Teacher, English as a Foreign Language

Teaches English to students for whom English isn’t their first language, with an emphasis on spoken English, in Ireland or overseas.

Job description

Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) usually describes English being taught to non-native English students in their home countries.

TEFL is an international educational industry whereby English teachers from the seven recognised native English speaking countries (USA, Canada, UK, Ireland, New Zealand, Australia & South Africa) and fluent non-native English speakers teach English in private and public schools throughout the world. While having a TEFL qualification is not always an essential requirement, increasingly countries and schools are now requiring teachers to have undertaken at least a basic TEFL certificate.

Work activities

  • Assessing and continuously monitoring student progress.
  • Planning, preparing and delivering lessons to classes.
  • Encouraging students to actively participate throughout class.
  • Using a modern and dynamic teaching approach which allows students to communicate easily using the English language.
  • Researching and devising entertaining, amusing, interesting, creative, productive lessons for students.
  • Teaching specialised English courses such as those which cater to the needs of business people and executives from all over the world.
  • Teaching small groups or on a one-to-one basis.
  • Assessing and recording pupils progress by setting and marking coursework and examinations.
  • Participating in staff meetings and extra-curricular activities.
  • Undertaking pastoral and supervisory duties.

Work conditions

Travel: on a daily basis not a major feature of the job but often can involved short, medium and longer teaching contracts abroad.
Working hours: varies depending on the type of school but can include weekends and evenings but not normally shift work or public holidays.
Location: mostly in larger towns or cities throughout the world. Can be in more remote rural areas as well.
Opportunities for self-employment: possible – teachers can supplement income through private tuition.

Typical employers

  • Commercial language schools
  • Public and private schools in non-English speaking countries
  • Schools and institutions of further and higher education at home and overseas.
  • Industry
  • Freelance work.

Career development

Opportunities for career progression and promotion tend to be limited though a higher level qualification can help advance those looking for a long term career in the area to more senior levels such as director of studies. Those with business acumen can set up their own schools.

Entry requirements

In Ireland, to teach English at MEI-RELSA schools (commercial language schools), a minimum of a Level 7 qualification on the National Qualification Framework.

Many MEI-RELSA schools provide teacher training courses, more commonly known as TEFL. These courses are fully accredited by the Irish Department of Education and the certificate is awarded by the Advisory Council for English Language Schools (ACELS).

Specific degree subjects required

For the purposes of employment in the recognised English language teacher (ELT) sector in Ireland, all academic staff need to hold:

  • A Level 7 qualification, normally an ordinary bachelor degree in any discipline.
  • An ACELS recognised ELT certificate.

If you want to go abroad with your teaching qualification, the need for an ACELS recognised certificate is probably not as imminent. Far East countries will generally employ native speakers with a degree and no formal TEFL qualification or experience (although this trend is changing in some centres).

Other relevant degree subjects

  • English
  • Modern languages
  • Education
  • International studies.

Postgraduate study

An ACELS recognised ELT certificate is essential to teach in the recognised ELT sector in Ireland.

Specific entry requirements

Job applicants may be required to undergo police vetting.


Specialised courses for experienced teachers are available.

Tips for application

Invest in a grammar book or a TEFL methodology book just to get a feel for what you might be doing on a daily basis in your job. Have a genuine interest in other cultures.

Tidy presentation and detailed applications are essential to give your application the best chance of success.

Skills and qualities

  • Ready for the demands that a new culture and lifestyle will make on you.
  • Genuine fascination with language, interest in people, empathy with learners and a lot of creativity.
  • Highly conscientious and committed to the highest standards of professional service.
  • Excellent communication and organisational skills.
  • Caring and motivated by the best interests of students.
  • Willing to engage in ongoing professional development.
  • Ability to relate well to different groups of students of different ages and ability levels.
  • Self-belief and the ability to maintain discipline.
  • Team-player who can collaborate with colleagues.

Labour market information

TEFL is a growing sector in Ireland. See English in Ireland for more details.