Why Become a Licensed Teacher for ESL?

I still have times each week when I just stop in my tracks and literally speak the following words to myself…LIFE IS GOOD!

Teaching English in Korea has been such an eye opening, fun, growing, stress-free experience for me.  I honestly can’t imagine trying to do something else at this point.  So how I do I keep this ship sailing?

One thing I devote time to regularly is perusing the job openings on major, high profile teacher recruitment sites.  I also join many Facebook pages of recruiters as they post opportunities as they come in.  Sites like TeachAway, Footprints Recruiting, and Teacherport are my favorite places to visit.

The field of teaching English abroad is changing.  Noone can deny that.  In the current sluggish economy, more and more people are looking to teach abroad.  With this rush definitely comes a higher bar of qualifications and experience.  Many experienced teachers who have fallen victim to budget cuts find refuge in the prospect of teaching in another country.  This puts the English programs of other countries and the recruiters in the driver’s seat.  They have pick of the litter now more than ever.

Malaysia, Hong Kong, Taiwan, and the Middle East (i.e. UAE/Abu Dhabi) are spearheading movements to make English a true second language in their countries.  And they are not bashful or hesitant about it.

Educational authorities have decided to shift the language of core subject instruction from Arabic to English  – TeachAway, Inc.

Finding a teaching job in Abu Dhabi where being a licensed teacher is NOT required is likely impossible.  For good reason.  The pay scale for teachers ranges from $3-5,000 USD per month.  Tax free.  Free apartment.  Plane tickets for travel during the year.

Malaysia also has stringent requirements similar to Abu Dhabi, as does Hong Kong and Taiwan.

I don’t necessarily see myself staying in Korea forever unless some unforeseen opportunity arises.  Like getting a date with Kim Yuna…!  Knowing that I want to travel and teach in other countries means I need to work on my credentials.

Getting a teacher’s license is not easy.  You will likely have to take a year to go home to obtain it.  This is because of the practical classroom work that is required.  However, I found one school that has a prep program where it can be done completely online if you are currently teaching.  That includes abroad.  So for example, my teaching experience here in Korea will be used for the program – in lieu of doing it back home.  Which makes sense.  The experience I am gaining here is far better than what would be involved in the work associated with class work back home for obtaining certification.  I have my own classroom.  I teach solo at times.  I run English camps solo.  I teach math in English on weekends through EPIK.  This is real experience and it will be recognized with the program I signed up for.

The program I found was the University of West Florida’s TeacherReady online certification.  It takes 10 months to complete.  I am very excited about this.  I don’t have to go home and take a year off to complete it.  I can just fly back upon completion during my winter break to sit for the state exams.  What could be better?  Nothing.

If you’re from Florida and you are currently teaching abroad, you should at least give it a look.  It could save you a year off of work.


  1. Hi Tom, thanks for posting this. I am debating the pros and cons of a teacher certificate or a master's degree in TESOL to progress in my ESL career. What is your opinion on marketability of each?


  2. Hi, Matthew,

    They both serve different purposes in the ESL field. A Master's is useful for getting a university job or if you want to try for higher positions in some of the larger ESL programs around the world (e.g. Malaysia, Middle East). The teacher license is becoming more of a common requirement for regular, entry-level teaching positions that most of us have. Countries that tend to pay more are requiring this license nowadays.

    Good luck!


  3. Hi Tom, I am currently in the application process to teach ESL in South Korea and came upon the exact same program in Florida, and with all my research, I'm pretty sure it's a one of a kind program. I am seriously considering it-I think it's a great move. How is it going recently? I couldn't find any blog posts updating, but maybe I'm not looking hard enough? If not, please, link me! I'm so interested.

  4. Hi there. The TeacherReady program is really great so far. A lot of things I've learned so far have worked so well in my own classroom. It's a great program and I'm so glad it's available for people teaching abroad. I recommend it for sure.

    This has been my only post about it, but I think doing an update vlog and blog is due by now. Thanks for the inquiry. Definitely check out the program!


  5. Just a quick yet simple question about the teachready certification.

    I am not from Florida originally. Yet as long as I am a US citizen, can this program be for anyone from any state?

    • Yes, I believe the program is available for anyone, though you’ll only be certified to teach in Florida. If you wanted to teach in other states, there may be some reciprocity to qualify for certification status in other states, though you may likely need to sit for exams in that state.

      Field experience is done in a school local to you. You will sit in as an assistant and also teach a few classes. In my case, I was already teaching full time, so the classroom practicum was a moot point.

      Getting a TESOL is only moot if you really view teaching abroad as a short term endeavor. If you want to move on and consider other countries, they are seeking certification more and more. So to open up options, it’s very useful to have.

  6. Also, Great idea you suggested for doing the teaching certification online. I have been thinking about and been in the dark about how I could get this accomplished while I am abroad teaching until I came across this.

    Now I am abroad, I am thinking about signing up for it while I am abroad. I was just checking out it. With that, I was wondering, did you have to do the field experience part? If so, how did you get the field experience part accomplished if that was required?

  7. Also I am almost done with my online 120 hour TEFL and will get the 20 hour in class accomplished elsewhere. I am even teaching abroad now. Yet I am debating whether or not it will be worth the extra time/hurdle to simply do this program (albeit being done past the EPIK deadline). What is your opinion?

  8. Will employers know whether or not you you did your teaching license program online? I heard online education has a poor stigma abroad. How much actual investigation do employers do to find out if you did your education online or not? What about masters programs online, if you never mentioned it in the interview will they bring it up? Especially if your online program is attached to a brick and mortar University I’m not sure how they will find out.
    My other question for you is; is there a high demand for Montessori education abroad? In regards to the Middle East would it make that much of a difference getting a Masters in TESOL versus a Masters in education in Montessori?

    • For some reason, the Middle East is stuck on that notion. My only response is that once you are licensed, you’re licensed. There are not varying types of licenses available.

  9. Tom, can you do a post Teacher Ready video about how it has impacted your life as a teacher? Has it opened more doors for you and made it easier to get jobs?

Share Your Thoughts


Loading Facebook Comments ...