You may be interested in staying in the field of teaching, or once abroad you may find that your interests lie in other pursuits. However you plan to build your career in Southeast Asia, this page will outline some of your options!
Building a Career as a Teacher
There are a number of paths through which you can advance your career as a teacher. The two main paths are either toward advancing within the ESL industry or advancing within the general education system.
Building a Career as an ESL Teacher
If you know from the beginning that you’re interested in building a career as an ESL teacher, then the first choice regards the kind of teaching certificate you decide to earn. You’ll have to choose between getting a 120-hour TEFL certificate, a Trinity CertTESOL, or a CELTA. Of the three, the Trinity CertTESOL and CELTA are the best-respected in Southeast Asia and around the world, and the CELTA is the more common of the two. TEFL programs are much easier to find, but the quality of the training can vary much more than in the other kinds of programs. Learn more about the different kinds of initial certification in the page Qualifications for Teaching English.
After you’ve gotten your initial certificate and spent at least a year or two teaching, you’ll be able to look into studying for further qualifications which will help you advance in the industry. The next two qualifications are the DELTA or an MA-TESOL.
The DELTA is also administered through the University of Cambridge, and is a three-month diploma course. It is a continuation of the CELTA, though someone with a TEFL or a Trinity CertTESOL and appropriate experience may also apply for the course. The program includes a strong focus on teaching methods and observed teaching, as well as work on lesson planning and curriculum design, testing, and school management. The diploma is thought to be more practical and less academic than an MA-TESOL, and is regarded as a preliminary requirement for advancement to Director of Studies at a language school or to positions as a teacher trainer.
The MA-TESOL (Master’s in Teaching English as a Second Language) is a one to two-year program. It has a stronger focus on the academic aspects of ESL, including on theories of language learning and linguistics. There is some focus on teaching methods and observed teaching practice, and some programs make a strong effort to incorporate practical classroom experience into their courses. This somewhat more academic path could be thought of as a step toward advancing as a textbook developer or as a teacher in a university English program, though the degree is also seen as a good qualification for positions as Director of Studies or as a teacher trainer.
There are a number of places in Southeast Asia where you can study for a DELTA, as well as a variety of universities where you can study to earn an MA-TESOL. Check out the page Graduate Programs in Southeast Asia for more information. You can also see my article on studying in grad school in Southeast Asia at Transitionsabroad.com.
Building a Career in Other Fields
Networking, Volunteering and Interning
The first step toward building a career in another field is to start networking in your chosen country. NGO positions are famously difficult to come by, especially if you’re applying through a job board online. However, having a contact within an organization can lead to a great chance to do some volunteer work or secure an internship with well-known organizations in your field.
Many organizations in the region may in fact have a use for foreigners on staff, but they may not have a well-established system for attracting qualified foreigners to work with them. By being in the country (and by having a contact within the organization as well) you can find opportunities that may not be available to people on the outside.
Learning the Language
Learning the language of your host country is a huge asset when you’re looking for work in a variety of organizations, either in the private sector or in the NGO field. Being fluent in the language is a huge advantage, but even having a good working knowledge that will allow you to function in a work environment can be enough. Your ability to communicate flawlessly in English will be your unique skill, but your ability to understand what’s happening in the native language will make your skill much more useful to the organization.
Graduate School in Southeast Asia
Continuing your studies in Southeast Asia can be an affordable way to build your credentials, and can help you make connections with young professionals and professors in your target country. At least for Americans, the cost of graduate school in Southeast Asia is much lower than back home. There are even opportunities to study at some American-accredited or UK-accredited universities in Southeast Asia. However, it’s also possible to get degrees from many Southeast-Asian universities accredited in your home country, so that employers will know that they can trust the quality of your qualification.
Furthermore, opportunities to continue your education through online programs are arising frequently, meaning you can get a high-quality degree while staying in Southeast Asia. Learn more about opportunities for studying in the regions at the page Graduate Programs in Southeast Asia. You can also see my article on studying in grad school in Southeast Asia at Transitionsabroad.com.