Are You Restricted by Age When You Wish to Teach English Abroad?


My group of students in when teaching English in China



In the previous post in this serious about teaching english as a foreign language abroad, I talked about being somewhat skeptical should a TEFL course include a “guaranteed” job placement on successful final achievement. 


Today, and I’m assessing age restrictions when applying for teaching English abroad jobs, particularly with respect to the upper age limitation.



In general – very general – there are no true age restrictions for those who wish to teach English abroad. Having said that, however, it depends on the individual school, and it depends on the country, too.


While most English teachers who work abroad tend to be in their 20s, that’s because they also tend to be a more mobile demographic, whereby they are not married, they have no kids, and possibly they’ve recently graduated, and thus they have not yet joined the career ladder and are devoid of sizeable monthly bills, other than repayment of student loans.


Nevertheless, there are many teaching institutions that have a preference for the more mature candidate. All the same, I personally found, at the ripe old age of 47, that with some of the kids I was involved with, I couldn’t keep up with them when they were intent on extra-curricular activities. I’d be knackered after a half hour of kicking the ball around.


Thus, it’s wise policy in such circumstances that the teaching institution employ younger folks to compliment us older folks in some respects 😉


And then, with upwards of 50 percent of English classes around the globe being aimed at adult learners, and frequently in the corporate sector, there’s most certainly a calling for mature-aged (and mature-minded) teachers.


Yes, for the younger kids, younger teachers are given preference over their more mature-aged counterparts. And for good reason, as I mentioned above.




How Young Can an English Teacher Be?


Plain fact of the matter is that most schools have a preference, or a necessity, for their teachers to be at least 21 years of age. In some countries, however, particularly so throughout Latin America, teachers as young as 18 or 19 are frequently successful in gaining employment.


The youngest teachers I worked with in China were 20. Generally, they were simultaneously doing a college/ university degree, too.




Why the Upper Age Restriction on Teaching?


Well, I’ve mentioned the physicality aspects of some teaching jobs, whereby you’re expected, as a teacher of English, to partake in games with young kids. That’s all well and good until you collapse onto a nearby seat with sweat dripping furiously from your brow.

I’ve been there and done that, and it can take a good few days to fully recover from the aches and strains.


On the other hand, oftentimes, there are restrictions on working visas. In which case, a restriction to employing teachers who are no older than perhaps 60 or 65 may be implemented. That’s due to the age of compulsory retirement.



For a relatively comprehensive listing of age restrictions for teaching in a large variety of countries, check out this webpage: Too Old to Teach Overseas?




Tips for the More Mature-Aged Teacher Looking to Work Abroad


In South Korea’s private sector, a strong preference is for teachers in their 20s and 30s. In South Korea’s public school sector, there are limitations set at 55 years of age.


If you are towards that upper age scale, perhaps you should opt for countries such as China, Vietnam, Cambodia, or Thailand.


A good way to snap up work is to actually be on location and available for interview. I personally found that trying to get work when I was not in the respective country was more difficult than when I was in fact there.


And even better, if I could turn up for an interview in person, as opposed to interviewing over the likes of Skype. Part of the reason there’s a desire for prospective employers to interview in-person is to assess the potential employees’ overall health. Perhaps the interviewer achieves this in a somewhat furtive manner, you know J


Add to this, if you are available to interview in-person, and you are close to or even above the given and normally accepted age limitation for the job, frequently exceptions are made. Yes, that does often happen. If they like you, and you have some decent criteria/credentials against your name, there’s every chance they’ll hire you, irrespective of your age.


Notwithstanding, and with all of the above said, if you go where the jobs are available in high numbers, you will, given some time and some perseverance, and a level of patience and belief on your part, find a job. Again, I hark back to China, given that the job opportunities for teaching English in most if not all regions of China are pretty colossal.




On a final note, if your credentials are advanced (e.g. you have a Tesol certificate together with a degree) or if you have previous teaching experience, there will be more doors open to you than otherwise.

And what that equates to is, other than the number of job offers available, your skills will be in greater demand, and thus, your remuneration package will be more attractive.


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