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Is English Language Teaching a Real Career?

January 17, 2006

Recently I was talking about careers to a group of university students. For most of them English language teaching was perceived as a short-term means of seeing the world before coming back to find a “real career”.

I started thinking about my own life in English language teaching and have to admit that at first I did just fall into it rather than make a conscious career choice. I needed to be in a certain place at a certain time and it was the work that was available and for which I had the right background . . .

. . . But as I look around at the colleagues I had back then I can see that we have all had a life rich in variety and experiences through English language teaching. Some have become successful in publishing materials and this has been both lucrative and exciting, giving them the opportunity to travel widely on promotional trips. Others have scaled the heights of academia and occupy lofty positions in universities, undertaking some fascinating research along the way. Many are in management positions or in teacher training. And as a consultant, writer and trainer I have had all sorts of fascinating assignments.

So, I would say yes, the theatre of English language teaching can open up a all sorts of career opportunities and bring you into contact with a wonderful cast list. Your early globe-trotting years could be the rehearsal for a long and enjoyable performance. So, even if you start off thinking in the short term, remember that plenty of further training opportunities exist to allow you play a number of fascinating and rewarding star roles: you don’t always have to be an extra or a bit-part player.


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Tracked on January 21, 2006 09:50 PM


  1. Marlen Says:

    This is a great topic because actually, that's kind of how I started in the ESL world - as a means for travelling and adventure...

    ..."Oh sure," I thought, "I'll teach in Japan for about 3-5 years and try to figure out what I really want to do...so many choices."

    But while I was just "living the every day" - dealing with the daily (sometimes hourly) challenges of living in a foreign country - I found that I was very happy. What a pleasant surprise. I relaized that this "temporary" career could easily afford me a lifetime of travel and learning, not to mention all the opportunities to meet amazing people in classrooms, at conferences and in each new place I visit. Now, the job that I was merely going to do temporarily has become the job that I want to do for a lifetime.

  1. ss Says:

    One thing that discourages promising would-be teachers from landing at a teaching position can be found in how they are treated (how much they are paid, to be direct). In that sense, teaching itself calls for some volunteer spirits. I quit a stable work environment and have been teaching since then, because I feel rewarded enough by helping out those in need (of foreign language skills).

  1. Meg Says:

    Dear SS,

    Some years ago I would probably agree with you regarding the pay amount for teaching and how schools treat you, but lately, I've been working pretty much on my own with a specific methodology and I have invested on my appearence, on sales, on knowledge and you know I found that we can upgrade from teacher to Consultant. Here in Sao Paulo companies pay a fortune for high executives to get to know English, they just want more professional looking and knowledgeable dedicated people. If you show this upgrading and really give value to yourself, the value of the training is also higher.
    How important is English to these Executives? It's really important - once a student told me: "Meg, I know everything about my area of work, but if I don't have English, I can lose everything!!". People here make decisions between a Post-Graduation Course and English!!
    I guess the real question is: How am I treating myself? If we really understand our importance in the market, our values will also be higher.
    good luck!

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