What is the age limit for teacher jobs abroad? If you find yourself asking this question it’s probably because you are wondering if you are too young or old to teach English abroad. The short answer is that this is going to vary depending on the country you are looking to teach in. But, the longer answer may surprise you.
Is there age discrimination in the ESL industry?
The upfront answer to this is yes. If you live in a country that has laws against using age as a factor for employment this may surprise you. However, many countries where TEFL teachers are frequently employed don’t have laws protecting workers – and particularly expat workers – from discrimination. In fact, many countries have mandatory retirement laws in place so when a worker reaches a certain age, they will essentially be forced out of the labor market. As an expat, this is going to sting because a company that would have hired you for your credentials while you were below the age of retirement will not be able to do so, because arranging a work visa for you will require jumping through some hoops.
The retirement age in many popular ESL destinations is lower than in most English speaking countries. If you are working in Japan, for example, you will find yourself out of work after the age of around 60 due to mandatory retirement policies.
Who is too young to teach?
This is going to be up front. Almost every country at this point will require teachers to have at least a bachelor’s degree to find employment. While there are a few that don’t, such as Cambodia or Russia, these are the exceptions.
There isn’t a hard rule for the minimum age for teaching English abroad. However, following the above logic of a university degree being a requirement, the minimum in most places will be the early 20’s.
Some schools may list a minimum age in their job description. From my experience, this will usually be 25 or higher. This will usually be because they believe that older teachers will be easier to market to parents as being more experience. This is rare but it does happen.
One thing to take into consideration is that there are programs in different countries where younger teachers can find employment. An example of this is the Teach and Learn in Korea (TALK) program in South Korea.
This program places teachers in rural schools that may struggle to find a teacher. The program takes on teachers with just an associates degree or that are currently in a 4-year degree program. That’s just one example.
There are many other programs around the world that younger teachers still in a university can volunteer or intern for a summer for for a set period of time. This can be a great way to get experience if you know you want to become a TEFL teacher after graduating.
There usually isn’t direct age discrimination against younger teachers. In fact, there may be just the opposite in some cases with many schools showing a preference for teachers in their early to mid-twenties. The main thing to remember is that most teachers will need to have a degree and will be of graduation age.
Who is too old to teach?
This is where things become a bit more tricky. There are some cases, such as the above-mentioned teachers with no degree, where the age discrimination isn’t purposeful. But, there are other cases where schools flat out will not hire older teachers.
This is going to be largely dependent on the school and the country the school is located in. Schools in countries that are popular with teachers, for example, can be more picky about who they hire. That is the luxury of having a glut on the supply side.
However, schools in countries that have trouble attracting teachers or that are in areas most people don’t want to teach don’t have that same luxury. They are going to be more willing to hire older teachers. Especially older teachers with prior teaching experience.
The main thing to remember is that you always have options. If you are having trouble finding a teaching job abroad then you can almost certainly find employment online. Many online companies continuously struggle with hiring enough people and therefore can’t be as choosy when it comes to hiring teachers
If you decide to go the online route you can even think about working at a company such as SayABC or Class 100 or 61 Kidz that works with schools. This removes the chance that parents won’t choose you out of a desire for a younger teacher.
There really isn’t a solid answer as to who is too old to teach. If you are open to all of the different options you can find work. The thing to take into consideration will be the retirement age in the country you are interested in and whether they have mandatory retirement policies.
How can I improve my odds of getting hired?
If you haven’t been put off by the fact that there is a certain level of age discrimination that’s great. Because there are a few things that both older and younger teachers can do to increase their odds of being hired.
For younger teachers currently working towards a degree interested in teaching abroad for the summer, a TEFL certification is the best way to improve your chances of being hired. Since you won’t have much experience and you don’t yet have your degree a TEFL certification will be the only way to demonstrate you know how to manage a classroom.
Also, remember to look at volunteer programs or at countries that have trouble attracting teachers. Though these will not be ideal for the long term if you are looking to get your foot into the door or just looking to spend a semester abroad teaching these are great options.
The main thing you will want to do as an older teacher is leverage your experience. Many schools are looking for teachers with prior experience. If you have been teaching for a few decades, especially as a TEFL teacher, you are going to have a major leg up in certain situations over less experienced teachers.
Also, make sure you are staying up on your certifications. If you have been teaching for a while but don’t yet have a TEFL certification you should look into obtaining one. This will greatly compliment your experience and help you to stand out on paper when employers are looking through your resume.