How to Get an ESL University Job Abroad Without Experience

The question most people asks when wanting to enter the university job market abroad is, “How can I get hired by a university if I don't have any experience teaching English at a university?” It's one of the most challenging conundrums. No experience, no job. Do you really need 2 years of university-level teaching experience like many positions advertise?

Let’s say you were teaching English at a primary/secondary school, or adults at a private language school for some years and you maybe even completed an MA TESOL or Applied Linguistics. Some universities will still turn you down because you’ve never taught at a university. So how can you get this elusive experience? You have to start somewhere. Here's how you can do it:

1. Look for work in countries with less competitive job markets.

Some countries are easier to find work in than others. In Asia, the most competitive market is Japan. About 95% of the universities require at least an MA and 2 years of university experience. On the flip side, the vast majority of university jobs in China don’t require an MA or university experience. In the Middle East, the United Arab Emirates and Turkey seem to be most people’s top choice, whereas Saudia Arabia and Kuwait rank at the bottom. A good place to start looking is on the M.A. Not Required job list on Profs Abroad since you don’t need experience for some of those jobs.

2. Search for jobs outside of major cities.

Do you want to live in Dubai, Seoul, Busan, Tokyo, Istanbul, Shanghai, or some other major city? Put that thought on hold and look for work in the countryside or at smaller satellite cities. It will be much easier to find work there. Many university lecturers, especially those expats who have lived abroad for sometime, prefer to live in major city centers where all the action is. You have to apply where they’re not.

3. Apply even if you don’t have enough experience.

What an employer asks for and what they are willing to accept are often two different things. It’s true that many universities refuse to budge on their experience requirement, but there are others that will hire you with little or no experience. For instance, in Korea universities require that you have 2 years of uni experience and an MA or 4 years and a BA. However, I know for a fact that some people are getting hired with just a BA and a few years of non-university teaching experience.

In the end, I would still apply to schools you want to work at in countries you prefer to live in. You never know when you will be in the right place at the right time. Following the above tips though should greatly increase your chances of landing your first university job. Good luck!

Pete DeMarco

Pete DeMarco is the founder of Profs Abroad. He also teaches English writing and conversation at Busan University of Foreign Studies in South Korea.

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  1. Pingback: 103 Things to do to get a University Job in South Korea

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