Teaching English with a CELTA as a career?
September 22, 2015 7:04 AM   Subscribe

My job prospects back home (in the US) are not looking good. I taught English in South Korea for three years, and now I'm thinking of heading back to somewhere in Asia to teach English again. This time, however, I'd like to do it for real by getting a CELTA and finding a "real job" as opposed to the dead-end hagwon stuff I did in Korea. How realistic is this plan?

My situation: unemployed, nearly broke. I've been back in the US for a year now after teaching English in South Korea for three years. My dream job is freelance writer/journalist. I've been working on it for awhile--I've made some progress, but it's been slow. In the meantime, I need money. I figure going back abroad to teach English could actually help me by giving me more interesting things to write about on the side.

I tried applying for teaching jobs in the US because of the supposed national teacher shortage, but haven't been successful. I've applied for a master's program in education to begin in January, which I will likely be accepted to, but I will probably have to go into more debt for it, which I don't want to do.

The other reason I want to go back is simply because I really miss Asia, and, having been back in the US for awhile now, I just don't like living in the US very much. It just doesn't seem "real" to me the way Asia does, and I find it really hard to identify with people who haven't lived abroad for extended periods. I also find the political situation in the US to be extremely frustrating, and it was truly a breath of fresh air to not just not be around that when living in Korea. You can also get around much more easily in most Asian countries with public transportation, etc.

So, in short, moving back to somewhere in Asia to teach English seems ideal in many ways: it's where I'd rather live and could actually help my writing. However, I have some concerns: I've already been disconnected from the US in terms of employment for some time, and if I do choose to do this, it will be harder and harder to come back to work here if I ever change my mind. And while I hope my writing will eventually work out, there's no guarantee, so I could be stuck teaching English forever.

Which brings me to main question: if I do go back to teach English in Asia, I'd want to do for real. My plan would be to get a CELTA certificate (which I'm looking into doing in Thailand) and find a "real job," preferably teaching university students, with benefits and decent pay, etc. I'm open to anywhere in east or southeast Asia, but my dream place would be Japan (having visited there several times).

Is this realistic? If I get my CELTA, can I find a "real job"? I do have my bachelor's degree and as I said, teaching experience in South Korea. I just don't want to go get my CELTA, only to be stuck teaching kindergartners forever (no offense to kindergartners).
posted by EmptyEmpire to Work & Money (6 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
You will be doing the same thing you did at the hagwon for a good long while with only a CELTA in Japan. If you want real money and career prospects you will need an MA (plus proficiency in Japanese for Japan). I know many people who have hit this wall. Southeast Asia wouldn't pay without an MA either.
posted by StrikeTheViol at 7:21 AM on September 22, 2015 [2 favorites]

If I were in your place, I'd either start that degree, or get the CELTA, return to Korea and then save up money for an MA online, after some years following up with a teacher cert through something like https://www.teacherready.org/ or equivalent UK qualifications, at which point you can look into international school teaching, where you'll find well paying jobs with good benefits.
posted by StrikeTheViol at 7:46 AM on September 22, 2015 [2 favorites]

I do this in Hong Kong. I make a decent first-world salary a year but plenty of friends work at unis or in the public school system on the NET scheme and make twice what I do. It's doable but can be a squeeze if you have debt, can't handle living in tiny apartments, or have expensive tastes. The best salary/cost of living ratio is probably Korea or Taiwan. You don't need to be British to work at the British Council, either, and they teach all over the region.
posted by mdonley at 8:14 AM on September 22, 2015 [2 favorites]

I have been doing this 20 odd years with the CELTA -DELTA path. If I was to do it over I would get the MA as despite my skill and experience the lack of it closes many potential pathways. And try to be serious in chasing the writing dream. You know the Pink Floyd song "Time"?

And then one day you find
Ten years have got behind you
No one told you when to run
You missed the starting gun

You are also right about the expat experience making reconnection in a career in your homeland less and less realistic, but I don't feel that as such a disadvantage myself. Whatever, they can have it.

Also please get the "real" CELTA, by that I mean the Cambridge/UCLES one... there are plenty of bogus courses that try to piggyback on that name, and that do not have the same quality or recognition.

Feel free to memail or follow up if you want more details.
posted by Meatbomb at 10:08 AM on September 22, 2015

For Japan, a CELTA may help you get a better job, but not university level employment. But you could work at someplace like the YMCA which offers better conditions than typical eikaiwa and work on an online MA for a couple of years.
posted by Gotanda at 5:07 PM on September 22, 2015

I agree with others, I think you'll need the MA to teach English at a college or a University. If you want to be in Japan, then please read this. South Korea might be marginally easier for University work, but some of the Universities will still ask for an MA.

Also agree -- please get the real CELTA.
posted by Ms. Moonlight at 7:26 AM on September 23, 2015 [1 favorite]

« Older Foodie Restaurant Recommendations in Portland.   |   Is air travel safer than it was 5 years ago? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.