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After CELTA: where next?


Congratulations on passing!

Whether you passed with an A, B or C grade matters a bit at the moment but won't matter at all after you have worked in ELT for a little while.  All that will matter then is your commitment, knowledge and skill.
Once you have recovered from the celebration party, you need to get a bit serious and decide what to do with your shiny new certificate.  This is a page of advice from someone who has been training and employing teachers for a long time.
The intention here is to help you avoid the usual pitfalls.  You have a proper teaching certificate now, so can afford to be slightly more demanding of potential employers and avoid the bandits and slave masters.


Where are you going to look for work?

The choice is really between working in an English-speaking environment (the UK, the USA, Australia, New Zealand, Canada etc.) or a non-English-speaking environment (just about everywhere else).

  • In an English-speaking country
    • Schools and other institutions in countries where English is the first language are more demanding.
      They operate surrounded by native speakers of English so will usually only recruit people with a serious qualification and will also demand experience and even a specialism.
    • Getting a first teaching job in this environment is difficult but it is not impossible, especially during the peak summer season when many thousands of students, usually children or teenagers attend summer schools in English-speaking countries.
    • Getting a teaching position that is a year-round proposition is very challenging indeed because you are competing with people who have more experience than you, better qualifications and a track record.
  • In a non-English-speaking country
    • Depending where you are, schools and institutions do not have a huge pool of native-English speakers to draw on so may be less demanding.
    • Teaching in many countries is a combination of in-company work, teaching children or teaching adults on site.
      Be prepared, therefore, to be teaching children and teenagers and having to travel to offices and businesses around town to do your job.
    • Many teachers are able to supplement their school teaching with private, one-to-one or one-to-small-group teaching.
    • South America, North Africa, Southern Europe, especially Spain, Portugal, Italy and Greece, Eastern Europe, especially the Baltic states, Russia and the Ukraine, and Asia all have huge language teaching markets and thousands of private and state institutions.
      There are also opportunities in other European countries although competition for jobs is more severe and a knowledge of the local language often a prerequisite.
    • If you want to gain useful experience and can afford not to be paid, volunteering in many countries is a possibility and, as a CELTA holder, you are at a distinct advantage.  Be prepared to work in resource-poor environments but the personal rewards are often a compensation.
    • Large cities like Paris or Berlin are often home to considerable numbers of ex-patriot English speakers so competition will be fiercer.
    • Some countries, such as Japan and Korea, require at least a 1st university degree before you are allowed to teach.  If you don't have one, forget it for now.
    • Salaries in the Middle East are often competitive so schools and institutions there will often have no need to employ the newly qualified.
    • State, rather than private, institutions usually offer better conditions and salaries but, by the same token, have less need to recruit the newly qualified.
    • The more developed and sophisticated the English teaching environment is, the more difficult it will be for newly qualified teachers to find satisfactory employment.
    • Generally speaking, small or medium-sized towns with only a few language schools present the best opportunities for the newly qualified.  That is not a universal rule because large cities, such as Athens or Barcelona, often have concomitantly large numbers of language schools all looking for qualified teachers.


How do you decide where to work?

A brief internet search will discover lots of tales of woe from people who failed to check out what they were being employed to do and where exactly they would be working.  Some of these are true horror stories.
The moral is that you need to check out any institution that offers you work very carefully.  There are bandits in ELT just as there are in many other fields.

If the environment is familiar to you (e.g., if you are a citizen of the country where you want to work), then you will know the pitfalls already and be prepared to look carefully at any contract or statement of conditions, pay, holiday entitlement etc. that you are sent or given.  If you are not offered such a document, be very careful and suspicious indeed.
In an ideal world, you will be able to visit a potential employer in person and talk to other members of the teaching staff.  That is, however, often not practical so asking good questions is the next best approach.
In unfamiliar cultures (to you), you need to be careful to make sure that:

  1. the salary will allow you to live reasonably comfortably if not in much luxury
  2. your hours of work will be set out clearly
  3. you will be guaranteed a minimum and maximum number of teaching hours per month or week
  4. the school or institution will have a conventional grievance procedure and equal opportunities policy
  5. you will get some time off
  6. the employer will help you find accommodation
  7. your duties and working environment are clearly set out and acceptable to you
  8. you will have the support of a properly qualified academic manager and/or colleagues and there may even be an in-house development programme
  9. the school or institution will be a member of some sort of local professional organisation or association
  10. the school has a reasonable resource base of books, supplementary materials and equipment
  11. you are reasonably confident that the culture, language and local conditions will be something you can tolerate if not actively enjoy encountering
  12. you are prepared to teach the sorts of students the school or institution recruits

If a potential employer cannot give you the information in 1 to 10 above, do not sign a contract.


Getting your CV organised

There are lots of websites out here which will give you useful advice about how to write a good CV.  Use them by all means but keep it personal.  Your CV should reflect you rather than just be a standard document.  One site, at the University of Kent offers a huge amount of advice which is, somewhat ironically, quite poorly laid out.
The following is based partially on the results of a large survey of employers asking what they prioritise when reading a CV (2011 Orange County Resume Survey).
That survey found (among much else) that:

  1. Nearly 90% of respondents want either a chronological (most recent first) list or a combination of skills and experience by type plus a chronological list.
  2. Nearly 100% of employers want either a Microsoft Word document or a PDF file.
  3. 90% + of employers agreed that A resume is a job-seeker's 1st interview.
  4. Almost nobody wanted a CV in an email.  Make it an attachment to an email.
  5. Half the employers asked said they read cover letters.  A quarter said they ignored them.  Keep yours short.
  6. 80% of respondents reported that they spend less than one minute reading a CV.
  7. Employers are consistently unimpressed by generic CVs.  The CV you submit must be specific to English Language Teaching.
  8. Proofreading, spelling and grammatical errors in CVs were cited frequently as reasons for not inviting people to the next stage.

Here's a summary:

  • Don't forget to include your personal details (it has been known):
    • name
    • address
    • phone number
    • email
    • include your age and a photograph
  • Put the most recent qualifications first.  Divide this under subheadings:
    • ELT-relevant qualifications
    • Other qualifications
  • Then list your work experience.  Divide this under subheadings:
    • ELT-relevant experience
    • Other experience
  • Keep it clear and be direct.  The person reading your CV will have limited time available and will read lots of CVs in a day.  They do not want to hunt around for the data they need.
  • Use bullet points, subheadings and lists rather than dense prose.  Any paragraph over about 50 words is likely to be skimmed or skipped.
  • Keep the CV short.  A CV longer than two pages will contain irrelevance and be irritating to read.
  • Avoid the passive voice and use active material process verbs such as organise, learn, develop, gain, use etc.
  • If you must include things like hobbies and your leisure activities, put these right at the end so people can ignore them easily.  They usually will.
  • Include two referees.
  • Proofread the document and then proofread it again and then get someone else to proofread it.
    CVs with typing errors, spelling mistakes and poor grammar will be automatically rejected by most schools.
  • Submit the document as a PDF or Microsoft Word file so everyone can read and print it easily.  Do not restrict document access with a password.


Next steps

After you have been working as a full-time English language teacher for a while, you will know if this is the career for you.
If it is, you need to consider what to do next to build on your initial CELTA teaching qualification and progress to senior teacher or academic manager positions.  You may even want to branch out and get into management generally, teacher training, publishing and so on.
To do that, you will need one of two qualifications, preferably both:

  1. A diploma-level qualification.  The two which are recognised as benchmarks worldwide are the Cambridge Delta and the Trinity DipTESOL.  A section of this site is devoted to training for the Cambridge Delta.
    Both these qualifications are very practical and require high levels of teaching skills, which are regularly assessed both internally and externally, in addition to a thorough understanding of background theory.
  2. An MA in TESOL or something similar.  Such courses are quite expensive, usually, but there are many with on-line modules and some wholly delivered at a distance.
    These are usually not recognised teaching qualifications per se because they do not contain assessed teaching practice.  A Master's degree is, however, a very important qualification if your ambition is to train others or manage teaching teams.

Where jobs are advertised.
This is a short list.  There are lots of other sites but be sceptical of some claims and always check things out.  See above.
eslcafe.com contains some useful information and job advertisements for positions in Asia and the world
tefl.com for information on qualifications and jobs
The Guardian the newspaper's English language teaching job advertisement page
Teaching House for a database of teaching jobs worldwide
The British Council for English language teaching placements throughout the world
Voluntary Service Overseas if you are considering volunteering to get some initial experience
Saxoncourt recruitment specialises in teaching positions in Taiwan, Japan, China and Vietnam
Flying Cows for teaching positions in China, South Korea, Thailand and Vietnam as well as on-line teaching
The Jet Programme this is the Japan Exchange and Teaching Programme for jobs there usually working alongside Japanese teachers
CV Survey the Orange County Resume Survey
CV writing advice The University of Kent's advice page
go to the CELTA index