroad. However, the answer may not only depend on your age but where you want to teach English.
Some employers may prefer younger teachers whereas other countries have visa restrictions that mean older teachers cannot obtain working visas. However, there are plenty of options to teach abroad. The demand for English is unwavering, and your age doesn’t change that. Let’s consider why you SHOULD teach abroad regardless of your age.
Why You Should Consider TEFL as an Older Teacher
“A mind that is stretched by new experiences can never go back to its old dimensions”
Who says you can’t teach an old dog new tricks? There is no better way to broaden your perspective and gain new experiences than traveling, whether you’re 21 or 60 years old. The people you meet, the cuisines you’ll taste, and the landmarks you’ll see will incite the adventurer in you. By going abroad to teach, not only will you see the world, but you become a member of a unique community. You will gain insight into new cultures while making a difference within the community through education.
From a professional standpoint, TEFL is also a fantastic opportunity to gain international experience. How many people can say that they have had the pleasure of working and living in a foreign country? It could be what makes you stand out in a competitive market. International experience is a testament to your independence, cross-cultural communication skills, and adaptability. TEFL is a way for you to facilitate travel and cultural immersion, all while filling your resume.
What Are the Benefits of Being an Older Teacher?
While some may view TEFL as a young person’s game, there are many benefits when it comes to being an older teacher. If you are making a late entrance to the TEFL scene, your previous experience will prove valuable, whether it is teaching-related or not.
If you are without prior teaching experience, you can still be extremely valuable as a teacher, as you can define your expertise or niche. Many TEFL teachers will only teach general English skills. It’s all good teaching students phrases like ‘how are you?’, but who is going to teach them English within their specified workplace?
The more specific your skillset is, (medicine, engineering, business e.g) the more valuable you are to students. Students who want to learn English within a professional context are likely to pay more for your services.
In this scenario, being an older teacher would be highly advantageous. While younger teachers may be more suited to teach primary students, adults will want to learn from teachers who boast experience. For example, Business English students will benefit from having a teacher with years of corporate experience than a young teacher who has only just graduated. ?
Additionally, experience breeds confidence. Rather than fretting over the unknown, your experience might have taught you to embrace the novelties in life. Employers will also want teachers who are sure of themselves. For some employers, older teachers might present the image that they are more likely to take the job more seriously.
What Are the Obstacles That an Older Teacher Faces?
While teaching abroad is very much a possibility when you’re considered to be older, there might be some obstacles. This article wouldn’t exist if there weren’t, as the question is perpetuated by these hurdles. Additionally, since age is a spectrum, a 60+ will face different obstacles to a 40+ teacher. It’s not a case of whether you are “young” or “old”. Here are some of the challenges you should consider if you are considering working in a foreign country as an older teacher.
Medical & Travel Insurance
One of the biggest factors that will increase the cost of your insurance is your age. Understandably, you will be paying more for medical and travel insurance if you are above a certain age bracket. This could make it difficult to travel and plan your trip as you’ll be more restricted with your budget.
One of the largest obstacles will be obtaining a working visa in your desired country. This can be a problem because if you are over the local retirement age, it is unlikely that you’ll be granted a working visa.
There are many countries, especially in Asia or the Middle East, where visas will only be offered to those who are below the local retirement age. If you want to work in South Korea or Thailand, for example, the retirement age is 60. In Qatar, for example, you may even struggle to obtain a visa if you are under 50 years old.
It should also be noted that countries like China, Korea and Japan are considering increasing their retirement age, and this could increase your chances of being hired as a TEFL teacher.
Discrimination as an Older Teacher
Like previously mentioned, some countries will have restrictions when it comes to hiring older teachers. However, if you are under the local retirement age, you shouldn’t have any problems regarding visa regulations.
The real issue might lie in how competitive the market is. For example, Vietnam, South Korea, and Thailand are some of the top TEFL destinations, and there will be no shortage of teachers in these countries. In the Middle East, you may need to have higher levels of qualifications to be considered.
Unfortunately, the world isn’t perfect and discrimination is prevalent in the workplace. In some cases, there will be a disparity between the ages a school is allowed to hire and who they prefer to hire.
There are many reasons that employers may seek younger teachers. This could be because they might be more energetic or marketable. Or, their lack of experience is interpreted as naivety, meaning they are more affordable as employees. This can be very frustrating, as it undermines the idea of meritocracy. So, with these obstacles in mind, how can you maximize your employability as an older teacher?
How to Maximize Your Employability as an Older Teacher
To increase your chances of becoming a successful TEFL teacher, there are a few things you should consider to get ahead of competitors in the market.
Become TEFL Qualified
Firstly, you need to obtain a TEFL Certificate. In the TEFL industry, the level 5 TEFL certificate is the most sought after by TEFL employers. The 168 hour Ofqual Level 5 TEFL Course is perfect for beginners. This course is at the same level as a CELTA according to Ofqual, and it is government-regulated as well as internationally recognized. It is an incredibly affordable option for those who want flexibility and quality in their training.
Define Your Niche
By defining your niche, you are making yourself more desirable as a teacher. TEFL teachers who specialize in a subject offer a more unique English education, rather than general English. This niche could be in anything. If your previous experience lies in business, sports, science, music, or something else, you can capitalize on your expertise by teaching English within the context of your niche.
At Premier TEFL, we offer a range of specialist TEFL-Pro courses that help you stand out in the market. These range from teaching Business English to Advanced Grammar, IELTS, or more.
Get Teaching Practice
As we already said, your life experience will be valuable when applying for jobs as a TEFL teacher, however, give yourself the best opportunities and compete with younger teachers who already have teaching experience. With real teaching practicum under your belt, coupled with your life and professional experience, you’ll be unstoppable.
Where Can I Teach Abroad as an Older Teacher?
Just about anywhere! But, some places will be easier to reach than others. There are huge differences between cultures across the world and how they perceive older workers. In addition to this, you should consider whether the same rules apply throughout all school types in a particular country.
For example, the hiring criteria for a kindergarten school will be different for international schools or universities. Kindergarten or primary schools might want young teachers brimming with energy, whereas a university might want a cool, calm, and collected mature teacher. Similarly, business English students might prefer mature teachers who have plenty of corporate experience.
So, now we know the potential differences in hiring criteria of schools, where in the world can you teach?
The general consensus is that Latin America is a fantastic region for older teachers to consider when teaching abroad. Countries such as Mexico, Ecuador, and Costa Rica are excellent options due to their high demand for English combined with a lack of entry restrictions.
Our alumni and older teacher Chris became a teacher in Costa Rica simply by chance. She began teaching English at a Costa Rican church before falling in love with the job and began upskilling to work at other institutes. With a 168 hour Ofqual Level 5 TEFL certificate, Chris’ career as a teacher in Costa Rica flourished.
» Read about older teacher Chris’ experience Teaching English in Costa Rica
European Countries are also incredibly viable options, especially if you are an EU citizen. The demand for English here is high, and countries such as Czech Republic, Russia, Hungary, are very flexible when it comes to hiring older teachers.
Our TEFL graduates David and Denise have shown that it is possible to teach in Italy, Czech Republic, and Hungary as older teachers. Despite being new to teaching English in Europe, they have found a new lease of life as teachers on the continent.
» Dive into David and Denise’s experience teaching in Europe
Asia has some of the most popular TEFL countries like Vietnam, Thailand, and South Korea. While competition is high, so is the demand for English. If you are under the mandatory retirement age, then it is very possible to work in Asia as an older teacher.
Cambodia is an example of a country that is very relaxed when it comes to teaching restrictions. One could teach in Cambodia without a degree, and our alumni Monique is an example of an older and non-native English teacher thriving in TEFL.
Monique enrolled on our Cambodia TEFL Internship and hasn’t looked back since. When asked about being an older teacher, Monique explained that “timing is not the essential aspect to it. The appetite for change and new experiences, the curiosity for different ways of life seem to be most important.”
The Middle East
The Middle East is probably the most difficult region to obtain a working visa if you are an older teacher. Countries such as Qatar and UAE have government restrictions that make it difficult for schools to hire foreign teachers over 55. However, in countries such as Kuwait, work permit restrictions are less intense.
To become a successful TEFL teacher, you don’t need to leave the comfort of your own home. And while you may think a late start in TEFL will hinder your potential as a TEFL teacher, Mark’s experience disproves this. With over 30 years of corporate experience, Mark made the transition into TEFL and found huge success.
Speaking about being an older teacher, he explained “There is no age limit. I’m in my mid-50s, and I’m starting my first month teaching adults English. After the second or third lesson you think to yourself, wow, I should have started this 5 or 10 years ago.”
Mark detailed his experience teaching Business English online and was surprised at how he could make such a difference to students and professionals around the globe. “That’s the wonderful thing about online teaching. You must never underestimate the value that you can add.”
» Learn about Mark’s experience teaching Business English online
Teach English As a Foreign Language Today
While it is true there may be obstacles to overcome as an older teacher, there are obstacles everywhere in life. For you to put an end to your dream because of potential hurdles would be impractical and unfulfilling. There are plenty of TEFL opportunities all over the world for you, regardless of your age. Don’t let your initial skepticism prevent you from a life-changing experience! TEFL is for people of all ages, as long as you can speak English, you bring value to the classroom.