While the market for English teachers in North America isn’t quite at the same level as Asia’s or South America’s, there are a few options for teachers looking for work in the region.

While Canada and the United States may not seem like ideal locations for ESL teachers, educators can participate in unique programs that foster cultural and intellectual exchange, or travel to get certified in TEFL! In Puerto Rico, Mexico, and the Dominican Republic, begin a career in ESL by teaching children and adults.

While North America’s teach programs are still relatively new, teachers will find satisfaction in their unique experiences in the field of international education.

TEFL Courses:

For ESL teachers, looking to complete their certification in TEFL, North America is a great choice when it comes to on-site courses. Get TEFL certified in Puerto Rico, Canada, or in the United States. Classes are often held in cities or entertaining locations, where teachers can enjoy themselves during off-hours.

Additionally, a few TEFL programs will provide post-course job placement services. While it is not always guaranteed that you will find an ESL job, the program staff often can lead you in the right direction. There are numerous programs in the US, Canada, and Mexico through providers, such as ITA.

International/Bilingual Schools:

Teachers of all subjects are welcome to apply for jobs at international and bilingual schools. Educators, who see their long-term profession in teaching, will enjoy the stability and pay at one of these schools. Most contracts are set for one or two years, allowing the school to sponsor your permanent residency or visa. Since many students will already be fluent or near-fluent in English, ESL teachers are not typically needed. Instructors of math, science, art, or other fields, may be hired.

Exchange Programs:

As more and more North American teachers make the move abroad, many cultural exchange programs are attempting to bring foreign teachers to the U.S. and Canada, for example. Teachers may work as language assistants through Odyssey, or teach elementary students in various U.S. locations with VIF. Many foreign teachers are currently unaware of these opportunities, although, the popularity of exchange programs is growing overseas.

Private Tutoring:

Common in almost all North American countries, private tutoring is a great part-time job or a way to earn extra money. In addition, teachers can participate in homestay programs, where you can tutor your host or host family one-on-one for a set time each week. This is a unique way to teach English, and learn about the country you are living in. Check out GeoVisions’ Conversation Corps for these one-of-a-kind homestay programs.

Cost of Living:

In North America, costs of living are generally high. While it is easy to rack up the bills in bustling metropolises, such as Mexico City, Vancouver, or Boston, you may be able to save if you choose a lesser-known, smaller location. Living with roommates, perhaps a fellow teacher; will bring down rent and other apartment costs.

Qualifications:

If you plan to get TEFL-certified, most courses require their students to be native English speakers and to hold a bachelor’s degree. To teach in international or bilingual schools, instructors will be required to hold a bachelor’s degree, or even a master’s, and have some experience with children or teaching history. As for exchange programs, each company or provider will have their own requirements - most simply ask for a resume and/or written application.

Work Visa:

As in most countries, it is difficult to obtain a work visa unless you are sponsored by your employers. If you plan to stay long-term, over one year in a given country, it will much easier to secure a visa. However, those staying less than one year may encounter some challenges throughout the process.

Classroom and Work Culture:

North American style of teaching, in Canada and the U.S., differs from the standards in Asia or Europe. There is a greater focus on individuality, and group discussions are highly encouraged. In Spanish-speaking countries, like Mexico, the structure of the classroom is very hierarchical. It may be helpful to learn a little bit of Spanish to complement your teaching lessons.

For all teaching jobs, be sure to dress business casual. Do not wear jeans or sandals, unless stated otherwise. As a rule of thumb, dress as a professional and your students will treat you as one.

Questions to Ask:
  • What are my hours during the school week?
  • Are teaching materials provided? What is the dress code at my school/university?
  • In my contract, are housing, utilities, and a round-trip flight (pre- and post-contract) included?
  • Will the employer sponsor my application for a work visa or permanent residency (particularly for non-US citizens)?
  • What is included in TEFL course costs? Does the company provide job placement assistance?

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