Teaching English as a Foreign Language

Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) involves teaching English, either in the UK or overseas, to students whose first or main language is not English. It may also be referred to as TESOL, Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages, when the students are in the UK.

There are also jobs in TESL, teaching English as a Second Language, which refers specifically to language teaching for immigrants to English speaking countries. There is also growing demand for English for Specific Purposes (ESP) teachers, who specialise in teaching English in areas such as business, tourism, medicine, the law or engineering.

Demand for English language teachers is high, with opportunities in both the private and public sectors. Jobs are mainly found in commercial language schools, schools and institutions of further and higher education in the UK and overseas. A large number of tutors are also employed in a variety of adult education settings and in the voluntary sector.

There are many TEFL qualifications and courses so research is vital to ascertain which qualification is best for you.

Where do I start?

Information and advice on teaching English as a foreign language specifically for University of Edinburgh students and graduates.


Follow the links below for profiles of common occupations in this sector:

Reference books

Our information centres contain the following titles on teaching English as a foreign language:


We may have Edinburgh Alumni contacts who can give you some useful advice about getting into this type of work. Access Connect.ed via the Careers tab in your MyEd portal to search for contacts by employer, job title, location and school (UG and PG).

Useful Resources

Twitter List: TEFL - Are you on Twitter? Look at our Twitter List for TEFL to receive updates on news, vacancies and advice from relevant professional bodies, employers and useful organisations. Please note the Careers Service cannot accept responsibility for the content of external sites.

Professional bodies

British Association of Lecturers in English for Academic Purposes ( BALEAP) - professional association for teachers of English for Academic Purposes (EAP) within UK Universities and colleges of higher education.

Association for the Promotion of Quality in TESOL Education ( QuiTE) - a cross-sectoral association for teacher educators and course providers and all those working in areas related to the training, education and development of Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages regardless of context or level.

International Association of Teachers of English as a Foreign Language ( IATEFL) - international association based in the UK providing support for teachers, including scholarships. Visit the Jobs Market section of the website to find employers and vacancies.

Scottish Association for the Teaching of English as an Additional Language ( SATEAL) - a website for teachers and student-teachers, providing resources, news, information and advice, with links to other sources of information and training.

TESOL - professional association, based in the USA, for English language teachers worldwide.

General information

National Careers Service - profile of a Skills for Life teacher from the government's careers service, which includes teaching ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages).

British Council - the UK‘s international organisation for educational and cultural relations. The council is a major provider of English language courses overseas, and recruits unqualified language assistants (undergraduates and recent graduates), as well as experienced teachers, for the many British Council schools.

Cactus TEFL - this website provides comprehensive information and advice about ‘all things TEFL’, from how to fund your study, through choosing and booking courses worldwide to advertising vacancies.

Education Guardian: TEFL - including news, country articles and a 'TEFL Directory' of teachers who can be contacted.

EFL Web - UK site for new/prospective English language teachers, including careers information and vacancies.

ELGazette - website of the leading UK TEFL newspaper, which includes information and advice, free resources, course search and vacancies. (The paper version is available at the Careers Service).

English Language Teaching Contacts (ELTeCS) - this organisation provides news from members about job opportunities in their region and globally, with additional alerts from the British Council. Site also includes information about online courses, scholarships for teachers, research projects, invitations to participate in events and vacancies.

ESL Base - provides a directory of TEFL training courses in the UK and worldwide, as well as information and advice for prospective teachers and constantly updated TEFL vacanices

ESOL (English for speakers of Other Languages) Scotland - part of Education Scotland, this website provides a lot of useful information for anyone considering this as a career, including who the providers are, government strategy and curriculum information, teaching resources, effective practice case studies, professional development guidance, and a list of other relevant organisations.

i to i - a leading TEFL provider offering flexible training, either in the classroom, distance learning online or a combination of the two. Courses include the recently launched EDI CertTEFL course, equivalent to a CELTA. Register to receive the free comprehensive TEFL brochure. The website also includes an internship section and a searchable jobs database.

Internet TESL Journal - resources include articles, research papers, lesson plans, classroom handouts, teaching ideas and thousands of links! (Japanese site)

National Association for Teaching English and other Community Languages to Adults ( NATECLA) - aims to advance the education and training of adults and young people over sixteen, whose first language is not English.

National Association for the Teaching of English (NATE) - association aiming to improve the teaching of English teaching at all levels.

Scottish Government - Department of Education and Training - website provides many useful links to ESOL training and teaching sites, as well as information on government strategy for dealing with the increased demand in this area.

Talent (Training Adult Literacy, ESOL and Numeracy Teachers) - offers impartial advice on Initial Teacher Training (ITT) and Continuing Professional Development (CPD) for new and existing teachers and their employers, working in a range of teaching and learning contexts within the lifelong learning sector. Site also includes a jobs board.

Teaching English - collaboration between the BBC and British Council, designed to act as a discussion forum and practical resource for English teachers.

Time Out - Teaching English Abroad - useful information and links to organised recruitment and training programmes for students/graduates who want to teach English during time out or in a gap year.

UK TEFL qualifications

Cambridge ESOL - offers the CELTA certificate for new entrants to the profession, as well as higher certificates and a diploma for experienced teachers.

Trinity College London - offers the Certificate TESOL for new entrants to the profession, a diploma for experienced teachers, and the Diploma in Teaching in the Lifelong Learning Sector DTLLS (FE) qualifications.

UK TEFL courses

There are thousands of TEFL courses to choose from. Get some expert advice on how to find the right one for you.

Cactus TEFL - this section of the website provides comprehensive information and advice about the numerous TEFL courses available worldwide and has a searchable database.

TEFLNet - a TEFL portal aimed specifically at teachers, it includes an overview of courses, a searchable course database, teaching resources/lesson plans and vacancies.

TEFL Org UK - (formerly TEFL Scotland, TEFL England and TEFL Wales) provides classroom-based and online training courses, accredited by the NCFE, SQA and ODLQC. The website also advertises TEFL vacancies in the UK and overseas.

Language schools in the UK

Accreditation UK - the quality assurance scheme for the UK English language tecahing sector, run by the British Council and English UK. UK organisations offering EFL courses are inspected by Accreditation UK and, if they meet standards of quality, they are accredited by the British Council.

Association of British Language Schools (ABLS) - association of UK language schools, all accredited by a scheme recognised by the UK Home Office. Members include small, private, family-run type of schools. A full list is available on the site.

English UK - national association of English language centres. All members are accredited by the British Council, and include private schools, educational trusts and charities, further education colleges and universities. Site includes a searchable directory of member language schools and vacancies.

English UK Scotland - a body of member language schools, colleges and universities providing English language teaching courses accredited by the British Council.

English in Britain - search for accredited English language courses and institutions, as well as local contacts, in the United Kingdom.

Vacancy sources

Pleae note: vacancies are also listed in many of the sites above.

MyCareerHub is exclusively for current students and graduates of the University of Edinburgh. It can be used to:

  • search for jobs and events, such as recruitment fairs
  • find out about employers

EFL Teaching Jobs - comprehensive directory of TEFL jobs for qualified TEFL teachers seeking temporary, permanent or summer school employment in the UK or overseas.

ESL Jobs World - a website providing free listings of jobs from around the world. Register to receive job alerts.

English Language Centre - a social enterprise company offering a range of TEFL courses with a substantial subsidy for all unemployed/under employed applicants, a job placement service and volunteering opportunities. Students and unemployed graduates may also apply for a Teach Abroad Scholarship, which pays the full cost of the TEFL Diploma course.

The Exchange Centre - facilitates teaching (and studying) opportunities in China, and has direct links with some of the largest employers in China including English First, Aston Education, Kid's Castle English, and many smaller schools, companies and universities. The free service includes placement, TEFL qualifications, travel insurance and advice.

Guardian - TEFL Jobs

HuntESL - UK-based recruitment agency placing graduates into teaching jobs overseas. Website also has lots of useful careers advice and tips.

ILA Vietnam - the leading provider of ELT programmes in Vietnam, recruits and trains teachers and academic management professionals to work in their training centres in Ho Chi Minh City, Ha Noi, Da Nang, and Vung Tau.

Saxoncourt - set up to provide teachers for schools in Japan, Saxoncourt has since grown to provide recruitment services to schools in other countries and its teacher training department also offers various courses to prepare people for teaching EFL/ESL worldwide.

TEFL Professional Network - UK site listing hundreds of vacancies worldwide, and providing information on TEFL careers.

teflSearch - a TEFL/ESL job site, easily searchable. Also provides very useful information about teaching abroad, whether for short or long-term positions. Includes an employer directory. Register to receive receive job alerts by email.

Related links

Accessibility menu